Build-your-own morning routine

What if you could manufacture a perfect day? One of those ah-so-amazing days when you have the “productive touch” (similar to the midas touch but instead of turning things into gold, you open a can of todo-list destroying whoop-ass).

I’m having one of those days today. And what I’ve learned is— it’s no secret to make it happen. I can have one everyday.

What’s the big secret to an incredible day?

Well, I’ve written about it before and I’ll write about it again. It’s the morning routine. If you haven’t read my posts on my daily morning rituals, start there—

Crafting a morning routine is a personal thing. First of all, you can’t do everything. Morning routine implies morning— what I mean is, it shouldn’t consume your entire day. One hour is perfect, two is the maximum.

My (current) morning routine in a nutshell—

  • Wake up between 5-6AM
  • Drink a glass of water, first thing
  • Write 1 Journal Entry, 10 Ideas, and 250-1000 Words
  • Blue Light Therapy
  • Say my Daily Affirmations
  • Visualize my day
  • Run one mile
  • Take a cold shower
  • Plan my day ahead

Your morning routine should evolve and change. If something isn’t working, change it. Don’t latch on just because someone else is doing it.

The psychology of a morning routine

The morning routine sets the tone of your day. No matter how shitty yesterday was or how much you have to do today, the morning routine is your daily constant— your totally 100% selfish ritual. It’s the time that you allocate towards yourself, everyday, no matter what. It keeps you sane.

If you study successful people, one thing that you’ll notice really quickly is that they share a bunch of similar habits— and the daily ritual is one of them. This is why. And being busy isn’t an excuse. In fact, the busier that you get, the MORE you need it.

Build your own morning ritual

So, here’s how you get started— pick 4 habits and start them tomorrow. Yes, just 4. You can add more in later, but it’s best to start small. Pick the ones that resonate with you the most. Do them every morning immediately after you wake up for the next 30 days.

Pick 4 Morning Habits from the List

  • Wake up at 5AM
  • Drink a tall glass of water as soon as you get out of bed
  • Make your bed immediately
  • Do 20 pushups as soon as you get out of bed
  • Eat a protein and fat rich breakfast within 30 minutes of getting up
  • Run a mile every single morning
  • Take your multivitamins everyday
  • Floss after breakfast
  • Do Blue Light Therapy to wake yourself up
  • Take a bath in the morning
  • Take a cold shower in the morning (it sucks but you feel AWESOME after)
  • Write a blog post every single morning
  • Write down 10 ideas
  • Write a journal entry
  • Write 250-1000 words on any topic
  • Keep a daily gratitude journal
  • Plan your entire day in 15-60 minute increments
  • Lay out your clothes for the day
  • Dress your absolute best for the day (EVEN if you work from home)

Now, do them for the next 30 days

Every morning, when you wake up, your morning ritual should be the first thing you do. I used to have a big piece of paper taped to the wall that was the first thing I saw every morning. It said “Do your fucking ritual”. Let me know if you do this too because I think it’s awesome.

What if I forget to do it?

As soon as you remember, drop what you’re doing and start your ritual. You probably need something to remind you. Setting a second “morning ritual” alarm clock can help. If you remember when it’s too late (i.e, you’re in the car), do them when you get home.

What if I skip a day?

Add an extra day to the 30. For example, if you skip day 4, you have to keep up your ritual for 31 days instead of 30.

What if I want to do more than 4?

I recommend starting small for a couple of reasons— it’s easier to stick with AND you don’t want your time commitment to get huge. Remember, 1 to 2 hours MAX per day. This is especially important if you’re not used to waking up early.

 


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Be superhuman without coffee or caffeine

The average american drinks 3 cups of coffee per day. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not average, which means you likely drink EVEN more than that. I know the feeling— I can put down espresso shot after espresso shot with the best of ‘em.

And, for most, it’s not just coffee, but rather.. office coffee. Life’s too short to drink bad beer, bad coffee, and bad wine. But we’re addicts for that caffeine drip.

Over the years, I’ve collected a repertoire of eccentric beverages that I enjoy drinking instead of coffee. I go through cycles of giving up coffee, mainly because it’s such a potent stimulant. I don’t always do a great job of it (I fail my fair share), but I try to treat it like a tool.

Used occasionally (1-2 times biweekly), caffeine becomes an EXTREMELY potent stimulant. When you use it everyday, though, you just build a tolerance and addiction that really doesn’t serve any purpose.

Calling caffeine “baby cigarettes” might be a stretch, but that doesn’t mean it’s all roses— consistent high dose caffeine stresses the hell out of your Adrenal Gland.

Awesome alternatives to coffee

When I give up coffee, I still miss the occasional hot beverage throughout the morning. One of the more convenient aspects of a hot cup of black coffee is that there’s no calories involved— it’s basically a free drink. Remove it, and your list of calorie-free beverages drops by 25%.. Water, Tea, and Diet Soda (no thanks).

Here’s some AWESOME coffee replacements that I’ve collected over the years. I’ll cover each one— By the way, some of these still have caffeine but in FAR less quantities than a solid cup of black.

