Coffee Is Killing Your Productivity

“Let’s grab coffee and chat.”

Those five words are far more dangerous than you may realize.  When you begin to create, start a business, write a blog, or generally do interesting stuff a funny thing happens.  Lots of people want to have coffee with you.  Most of the time it’s a bad idea.

Face to face meetings can be valuable.  There’s an energy that you don’t get any other way.  But the cost is very high, and it’s extremely rare to gain that energy with a stranger.  Unless you know from interactions over email, social media, or phone that you and this person have mutual interests and will both be spurred to beneficial action by a coffee meeting, avoid it.

It’s not that coffee isn’t fun.  That’s the problem.  It is fun.  Waxing about how much you love innovation or art is a blast.  But that’s not scarce.  There are more opportunities to talk about cool things than ever before.  What’s scarce is conversation that leads directly to productivity.

There are professional coffee drinkers.  People who spend all day asking others to coffee to talk.  They keep talking, meeting, discussing, exploring, plotting, networking, devising, gaining input, seeking inspiration, building consensus, creating boards and backers and teams for non-existent organizations or efforts.  These people will consume you.

(One of my theories is that they are actually robots placed by an alien race that feels threatened by creative action on the part of humans.  They sent a host of coffee-sipping droids disguised as cool people who love your idea as a way to slow you down.  They are fueled by caffeine and lack of follow through.  Just a theory.)

It’s easy to emulate this behavior.  You get a quick high from talking about big ideas with cool people over hot drinks.  Hammering out the next steps and taking them is no fun.  The coffee grinds taste better than the work grind. (See what I did there?).  It’s easy to seek the next quick inspiring hit via another quick coffee or phone meeting.  Then again.  And again.

Working for a non-profit increases susceptibility.  Absent profit and loss it can be hard to measure success.  As a result, many non-profiters report activities as a proxy for outcomes.  If you’re a program manager and you report that you had an amazing meeting with a really cool person who runs similar program X, your superiors are likely to think, “This gal is really going out there and doing a lot of stuff!”.  (In fact, non-profits are so predictably prone to the meeting-as-work conflation that I can tell without looking when someone works for one.  They send meeting requests not for a 15 or 20-minute phone call, but a full hour with an open-ended, “Can I pick your brain?”)

None of us are above it.  It’s flattering to be asked to coffee by someone who thinks your stuff is great.  But it almost always eats away a huge chunk of your time and energy with very little in the way of a tangible outcome.  You can feel like you’re doing something because your calendar is booked with coffee and conversation and you don’t have time for stuff.  But busyness is not business.

Don’t let flattery or a quick high or the open-ended hope that some synergy just might magically appear let you fall into the perpetual coffee meeting malaise.

And be on the lookout for the people who ask you for coffee the first time they meet you.  They might be evil alien robots trying to stop your progress.

The Rest is Never History

You’ve heard a lot of stories that ended with, “And the rest is history.”  It’s not true.

The phrase conveys a sense of well-known, easy to plot steps from where the story left off to where things currently stand.  It’s the part that comes after the crazy, obstacle-filled origin story.  It’s the easy part.

In reality, “the rest” is harder than the beginning.

What about the heartwarming story of the guy who somehow made it through flat tires and lost keys and pouring rain to accidentally end up on the wrong blind date that turned out to be his soul mate?  After the drama of the first encounter it’s easy to treat the rest as history.  They went on more dates, got engaged, and got married.  But anyone who’s gone from first meeting to marriage knows that process is much harder to work through than first date nerves.

What about the aspiring actress who packs up all her things and heads to Hollywood, works as a waitress, auditions every chance she can to no avail, and then unknowingly impresses a big name agent she served at the restaurant?  Sure, the agent gets her her first part, but I assure you the rest is not history.  Countless people get their first part.  It’s not at all obvious or inevitable to them that it will produce a second, third, or Oscar winning fourth part.

The danger of believing the rest is history is that we’ll pin too much on that one big break or chance encounter.  There certainly are defining moments in our lives, but that’s because of the way in which we remember them and the easy identifiers that accompany.  The real story of success begins much earlier, with the choices that define who we are and what we bring to and can do with that big moment, and continues much later, with the way we use the power of the moment and parlay it into sustained results.

That couple had fights, and jealousy, and misunderstanding, and pain, and money problems, and disproving friends and family, and religious differences, and cultural divides, and different taste in food and Netflix shows to overcome.  Love at first sight is the easy part.  Living together and agreeing to the terms of a long term relationship is hard.  The part called history is what produces the outcome.

That actress had roles she hated, and typecasting, and dry spells, and pressure from family, and haters, and creepers, and unreturned phone calls, and money problems, and bad reviews, and stalled shows, and a new agent, and Twitter arguments, and TMZ to overcome.  Getting the agent and the first role is the easy part.  Handling fame, fighting to define a brand, and getting the next job before the current one is through is hard.  The part called history is the battle for continued growth.

“The rest is history” really means the rest is a longer, slower, less interesting slog through every mundane challenge and self-destructive mindset imaginable.  It means the rest of the story is something that can’t fit in a 2o-minute interview and doesn’t make for inspirational story time.  It means the rest is what transformed the subject from the person present at that fateful moment to the person standing before you.

There’s nothing automatic about history.

When we’re tempted to feel bad for ourselves because we haven’t had the big break, or think only in terms of achieving it, it’s good to remember that the break is the beginning, not the end, of the really hard part.  The challenges that follow the break are tougher and lonelier, in part because everyone else believes the rest is history.

