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She’s one of them. (Photo: Noa Gurvis)

678 Things

A Lifelong Exercise in Gratitude

In 2007, I started writing annual gratitude lists that aimed to find as many “Things” that I’d done or experienced as there were weeks since the last list.

Some years, I don’t get the list published in time and then it hangs around getting merged into the following year. That’s what happened with this edition, covering four entire years, 2016–2019. So there are 208 things in this edition of the list, bringing the total up to 678 since inception.

2016 was the year of moving back to NYC full time. 2017 was the year of buying and renovating an apartment. 2018 was the year of Van Life. 2019 was the year of our new dog, Eloise. The previous 470 things I’m grateful for are on these lists from 2013–15, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.

2016: Moved to NYC Full Time

  1. Sold everything! We gave up bi-coastal living and that meant selling almost everything we owned in San Francisco. Goodbye sofa, goodbye bed (my first attempt at furniture building), goodbye TV. I’m grateful to have owned all of those things — and also to be able to channel Marie Kondo when it was time to get rid of them.
  2. Unpacked. Although I said we sold almost everything, we still managed to ship 100 boxes to NYC. I’m grateful to Sarah for having the genius to fit all of those into our NYC apartment.
  3. New Bike. One of my first big NYC hobbies was riding at Prospect Park. The combo of a new bike, power meter and personal leaderboards on Strava were very compelling.
  4. Neighbors. Got to spend so much great time with the neighbor friends in our building. NYC living is very communal — like a college dorm except you’re all adults finally.
  5. Took Coach.me distributed. This felt like such a huge risk at the time but has ended up feeling very easy. We no longer have a physical office, instead we meet in Slack and via video in Where.by.
  6. Rejoined the Dodge Street YMCA. I love this YMCA so much. It’s got a great pool and a great community. But don’t just trust me, let Ethan Hawke tell you.

2017: Bought & Renovated an Apartment

  1. Sarah and I bought an apartment. I’ve never bought before because I never felt sure I was going to stay. So this was a huge commitment.
  2. Renovated. Managing and designing this was a huge amount of work, but the end result was an apartment that was customized specifically for how we live and work. My office is a tiny-house-style wonder: lofted, with built in desk, and views out corner windows.
  3. Hedonic Reset. We moved in before the renovation was done and so we got to experience the apartment come on line one feature at a time. Microwave, then toilet, then stove, then shower. It was emotionally interesting.
  4. New Neighbors. We got to meet an entirely new set of neighbors. There are dog lovers, two different record collectors who are huge fans of my dad’s discography, and people who will loan out their oven when you need extra capacity for Thanksgiving turkey.

2018: Van Life

  1. Planned a four month van trip to celebrate turning 40. Then did it. My focus was friends, National Parks, and Mountain Biking.
  2. Wrote a tutorial on boondocking. That is when you are living in your van out in nature, unattached to any electricity or plumbing. The tutorial was my way of learning how to master the logistics. Boondocking is the ideal way to VanLife.
  3. Drove 9,000 miles across thirteen states. Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana.
  4. Said Yes. A goal for the trip, I thought being open minded would lead me somewhere interesting and it did. I said yes to a stray dog I met in an Arkansas RV park. More on her later.
  5. Improved my mountain bike skills. There was one ride in particular, in Moab, that was perfectly calibrated to my skills so that I was constantly being pushed just out of my comfort zone. It was the perfect definition of being in a flow state.
  6. Summited something taller than 10,000 feet. I hiked Mt. Baldy in New Mexico with one of my best friends from College. We hit the peak, 12,441'.
  7. Backpacked a 20-miler. Did 28 miles in 2-days, fasted, at Bryce.
  8. Faced my fear of heights at Angels Landing. Here’s the video as proof.
  9. Hit the Mountain Bike Meccas. Sedona, Moab, Bentonville. Moab was my fav.
  10. Video documented a long hike. Here’s the hike into the Grand Canyon. The goal here was to test out my new GoPro and accessories.
  11. Organized an ad hoc college reunion in Grinnell. A huge highlight was my college advisor treating me like a peer even though I am still in awe of him. I graduated almost 20 years ago and he still remembers me and makes time for me. This is a huge and common benefit of small schools.
  12. Kansas City BBQ. My friend Connor introduced me to BBQ burnt ends. Amazing.
  13. Hit as many National Parks as possible. Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Hot Springs, Bad Lands, Glacier. Also, thumbs up to Devil’s Tower, Pink Sand Dunes State Park and Kodachrome State Park.
  14. The Porter Sculpture Park in South Dakota was by far the best road side attraction.

