What I’ve Been Up To

It’s June 2016 and it’s been over six months since I last wrote anything or updated this site. I know, I know, I dropped the ball. A lot has changed since then though, so I’ll go over what’s happened and some of the things I’ve learned.

The biggest change is that I got a new job in NYC. I’m working for a fintech company that’s disrupting a traditional industry and is the leader in its space. I’m excited at the opportunity and it’s been great so far.

This might be surprising because many of my previous articles were tinged with a very pro-entrepreneurship lens of view, and a slight distaste for the corporate world.

But humans change. And one of the great things about writing is that it allows you to go back and revisit your old thoughts and points of view.

One of the ways I’ve changed is I’ve come to be more accepting of working a corporate job. It sounds silly, I know, but 20-year old me associated jobs of any kind with depression, stress, anxiety, you name it. I had this idea that everyone who worked a 9-5 was some corporate zombie who hated their bosses, their colleagues, and everything about it. While true for some people, there are also plenty of people who enjoy their jobs and find a lot of meaning in what they do.

This realization came to me in part because of my previous stint working for a real estate entrepreneur. I enjoyed most of the perks that come with entrepreneurship that everyone glorifies so much: working from anywhere I wanted, largely having control over my time, freedom to pursue other activities, and so on.

But at the same time I was also being paid pennies. And working directly for someone else meant that my future was largely in someone else’s hands. It was certainly a learning opportunity as I had my hands in all sorts of different industries and functions, but it got rough at times. Projects we’d worked on for months or even years sometimes never came to fruition or didn’t close, legal issues arose, personal matters conflicted with business situations, and on and on.

This is the unsexy side of entrepreneurship that hardly anyone ever talks about. Too many people try their hand at pursuing their passions and starting a business without fully understanding the risks involved and just how much it sucks to not know when or who your next check is coming from.

The plus side to the lack of financial security was that it forced me to get creative with other incomes. I learned copywriting and freelanced for a bit (more posts on that in future).

I previously wrote an article titled “How to Make $1M in Four Years After University” where I gave an example of someone who actually made $1m in four years. I highlighted the fact that he held onto his high-paying job all while pursuing side hustles. This is the model I’m going to replicate, and it’s one that I think more than 90% of recent graduates should also take.

Now, I used to think holding a regular job would prevent me from pursuing my own activities on the side. I’d be too tired after work, too grumpy, too stressed, whatever. All of these thoughts were just excuses.

“I don’t have time” is truly one of the biggest BS phrases we all throw around. It’s true that I do have less time now than before; by the time I get home around 7-8pm, go to the gym for an hour, shower, and eat, it’s 9-10pm at least…but, that still leaves me with a couple hours. Even half an hour of dedicated, focused work can produce great results if done consistently. I just need to prioritize my time and attention to actually do so. Or wake up an hour earlier. Or work at my desk during lunch.

The point is if we truly want something bad enough, we’ll set up systems to make it work. I’m looking forward to making it work. One of those ways will be to update this blog more often. The quality might go down sliiiightly, but that’s only because I won’t stupidly be spending a week writing and re-writing the same article trying to perfect it now. Goes to show constraints are beneficial.

Life Quotes From Marcus Aurelius

I was first introduced to Marcus Aurelius from Ryan Holiday, who has stated Meditations is his favorite book. I’ve found the wisdom profound, and have written here some of the words that spoke most to me.


It’s all in how you perceive it. You’re in control. You can dispense with misperception at will, like rounding the point. Serenity, total calm, safe anchorage.

The foolishness of people who are amazed by anything that happens. Like travelers amazed at foreign customs.

It never ceases to amaze me: We all love ourselves more than other people, but we care more about their opinion than our own.

Practice even what seems to be impossible. The left hand is useless at almost everything, for lack of practice. But it guides the reins better than the right. From practice.

i. That you’ve made enough mistakes yourself.
ii. That you don’t know for sure it is a mistake. A lot of things are means to some other end. You have to know an awful lot before you can judge other people’s actions with real understanding.
iii. When you lose your temper, or even feel irritated: that human life is very short. Before long all of us will be laid out side by side.