Dig into any success story and look for the real process called “the rest”.  That’s where greatness is found.

Laziness is not About Lack of Labor

Laziness leads to boredom, and boredom is the greatest crime against oneself.

Laziness is not about physical labor.  You can be bored to tears doing manual labor all day long and you can be engaged and fulfilled while lounging in a hammock.

It’s hard work to live an unboring life, but it’s the work of the mind and heart.  It takes relentless self-discovery.  You can’t stay interested on a diet of quick hits of easy excitement.  You need to unearth the self at the core of your being and live in accordance with what you find.  You have to relentlessly purge the things that deaden your soul, bore you, and make you unhappy.

It’s far easier to just go along.  It’s easier to do things that appear to be work but require little mental focus, discovery, or honesty.

But it’s not worth the cheap sense of leisure.  Living an interesting life requires the deliberate act of being interested in everything within and around you and exploring it.

Boredom is death.  Laziness is terminal illness.

Knowing What You Don’t Need to Know

It’s not that important to know things.

Two things are far more important than what you know.  What you can learn, and what you know you don’t need to know.  Maybe I’ll write a bit more about the importance of being able to learn another time, but today’s post is about knowing what you don’t need to know.

We’re surrounded by information.  Every new environment is jam-packed with people, assumptions, objects, ideas, processes, rules (written and unwritten), and data.  The vast majority of it is not necessary for you to achieve what you want to achieve in that environment.  But a handful of things are absolutely indispensable.  That is why the most valuable skill for success in diverse circumstances might be the ability to quickly identify what doesn’t matter.  Discern what is not of fundamental importance and ignore it.

Nearly everything taught in schools can be ignored.  So can nearly everything in a government or HR training video.  These are the easy ones.  Most people can intuitively gather from a young age that these things are unnecessary to successfully navigating the world (though harsh punishments may induce them to pay just enough attention to avoid manufactured pain).  It gets harder when you enter a social scene, family party, or workplace.  It’s harder still if you want to be an entrepreneur and enter the vast market with no blueprint.

The most successful and contented people I know are brilliant at being ignorant.  They are not stupid people nor are they unable to learn almost anything of interest or value to them.  But they are conscious of their chosen ignorance of the vast majority of facts and subjects and skills.  They know what they don’t need to know and they don’t waste effort trying to learn it.

This typically requires genuine humility and self-confidence.  Most people feel pressure to know a lot of useless stuff because it will save them the embarrassment of ever appearing to not know something.  This is ridiculous and sad.  Someone without broad swaths of conscious ignorance in many areas is usually wasting a lot of time and stressing over people-pleasing without ever gaining much self-knowledge.

There is no inherent value in knowledge of a fact.  When you enter a new situation the limiting factor to getting the most value out of it is not how much you can learn, but how much you can identify that you don’t need to learn.

This is the other side of the 80/20 rule.  Sometimes figuring out your 20% – what activities you will get the vast majority of your return on – is too hard.  It’s sometimes easier and no less important to identify the 80% of things not bringing you sufficient value and stop learning and doing them.

Experience Beats Bullet-Points (and Three Opportunities to Gain It)

“I’ll go get an advanced degree because it might open up the possibility of working in X industry that I might end up enjoying.”

I understood the sentiment, but I had to laugh.  I asked my friend why he couldn’t save himself two years and untold thousands and instead go ask a business in X industry if he could come in and work at intern wages for a period of months while he studied his butt off on the side to gain the necessary knowledge?  This approach has so many advantages it’s not even funny.  In less than a year he would know for sure whether he even wanted to work there.  He’d accumulate no debt.  He’d only learn the things relevant to success in that business.  He’d already have an in if he was good and ended up liking it.

Ask any entrepreneur or business owner or customer or client.  They’ll agree, “Show me, don’t tell me!”  But we’re all obsessed with things that tell people about our abilities and attributes.  We’re stuck on getting a list of reasons someone should give us a job.  It’s the same mindset that was beaten into us in an education system based on getting permission for everything, even using the bathroom.

“You can’t do that unless you have the proper qualifications!”

I call it the bullet-point mindest.

It’s the idea that the most valuable thing you can attain for your life and career is a bullet-point list of external accolades, certifications, and validations from others.  It’s the resume, the degree, the honor roll, and on and on.  It’s also mostly bullshit.

External validation is only valuable when something more tangible is lacking.  The person with little in the way of confidence, evidence of value creation, network, or experience will gain the most from formal accolades.  The person who’s done a lot, seen a lot, built many relationships, and created a lot of value will have something that far exceeds the value of a static list of traits on a resume.

Rubber meets the road and a huge set of opportunities

It will come as no surprise that this is exactly why we created Praxis.  We want to help top young people get started right now instead of waiting until they’ve accumulated a list of officially verified accomplishments.

It’s amazing how hungry startups and growing businesses are for the kind of talent willing to take action and build their dreams instead of making lists and planning for them under institutional authorization.

Here are three of the opportunities we have right now to work for a year with entrepreneurs in the real world and discover what makes you come alive, gain confidence, experience, skills, knowledge, and a network.  No gold stars or grades can touch the value of this kind of lived experience.

Opportunity 1: Work with an entrepreneur building a company that empowers entrepreneurs across the country.

Ceterus is awesome.  They’re growing.  They need someone with drive, communication skills, sales interest, and an ability to navigate a wide variety of diverse tasks and activities every day.  It’s in lovely Charleston, SC.

