life skills

Results of Jedi Training

I turned 27 on May 5th- it was depressing. I’ve been a part of two excellent startups and one awesome company, but somehow I’m not satisfied. I’ve made a promise to myself that 3 years from now, by the time I turn 30, I’ll have my own company making at least 100k a year. The end of the year goal 6 months from now- is 20k profit. I believe it’s doable, and I’m currently taking the steps to make it happen. I also had a week off from work- it was needed.

I decided to go to the Hindu temple in Brea- there’s a 90 year old monk I know there who always invites me to spend a few nights with them, learn meditation and ask any tough questions I might have. So, that’s what I did. I left me computer at home, packed up my backpack with a weeks worth of clothing, grabbed 4 books, and went down to the temple.

The four books I took were

The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

and Trust Me I’m Lying also by Ryan Holiday

I’ve read 48 Laws and TMIL multiple times, but I’m trying to internalize both of them. I’m using TMIL to basically carve out a career path for myself. It is a very important book- a playbook of how to use the media to your advantage. I’m supplementing this book with two additional books from David Meerman Scott- also highly recommended by Ryan Holiday. (I sound like a fanboy, but the fact is that he has an easy to understand writing style, and I’m currently devouring any information I can on news, PR, and marketing. It’s something I want to be excellent at.)

To me, 48 Laws of Power basically amounts to mental self defense- I learn the strategies, and I find that I can apply them immediately in my own life. Especially Law 13. (Appeal to people’s self interest, not sense of pity or duty).

The other two books, Meditations and Obstacle is the Way, have been on my “need to read” list for a while. Obstacles showed up at my doorstep on my birthday so I was excited to read it. Both books were amazing. Even more amazing is how much overlap there is in between the philosophies of the Vedas in Hinduism and the practical applications of stoicism.

It was really fucking surprising to be reading the book, and coming across tidbits that my 90 year old monk friend had just mentioned not an hour before. There were highly practical tidbits that overlapped like how to react to events that happen to you and around you “no event is bad. Only your thinking it makes it so.” Also how to view luxuries (this steak is just dead flesh. This wine just old grapes) and to resist temptations.

I’m really glad I went. My biggest takeaway was about fear- when you feel nervous or afraid of taking action- usually it means that you really need to go do that thing. There’s no easy way to do it, so grit your teeth, plan what you can, take action, and don’t worry about the results. They don’t matter. All that matters is what you do, how well you do it, that you put all your effort into it, and whether you’re prepared to take action again, regardless of how well or poorly it went.

Now, time to get to work!

Meditation, Atheism, and Jedi Apprenticeships.

I was brought up Hindu, but as of now, I’m atheist. I’d like to think that I’m a practical person- anecdotes and dogma have no place in my life. I prefer to practice methods which have been tested and proven, so you can see why blue ten-headed gods might seem a bit far-fetched.

Back to Hinduism though. Our family has known a monk- you could call him our spiritual councilor- for over 50 years. When my grandfather first left India and moved to New York, this monk was there. He was there when my parents met, when they got married, and even when I came into the world. He’s seen 3 generations of my family grow up and get established.

At 90 years old, Swami Purnatmananda Maharaj still surprises me. His thinking is clear. His memory, sharp. He’s up at 4:30 in the morning and works all day, tends to the woes of all the people who come to him for advice, and he leads the daily prayers. Not only that, but he’s also a senior monk in his order- Bharat Seva Ashram Sanga, it’s called. This is an international charity with emphasis on helping humanity- not pushing religion. Their motto basically means “service before self.” So their agenda isn’t converting people- it’s helping the poor. As an organization, they are amazing, because monks don’t get paid. Every cent past maintaining the organization goes towards building hospitals, curing the sick. No one has a financial interest in the whole organization- and that’s really impressive-really rare. No western charity or church can claim that. Here in the US, pastors can be wealthy. Not so much with this organization…no one man benefits from the organization more than any other- and regardless of the fact that they are a religious organization, I like that 95% plus of the money donated goes directly to the people.