2019: New Dog Era

  1. Eggs, the dog Sarah and I got together at the very beginning of our relationship, was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and passed away in 2019. I’m grateful that we took control of his medical treatment early on, ignored a lot of advice from doctors, and won an extra year of life for him where he was healthy enough to be happy. It’s health span not life span, and prolonged chemo and high risk surgery didn’t fit a dog of his age. I ended up publishing this article about medical advocacy because of how many similar stories I’d heard about people not being able to get current or holistic advice from their vets or doctors.
  2. I commissioned this Portrait of Eggs for Sarah’s birthday and it was the first piece of art that hung in our new apartment.
  3. Eggs passed away in early February and the day after, this Eulogy to Eggs, full of gratitude, came pouring out of me.
  4. I found a new dog, Eloise, on my van trip. Sarah wrote and recorded a song to commemorate the epic nature of this stray dog, found in an Arkansas RV park, dragged across seven states in a van, escaped and lost in Missoula, and then eventually landed in a Brooklyn apartment home. Most amazing, I’d never heard Sarah sing before.
  5. Eloise overlapped with Eggs for a bit, but was very low energy as she recovered from heart worm. The first vet I took her to told me, “This is Arkansas, she has all the worms.” So, it’s really 2019, after Eggs had passed and Eloise had recovered, that she became our new full time dog and the defining element of our home life.

Helped My Mom Move to Philadelphia

  1. My mom is from Pennsylvania but moved to California after college. That’s where I was born and raised. But she decided to move back to Pennsylvania on the idea that it would be good to be near family again and that she still had energy for a big adventure. She is an inspiration. Once she decided, she sold her place in California, bought a place in Philly, and shipped her belongings in less than six months. We helped with some of the house shopping, taking multiple trips to look at houses for her.
  2. I became deeply familiar with Wissahickon Park for mountain biking, hiking and brunch.
  3. US Open. My mom being in Philadelphia creates new family rituals. For us it’s her coming to NYC for the Open. We’ve seen Serena Williams twice now.
  4. First Christmas in Philadelphia. This is my big family holiday tradition with my mom and having it in Philly for the first time felt like a big deal.
  5. First Thanksgiving in Brooklyn. I hope this is an emerging family tradition where Sarah’s family and my mom come to Brooklyn for a big Thanksgiving meal.

Vacations

  1. We went to Italy with family and then spent a few days in the Lake district by ourselves. It was the first time I’d ever been on a ropes course (not sure why we had to go to Italy for that), we had an important visit to Sarah’s uncle (now passed) and aunt who run a Yoga studio in the mountains of Umbria, and just generally enjoyed Italy because it’s a great country.
  2. Our friend Laura joined us for a last minute trip to Tulum. I loved sitting on the beach in mid-September just after all the tourists left, climbing the Mayan temple of Coba, snorkeling around the cenotes.
  3. Berlin. This was like visiting a well run Brooklyn. The trains ran on time, the bathrooms worked and were clean. Sarah and I were surprised how easy it was — everyone spoke English.
  4. We took at several trips to the Hudson Valley (just north of NYC). One was for our friend Laura’s Birthday and the other was with a different group of friends. Both were beautiful. Knowing how to get out of NYC is one of my keys to living here. Also in a similar vein, trips with Sarah’s family to the Hudson Valley and Vermont, a trip with Sarah to the Adirondacks. Basically everything north of NYC is the Hudson Valley to my limited knowledge of east coast geography.
  5. Two trips to the Hamptons. When we go here I text my California family made up stories about gold-plated lobster rolls and other fictional luxuries. On the west coast, we hear about the Hamptons as a place you only get to via private helicopter. The reality is that it’s a nice and relaxing way to be near the ocean and that the merely butter-plated lobster rolls are delicious.
  6. Sarah took a job with a company headquartered in Atlanta and I think I ended up taking three trips there with her. A place that stands out to me is the Civil Rights museum. But honestly it’s a great mini-vacation: good art, museums, food.
  7. Took the Benson entourage to Pine Mountain Lake. My dad and step-mom’s cabin on the way to Yosemite is set up for cocktails, audiophile quality music appreciation (including reel-to-reel), reading, challenging conversations. Plus a day trip to Yosemite Valley.