To live a good life: We have the potential for it. If we learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference.

As you move forward in the logos, people will stand in your way. They can’t keep you from doing what’s healthy; don’t let them stop you from putting up with them either.

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Improve Your Life by Improving Your Friends

You are the average of the five people you associate with most.

It’s a statement you’ve likely heard before, but it truly is profound. While some may argue we are individuals of conscious thought and free will, it is undeniable that our behavior is influenced by our peer group. We’re creatures of emulation, and put in an environment long enough, we begin to assimilate. The people we spend time with influence our thoughts, our behaviors, our habits, our mindsets, and the other people we meet — it’s a virtuous, or harmful, cycle.

A comprehensive study in 2007 made it clear just how much our friends can influence us. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, closely followed over 12,000 people for 32 years to track their health habits over the years. The results speak for themselves:

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  • When a friend became obese, it increased one’s chances of becoming obese by 57 percent.
  • When a mutually close friend became obese, it increased the likelihood by a resounding 171 percent.
  • The same effect occurred for weight loss. When a friend picked up healthier habits and lost weight, it increased one’s likelihood of doing the same.

The researchers explained that our friends change our opinions on what we believe to be appropriate social behavior. This makes sense. Few of us actively choose to gain weight, but when we see our friends helping themselves to dessert after dinner, we tend to follow suit. These small habits that seem benign at first slowly add up and compound over the years.

Evolutionary psychology may play a role as well. In the days of hunters and gatherers, we relied on tribes to meet our basic needs. Not fitting in or going against the tribe signaled an early death, thus it was crucial to follow the rules of the pack. This desire to fit in has likely remained hardwired into us today, which manifests into social and peer pressure.

It isn’t far-fetched to extrapolate the findings on health influences to other areas in life. If you want to develop a way of thinking or acting, associate with those who already embody those qualities. Likewise, reduce how much time you spend with people who are a negative influence on you.

The following quote by American politician and former four-star general Colin Powell perfectly summarizes this.

The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people. As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you.

This is a particularly interesting topic to me at this time because of how it applies to my own life. I’ve realized if I want to take the next step forward in my life, I need to surround myself with others who share my level of ambition and drive to create a purposeful life. Some of the people closest to me right now are friends I’ve had for many years, but they’re the type to come home from work and watch TV or play DotA until it’s time to go to bed, seven days a week. It’s a fine life, but it’s not one that I wish for myself. Yet despite my grievances, I can feel myself being drawn into that sort of complacency.

As Powell suggests, I’m increasing my own mediocrity by tolerating it from those around me. While I don’t intend to cut these friendships altogether, it’s clear I need to branch out and meet new people.

This is scary, of course. Our inclination is to seek out those who are already similar to us. But as with anything in life, growth often occurs in the ensuing change after problems are confronted. A certain onus lies on each of us to seek out those who will challenge and inspire us to better ourselves — and in turn, for us to do the same.

Perhaps you feel the same way. Maybe a little part of you feels unsatisfied with the average of who you’re becoming. If that’s the case, I encourage you to sacrifice a degree of comfort and begin to expand your network. Find people you wish to emulate and learn from, and do everything you can to create those new connections. Figure out how to add value to their lives, and surely they will seek your company just as much.

The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those whom you closely associate with — for better or for worse. And as the science has shown, if someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.

It’s up to each of us to decide which it will be.

Master The Fundamentals, The Rest Will Follow

Every human activity, endeavor, or career path involves the mastering of certain skills. These skills can take many different forms, from direct and obvious, such as operating tools, to more nebulous abilities, such as handling people. But what remains true across the field is that top performers have a much stronger grasp on the fundamentals – the core skills that create the foundation of everything else.

