Creating a Vacuum (or, when to move on)

Careers and relationships are curiously similar, I think, and as a pair are quite unique in how we approach them. We dive headfirst into these commitments with only partial information – information which, more often than not, turns out to be inaccurate.

I don’t mean to imply that job openings and potential romantic partners are intentionally misrepresented (though, I’ll admit, they sometimes are). I mean to say that they are simply two aspects of life that must be understood experientially – initial descriptions and appearances suffice only to lure you in, and you’ll only truly understand them by experiencing them over the course of time. Continue reading

Twentysomething

George Harrison Quote

Sometimes I stroll into the grocery store and a big, goofy grin spreads over my face.

Look at me, buying my own groceries.

It’s not that I particularly love grocery shopping, exactly. Despite being 26 years old, I just still get a kick out of being an adult.

I distinctly remember homecoming weekend, sophomore year of college, sitting around with a group of alumni recounting their glory days. They spoke of how much they missed college, how things were never the same after they graduated, and how the four years they spent in school were the best years of their life. I wondered silently if I would feel like that in a few years – past the peak, looking downhill on a life doomed to be considerably less stimulating.

Continue reading

Jealousy, Relationships, and the Voices In Your Head

Tim Ferriss Quote

The brain is a wondrous instrument – it builds detailed mental models of how our world functions, storing a dizzying array of information based on historical observations that we’ve made. The purpose of these models, or schemas, is to provide us with a framework for decision making prior to committing to a given course of action.

It allows us to play out a scenario within the comfort of our own minds – it’s a sort of forecasting system, a Dopplar radar for social functions, that is designed to add a degree of predictability to our world. When you’re invited to a party, you quickly analyze the person who invited you, the other known guests, the venue, and any other information to make a quick run-through of the night.

Will it be fun? Will it be my scene? What time will I get home?

Your mind runs a explores simulations and then you make a judgement call whether or not to attend – and, if you do, what you should expect. The problem is, it often ends up being very wrong.

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How to Make Bad Decisions

Quite possibly the earliest recorded bad decision in my life – that’s me wearing a New Kids On The Block hat and throwing down gang signs in front of a Saturn. I think/hope my taste has improved since then.

There’s a point, I think, where some people stop changing – they reach a certain level of personal growth, a plateau of sorts, and they just freeze. There must be a muscle deep within your soul, responsible for curiosity, for improvement, for disruption, and, one day, it just starts to atrophy. Continue reading

Facing Reality

Flick, flick. Nothing.

The power was out in my apartment. In the middle of June. Awesome.

I walked out the door and down the hall, finally coming across a neighbor on the floor below me.

“Hey man, is your power out too?” I asked.

The neighbor shook his head no and that’s when my mind began to put the pieces together. The piled up mail on the counter. The voicemails on my phone that I hadn’t checked in days. I walked back into the apartment, took a deep breath, and fanned out the mail like a deck of cards. I saw it immediately and my heart plummeted.

It was the shut-off notice from the power company. Continue reading

Investing in Loss

The view of Pike’s Peak from the top of the climb. Credit: Jordan Hayes

My forearms are burning. I open and close my hands a few times, observing the frustrating sensation of having them respond at about half the speed that I’m requesting of them. Over my left shoulder is a spectacular view of Pike’s Peak, far below me a group of climbers – some onlookers, some stealing a moment of shelter in the shade – but the view that’s really capturing my attention is the rock formation six inches in front of my face.

My right hand – and by hand, I mean some portion of a few of my fingers – is gripping onto a rock just barely within my reach. My feet are resting on a natural shelf cut into the mountain, the route above me jutting out towards my torso, pushing me into a backwards-leaning posture that feels, well, about as unnatural as leaning backwards off the edge of a cliff.

It’s my first time sport climbing.

Continue reading

Building Blocks to a Happy Life

In most cases, it really is that simple.

I’m a great worker. I haven’t always been that way, but a combination of better-defined goals and a genuine love for my job has made it relatively easy for me to sit down and crank out a solid six hours of productive work per day. But six weeks ago, I examined my day-to-day life and I realized that this was the only constant that I could point out – the only action that was reliably repeated day in and day out.

I believe that most highly successful people have routines. Moreover, I think that routines are a way of defining yourself – of prioritizing your life, of improving certain areas, and of maintaining others. A routine consists of a series of habits, and habits are the building blocks of a personality. Continue reading

Life’s Biggest Secret

Yesterday you said tomorrow

The remarkable thing about life is that you are the master of your mind, the undisputed main character in an epic journey through this world. Command your mind or your body and it will obey. You can use this power to shape your future as you see fit; your legs will walk to the gym even if you’re lethargic, your vocal chords will produce sound even if you’re nervous to speak up.

But, for all of the incredible features that come standard on the Human Body, autopilot is not one of them. In the absence of instructions, your mind and body will remain in the default state of Doing Nothing. It will not make friends for you if you don’t socialize, it will not find you a new job if you don’t seek out opportunities. Continue reading

10 Killer Negotiating Tactics (or, how I got $125,000 for nothing)

A nice bonus.

I once was contacted by a multibillion dollar, publicly traded German company that wanted to use one of our trademarks for their new line of products.

I asked them how much they were willing to offer in exchange for a licensing agreement. In their response below, you’ll see them inform me that company policy prohibits them from compensating me for it, but they’d be happy to cover reasonable legal fees.

Translation: they wanted to use my trademark and they were offering me absolutely nothing in return.

It was a starting point. Continue reading

The Importance of Being Interesting

I don’t always read blogs – but when I do, it’s BAExpat.com.

I was sitting in my apartment the other day listening to opera and reflecting on the importance of being interesting.

I can see how that statement might come off as pretentious. Let me clarify – I wasn’t just sitting around, listening to opera on iTunes, and casually pondering egotistical insights.

There was actually a live opera performance happening in my living room. Continue reading