Opportunity 2: Develop an international brand with a chef entrepreneur.

Smart people know to make it you have to see yourself as your own brand.  This chef was not content to produce culinary creations in the confines of a restaurant.  She’s built a business that inspired and educates others on the fine art of quality cooking.  She needs someone to help build and manage her brand online and in person.  It’s in awesome Austin, TX and includes international travel to Latin America.

Opportunity 3: Learn marketing from a growing consumer tech company.

ADS Security is at that perfect stage.  Large enough to offer high-quality business experience and small enough to have an actively engaged CEO that you’ll get a chance to meet and shadow.  They need sharp young people with marketing interest and writing and social media savvy.  If you want to know how marketing departments function and add value to one right now, this is for you.  It’s in stylish Nashville, TN.

Not just anyone…

These companies came to Praxis for a reason.  They don’t just want clock-in, clock-out run of the mill credential chasers.  They want eager, entrepreneurial young mold-breakers.

If that’s you, apply now.  If it’s someone you know, tell them about it.  They’ll thank you.

Apply to Praxis now for these opportunities.

How to Discover What You Really Want to Do?…Don’t!

Here’s an answer I gave to a question on Quora about finding out what you want to do in life.


I find this question to be too stressful and unrealistic for most people to answer.  What you really want to do with your life is a lot of things, many of which probably haven’t been invented yet.  How can you pick one and plot a path to it?

Instead, do the opposite.  Think of things you know you hate doing or things that bore you or make you feel dead inside.  Don’t do those.  Try new things and add to that list whenever you find something not for you.  Make it your goal every day, week, month, and year to reduce the number of things you do that you don’t like doing.

Don’t think about careers, majors, titles, industries, and jobs.  Think about activities.  Stuff you do every day.  What do you not want to do?  How can you create a life where you never have to?

What you want is to not be bored in life.  So find out what things you can quit, and find a way to quit doing them.  Everything else is fair game.

That’s always worked well for me anyway.  Certainly better than trying to find out what I want to do.

How to Ensure Your Professional Mistakes Are Always Forgiven

You’re going to tell me I shouldn’t advocate making mistakes in the first place.  Don’t be silly.  I’m not advocating mistakes.

The reality of life is that you’ll make mistakes and deliver sub-excellent results sometimes.  In fact, the more you push yourself and venture into new territory (good), the more common imperfection will be (not good).  Beyond the obvious, “Just try harder to be perfect”, there’s something you can do that will give you the leeway you need to get away with imperfection and recover quickly.

Here’s the thing.  You’re not gonna like it.  Especially those of you who are perfectionists and understand the tremendous value of high-quality work.

But remember, this is not a way to reduce mistakes and come closer to flawless.  This is just a way to earn the respect, trust, and grace that will keep your mistakes from killing your professional relationships.  This is a way to earn a second or third chance.


Never be late for anything ever and respond to all emails within 24 hours.

Some of you are mad, some of you are laughing, and some of you are nodding your head and patting yourself on the back as you gaze at your inbox tab that says (0).

Let me defend my claim.

Imagine you’re new at a job.  Think of the hardest, scariest, riskiest part of your role.  The part you are most likely to screw up a little bit.  The part that makes you worry you could lose trust and maybe your job if you don’t learn to master pretty quickly.

There’s a whole lot that goes into what your coworkers or customers feel about you and how much grace they’ll have for you as you learn through trial and error.  It’s not just a matter of whether you do that thing well.  It’s not about what you do right now as much as what they believe you are capable of doing in time and what kind of person they think you are.

To earn maximum room for error and correction you’ve got to have a pretty decent deposit of ‘social capital‘ in your account.  You’ll need to draw down without going into the red.

The easiest way to do this – a way that not a single person is incapable of – is to completely crush it on the simplest parts of your job.  Consider that again for a minute.

Earn the freedom to make mistakes in the hardest parts of your job by being perfect in the easiest parts.

What are the easiest parts?  Always being on time and responding to all emails within 24 hours.  It requires no special knowledge, skill, or experience.

If you’ve been somewhere for a month and everyone has come to rely on your punctuality and lightening fast response time, they’ll feel a glow just thinking of you (Somewhere there’s a crooner inside me, struggling to escape).  They’ll never have to dedicate mental space worrying about you, and they’ll have a default belief in your ability to handle things.

When you respond to 10 emails perfectly on time every time and meet your deadlines, people will want you to win.  When one of those 10 responses has a mistake, they’ll cut you a break and give you a chance to improve for next time.

Contrast this to the perfectionist who is sometimes late (‘I was putting on the finishing touches!’), even if just a few minutes, and makes people wait around to get a meeting started or causes mental stress because no one is positive when they’ll reply to an important email.  When they come back with a mistake the already thin ice gets thinner.  Tension mounts, the pressure to be perfect increases.  If you’re at all unreliable with the small, easy things, you’d better be damn-near perfect quality with the big, hard things.

Don’t put yourself under that much pressure.  Give yourself some wiggle room so you can learn by making and fixing errors.

Never be late.  Always respond within 24 hours.  You’ll be glad you did next time you make a mistake and someone says, “No problem, let’s improve for next time.”

Why You Should Move Away From Your Home Town

“A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” – Mark 6:4

You want to grow, progress, live an interesting and meaningful life.  You want to do and be something big, by your own definition.  You want the freedom to explore and dive deep into what interests you and maybe even master a few things.  You want to know yourself and most of all esteem yourself.