A Very Political Time

  1. After moving to New York, I rushed to the DMV to get a New York driver’s license and to register as a New York voter. Sarah and I were so happy to vote for Hillary and this picture from that historical moment captures it.
  2. I saw Hillary as a pragmatist when a lot of things in the country need revolution (Healthcare/Climate/Incarceration). In other words, of course I wanted more from her. I feel the same about Obama — it’s not like he fixed mass incarceration. But I also see politics as partly a game of passion and I was proud of myself for getting out of the media narrative that even progressives should be meh on her. This “How to be Enthusiastically Pro-Hillary” got passed around the HRC campaign Slack channels and prompted several positive stories about her from actual mainstream journalists.
  3. Around this time, I clarified my own philosophy that being political is about being a good person and that you should consider it beautiful when you run into someone else’s political views. Those views are their ideas for how to improve their world, country and community. Caring is good — that’s the first step. My post on this is here: 6 Rules for Talking Politics
  4. Of course, that presidential election didn’t turn out well and so it was down to Washington to be in the Women’s March. That this many people, 5 million in the US, turned out was, wow, it was just really powerful.
  5. One of the first political organizing groups we joined up with was SURJ (Stand Up for Racial Justice) and they left me with a line that I try to keep in mind: pick a role and fill it effectively. For most people who might be reading this, it’s Get Out The Vote efforts. If you don’t have time to figure out what lanes you could fill effectively, then just pick GOTV.
  6. I think I was ready to be more politically active no matter what the result of that presidential election was. In particular, I’d already circled mass incarceration as the thing that my party wasn’t doing anything about. It’s only in 2019 that I really came around to abolishing incarceration as a goal. The way to think about abolition is piece by piece, finding a better alternative for each piece, things like no incarceration, decriminalization, restorative justice. Most of my thoughts and research on this is in two Twitter threads, first and second.
  7. Our GOTV efforts were letter writing, canvassing, texting. Canvassing was my favorite because you get a lot of thank you for your efforts. I think showing up physically is really much more powerful than anything we do online.
  8. We saw Stacy Abrams speak at the 92nd Street Y. She was born to lead and I hope she gets that opportunity.
  9. Related to all of this, I would recommend the counter exhibit at the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta. You’ll understand after you experience it.
  10. Like many of you, I don’t like being political just for the sake of hearing my own voice. I want it to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Unfortunately, accomplishments are slow and far between and take often take thousands of people, so it’s hard to see the impact you are personally making. Thankfully, there is good research on how your efforts lead to change, which I’ve summarized here: MAP Model
  11. Do we want a world with a few ultra rich robot owners and billions of poor, or do we want something better? There are plenty of scary stories about what could go wrong, but not a lot of stories about what the world could look like if we did things right. We need an updated version of the Jetsons. So I took a stab at painting that picture, American Renaissance.
  12. Related to all of this was an idea for an organization to bring mathematical reasoning into politics and governing, Humble Americans for Math and Reason. I think of it as the key to finding common ground in some potential future period where there’s less divisiveness.