Matcha

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with this delicious green drink called Matcha. Matcha is made from green tea, but if you’ve never had Matcha before.. it’s NOTHING like green tea.

It’s super labor intensive to make— they cover the plants from direct sunlight to increase chlorophyll and aminos, dry it out for days, and grind it into a very fine powder.

You can mix Matcha powder with ice cold water (coldbrew matcha) to make a ridiculously refreshing, thirst-quenching, earthy drink. Or you, can mix it with hot water to make an espresso-like beverage with a superb crema.

blend_100_100_g__60642.1389740492.440.500Matcha is REALLY fucking expensive. It’s really labor intensive to produce and the harvest only happens once per year, so if you find cheap Matcha it’s probably incredibly bitter and not worth the consideration of your taste buds.

The best cheap Matcha that I’ve found is DoMatcha Organic. It’s good, but there are far better Matcha’s out there… if you’re willing to pay. At $278/100g, the “hyperpremium” Breakaway 100 ain’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny..

By the way, like most of the drinks here, there’s a whole ritual surrounding Matcha— it’s more than just pour and stir. There are bamboo scoops, special cups, and matcha whisks that can bring back the reminiscent ritual of making a cup of joe, depending on how far off the deep end you want to go :)

Yerba Mate

Before I was obsessed with Matcha, I was really into Mate. Yerba Mate is a tea made from leaves of a huge rainforest bush. It’s closer to coffee on the caffeine scale, so don’t go crazy with it, but actually has several stimulants that make it a smoother ride… less afternoon crash.

On top of caffeine, the stimulants theophylline and theobromine also come along for the ride.

Mate is smooth and sweet, enjoyed hot or cold (I like to brew it in the fridge overnight for maximum deliciousness). Don’t buy the crazy sweetened stuff at the store, brew it yourself. I’ve tried a bunch of the “mass produced” brands, and nothing even comes close to the Mate that Adagio sells. By the way, they also have toasted, chocolate, and citrus mate that’s tasty, too.Wreath-Gourd-image

Again, there’s a whole ritual that goes along with brewing and drinking Mate. The classic way to drink Mate is hot, in a gourde, through a bombilla.

Good Tea (WTF is good tea anyways?)

Most people drink pretty crappy tea. Even the most snobbiest coffee drinker pulls out the cheap-o Lipton bags when they reach for tea. What gives? Lipton is like the Folgers of the tea world.

If you have a couple of bucks to spare, I recommend buying a few different tea samples and tasting them side-by-side. It’s eye opening how the flavors are so distinctly different between even the most similar types of tea. Not all black tea tastes the same, for example.

My favorite place to source good tea from is Adagio— I have no affiliation, just an extremely satisfied repeat customer. It’s hard to beat a solid black, green, or pu’erh tea.

Pu’erh, by the way, is a totally uncommon style of tea that’s become popular recently. It kind of tastes like a campfire.. it’s actually made by fermenting the tea with mold, yeast, and bacteria (sometimes for 20+ years!)

I highly highly highly recommend you just buy a ton of different samples and get a feel for what you like. Even if you stick with a single type of tea, like black tea, the variations between each type is CRAZY. Each one tastes so different.

Here are a couple of my favorite picks for teas—

Keeping with rituals, brewing tea the RIGHT way encompasses a bunch of rituals.. I made the investment in a temperature controlled tea kettle. It turns out that water temperature plays a huge role in making delicious tea.

Ever have super bitter green tea? You used the wrong temperature water. For me, this bad boy electric kettle does the job— no more bitter tea. It’s also a good idea to get good tea infuser. I like the super fine in-cup infuser like this one (but throw the lid away, it’s useless).

Teeccino and Dandy Blend (Herbal Coffee)

Teeccino and Dandy Blend are both more-or-less the same thing.. the basic idea is you take a bunch of flavorful roots and spices, seep them in hot water, and get a black-ish brew that’s sweet, nutty and reminiscent of a really smooth cup of coffee. I think they use chicory and dandelion root. Either way, it’s a really nice, smooth drink that’s totally caffeine free (unlike the small amounts of caffeine in the tea).

Teeccino isn’t gluten-free (there’s barley in the blend), so if that’s a deal-breaker for you go for the Dandy Blend. Otherwise, Teeccino tastes way better (just like every other gluten/gluten-free comparison, eh).

Also, Dandy Blend dissolves straight into hot water which makes it super convenient for the office. Teeccino has a seeping step like tea.. doesn’t take long, but less convenient for sure.

Kombucha

Kombucha is fermented brewed tea (unlike Pu’erh, the brewed tea is actually fermented). You take some black tea, throw in some sugar, and ferment it with a bunch of bacterias and yeasts. In the end, you get a delicious beverage filled with probiotics. Even though it sounds weird.. it has a very unique tangy, sweet, and vinegary taste.

Most mass-produced sweetened Kombucha has the nutritional content of a soda, so shop with eyes open. You can actually brew it at home pretty easily, similar to home brewing beer.