Anyways, I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Josh Waitzkin, and they were discussing meditation. So I took some notes and over this past weekend, I brought up meditating to this monk. He’s in Yorba Linda for now so I’m lucky to have access to him. He told me to come down for a week, and he’d teach me all the basics of controlling my mind and my emotions. Anger, fear, insecurity- all of it could be controlled. This is really appealing to me…I mean the guy is basically yoda, despite the obvious physical differences and lack of light saber/ levitation powers. But he knows the Jedi mind tricks- that much is clear. Imagine being able to remain perfectly calm while starting a new business. Or being able to feel fear, lean into it, and turn it into an asset. Imagine being able to suppress all of the “I’m not ___enough” comments in your head, or making all of the self limiting excuses go away.

I’m skeptical as always, but will put effort into this. I respect this man a lot- I’ve never met anyone as selfless, sharp, or alert as he is at 90. So I won’t be writing for a week or so. This is as close as I’ll ever get to a Jedi Apprenticeship, so I might as well take it.

see you in a week.

Plans for PR Launch, Book Launch, and Mitigating Fear

I am my own harshest critic, my biggest detractor. If I have an idea validated and ready to go, I’ll find a way to convince myself that it won’t work. In the last few months, however, I’ve been reading and researching what thought leaders my favorite thinkers respected- I thought I might find clues as to why these men thought the way they did, and why they weren’t held back by fear or anxiety.

Well, a few months ago, I found a guy. Turns out that Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Tim Ferriss, Tucker Max, and Ryan Holiday were all fans of Seth Roberts- noted personal science pioneer. Even Taubes, our favorite Santa Clause doctor, was a fan. I haven’t read much on him. I didn’t even take his reading all that seriously, as his books were added to my “books to read” pile, which is well over 200 books long at the moment, and growing every day.

I did however watch this video- a talk on experimental design, and found it extremely helpful.

My biggest takeaway from this video is that “the best way to learn, is to do.” And that’s a huge difference from just thinking about doing things, or reading about them. He also says that taking measured, small steps, will provide much better results and growth than jumping into massive projects with huge margins of error. Mind you- I don’t call this advice, because these are findings from his own experiences. This is what has worked for him- no hypothesizing or armchair professoring involved.

Seth passed away very suddenly last week- so I’m approaching his work with the utmost respect and care. I am curious about how he passed though- his last published article was about how he ate half a stick of butter everyday. If his cause of death is related to any of his work, then it’s important that they are not blindly accepted, but methodically looked through and tested. Lemmings follow blindly, and we are not lemmings. But I digress…he is gone too soon and the world is worse off for it.

I’m getting ready to do my first large scale media manipulation stunt since reading Ryan Holiday’s book, “Trust Me, I’m Lying.” I’ve done two before reading the book, and both went well, receiving national coverage. But I didn’t do it methodically. Last time I traded up the chain by fluke, my only thought being “let’s see how big we can get this.” This time around I have a timeline, a list of people to email, when to email, where I’d email, how I’d trade it up the chain, from what fake email/twitter address I’d send it- a lot more planning has gone into this.

I’m going to be creating a controversy about a product and a company that doesn’t exist. Well- a company that I created with a website, and one custom designed dress, and a bribed student. So…maybe $200 investment. The rest of my investment will be in time.

The other piece of information I’m implementing for this campaign is, funny enough, from Ryan Holiday again- one that he’s written about a few times, most recently this morning, in fact. His article on the importance of negative thinking provides another helpful piece of information- the importance of premeditating all possible negative outcomes. He writes more about this in detail in his new book, The Obstacle is The Way. His book is out today on amazon.

So for this campaign, I’m sitting down and listing everything that could possibly go wrong, how things could backfire, and how I’d mitigate these mistakes. I’m drawing from my imagination as well as from his book.

Finally, I found a video through Charlie Hoehn- it was a short animation by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, narration an excerpt from an Alan Watts speech. You can see it below.

A reminder that no matter how far outside of my comfort zone I think I’m going, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s a first world luxury, what I call a problem. Superficial, rat race stuff. I have to remember to not forget the big picture, to not get to anxious about things that haven’t happened yet/probably won’t happen, and have fun along the way. Charlie writes about this in his new book, Play It Away which I’ll do a review of on here as soon as receive it and read it thoroughly.