Clarified My Own Coaching Philosophies

  1. After many iterations and testing, I finally published my behavior change model, Open Gates. It’s not that you need one simple trick, it’s that you need several, or as the model calls it, you need several specific gates to be open before you can successfully pass through to your goal. This is a long journey that started in 2011 with Tiny Habits and some books on gamification and now has expanded to encompass a broad range of psychology, coaching and therapy.
  2. I surprised myself by not knowing what the book Flow was actually about. I used to think that it was a productivity book, but it’s actually a book about happiness. Flow time is the most satisfying time in our lives. But for most people, Flow is rare or non-existent. My view is that we should maximize for time in flow, even over healthy time or life time (within reason).
  3. Love is more important than money. I used to be hesitant to say this because so few of my male peers in self-improvement were saying it. Almost no one actually. You can have both love and money, but middle class and loved is much, much better than rich and lonely. I don’t think enough advice recognizes that, especially from self improvement gurus.
  4. If self-improvement doesn’t lead you to politics, then it’s not working. This is another area where the self-improvement world surprises me. After all the work we do to improve ourselves, do we ever reach the point where we can take a moral stand? How much money do you need before you start to care about the lives of strangers? Politics is a moral word, not a bad word.
  5. Decided honesty would be the best policy when it comes to success rates. Individual tactics or strategies for achieving a goal mostly fail. As a rule of thumb expect only a 10% success rate. Knowing that, you can give up on feeling bad about your many failures and steel yourself to run through a series of experiments until you find what will work for your personal situation. The combination of coaching and the Open Gates model helps you stack strategies together so that you move from mostly failing to mostly succeeding.
  6. I got my start in this world doing habit coaching and the core concept that I still use is of a Minimum Consistent Dose. If you start by focusing on consistency, then there are ample opportunities for hard work and big efforts. But if you only allow yourself an all-or-nothing approach, then when you fail, you tend to take a long time before you try again.
  7. This last one is such an insider insight, but I think it’s core to understanding self improvement. Nothing in self improvement is rational because people aren’t rational. And so all effective advice is a mixture of one part fantasy and one part solid steps for change. If the fantasy doesn’t hit for you, then the advice will look silly to you. An easy phrase to learn here is “This is a useful mental construct,” which then lets you try the outer edges of wu-wu advice.

I’m Also a Minister

  1. My friends Jason & Amanda got married in Atlanta. The ceremony was beautiful and I cribbed some of the structure from their wonderful minister, Belinda Ju, for my own wedding business. We also went to beautiful weddings for two different cousins.
  2. Ari & Jarred are a wonderful couple who I met at a party and then convinced I should be their wedding minister. They were the fifth wedding I’d performed. I still haven’t had a divorce, even after more than 40 years of combined marriages. That’s a 100% track record. Folks, if you want to get married and stay married, you need me as your minister.
  3. Kati & Clinton asked me to be their minister. She’s my youngest sister and I’m so happy for her. And Clinton’s ultra lucky, obviously. Being part of their wedding was amazing and now I get to say I’m six for six, and also two for two with my own sisters.

Coach.me’s Financial Journey Back from the Brink

  1. We crossed one million dollars in lifetime revenue in the middle of 2016, and at about the same time, our CTO left. That marked the end of a long fall from the heights of venture capital funding having shed staff for over a year. In the heights of Venture Capital, we had plenty of money to spend, but no revenue at all. But we managed a very painful process to switch that. After our CTO left, we were left with two basically abnormally optimistic people who thought we could pull this thing back from the brink, me and Terrie. We had less than $10,000 in the company bank account. But we were reliably break even — as long as I paid attention to when we paid our credit card statement.
  2. Later, two of our institutional investors asked if we would buy them out. I didn’t know this was possible. But if a startup takes too long to exit, some of the institutional investors will prefer to just take a tax write off. Buying them out basically means buying their stock back for pennies so they can mark the investment as a loss. This felt awful in the moment because they were good investors and they were investing money from good people. But I’m grateful for their support and also grateful not to be on the venture capital tracks anymore. Coach.me is a company that’s meant to hit lots of singles, not chase incredibly rare home runs.
  3. Very recently, I paid back our convertible notes. This was the last bit of investment we had taken, and it came in the form of a loan. The loans came due and we had enough profit to pay them. That’s a big deal. We’re ending 2019 doing exactly twice as much revenue as we were doing at this point in 2018.