Become superhuman with Caffeine

I try to keep coffee (and the whole caffeine family) as a tool in my productivity toolbox. If I overuse it, I dramatically reduce the effects and it just becomes something that I’m addicted too— I end up drinking it because I’m constantly tired from abusing my adrenal glands.. I drink it to keep away the withdrawl headaches.

If you can give up on the daily coffee consumption, it unlocks a super power that you’ve never had before.. caffeine becomes SUPER effective.

Go a month without a cup of coffee and the stimulant effects become something like a dose of crystal meth. It’s becomes an instant-productivity elixir that’s just a drip machine away.

When I do drink coffee, I like to take it a couple of steps further. Instead of mixing in creamer or milk (thanks to a DNA test, I learned that dairy makes me.. flatulent), I actually blend grass-fed butter into my coffee similar to the “Bulletproof Coffee” guy, Dave Asprey. (I don’t like his beans though, I just use some nice locally roasted ones.)

Anyways, a nice serving of fat via the grass-fed butter with caffeine goes a long way to taking your caffeine experience to the next level.

Take a hunk of butter, throw it into a blender with a finely brewed cup of coffee and viola— you have something that’s reminiscent to a latte without the sugar or lactose. The high fat content helps sustain the caffeine wave.

Use it wisely young grasshoper, you’re playing with fire. Too frequent, and you’re back on the caffeine IV drip. Once or twice every two weeks and you can use its benefits as part of your own superhuman productivity arsenal.


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Morning Rituals— The 3 T’s of Success (3/3)

This is the last post in my series about morning rituals. If you didn’t catch the other two, they’re here:

  1. 1/10/1000
  2. Mind Games

Today we’re going to talk about the 3 T’s of Success. The first two posts talk about things I do every morning to prepare myself for a productive day. Kind of like small appetizers before getting to the entree of the day.

This post is different. This is going to help you get more shit done.

The Upgraded Todolist

I’m the first to admit that todo lists suck. I’ve fought with GTD (great book, but the system has too much overhead) and pretty much every todo program in existence. Things, Omnifocus, The Hit List, Trello, Wunderlist— you name it, I’ve tried it.

For me, Software-based todo lists never work.

I end up spending a stupid amount of hours pulling in all of my tasks, customizing the software, only to forget about it a week later and completely drop the ball on my new “system”. It just doesn’t work for me. I know myself well enough to admit that I just can’t trust myself with software for managing my day. I like to play with the settings too much.

Over the past two years, I’ve found a system that actually works. It helps me to get more done and stay focused, but more importantly.. I actually stick to using it. That’s really the most important part of any system. You can have best program, system, or whatever.. but if you don’t actually USE IT, it doesn’t matter.

You’re going to laugh because it’s so simple.

First, I buy a bulk pack of REALLY high-quality legal pads on Amazon. Paper is the most expensive part of this system.. Well, maybe a nice pen too..

Every night, before bed, I sit down and plan my day. There are two important parts of this—

  1. My list is a CONTRACT to myself. Everything on the todo list gets done that day, no exceptions. It’s a commitment, and it means to doing less.
  2. My list encompasses the ENTIRE day. It’s the blueprint. When you’re designing the plans for a house, you don’t leave out the obvious parts like the bathroom and kitchen. Likewise, your list should include meetings, morning rituals, etc.

At the top of the notepad, I write the date. I split the page into 3 sections. On the far left, I write down all of the meetings I’ll have for that day.

In the middle, I put down everything I’d like to accomplish with a time estimate next to it. Anything that I estimate as more than 4 hours gets broken down— like me, you’re probably really bad at estimating.. break things down into small chunks. Remember, this is a CONTRACT. The time estimates help us to avoid overcommitting.

And lastly, on the far right, I put down the “obvious” things— morning routine stuff that I do everyday.. Journal, Lumosity, etc. Sure you could leave this off, but I’ve noticed that if I stop putting it on the list, I stop doing it consistently.

Okay, one more thing. Using the extra space on the bottom of the page, I add a distractions column. When you’re focused, working hard on something and a random thought bubbles up to the surface.. “hmm, I should research the best blah blah blah”.. you need to PAUSE.

Instead of acting on it and distracting yourself, quickly address it by just writing it down on your notepad. Not only will you prevent yourself from getting distracted and falling into a rabbit hole (and somehow find yourself reading wikipedia 5 hours later), you’ll also save the idea for later. Since you’re addressing the distraction immediately, it’ll stop bubbling up into your conscious mind so you can FOCUS on your work.

Here’s a picture of what my daily todo list looks like.
IMG_35822

Time Blocking

The upgraded todo list helps us plan and organize our day, but it doesn’t actually help us to GET MORE THINGS DONE. Here’s a really simple tactic I use to actually accomplish more. It’s kind of like the pomodoro technique, but slightly modified. There are a billion pomodoro apps, but I really like physical things. Apps are just too easy to forget about.

I use this really simple Miracle Cube timer that I picked up on Amazon. I set it for 45 minutes and get laser sharp focus on a single task. Multitasking is great way to be awful at a bunch of things. We use time blocking to AVOID multitasking. Yes, do whatever it takes to only focus on ONE thing.