If that’s true – and I hope it is – you need to move away from your home town.

You can always go back later if you want, but if you never leave you’ll always be contained within strictures not of your own making.  At home you’re always only an outgrowth of your perceived past.

In another place you’re that wild outsider with intriguing ideas and a fiery passion for life.  In your home town you’re little Jimmy, Bev and Stan’s kid.

In a new town you’re the girl who’s full of promise.  You can define yourself, write your story, let your first impression speak for itself.  Anything you do is potentially interesting and you can potentially be successful in any endeavor.  Back home you’re the kid who wanted to be a vet when she was twelve and to many people anything you do other than that will be seen as a compromise.

In a new city your value must come from what you can produce.  You are judged on your merits, by your fruit.  In your home town you’re loved and cute and special no matter what you do, but never fully respected as an independent being.

It’s hard to discover yourself when you’re defined so much by your heritage, perceptions others have formed about your family and their place, your past self, etc.

People from where I grew up still ask me if I’m going to be President some day.  Nothing could be more repulsive to me than the idea of running for political office.  I wouldn’t wish office on my worst enemy and I think politics is the most backward form of human activity and energy.  But once upon a time I thought politics was a viable method for expanding human freedom.  I told people around me about it.  That’s the me they knew.  To them, I will never be successful or interesting unless and until I achieve a goal that is totally meaningless to me now. (I wrote here about why I’m glad I failed in this regard.)

Even if you care about your home town and want to improve it the best way is to leave.

Outsiders are more likely to innovate.  This is true in all fields.  The most likely to have a breakthrough in one industry is not the industry expert or insider but the expert from a different sector who’s looking in with fresh eyes.

I once heard that the definition of an expert is someone who traveled more than 150 miles to deliver a message.  Introduce a speaker from next door and no matter how much they know about the topic at hand few will be moved and impressed.  Fly someone in from the next city and they’ll get attention no matter what they say.

Leave.  Go out into the world and discover who you are.  Not who you were when your imagination was limited.  Not what you grew up thinking and wanting.  Not what your family or friends thought about you.  You needn’t reject or be angry with any of them.  You simply need to do what they don’t know how to help you do; grow into something beyond the confines of your point of origin.

Go out and become what you want to be and you’ll discover something interesting if you go back home.  You’ll have a level of respect and influence and freedom you could never have  won had you stayed.

You’re not just somebody’s kid.  You’re somebody.

What Praxis Set Out to Do

When we created Praxis we did it to fill a large and growing gap in the option set facing young people.  So many smart, ambitious, curious individuals are languishing in fluorescently-lit cinder-block classrooms.  Bored.  Racking up debt.  For no clear purpose.

The myth they are steeped in is that they have to do this.  There is no choice.  The options are presented: Be a loser, or sit around for 4-6 years at a cost of tens of thousands.

But the myth goes deeper.

The myth is that learning itself, and by extension self-improvement, are terrible, boring, passionless and must necessarily be enforced by bureaucrats and self-proclaimed authorities.  Your job, if you want to succeed in life (by whose definition anyway?) is to follow the rules, memorize the disconnected facts, take the tests, pad the resume, apply for the jobs, and wait for the conveyor belt to drop you off at ‘normal’.

How depressing and frustrating this is to so many of the best and brightest.

We set out to cut through the crap.  We wanted these talented young people to stop waiting for real life and to jump into amazing work experiences at amazing companies eager for their help.  We wanted them to shatter the old paradigm of education and start fresh, like newborns do, exploring questions that matter to them, creating their own challenges and structure, diving into a rigorous self-improvement project.

The mindset is simple and powerful.  Awaken your inner entrepreneur.  You own your life.  You own your education.  You own your career.  You are the driving force in your own process of creation.  Do things for the results you value, not the hoops arbitrarily placed before you.

We wanted this entire life-shifting experience to take place in the span of a single year and for a net cost of zero.

I received this email yesterday from current Praxis participant Mitchell Earl.  It beautifully illustrates the mindset shift.

“If I had to estimate, I’d say I skipped class 2/3 of the time in college. I don’t sit still well. I couldn’t learn in that type of environment. I need to be stimulated. When I did go to class, I used to take the daily puzzles; either crosswords or sudokus because I needed something to direct my nervous energy toward if I was going to be forced to sit and listen to someone talk at me. I can’t even count the number of times I had a professor yank my newspaper away from me IN COLLEGE.

In my web design class, the syllabus alone put a burr under my saddle reading, “One absence is considered excessive for the course.” I redefined excessive. I turned in my work on time, but I refused to go sit in a classroom and be told how or what to code, design, or write. That’s not how I learn.

I didn’t and don’t want my work to be like grocery store milk, micro-filtered, ultra-pasteurized, standardized, and homogenized. For me to do my best work, I need to have the freedom to explore my creativity. Praxis has shown me that. It’s given me the freedom to explore my own needs as a learner. No one is yanking my puzzle away telling me to pay attention. No one is telling me how to learn. No one is shaming my individuality. With Praxis, I’m free to be me.”

Yes.  That’s exactly it Mitchell.  We set out to create more freedom.  To help you carve out a space, to break the other-imposed mold, and plot your own path to fulfillment as you define it.

Freedom isn’t easy.  It’s much harder work than just doing what everyone else wants and expects.  It takes a lot of deep, philosophical thinking.  It takes self-knowledge and self-honesty.  It takes discipline and hard work.  It takes tolerance of failure and the courage to put yourself in new situations, often over your head, and learn on the fly.  It takes the humility to be in environments where you’re not the smartest person in the room.  Your desire for personal growth must be strong enough to sustain these challenges.