Year Round Brain Training

  1. Terrie and I wrote a year round curriculum for training your brain for focus and productivity. We call it Heavy Mental. We went through so many revisions, threw out entire modules, did a ton of rewriting. But now the final curriculum has served more than three thousand people. There are 13 Modules, each lasting four weeks: One Big Change (Resolutions), Morning Routine, Priorities, Single Tasking, Interstitial Journaling, Sleep, Habit Breaking, Flow, Meditation, Self Talk, Grit, Checklists, Annual Review.
  2. Interstitial journaling is a tactic I developed inside of Heavy Mental as a way to do tactical journaling. The idea is that you take five minutes between tasks at work and write a short journal entry. Later I spun it out as an article and it’s been widely adopted (and covered by NBC).
  3. Single Tasking is probably my favorite module and is a core part of my mission to make flow states more common. It also is where I tested a big part of my iPhone article (more on that below).
  4. Our Self Talk module happened by chance. Sarah recommended the By the Book episode on positive self talk. That fit perfectly with a hole we had in Heavy Mental. Because my background was in habit formation, I was struggling to reach people who were limited by issues of identity or belief. Many people in the Heavy Mental group now say it’s their favorite module.
  5. A particular success story stuck with me because it’s about measuring the power of a good habit. A member re-evaluated his daily prioritization habit. This is partly about monitoring the value of his work. Through this, he noticed that two projects were going nowhere, so he cancelled them, thinking he’d spend more time on family and exercise. I got a call from him saying exactly this, that he’d lost weight and had a lot of quality time with his son. But mostly, he wanted to tell me about the new project he’d suddenly created time for, to train law enforcement in the Sudan on ways to recognize and stop human trafficking. That project is on it’s way to saving 1000 lives each year.

Meditation

  1. The Heavy Mental Meditation module deserves its own section. The key thing I do differently is reframe the process of noticing your thoughts and then bringing your attention so that it’s easy to use this “awareness loop” throughout your day. In the way I teach meditation, you’re building a productivity skill. Here’s the basic sequence for using meditation to build mental strength.
  2. I went to a Holotropic Breathing teacher and had a psychedelic experience triggered just by breath work. That was notable.
  3. I also went through a meditation class on noticing and managing energy, Energy Essentials. This was definitely a “this is a useful mental” construct kind of class, where I translated a lot of metaphysical talk into useful practices for myself.
  4. This article teaches how to use my meditation system to beat procrastination.
  5. Continuing on the theme of Meditation as training for real world success, I wrote an article about meditating under duress and recorded videos on meditating through cold and meditating through the most extreme hot sauce. Although I was an advisor to the early days of the meditation app Calm, I definitely gravitate toward a different, more performance oriented side of mindfulness.

Redid Coaching on Coach.me

  1. I was happy to raise the price of our habit coaching from $65/month to $87/month. The coaches we have are so skilled now at helping people build habits, it’s amazing.
  2. We added coaching memberships as we start to move Coach.me beyond habits and into being a tools provider to coaches. I’m excited to be around more coaches and more types of coaches.
  3. We added custom priced packages and now a lot of our business is for higher end coaching with higher touch from the coaches on much more complicated goals.
  4. We added our first serious marketing tool for coaches, a monthly cross promotion group. It’s like a master class in marketing for our coaches.
  5. Started much better training for coaches. I think education will be a key part of the coaching platform. The earlier Open Gates model was part of it. This article on Reframing, a core coaching skill, is my model for how we could cover basic skills in a data and research driven way.
  6. Although I tell people I’m no longer a programmer, I did generate 308 commits to the main Coach.me app.

Launched Better Humans

  1. Our Medium publication, Better Humans, was the first external publisher in Medium’s new subscription membership program. We published our first commissioned piece seven days after Medium announced they were moving toward subscriptions.
  2. I built the first round of our new publishing infrastructure: a proposal submission system, an editorial pipeline and a style guide. The style guide is one of my favorite accomplishments. It’s not about spelling and grammar. It’s about how to write a self improvement article that changes readers lives.
  3. I personally commissioned and edited sixty articles. The two I suggest to people most often are this piece on the psychology of procrastination and this piece on the fundamentals of deliberate practice.
  4. Then I handed off day to day editorial to my partner, Terrie Schweitzer. She’s wiser and more worldly and that makes for a more consistent and more valuable publication. She’s gone on to publish another 300 articles.
  5. In January of 2019, Better Humans moved to daily publishing. This felt like the switch from being hobby publishers to actually having a chance at building one of the great self-improvement brands. Over the course of the year, we’ve moved up to being the fifth largest active publication on Medium.
  6. The Better Humans ambitions are captured in this categorized directory of our best self improvement articles. We think we can provide everything any person would need to succeed at any goal.
  7. As part of professionalizing Better Humans, we moved all of our articles into Medium’s membership program. In my view, this program is radical because it upends the dominant incentive structure for internet publishing. The incentives for free content is to get you to click away from the article, either to a call-to-action for an upsell or to an advertisement on the page. Actually enjoying the article is an afterthought. The incentives for paid content center quality writing. The article is the product you paid for and the writer needs to write well enough that the reader feels their subscription was justified. That’s the world I want to publish for.