When a thought pops into your head, write it down in your “distractions” box. Resist the temptation to context switch. It’s really hard at first.. computers have trained our minds to jump around like crazy.

Usually, I’ll take a 5-10 minute break between each 45 minute session, followed by a longer 30 minute break after two 45 minute sessions. You need to manage your energy and slowly release it throughout the day instead of flooring the pedal and running out of gas.

Sunday is like my holy day for focusing. Instead of taking a lazy day or watching Netflix all day, I like to set aside a 4 hour time block to focus on something big. This is your time. It’s the opportunity to conquer (or atleast start) those really high value things you always procrastinate on.

Today (aka Start now)

One thing I struggle with the most is starting big projects. Like, even though I might be really pumped up about the project, I’ll catch myself procrastinating like crazy on actually starting. I’ll spend a ton of time researching and learning about the BEST way to do it, but I won’t actually start.

I end up so paralyzed by the fear that the project won’t come out perfect, that I never actually start. It’s a cycle of perfection and resistance.

Perfection is just another form of procrastination. It’s an excuse to delay starting something important. The fear of not doing it right PERFECTLY the first time scares the ever living shit out of you, and you never get started.

Millions of people have great worked trapped inside of them because of perfection.

Here’s the thing about perfection— it’s easy to defeat. All you need to do is START. Once you make EVEN JUST A TINY BIT OF PROGRESS, the fear goes away. It doesn’t hold any power over you anymore.

I’ve battled perfection and I’ve won. Here’s how I do it. Again, dead simple, but worth putting into words. I take my Cube Timer that I mentioned above and I set it for 10 minutes. In that 10 minutes, I start “that project”. It doesn’t matter what I do in that 10 minutes, as long as I start. No researching, no googling, no reading up on the best way.. Just start. If it’s a painting, put paint on the canvas. If it’s programming, get some code onto GitHub.

When the timer goes off after 10 minutes, you’re free to stop. You’ve battled perfection and won. Remember, a masterpiece is made up of a million tiny mistakes.

 


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Morning Rituals— Mind Games (2/3)

This is part two of my series on Morning Rituals. You can read part one by clicking here.

Every morning that I’m alive, I finish my Morning Success Ritual.

It’s the most valuable thing that I do every single day, day in and day out. Throughout this series of blog posts, I’m going to lead you by example on building your own kickass morning ritual.

I’ve done my morning ritual in one form or another for a couple of years now. It’s constantly evolving— this morning’s ritual isn’t the same one I did a year ago, and next month’s ritual will be different from the one I do today. I’m constantly learning, optimizing, and tweaking the best way for me to start each morning with some oomph.

In the last post, I talked about how I stretch my creativity muscles with the 1/10/1000 exercise. There are some other muscles in your brain that need to get worked out too— just like you don’t only do bicep curls when you’re at the gym, you need to work other muscles besides your creativity muscle.

Mind contro.. err.. Mind Games

What we want to do is play with the neuroplasticity of our brain— the idea that our brain is more than just a warm lump of putty.. that it’s actively engaged and changing during our lifetime. It turns out (based on current understandings), that we can actually influence the memory, problem solving, and speed of our mind.. Kind of like upgrading the CPU.

The easiest way that you can do this is by training daily with a “dual n-back game”. You can find a ton of them online, my favorite is the (free) Brain Workshop app that works on Windows/Mac/Linux.

BUT, really, my absolute favorite way to workout my mind is by doing a daily practice of Lumosity (no affiliation) every morning. I do 5 different brain games every morning and, over time, I’ve seen my memory and problem solving skills really increase. It has made a noticeable difference in my life. I notice when I’ve skipped Lumosity for a few days because my memory isn’t quite as sharp.

I’ve done Lumosity for around 425 days now. They actually have a really neat tool to track your progress and graph the changes over time. While the critic in me says this only shows that you’re getting better at the games, not improving your memory, I’ve personally noticed a dramatic improvement.

I used to have the worst short term memory. I’d constantly forget things, miss deadlines.. just because it’d fall out of my mind. While I still forget things (I’m not superhuman.. yet), I’ve improved so much since starting Lumosity.

Daily Time Commitment: 10 minutes

Command your subconscious

Affirmations. It’s such a loaded term. When most people hear it, they run for the hills. They think of some new-agey bullshit like “The Secret” (I won’t waste your time with a link— it’s that bad), where you “command” the universe to give you what you want by thinking about it, and you just get it free of charge. “Checks just start appearing in the mail”.

If you think that form of affirmations is bullshit, you’re right. Of course it is.

What affirmations REALLY are, though, is a tool to reinforce your subconscious with positive, constructive daily advice. Think of it as.. the self-talk that you -want- to have.

I’ve studied a bunch of successful people and I’ve noticed a common theme.. people that’ve had a “rags to riches” type of story almost always talk about daily affirmations.

So why do most people squirm like a caterpillar (I did the first 1000 times) when we talk about affirmations? I think it just seems weird. That’s probably because it is. It’s super fucking weird. But most incredibly successful people ARE weirdos. Do you think Bill Gates isn’t a weirdo? I’m sure he is! And that makes him incredibly successful, because he doesn’t think or act like everyone else. He’s unique. Stop being just average and give it a shot.