Mitchell is tasting it.  So are our other participants and grads.  This is what we set out to do.  And we’re doing it.  One life at a time.

If you know anyone who sounds a lot like Mitchell was in school, give ’em a little nudge of encouragement to be free.  Remind them the dominant path isn’t the only one, and the best paths are the ones they’ll blaze themselves.  You can even send them my way and I’ll gladly talk with them about taking creative control of their education, career, and life, with or without Praxis.

Let’s awaken people’s dreams and increase the number of those who are truly living free.

Three Daily Questions

From the Praxis Blog.

  1. Do I like what I’m doing?
  2. Is it getting me somewhere I want to go?
  3. What am I giving up to be here?

These seem like simple questions.  Obvious even.  No need to be reminded of them.

Yet so much of what we do is the result of habit, social norms, envy, fear, outside pressure, or laziness in thought and action.  We follow paths already worn whether or not they’re a good fit for us.  The first step in the process of waking up to a full and free life is asking these simple questions.

It’s harder than you think.

It will take more time to answer than you think.

That’s OK.  Take your time.  Wrestle with the questions.  Don’t lie to yourself.  Don’t ask them with a preconceived idea of what kind of person answers this way or that.  If you do you’re likely to give answers that reflect the person you think others will find cool rather than the person you actually are.

Even if everyone in the world envies what you’re doing and thinks it’s the pinnacle of success, fun, or fulfillment, if you don’t like it be honest with yourself.  I know so many people who stay in crappy situations simply because they feel guilty about not liking something others would love.  You’re not them.  And there’s nothing noble about suffering through something you hate unless you are firmly committed to it as a clear and definite route to something you love in relatively short order.

If you don’t know where you want to go it’s especially bad to suffer through things you don’t like.  You’re suffering for no particular reason with no known payoff.  It’s OK to not know where you want to go.  If you don’t, start exploring things until you get a better idea.  The fastest way to find out where you want to go is to try things and eliminate the ones you really dislike.

Finally, even if you have an idea where you want to go and you’re doing something you dislike right now to get there, you need to compare to the alternatives.  Just because an elaborate and expensive exotic diet and mountainside yoga routine could help you lose 10 pounds, could you have lost the same weight doing something cheaper and less painful like portion control and a little cardio?

The danger of having someplace you want to go – a goal – is that it can blind you to opportunity cost.  If you know you want to reach X, and you know Y is a way to do it, you may overlook the fact that X is a lot more painful than A, B, or C, all of which could also get you to X and give you a lot more in the process.  Just because you have a goal doesn’t mean the common path to reach it is the only or best.

Ask yourself these questions a lot.  Don’t get panicky.  Don’t walk out on your boss in the middle of work because you got bored for a few minutes.  This isn’t about being flaky or avoiding difficulty.  It’s about being resolute and facing difficulty and fear head on but knowing why you’re doing it.  It’s not about the path of least resistance, it’s about having a reason – your reason – for fighting.  It’s about choosing your own challenges instead of floating downstream just because.

You might be amazed how many things you’re doing that you dislike, that have no connection to somewhere you want to go, and that are causing you to miss amazing and valuable experiences.

Questions are powerful things.

Stop Doing Shit You Hate

I shared this pithy little quote from entrepreneur and social media super user Gary Vaynerchuk yesterday.


I’m fairly resistant to cat posters and motivational image-quotes online.  But this single sentence caught my eye.  It’s something I constantly preach as a better alternative to trying to find and do what you love.

In fact, I think this simple sentence contains one of the most powerful truths in the universe for unlocking your own potential and fulfillment.

Here comes the resistance…

It was Facebook so of course this couldn’t go without objections.  A commenter quickly claimed that (paraphrasing):

This idea is laughable to anyone who has ever had to pay bills.

A tragic response.

Charitable interpretation

Perhaps the most important skill if you want to gain maximum value from the stream of ideas in the world is the principle of charitable interpretation.  It’s simple, but really hard and really rare.

Assume people aren’t idiots who have never thought of objections.  Assume the best possible interpretation of their words.

In this case one could uncharitably assume that Gary V means to immediately cease doing anything uncomfortable, even if necessary for survival.  I hate preparing food and eating is often an annoyance.  Is Gary telling me to die?

It doesn’t take much charity to move beyond such a silly interpretation.  The source must know that a single sentence can never cover every context.  He chose to share it anyway because he must believe there is still some nugget of truth in it.  If you set yourself to finding that, instead of pointing to the obvious ways it might be misunderstood, you just might get some value.

Who doesn’t have to pay bills?

Everyone has to pay bills.  Scarcity exists everywhere for everyone.  Sure, the tradeoffs change.  For some it’s a ham sandwich or a bus ticket.  For others it’s a private jet or a Caribbean island.  Everyone needs stuff to maintain what they see as an acceptable lifestyle, and stuff is not free.

If by pointing out that the acquisition of material needs and comforts requires work you think you’ve revealed that no one should attempt to avoid stuff they hate doing, you’ve already refuted yourself.  A large part of the reason to do things that aren’t fun is because it enables you to do more things that are.  The quote is a reminder of the why behind the process of doing crappy stuff.  So you can do less of it.

It’s a process

Even if in the present you feel compelled to do things you hate in order to pay bills, this quote provides an inspirational challenge and reminder.  It nudges you to ask yourself what things you do that you hate.  It pushes you to plot a path to escaping them.