Becoming Medium’s Biggest Publishing Partner

  1. In 2019, Medium asked us to expand our publishing on the theory that we had a unique skillset for helping turn subject matter experts into advice authors. That is the essence of Better Humans where we ensure quality advice by only publishing authors who have tested the advice directly. It’s also part of Terrie and my backgrounds — we met helping programmers write articles and books at O’Reilly. So, at Medium’s invitation we launched Better Programming. This is the fastest growing publication on Medium, hitting five million page views per month just seven months after launching. Gratitude to Zack Shapiro, who has been a fantastic editor for this publication.
  2. Then we launched Better Marketing. Marketing and self-improvement are different ways to look at the same topic. This is my secret weapon for knowing more about human psychology than anyone on the planet. Plus, this publication fits a lot of our goals for coaches, which is to give them the tools to grow their coaching practices. Gratitude to Niklas Göke, a fantastic editor for this publication.
  3. Spun up a copy editing team. I’m always happy when I can successfully hire and train a team on a brand new process quickly. We started with nothing and two weeks later had a team that was capable of copy editing 500 technical programming and marketing articles per month.
  4. Launched the fastest editorial pipeline on Medium. Better Marketing and Better Programming are community dependent publications that have a submission process that’s open to all Medium authors. That puts us in a little bit of competition with other Medium publications for the same set of authors. Our custom built editorial tools are the secret sauce for winning over authors.
  5. We launched the Better Humans podcast. These are my favorite nine episodes, plus this one with David Allen.

Meeting Mastery and Organizational Design

  1. I wrote a lot about meetings even though I now have very few meetings. It’s part of my philosophy that meetings should have a point and lead to powerful results. We even wrote a book about this, Meeting Mastery
  2. This is my most used rule for helping other people think more clearly, the Rule of Three. One idea is a bad idea, two ideas is an argument, three ideas is a brainstorm.
  3. The simplest and most important meeting facilitation that I use regularly is called Round Robin. This is the key to getting good ideas, getting buy in, getting merit-based discussions.
  4. This is the key organizational concept that I use for making change, Change Elements, and here’s a case study of it in action, Zero Tolerance for Slow Pace.

My Own Self-improvement Journey

  1. I did a round of Supervised Executive Coaching at a well known recently IPO’d tech company. Having supervision is so powerful and I learned so much that I still use today. The supervisory coach was Jonathan Rosenfeld, who is one of the premiere executive coaches in the United States.
  2. A couple of weeks ago I finished a personal endurance challenge, walk 100 miles in five days. It was all in NYC — I love this city.
  3. Sarah and I picked up Couch to 5k and then switched to None to Run by Mark Kennedy. The main enjoyment for me is having a shared exercise routine with Sarah.
  4. I gave up sugar, including not eating sweets for my birthday. I stayed pretty strict for 2.5 years, but then it partially crept back in. Maybe in 2020 I’ll say I’ll say I did it again.
  5. I experimented with fasting and ketosis, bought a ketometer, worked with Coach.me’s top nutrition coach, did two different fasted back packing trips (hitting 3+ on the ketometer), and had a lot of interesting experiences turning my body into a fat burning machine (and then back into a carb machine).
  6. I started therapy and love it. Totally worthwhile.
  7. I’ve been meeting with a group of entrepreneurs about every two months in a format the host calls Scotchrepreneur. We drink Scotch, take turns sharing our most pressing problem and then get feedback from the group. It’s an amazing experience.
  8. We did three rounds of budgeting and financial planning. The first was with our best financial planning coach in order to get ready to buy our apartment. The second was simply to calculate how much money I’d need to live like we currently do, a little bit better than we do right now, and as well as we’d ever want to. Surprisingly, all three answers were much more in reach than I’d realized. I’d highly recommend doing this “how much is enough?” exercise. Third, we spend hours on Nerd Wallet’s retirement calculator plotting out our future.