Affirmations are super easy. Spend a few minutes writing out the self-talk of your “ideal” or “future”-self. Every morning, read them to yourself out loud. With passion. Don’t just skim them. Announce them.

I’m going to totally embarrass myself, for your benefit, here are my REAL daily affirmations. I say these every morning.

I am a finisher. I am a person that gets everything done, no exceptions all of the time. I am fast. I am productive, I find the most efficient and simple way to conquer anything that I put my head to.

I’m insightful. I make connections and create thoughts that bring simplicity and understanding to those around me.

Money is not my priority in life, but I enjoy the spoils of my success.

I’m successful. There isn’t anything that I put my mind to and don’t find success in. While it doesn’t come easy, it comes naturally. Things often go the way I plan because I steer the motherfucking ship.

Yes it feels fucking weird, but that doesn’t make it less awesome.

Daily Time Commitment: 1 minute

Visualize Awesome

The last exercise is easy.. it just takes a minute. Read through your todo list and turn it a movie. Close your eyes and visualize yourself doing each item, one by one. See yourself doing exactly what you have to do, as specifically as possible.. Sitting with your laptop at your desk. Chrome is open.. WordPress is  loaded, and you’re writing a blog post.

Once you visualize what you plan on doing, you’ve kind of “already did it”. It removes that little bit of resistance that makes you afraid of starting.

Daily Time Commitment: 1 minute

Good luck! Add Lumosity, Affirmations, and Visualizations to your daily routine. I’ve got more coming :-)

P.S. What’s the biggest thing holding you back from doing your morning rituals? Not enough time? Does it just feel.. weird? Comment below.


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Morning Rituals— 1/10/1000 (1/3)

I recently asked a friend—

“What’s the most important thing you do everyday?”
*blank stare*
“I.. I don’t have any idea”

This was POWERFUL , because I knew exactly what the most valuable thing that I do every single day is—

It’s my morning ritual, my daily success routine.

WTF is a “Morning Ritual?”

Over the years, I’ve come up with about 10 or 15 things that I do every single day, habits that I’ve noticed multiply my success and creativity.

I first got this idea from Eben Pagan and Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning.

I used to wake up  and immediately dive into my work. Maybe I’d have breakfast first, but usually not. I’d lay in bed for 30 minutes reading email as soon as my eyes opened and eventually make it to my computer to start hacking away on projects.

I read an article in Fast Company that profiled the “typical day” of a few high-profile business executives. One of the questions asked was— what’s the last thing you do before falling asleep and the first thing you do before waking up?

I’ll spare you a link to the article because the answers were almost universal…

CHECK MY EMAIL

What the hell. That’s a ridiculous way to start a day if you want to be productive. I’m totally guilty too, but just think how ridiculous it sounds..

I want to have a productive day, so I’m going to start by seeing what tasks others have deferred to me.

No thanks. We need to take back our day and start with something better.

1/10/1000 Morning Ritual

Instead of overwhelming you with all of the rituals I’ve amassed over the past year or two, I’m going to share them over a couple of posts. The ritual I’m sharing today is by far my favorite and the most valuable.

  • 1 Journal Entry
  • 10 Ideas
  • 1000 Words

Keeping a Journal

I’ve talked about how I’ve written in my journal everyday for the past 1810 days. Besides breathing, journaling is my longest running habit and has been the cornerstone of consistency in my otherwise “by-the-seat-of-pants lifestyle”.

Every morning when I wake up, one of the first things I do is write a quick entry in my journal. I use DayOne to keep my journal, but used Evernote for the first 860 days. The software that you use makes no difference as long as you just start the damn habit.

By the way, the journal entries that I write are usually pretty short. Something like 4-6 sentences talking about major highlights from the past day. If I want to write more, I do, but don’t force myself to write a certain amount. Once and awhile I’ll write a longer form entry, but usually they’re pretty short — but VERY valuable. Having an archive of your life that you can look back on is incredible.

Write down 10 ideas

This is a “jedi master” habit that I picked up from James Altucher (How to become an idea machine). I have a dedicated idea notebook that I keep on my desk. Every morning I pick a topic and throw down a handful of ideas.

Most of my ideas are shit, but it doesn’t matter— it’s like doing deadlifts with your mind. The point is to work out your idea muscle and make it stronger, to loosen up your creativity for the rest of the day.

It sounds easy but it’s actually pretty hard to come up with 10 less-than-awful ideas when you limit yourself to a single subject. Once and awhile you come up with a good one. It’s actually how I came up with doing Office Hours, which has added a ton of value to peoples lives.

You already have a ton of awesome ideas kicking around in your head, you just need to find ‘em.

If you’re the type of person that says, “Oh, I’m just not the creative type”… you really need this. Your idea muscle is weak.

Write 1000 Words

I’ll be upfront.. this is the hardest one to do. But it’s so fucking worth it.

I open up my favorite writing app, Ulysses, and crank out 1000 words every morning. The topic doesn’t matter. I’ve written everything from serious blog posts to short stories about my cat. I usually don’t have a planned topic and 90% of the writing never makes it anywhere. You can even write a rap if you want.