Anyways. Between this launch and the book launch proposal that I’m working on, I’ll be busy for a while. And that’s good. Really good, because like Charlie said in his first book, Recession Proof Graduate, it’s about doing fun, exciting, fulfilling work. About growing and learning and becoming a better person. No doubt in my mind that both of these projects will be difficult, but definitely satisfy all of those criteria.

Everyone mentioned in this post gives lessons based on experience. They don’t prescribe solutions to problems they’ve never experienced, or talk about stuff they aren’t sure about. They talk about things which they have learned by doing…and that’s extremely important. And it makes sense. Why should I take financial advice from a poor person? Or business advice from an economics professor who never started a business? This is something I have to become militant about, and really cut out the time wasters.

RIP Seth Roberts, and thank you for sharing your work with us while you were here.

These Marketing Guys are on to Something

For the last year, I’ve been pretty stalkerish about two dudes. Both around my age. I know this is off to a bad start but hear me out.

Ryan Holiday and Charlie Hoehn have walked interesting paths. Oddly similar in places. They’ve worked in the background, learned from and collaborated with some of the most brilliant minds and authors of our age. The combined list between the two makes me seethe with envy. After reading their blogs though, what lingers with me isn’t jealousy, but regret. I don’t feel like I’m any dumber than these guys. I’m not any smarter either though- they’ve worked extremely hard for what they’ve accomplished and it shows- look at the results. But I see their accomplishments and wonder, “why couldn’t I do this? I have the same opportunities.” I’ve always had grand ideas and plans, and my work ethic is solid- but my own fear was crippling. It held me back. It might have something to do with being bullied K-10th grade- the events that transpired whenever I tried to put myself out there or be more open are some of my darkest. Granted, I was a sensitive soul, but seeing the same bullies for most of your childhood will have that sort of impact.

At some point about a year ago, I decided I wouldn’t let it hold me back anymore. I think it was the realization that I was fat, balding, hairy in all the wrong places, and on the wrong side of 25. This is not how my life was going to play out…no fucking way. Where was the adventurous spirit that got me to the top of Mount Whitney? Where was the blazing soul that had scared off a mountain lion while hiking alone, at night, in the Sangre De Cristo mountain range in 2008? It was time to re-cultivate the hooligan and maverick that I used to be in the company of friends. I was going to start doing the things I liked, damn everyone else and their opinions.

I started reading aggressively from Ryan Holiday’s book recommendations. Once Ryan’s book, “Trust Me I’m Lying” came out, I realized that he’d been doing guerrilla marketing and PR the same way I had at my first company, only he had developed it and been very methodical about it- this was a skill I had fun doing, and could get better at. So I did. I read and studied/ still am studying every book Ryan mentioned in his book- and then some.

Charlie came into the picture about 4 months later- he wrote a free PDF called “Recession Proof Graduate” which I’ve read about 14 times. I refer to it every time I find myself broke and at home…I’ve failed a few times but refuse to work a corporate job. I’d much rather clean floors at a car museum (which I did and had a blast doing, and got to drive some very rare supercars, both vintage and new.)

Anyways- I was reading “RPG” today, again, when it clicked- I knew of a person who could benefit from the skills Ryan wrote about. I could get in touch with him using the methods Charlie had given me in his free PDF…

I wrote the email, and sent it.

5 minutes later, a reply. “I’m interested. I have some questions. Call me tomorrow”- and a phone number.

Regardless of whether or not I get this gig tomorrow, this has proven to me that the method works- and that’s a comforting feeling. It was worth stepping out of my comfort zone. These kind of things really encourage me to stop making decisions from a place of fear…that anxiety is terrifying and completely unhelpful.

The Other Side Of The Safety Glass

As a teenager, I used to be quick to point out people who stood out, didn’t blend in. The nerds with their long stringy hair. The fat kids in water polo even though they were bulging dangerously out of their speedos. Alex- the big gay kid who sang opera and did theater. Secretly I was envious that these guys were comfortable in their own skin, just being themselves. By the time I was finishing up college, I had come to terms with who I was and stopped degrading others for my amusement.