Beard Life

  1. I started going bald. Marie Kondo to the hair that used to be on the top of my head.
  2. I grew a beard.

Best Writing Not Already Mentioned

  1. My Optimal iPhone Setup article got 1.4M views, which is kind of an amazing experience. It was the fifth most popular article that Tim Ferriss linked to in his Five Things newsletter. I put a massive amount of time into it, probably more than 200 hours, just because I wanted to make a statement. But it’s a show-don’t-tell kind of statement and you’ll have to read the article to experience it for yourself.
  2. I also did a ton of writing, mainly to clarify thoughts that had been rattling around in my head. This is my most common writing process: How to Write Clearly If You Are an Intuitive Thinker
  3. Captured my mom’s genius in this tutorial: Growth Mindset is a Habit You Want
  4. My long time partner’s aunt’s new husband’s youngest son (i.e. my new first cousin) invited me to speak at his City College course, Psychology and Social Media. My talk: Corruption of Reciprocity.
  5. The best self improvement practice that people don’t pay much attention to is becoming a more skilled reader. That doesn’t mean faster and it often doesn’t mean pure recall. It means reading in a way that lets you make connections, generate new ideas and think differently. I contributed to and edited this article on strategies for slow reading by Niklas Göke.
  6. These gratitude lists are part of an effort to publicly document a personal book of living well. The high level concepts are all in my Codex Vitae. Credit to Buster Benson for putting me on this path.
  7. Success requires more work than you want, but less work than you fear. Read more about this here, The Secret Work of Elite Performers.
  8. The Best Habits to Track: 2017, 2018.
  9. The Big Five Personality Test is my favorite personality test. And, like all of the tutorials we write in Better Humans, mine is informed by having helped a lot of people take this test and apply it to their life. That’s how you get to the nuances and edge cases.
  10. This is my main to-do list advice. Instead of noting what to do in the far future, write items down in real time, writing lots of them, rarely getting more than a few minutes ahead of where you are right now. The result is a massive amount of focus in the moment, a natural break down of complex tasks into next actions, and an easy return from interruptions. Pair this with Interstitial Journaling and you’d be golden.
  11. This is one that ends up being important for myself and a lot of our coaches, Marketing is your moral obligation. If your product is better, you are dong the world a disservice by staying quiet.

Favorite Movies

  1. First Man. The Ringer called it the “the biggest quiet movie ever made.” I loved the exploration of focus and calm, no matter how dangerous the situation.
  2. Midnight Special. It felt like a modern Close Encounters and I was delighted that this move got made. It felt special without feeling commercial. Michael Shannon works out at my gym and this is absolutely the movie I want to talk to him about.
  3. Thor: Ragnorak. Nice to see Marvel movies stretching into other genres like buddy road trip comedies. And now I’m a Taika Waititi fan.
  4. Lady Bird. I saw my own relationship with my mother differently after this.
  5. Arrival. Totally believe that language defines understanding and having language creates super powers.
  6. Get Out. Not scary to me, just a great movie.
  7. Alien: Covenant. I never get sick of universe building, even when it doesn’t make complete sense. I’ll take a hundred of these.
  8. The Big Sick. Starring a Grinnell College computer science major who was a year behind me, Kumail Nanjiani. He literally proves the liberal arts talking point about an education being about learning to think, rather than learning vocational skills.
  9. Sully. It’s a movie about extreme competence based on training and focus. Right up my alley.
  10. Spotlight. Can I call back to my politics section? This is a perfect example of the need to be and stay political at all times. And if you have the time and means from the sorts of productivity work that comes out of Coach.me and Better Humans, then you are perfectly positioned to use those powers for good. The Catholic Church scandal that broke in Boston in 2002 obviously extended to other religious organizations. But it took 17 years before the exact same patterns were uncovered in Baptist churches.