Doing something with what you write isn’t the point.

I used to be scared of writing, even after having a bunch of successful articles. I’d feel a TON of resistance before writing because there was so much pressure to make every article a grand slam. So I’d hardly ever write. Fear won.

Turning Pro taught me about being “a professional”, about practicing and consistently honing your craft. Think of your daily writing ritual as practice. It’s your warmup for the day and relieves some of the pressure.

What you’re training yourself to do is to write so much that it becomes EASY.. natural. It’s just something you do. What I notice is that it’s way easier for me to write high quality content after I get those first 1000 words out of the way. It’s like you’re clearing out all of the cobwebs and junk so that the good stuff can flow.

How do I actually do this?

Step 1: Get out of bed early
Step 2: Drink a tall glass of water
Step 3: Do 1/10/1000

I’ll share 10 other morning rituals with you over the coming days, but for now, this is all that you need to get started with a kick ass morning.

Don’t check email until you’re done, damnit! Put your own success first.

PS— Wake up early. Winners don’t get up at 11am. This is coming from the biggest night owl, the guy that loves staying up til 4am. I win disproportionately more when I’m up at 5am. I’ll share more techniques on becoming an early riser in a future post.


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I’m giving away $3,000,000 this year

I’m a hardcore believer in New Year’s Resolutions. I’m talking super complex, month-by-month lists and goals that I spend nearly half of December planning.

Today, I want to share one my loftiest resolutions from 2014— to give away $3,000,000 in value.

I know what you’re thinking.. impossible! Unless you just happen to have a cool 3 million in cash laying around (and I don’t).

Instead, I’m giving away $3,000,000 in value.

What is value?

A major shortcut to success is to constantly create value for other people— to create something valuable. Something that’s worthy of time, consideration, and (sometimes) money. I find that the more valuable things that I create, the more successful I end up, whether or not I directly charge money for what I’m making.

One fatal flaw that new “producers” make is that they demand to be paid for all of their work, upfront, starting from day one. While working for free and being taken advantage of sucks, strategic investments and giving away value for free are real things. Sometimes you need to make the first move in a negotiation, give away something-for-nothing in order to reach an audience.

Look at How my opinion made it into the New York Times today by Jason Fried— Jason lists 10 years worth of steps, connections, and meetings that got his opinion into the paper. It’s the connections he made over the years that got him on the front page; the free advice, lunches, and coffees.

“Fuck you, pay me” only works to a point. Quality content is valuable and you absolutely should charge for it, but you don’t need to charge for everything. Philanthropy is real and doesn’t only need to be limited to the rich and famous. There are so many ways to give.

How I’ve given away $750,000 so far—

I’m lucky enough to have a blog that a fair amount of people read. Every time that I write a post that touches someone, it’s a tiny bit of value.

Here’s a few of the things I’ve done to hit the $750K mark—

  • Lots of talks! Sharing my startup experiences (for free) gives everyone in the room something enjoyable
  • DonorsChoose, Omakase Charity, YouCaring (more traditional giving)
  • Mentoring students at Uncollege; I dropped out of college and am grateful to give the advice that 19-year old me needed to hear
  • Hosting free, weekly office hours sessions on Mondays at 7AM PST. One-on-one value.
  • Writing super high quality email newsletters (totally free; no sales pitch)

How you can give away value

Start producing more creative work. Create value by making art, by writing, by creating open-source code. And then give it away for free. You’ll touch someone. You’ll improve your community. And (somewhat selfishly), you’ll see it repaid to you in the long run. Who knows, it might even get you into the New York Times.

I need your help!

There’s two things you can do to help me give away $3,000,000 this year—

  1. Leave a comment below and let me know what topics I can write about to help YOU personally succeed.
  2. Join me for free office hours every Monday at 7AM PST. Learn more here.

 


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Why I gave away all of my books (for free)

Who’s not a sucker for a good paperback? Over the past 5 years I’ve morphed from a self-proclaimed non-reader to an avid doggy-eared paperback collector.

I’ve never been able to adopt the ebook, even though I’m a first adopter for even the most ridiculous things (i.e, Soylent— need I say more?)

I can’t get over the fact that paperbacks just… feel good. They smell nice. They have a sound, a weight, a body. It gets more awkward. I’veWRITTEN an ebook. And I don’t read ebooks. Yup.

I didn’t have a choice anymore

I’m swapping coasts, moving to San Francisco, and from what I’ve heard I’ll have a tough time fitting a book collection inside of a shoebox in SOMA. Tough break.

But my books.. they’re mine. To look at man’s book collection is to take a peek at his psyche. You see the stories and knowledge that has shaped his mind.

How do you get rid of your most prized possessions?

The first concession— “I want them to go to good homes”. Like, I want people to actually read them. To see what I saw. To find value in the words that I’ve gotten so much out of.

But how? Do I give them away? To friends? Do I just cram them into a box and drop them off at Goodwill?

What if I could share them with people I’ve never met?

An unrealistic idea quickly took shape into something real. That’s it! I’ll give the books away for free to strangers on the internet who WANT them. An experiment.