Even if at this snapshot in time you have to do something you hate the message here is that your life extends through time.  You have tomorrow and the next day and the next.

Do you want to do stuff you hate forever?  Can you put together a plan of action or some tests to see how you might exit those activities?

Do you hate your bills?

If paying bills keeps you from doing things you enjoy, maybe the bills themselves are the problem.  If you hate paying bills, can you conceive of a way to do a lot less of it?

A great many people are lifestyle slaves.  You keep doing work you hate because you have to to pay for a car you think is necessary because the neighbors in the place you chose to live would be leery of someone driving a beater.  And so it goes, on and on.

If you really love these things and gain value over and above the suffering you endure to obtain them, fine.  If not, Gary’s quote is a good reminder.  If you hate paying for the car and cable bill, quit.  Build a new lifestyle in a cheaper house or city.  Create a new standard that doesn’t appeal to those around you but only the things you really value.

What’s the alternative?

If the commenter’s objection is an inescapable truth, what’s the implication?  If it’s impossible to quit doing things you hate because of bills then life must be an inescapable cycle of hated activities.  Yet a great many people don’t seem to hate every minute of their life.

To deny the value of this quote is to say that you have already eliminated every possible hated thing from your life.  There is no improvement you could make.  Has this ever been true of anyone?

The number of things you do that you hate – whether going to a soul-sucking job or attending a boring social event or family reunion – is higher than you suspect.  When you begin to examine your life you realize you spend tons of time and inordinate mental energy on things that make you unhappy.  Many of these you can shed right now with minimal consequences.  Others require planning and an escape process.

What’s really holding you back?

If you admit that it’s possible to do fewer things you hate you become vulnerable.  Now the burden shifts on to you to make it happen.  If you embrace this philosophy the pressure is on to implement it.  But what if you fail?  What if you say you want to quit doing what you hate and go pursue something you like and it doesn’t work out?  Better play it safe and not try.

Fear of failure and embarrassment is the major roadblock.

You will fail.  So what?  It’s a process of experimentation.

It’s comfy and has some rewards to be a martyr or a critic (I’ve written about these roles and why they keep us from exiting a bad situation in more detail here).  It’s also dangerous.

The other truth is that doing things you hate or merely tolerate is easier than doing things you love.  You might imagine doing what you love is easy.  A lucky life for the fortunate.  It’s not.  It’s a shitton of work.  Sometimes you don’t quit because you don’t want to work that hard.

This is not to say you need to do work you love.  It all depends on what work means to you and what your other values are.  Doing work you love and being happy are not necessarily the same thing.  It does mean you need a great deal of self-knowledge and self-honesty to find your values and the courage to move ever closer to living them.

It’s not just about work

Don’t limit your notion of things you hate to work.  You probably have habits and relationships and other things you hate.  Quit those too.

There are a million reasons to laugh at the advice.  I doubt any of them will improve your life after the short-lived glow of the clever dismissal.

Things can always suck less.  See if you can figure out how.

How to Search for a Job


From Life Learning on Medium.

A lot of people are looking for jobs. The thing is, not all job searches are equal. “Looking for a job” might actually mean hoping someone finds your resume online, shooting out a few emails, or posting unsolicited comments on Facebook pages that say, “Are you hiring?”

If you want a job — really want a job — you’ve got to go level five with your job hunt. And call it a hunt, not a search. You’re not hoping to stumble into a pot of gold, you’re tracking your prey and bagging it.

Let’s take a look at how to do it.

Level 1: A Good Resume

While most of the best jobs you’ll get in life will be gotten without a resume, if you’re job hunting you should have one on hand. I don’t particularly like them, but a lot of people expect them. A good resume will never get you a job, but a bad resume could lose you one.

For a resume to actually convey something, serve as a starting point for interview questions, and keep you from being dismissed out of hand, there are really just two main features: Nice appearance and outcomes-based content.

For appearance, keep it simple, clean, a single page, uniform use of line breaks or bullets, not too many indents and sub-sub points, and a clear order top-to-bottom of what’s most important. (Hint: experience is more important than education to most people, even if you assume otherwise). Oh, and get your spelling and capitalization triple checked.

For content most people simply list credentials they have and activities they engaged in. This is boring and conveys a lot less about your ability to create value than what kind of outcomes you produced. Don’t just list that you were a digital marketing intern and ran email campaigns. Show that your A/B test improved open rates by 10%.

Even if you were waiting tables, see if you can demonstrate value created. “Server at Applebee’s” is less interesting than, “My section consistently brought in 15% more tips than average sections.”

Anyone can have a title and do a task. The good ones create value and can show positive outcomes.

Level 2: Good Profiles on LinkedIn, etc.

Whether you like it or not, LinkedIn is hugely valuable in the working world, especially for those making hiring decisions. Have a profile. Have a decent headshot that actually looks like you. Have accurate information. Keep it up to date.

Your LinkedIn profile should be consistent with your resume, but it is not the same thing. It allows you to go a little deeper into who you are, what drives you, who you’ve worked with, what you did, etc. Same goes for Twitter, Facebook, and whatever else you kids are using these days. Be you, but use good judgement. If someone only ever found your online accounts, would they have an accurate idea of who you are and what you want to be known as?