If you’ve ever been to a public gym, you’ll probably have seen people doing absurd types of exercises. More than likely, it’ll involve a bosu ball. The exercise may look cool (or ridiculous), but such movements rarely provide any strength or fitness benefits.

When it comes down to it, there are really only five exercises that you need to do in order to get stronger, faster, or better looking. These are the compound exercises that form the foundation of weightlifting: the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and row. If you were to only do these movements for the rest of your life, you would achieve an inordinate physique and strength. This is essentially what the great Classical bodybuilders of the 1800s to early 1900s did, when fancy gym equipment didn’t exist.

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Yet, most gym-goers tend to ignore the fundamentals and opt for more esoteric exercises under the impression that the “cooler” it looks, the better it is. This is a mistake, but it’s easy to see why. In our hurry to acquire new skills, we rush through the fundamentals because of their seeming simplicity. We tend to ignore the fundamentals in favor of details and specificity. We lose sight of the big picture and wonder where we’re doing wrong when we inevitably don’t see the results we desire.

This doesn’t only happen in weightlifting, it applies to any endeavor.

Take poker, for instance. One of the first things newcomers to the game try to learn is the importance of physical “tells.” These are the mystical signs players will show to indicate the type of hand they have. Every time he blinks twice in a row, he’s bluffing, but if he blinks three times in quick succession, he’s got it! In reality, the importance of physical tells is minimal. It’s a minor detail in the big picture of any decision-making process in poker. Yet, amateurs will often try to stare down their opponents for any sign of a clue, while ignoring the basic fundamentals of the game as they’re playing their favorite hand of Q4-offsuit. Such people will often wonder how it’s even possible to play poker online, when you can’t see the other players’ faces. Again, it comes back to the fundamentals. These are the core concepts such as hand ranges, basic probabilities, pot odds, value-betting, and bankroll management.

In poker, if one were to learn and master the fundamentals alone, he or she would immediately push himself to the top of the player pool; much like the weightlifter who masters the five fundamental movements of weightlifting. The same is true in any other field.

“The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether it’s proper technique, work ethic or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing. -Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player ever, is also the staunchest supporter of fundamentals. While we may remember him for his spectacular dunks and buzzer-beating shots, what wins games and championships are the fundamentals.  Plenty of other basketball players were just as athletic or had fancier moves than Jordan, but lacked the same mastery of the basics to achieve the same level of success. Other top performers have echoed Jordan’s words, including the current NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, a team devoted to playing the game of basketball at its most fundamental level.

If it’s possible to elevate your level of success in an activity by working on the fundamentals, why don’t more people do it?

The truth is that learning the fundamentals isn’t fun. It’s not sexy. It’s not something people will pat you on the back for or admire. It won’t be shown on the highlight reel, and it probably won’t be memorable enough to even talk about. The majority of people are unwilling to go through this silent period and bring far too much variety into their practice before sufficiently mastering the basics. It’s the equivalent of attempting to do a one-legged squat on a bosu ball before learning how to properly execute a barbell backsquat.

If you intend to improve in your field, you must be able to undergo this type of painful deliberate practice, despite its tediousness. In weightlifting, perhaps this means starting light and perfecting your deadlift form until it’s perfect. In poker, perhaps this entails learning how to quickly calculate pot odds in your head until it’s second nature. In business, perhaps this means engaging with customers to deliver greater value to them, rather than creating reports that end up in a file cabinet. Whatever the activity, learning and honing the fundamentals will deliver a disproportionate amount of improvement. Those that are able to endure this tedious stage of skill acquisition ultimately become the masters in their fields, while the rest short-circuit their learning process by opting for pleasure and distraction.

At its core, any activity is based on some foundation comprised of fundamentals. Learn, practice, understand, and master these concepts, and the rest will follow. Do not get caught up in the details that lead to minute differences until these foundations of success have been built. As Jim Rohn once aptly said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.”

Steve Jobs on the Secret of Life

When you grow up you, tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

Steve Jobs, 1994

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