And just like that, bookshare.io was born.

Launching bookshare.io

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.03.21 PM.jpg

I built bookshare.io in about a week. The premise was simple. I’d list all of my 130+ books (yes, I’ve read each one, cover-to-cover). Anyone can pick up to five books, pay about $8 for flat-rate shipping and get them for free.

I avoided any “manual labor”, like having to type in every book title and description, by building (my first) iPhone app to scan the ISBN barcodes and download the title, description, and cover art from Amazon and Google Books.

I launched the site on 3/25 at 11PM, and by morning all but the last 21 books were spoken for.

The reception was incredible— I collected over $500 in shipping fees and optional donations within the first 3 hours of launch. About 50% of people claiming books chose to donate an extra $3 to pay for the hosting costs (like Heroku, Namecheap, and CloudFlare).

But, more importantly, all of my books will go to good homes.

P.S— Want the nitty gritty details on exactly what tech I used to launch the bookshare? Read the in-depth post here.


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I stopped relying on motivation and took control of my creativity

Life, if well lived, is long enough — Seneca

Fuck motivation. I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor for seven months, trying to write the perfect blog post. 237 mornings, I’ve scribbled “write a blog post” on my thin, yellow legal pad hoping motivation would visit just one more time.

I was scared of writing a shitty post.

So I told myself I was busy. Didn’t have the time. Had a couple of ideas in the air. I’d get to it to it when I was motivated.

We all share a dirty secret.

Anyone who’s ever said they’ve “been too busy” is a liar. They’ve been too scared. Including you. Especially you.

Life is long enough. We say it’s short because we never make the time to live.

Being busy is a pleasant way of saying that.


Motivation is an excuse to do great things without promising to be great in the future.

It’s like, you look at the clock and realize the day is gone. It’s 8PM and sure, you did stuff, but you’re not quite sure what and AT BEST it wasn’t even important.

If you rely on motivation to accomplish dreams, you spend most of your time waiting.

Another day driven through on cruise-control. You look around and think— “I am the only one? Am I the only person on EARTH that’s been left out of some secret? How does everyone else have it figured out?”


I’ve spent 77% of my life in school, yet I was never taught how to do taxes or systematically find focus.

We learn how to solve math problems, but we never learn how to program our minds and cling to motivation as the answer.

I lost 10 pounds in January. It’s not the first time I’ve had to do it. I’ve failed over and over again. “I’m not MOTIVATED enough. I wish I had the DISCIPLINE I used to have”.

The excuse is a lie, because the formula is always the same. Throw away junk food, exercise more, eat less carbs. The rest works itself out.

But without a system, relying on motivation alone, you’re fucked.


How I systematically win a tiny bit everyday

It’s not sexy to say, but most greatness is planned. Calculated. Worked out chunk by chunk. Created in the absence of motivation. It arrives slowly and without gusto.

Throw away motivation. Harness a system, a morning routine, a ritual.

Here’s mine:

  1. Wake up, immediately drink glass of water
  2. Write a quick journal entry, practice Lumosity
  3. Yoga, meditate, watch a TED talk
  4. Write down 10 ideas to keep my idea muscle strong
  5. Plan out, step-by-step, the 3 most high value things I can accomplish today. Low value work gets brushed off onto a todo later list. (I’m a fan of these legal pads)
  6. Use the most badass uber-simple timer to work in 45 minute chunks with 20 minute breaks in between (renewal is important).

You can copy mine or make your own. Just stop relying on motivation.

P.S— you can print out this post and rip it up if it’s shitty


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Lessons learnt crashing a hang glider

When I was 21, I crashed my hang glider. I was taking hang gliding lessons from an 85-year old German immigrant named Henry, and during a training flight I plummeted out of the sky and crashed in the woods.

After the initial HOLY FUCK I JUST CRASHED AND I’M NOT SURE IF I’M ALIVE shock and the quick pat-down check to make sure my limbs were still on, my face turned rosy red and filled with embarrassment. I didn’t die, but I wished I had. I had just failed in the most spectacular, crash-the-car-going-100mph kind of way in front of my friends, and worse, Henry.

Everyone wanted to know what happened. Was my glider faulty? Sudden change of wind? No, none of those things. It was all my fault. I was going too slow. I stalled. I lost control.

It’s all my fault

Failure feels incredibly wrong. In nature, when you fail— you die. Luckily, we don’t die when we fail at startups, but it still feels a little bit like dying. I can come up with every excuse why I’ve failed, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all my fault.

  • It’s MY fault for getting scammed out of $6000 on Flippa. I should have Googled the seller.
  • It’s MY fault for hiring the shoddy iOS developer. I should have asked for a code sample.
  • It’s MY fault for the site going down at 2AM. I should have fixed that bug weeks ago.

When you accept the blame, failure is easy. You aren’t left with excuses, anger, and questions— the feelings are simple and the answer is obvious. It was all my fault.

You can’t blame anyone but yourself, and how can you possibly hold a grudge at you? It’s easier to forgive yourself than it is to forgive others. When you take responsibility for all of the outcomes, only then can you also take responsibility for your success. Otherwise, it’s just dumb luck.