Many people fear all social media and online presence because they think of it as a liability. Some people try to stay undiscoverable online as a protective measure. This is a terrible idea. First, always assume if some hacker wants to find your stuff bad enough they’ll find a way, regardless of your settings. But more importantly, seeing social media as a liability blinds you to the fact that it can be a huge asset. There is no neutral. It’s either helping you or hurting you. Being completely anonymous online hurts you. Take charge of your online presence and make it an asset.

Level 3: A Personal Website

It’s easier than ever to setup a personal website. If you’re serious about finding a great job, just do it. Go over to WordPress and get started. In a few hours you can have a clean, simple website that serves as a repository of all the things you enjoy and want to be known for.

A personal website gives you far more control than profiles on third party sites. You can feature whatever you wish, you can blog, share video, include a longer bio, express aspects of yourself you wouldn’t cram into a LinkedIn profile, and really use the blank canvas to create whatever you wish.

But more than what you have on your site is the fact that you have one. Anyone who has put together a basic, neat, up to date personal website stands out. Not many people do, despite how easy it is, and if you do you’ll have something that gives you far more cred than just a decent resume in a pile.

If you really want to gain an edge, overcome fear, build confidence, and become a better communicator and thinker then take the next step and blog on your site regularly. I recommend blogging daily, but if that’s daunting, try weekly. You can always hide bad posts, but the act of doing it and knowing it can be seen by others will do more for your creative capacity and productive power than any other simple activity I know of.

Level 4: A Portfolio of Projects

If you’ve already setup your personal website here’s a way to really beef up the value. Beyond a nice homepage and about page with a bio your website can feature projects you’ve completed.

Remember when I said the resume should show outcomes instead of just telling about activities? A portfolio allows you to show in much greater detail what you’ve created. It’s especially easy for those with skills in art or coding or engineering to share publicly what you’ve produced. You may think that your management or communication or sales skills can’t really be put into a portfolio that shows what you’ve done, but it can.

Go to a freelancer website and pay someone $50 to design a nice one-pager that shows the results of that event your organized and executed. Have someone build an interactive graph tracking your fundraising or sales campaign. Show articles you’ve written and clicks they received.

If you can think of nothing tangible that you’ve completed to put in a portfolio it’s a good sign you should get cracking! Writers and photographers know that their portfolio of work is what really matters. If they have none, they start out just doing things for free to build it up. You can do the same. Just get started creating something and share the results. Do projects for free that will help you get something under your belt.

The great thing is, the success or failure of your projects is less important at this stage than that you completed it. I’ve talked with tech companies who say they’d rather hire someone who built a cheesy, non-innovative notepad app than someone with a stellar resume who never built and “shipped” anything at all.

Level 5: Unique, Stand-Alone Websites, Videos, InfoGraphics for Your Target Company

Here’s where the great stand apart from the very good. If you really, truly, deeply want to work for a company why not devote yourself to studying them in depth and presenting your unique take?

Remember Nina, whose resume was lost in the heap at AirBnB? She went level five and became internet famous. She put together an impressive site that deserved attention, still it’s telling of just how low the bar is among job-seekers that a simple website was such a viral sensation. No one is doing this. But you can.

One thing employers will tell you when sifting through job applications is that too many people talk about themselves and too few talk about the company they claim to want to work for. “I’m Joe and I’m great at XYZ” tells me nothing about why Joe applied specifically for my company. Does he just want a paycheck, or is he passionate about my business? Does he even know what we do and what we value?

There’s no better way to demonstrate your knowledge and passion for a company than to dig into the industry, business model, customer base, competitors, and build something unique that describes what you love about and what you would do for the company. Don’t think about what would make you look good, think about what would actually be valuable to the company.

I guarantee spending 30 days doing a deep dive on your target company will be more valuable than spending an entire year getting a second major and more clubs to list on your resume. If you can create something of value to the company before you’re even working for them that sends a strong signal that you’re a person they want on board.

What Are You Waiting For?

One of the reasons I launched my company Praxis is precisely because so few young people realize that they have the power to create their own professional future. There are more tools available than ever and more opportunities but so few realize it. You can’t sit on the conveyor belt and expect it to drop you at a fulfilling job.

Look, I’m not saying it’s easy. But don’t tell me there’s no way to get a great job if you aren’t willing to push yourself to level four, or ideally level five. You can probably think of ten more things I didn’t even list here if you really try.

The days of buying a degree and hoping it buys you a job are over. Be your own credential and prove through the work you do that you can create value.

Income Is Not Automatic

Ernst & Young no longer requires degrees for entry level jobs.  A lot of people shared articles about the change on Facebook.  On one thread I noticed the following comment:

“[T]his is great but it could also be an excuse to pay people less.”

The word “excuse” stuck out to me.  Why would EY need an excuse?  If they want to offer less pay they can do so at any time.  Of course any potential hire can just as easily refuse the offer and only agree to work for more.

Employers want the best workers for the lowest possible price and workers want the best jobs for the highest possible pay.  “Best” and “highest” of course include the entire bundle of compensation, benefits, work environment, etc.  Both parties have an incentive to bargain.  Both parties have an incentive to only agree if they don’t think they can get a better deal elsewhere.  It’s a bet on the value they’ll receive from the other party.

The comment reveals a bizarre but common belief about work.  There’s an idea that jobs and income are an automatic and deserved reward for moving on the conveyor belt and jumping through all the right hoops.  It implies that pay is based on a rigid credential scale and companies can only adjust pay if they adjust the hoops to jump through.  It implies that, with ironclad causality, a degree will automatically entitle the holder to higher pay and the only way to pay less is to hire those without one.