I got a taste of that today, except I was on the receiving end. I had finished up a grueling back workout, and wanted to go a little extra- so I jumped on the leg press machine, located next to the large window, an intersection just outside. I put my headphones in, set the weight heavy, and the seat low. My legs were in a squat position- hip flexors straining near the end of their range of motion…really need to work on my flexibility. As I finished out that set, a black car pulled up. Pretty nice, a new Lexus- one of the sportier IS models. The windows were down, and a college aged guy was driving, with a pretty cute girl to his side. He pointed over at me, and said something to the girl. She looked over, and they both laughed. It didn’t bother me, but later it clicked- this is what it felt like to be on the receiving end.

It reminded me of when you see a tiger or a grizzly at the zoo, and some little shit kid jeering from the other side of the glass because he knows he can’t be touched. Except if I had anything to say about you, I’d say it to your face-I wasn’t passive aggressive about it. But, time goes on, and I’ve since learned to deal with this kind of stuff- it was pretty common through middle school and highschool. Kids picked on me, and I took that frustration out on others. Later on I learned to use this energy to my advantage- to internalize it and put it into my work, my workouts, my goals for the future.

Anger is a very powerful and volatile emotion- and learning to channel it is a huge asset. You want that anger to burn less like fire crackers (noisy, inefficient, think temper tantrum) and burn more like coals. It is a deep, hot, sustained burn that holds much more potential.

I will always have detractors. Some will be people close to me, others will be strangers. But the key is not to let it compromise me and instead, to use it to my advantage to further my own agenda and get ahead. It’s equally as important to remember to remain charismatic, respectful, and engaging with everyone, but not to be a doormat. This means calling out the people on their bullshit if necessary.

Carry yourself in this manner and success is all but guaranteed. And success, whether in cultivating your body, your wealth, spirit, or life experiences- hold far more value than what some stranger said about you in passing.

I’m lucky to be living in the US- my setbacks and problems are rarely as big as I ever think they are. Remembering this is key- people in 3rd world countries don’t have time to wonder if they look ok or if there’s a meaning to life- they use every waking moment to survive, to provide food, shelter, and clothing, things most of us hardly ever give a thought.

That keeps me humble. It keeps me hungry. And hopefully it will sink in eventually that the opinions of others really shouldn’t mean a thing to me.

Busy And Productive Aren’t The Same Thing.

Stop being lazy by being constantly “busy.” It’s easy to be busy. It justifies never having enough time to write a book, cook for yourself, go out with friends, meet new people. Realize that every time you give in to your ‘busyness,’ it’s you who’s making the decision, not the demands of your job.
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Learn to spot busy. Checking emails, putting everything in order, organizing things that don’t need to be, making tea, coffee, checking your phone, going online for “inspiration”, running around your office holding a phone to your head and reams of paper in the other…my god- look at him go, filling printer paper and always on the move with a hand full of files. What a great employee. You look busy. You produce nothing.

Productive is easy. Make a list of things you need to do. Rank them from most important to least. If you misunderstood me and ranked from easiest to hardest- start on the hardest. Focus on one task each day. Turn off your phone and internet, and for 45 minutes, focus on only the task at hand. The first 15-30 minutes are the hardest. After that, you finally focus and meaningful work gets accomplished.

Be selfish about your time. When you can allot time to focus on what you need to do, you make more time for what you want to do. Take advantage, or regret it.

Reminder from my past.

Stop placing all the blame on other people for how they interact with you. People treat you well/poorly based on how they perceive you. A lot of social behavior is cause and effect. Take responsibility for (accept) the fact that you are the only constant variable in your equation.

Start focusing on how you interact with the world. Record yourself speaking. Have a friend take video of you while you’re talking to people. Do you come off as aggressive or abrupt? Do you look shabby? Don’t take it personally if you do- take measures to correct it. This isn’t being fake, nor are you not being true to your self- this is being true to your best self. You don’t need expensive or trendy clothes- hygiene and dressing neat go a long way.

If you’re 20+ overweight- know that people dismiss you because of it. This is a reality I’ve dealt with since I was a kid. When i was lean, people treated me much better. It’s easier to interact with the world. Sacrifice the pie. It’s not about abs. It’s about taking care of yourself, discipline and enjoyment in moderation. But whatever you do, don’t blame anything on them. Take ownership of your actions, see what you messed up on, fix it, and move on. In life, you only have complete control over one variable- your actions. Take ownership of them.

Remember- these are notes to myself. Don’t take them personally.