How to fail at startups, crash course

  1. Make interesting shit
  2. Find out people don’t want to pay for the shit you think is interesting
  3. See 1

The dumbest website I’ve ever created has to be “Swine Flu Email Alerts”. No one ever bought the “flu dominator” hospital masks I was selling.

Or maybe the dumbest was “Send It Fake”, a site for sending emails from fake From addresses. Not only did this awful idea make me a prime gateway for spammers and scammers, but it also got STOLEN from me when a guy from India hacked into my GoDaddy account and transferred the domain to his account. I sent him the rest of the files— if he wanted it that bad, he could just have it.

As entrepreneurs, we’re going to fail. It’s just part of the equation. But when you fail, do it in the most spectacular, hair on fire, blaze of glory kind of way.

I crashed my glider because I was flying too slow and stalled the wing. Although extremely counterintuitive (and pants-poopingly scary when faced with complete loss of control while flying engineless), the way to correct for a stall is to dramatically increase airspeed by dropping into a dive. Maybe this is how we should correct failure, too.

After my crash, I found out that during the descent into the trees, Henry was yelling at me from the ground in his thick German accent:

“GO FASTER. GO FASTER. PULL IN.”

I’ll defer to his advice— when it looks like you’re on a collision course with failure, speed up. Go faster. Pull in.

This was an article I wrote for TechCocktail “#FailureFriday” Series, “Accepting blame and going down in flames”


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Life360: The biggest platform that you haven’t heard about (yet)

I’m obsessed with connection. I crave sets of things. Why do we love Apple products? It runs deeper than just the user experience of a single device— it’s the experience of the entire ecosystem. I love things that just.. match. Fit together like puzzle pieces. Like, I have this weird obsession for IKEA. Not because IKEA furniture is the highest quality or the best (it’s not), but because IKEA has mastered the art of the set. Connected. Matching. I obsess over it.

But computers are still figuring it out. Technology and data still seem to have a hard time.. talking— and that’s frustrating to me, because I believe that there is an incredibly futuristic shift that happens at the intersection of the two. We’ve just touched the tip of the connected home, the connected person— Look at NestWattvision, andLockitron. This is the technology I grew up dreaming about.

The “Nest for XYZ” rush is just around the corner— alarm systems, light controls, fitness equipment, are just a few I can come up with off the top of my head, but the horizon of possibilities is seemingly infinite.

But, even with these awesome devices, none of the technology is truly interconnected. Each device, each set of data, lives in its own independent, segregated ecosystem. Another service to remember. Another account to add my girlfriend/wife/parents/kid to. It’s like playing Marco Polo all by yourself.

There is power in the interconnection, power in correlating seemingly unrelated pieces of data, power in the platform. I’m pretty interested inNootropics and general self-tracking, but manually logging every input into your life is tedious and unrealistic, not to mention frustrating when it’s already being passively tracked by many of the devices I’m using every single day. What if Nest or FitBit or Google Latitude or Journal or RunKeeper or my car could talk to each other and share data that’s otherwise locked up?

I’ve kept a journal for the past 1400 days and track my cognition daily on Lumosity, just two independent areas where I collect data about my life, but there’s real power in being able to correlate them together. Like, on days when I log a higher mood in my Journal, my cognitive scores on Lumosity tend to be higher. Or, on the flip side, nights when I spend too many hours at the bar, my Lumosity scores plummet and take almost 4 days to recover to normal levels.

But accessing and correlating these two independent sources of data is a real hassle— often times, requiring manually shuffling data around.

location.png

Above you’ll see two massive sources of automatic data that’s passively collected about me— almost 3 years of location history and 214 days of cognitive performance history. This is POWERFUL data. But the two can’t hook up with each other and make sweet, sweet data babies. Like, my best day of cognitive ability was on April 30, 2013. Why? Where was I? What was my mood like? What was I doing? Did I go out the night before? The data exists, but the interconnection doesn’t.

Enter Life360

So, the more I think about it, the more I see a pattern emerge. There needs to be a platform for the connected devices and apps that find their way into my life, and I think that platform starts with an app calledLife360. Life360 is an app for keeping families connected using location sharing, but where some only see “just an app for moms”, I see family graph. Remember, just a few years ago, Facebook was “just for posting drunk college party pics”. Meanwhile, in 2013, my 81 year old grandfather is using Facebook to keep up in touch with me, 900 miles away.

It makes sense that the platform for the future of interconnectivity would be built primarily around the family— The people I share with most frequently are my girlfriend, my dad, my mom, and probably my cat. My close family. These are the people that I want to be able to access my thermostat, deactivate my alarm, see my location when I’m driving. The people I constantly want to connect with.

And the family graph already has some teeth, too— 37 million 38 million users and hundreds of millions of locations per day. Next, it just needs to become a platform.

Interconnection is my obsession. That’s why I’m getting involved. I’vebuilt an API or two, and know the foundation for building an amazing platform, for building the platform that I’ve dreamt about. The puzzle pieces are spread out across the table and just need to be put into place.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.


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