A degree has never made someone more valuable.  What you can do determines the value you can create and demand.  The degree is only a signal that, with more or less accuracy, tells employers that you are likely to be better on average than someone without the degree.  That signal is no longer working for EY because the reality isn’t backing up the assumed correlation.

EY does potential employees a favor to announce and implement this policy.  The degree is not signalling enough value to distinguish those with it from those without.  Degrees are very expensive.  Everyone who buys one assuming it will bring them a good EY job is buying under false pretenses.  They need to create value to get hired.

EY is saving potential employees money and time by telling them what’s always been true: it’s about the value you can create, not the paper you have.  The paper was used because it often correlated and it was a quick and dirty way to eliminate some weak applicants.  Now the applicants with degrees are not sufficiently better than those without.

This represents not an excuse for companies to pay less, but an opportunity for young workers to pay less.  You are not required to spend four years and six figures poured in cinder block walls with fluorescent lights to take tests on things you mostly have no interest in.  You are free to learn to create value any way you can.


Want a better way to get the skills, network, knowledge, confidence, and experience you need?  Want to be more than a worker?  Want to be an entrepreneur?  How about an education that comes with an awesome job.  It’s college plus your first job plus a lot more wrapped into one.  In one year.  For a net cost of zero.  Check out Praxis.

Here’s How I Work

My colleagues at Praxis and I found this exercise to be fun and useful, so now it’s my turn to answer.


Location: Mount Pleasant, SC
Current gig: CEO of Praxis
Current mobile device: iPhone 6
Current computer: ASUS Zenbook. It’s gorgeous and wonderful.
One word that best describes how you work: Fast.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Voxer, WordPress, the Scrabble app, fantasy football apps, and Momentum.

What’s your workspace like?

Tiny.  I purposely have a ridiculously small, clear desk.  I don’t want space for anything on it.  It contains my beautiful sleek laptop, and usually a giant stein of water, and sometimes a few books I’m reading.  I move around and work from different places in the house sometimes too.  My office is actually just a small section of the bedroom, since I got kicked out of my designated office room.  I work from home and as my kids grow they take up more space.  Since I travel a lot and don’t really care where I work, I moved.  I could work in a broom closet as long as it wasn’t cluttered and I got to take walks outside.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Delete, shred, destroy.  I get rid of absolutely everything nonessential.  Immediately.  I am ruthless with throwing away paper mail, physical notes, business cards, receipts, and other odds and ends.  I am also a strict zero inbox guy, keeping on top of my emails frees my time, but more importantly my mind, to create.

Also saying no.  Often.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I’ve tried Asana, Google Tasks, Slack, and several others.  None of them end up being that valuable.  I use Google Calendar and the native Sticky Notes app on Windows, or if I’m not at my computer the native Notes app on the iPhone.  I leave myself Voxer messages in the My Notes thread sometimes too.  Everything else gets too complicated.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Since I just bought a Kindle Paperwhite so I don’t overflow my room with more books, I’m hoping it will become indispensable.  I’m still a lover of physical books, so we’ll see.  Otherwise no particular gadgets really matter much.  I did just get a waterproof mp3 player from a friend that lets me listen to podcasts while swimming, so that might become a necessity too.  Until the weather gets too cold to swim.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Mornings.  I’m awesome when I wake up.  I’m happy, eager, productive, and full of energy and optimism…even before coffee.

I’m also pretty solid at writing good, concise emails.

What are you currently reading?

Siddartha by Herman Hesse, Mimesis by Erich Auerbach, The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, Outwitting the Devil by Napolean Hill (rereading), and Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse (rereading).

What do you listen to while you work?

While writing I either listen to a playlist on Spotify of Moby songs, or a station on Pandora called “Yoga music”.  While doing less creative stuff I might listen to some Led Zeppelin, or ’90’s era hip hop, or 80’s New Wave, or anything sappy with vocals I can belt out.  If I’m not writing, I mix it up quite a bit.  When I’m writing, it’s only ethereal mood music.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I’m definitely an extrovert based on any personality test or technical definition.  However, in the last 5 years my ratio of time I need to be with people and time I need to be alone has reversed.  Now for every one hour I spend “on” and around people I need four hours alone.  It used to be the opposite.  I can go mix it up or give a talk or be at an event and enjoy it, but I really, desperately need to get out and be alone for long periods of time afterwards, and I am (no longer) ever the last one at the party, but more likely one of the first to leave.  I’d rather be alone writing or reading or watching a Sci-Fi with my wife than anything else.

What’s your sleep routine like?

It’s not always like this, especially with travel, but my ideal routine is: go to sleep when my mind wants to, wake up when my body wants to.

My mind is typically very active in the late evening until around midnight or 1 AM.  I often feel physically ill if I get up earlier than 7:30 or so, and I much prefer getting up at around 8 or 8:30.  I used to feel guilty for that and make myself get up earlier no matter what, but I found my mornings far less productive because I felt too out of whack physically.  I now try not to schedule anything before 9 or 10 so I can wake up, lay in bed gathering my thoughts for a bit, get some food and coffee, and write a blog post before the hustle and bustle begins.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.

My good friend and colleague TK Coleman.  I’ve known him for over 15 years, and I still find his work and life habits a total mystery.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“If it doesn’t affect bowel movements or erections, don’t worry about it.”  True story.  A wise man actually gave me this advice once.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

If you’re not having fun (even if sometimes intense or stressful fun) you’re doing it wrong.