Favorite Documentaries

  1. Wild Wild Country. Everything about this. But the story that stands out the most to me is about loyalty tests. Sheela woke the librarian up in the middle of the night to come shave her legs. A week later, Sheela asked this woman to assassinate the state district attorney. You give a shitty task as a loyalty test to see if a person will be compliant. After that, you can ask them to do crimes for you.
  2. The Defiant Ones. The interactions between young Jimmy Iovine and Bruce Springsteen stick with me. Bruce was torturing people, and probably half because he enjoyed it. But the other half was about the pursuit of greatness.
  3. When They See Us. Reinforced recent beliefs about abolishing incarceration. It’s racist, barbaric, misapplied, unfair.
  4. MasterClass w/ my friend Jason. We’ve mostly watched the Malcom Gladwell one.
  5. Barkley Marathons. Plus this article that’s partially related about an attrition-based ultra marathon format.
  6. OJ: Made in America somehow had me completely agreeing with one of the jurors at the end, not that he was literally innocent, but that the state didn’t deserve to win.
  7. Echo in the Canyon good exploration, through music in this case, about how hard working talented people bumping into each other can create a sort of magic.
  8. Inside Bill’s Brain left me with two things. One was about categorization systems while reading. The other was optimism about the number of problems we could invent our way out of.
  9. Gaga: Five Foot Two. She is a powerhouse.
  10. Knock Down the House. Also some inspiring power houses here.

Favorite TV

  1. The OA. The second season got me totally hooked and I hope somehow to learn how the story will end. This was the most original Sci-Fi experience I’d had in awhile.
  2. The Americans. A show Sarah and I shared and loved.
  3. Stranger Things. Delightful.
  4. Silicon Valley. I’m a big fan of Jared and here is a super cut of his scenes.
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale. Not delightful, but very good.
  6. High Maintenance. I see this more as a show about NYC than as about weed. I love the people who live in this city.
  7. Watchmen. Perfect extension of the graphic novel.
  8. Succession. “My dad made me.”
  9. Russian Doll. Fantastic.
  10. Pose. Billy Porter! Check out his 7 Rules to Live By.
  11. Master of None. I think of the doorman episode every time I see the doormen in our building.

Favorite Culture

  1. Lizzo at Radio City. She’s my life coach now.
  2. Jeanelle Monae for her Dirty Computer tour at Madison Square Garden. She’s my old life coach.
  3. Penn & Teller in Vegas. I love the way they craft the entire show and experience.
  4. The 9/11 Memorial. It’s worth it.
  5. Freestyle Love Supreme. Improv show in freestyle rap format.
  6. Drawing Night at NYC Transit Museum. Sarah has adopted calling this The Train Aquarium.
  7. What the Constitution Means to Me was the best show we saw on Broadway. Loved it.
  8. Hanibal Burress at BAM. Hilarious.
  9. Fleabag. She did a one-woman show based on the TV series. We sat behind Tina Fey.
  10. Lady Gaga in Vegas doing standards.
  11. We stopped by our friend Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s Connective Tissue art installation at UNLV. Breathtaking.
  12. Our favorite magic was In & Of Itself. The run is over, but it’s the second time we’ve seen Derek Delgaudio. He’s great and we’ll definitely go to whatever he does next.
  13. Say Something Bunny. Confusing to describe, but I think differently about the challenges of researching history.
  14. Bald Eagles with BackyardBeyond. One of two landfills he’s taken me to. Bald Eagles just outside NYC!
  15. FLEXN. One of my fav dance performances. Also saw Paul Taylor several times and that was amazing too.
  16. Live taping of Jalen & Jacoby on my 40th birthday party.
  17. Sarah and I designed and ran a scavenger hunt for her birthday around downtown Brooklyn. We all learned a lot about women and black owned businesses and history, and also which local cheesemonger is world class at rock-paper-scissors.
  18. Sarah and I also led a tour of new New York subway stations. I got to purchase a shirt that reads, “Tour Guide,” and also a bull horn. How did I survive so long without one? We saw some amazing new tile work.
  19. I tried so hard to get my friend Jason to join me for Hookah. He’s a world class athlete and knew off the top of his head the numeric measurements for how unhealthy this is. So instead my friend Ben joined me and we brainstormed important business. A lot of the publishing work came out of this experience.

Favorite Sports Fan Moments

  1. Harlem Globetrotters with my nephews. This is a perfect introduction to basketball.
  2. Warriors/Thunder game 7, 2016. At the time, I thought it was the most important basketball game ever played.
  3. Enjoyed Warriors Championship #2. Was adding Durant cheating? No. I’ve been a Warriors fan through every bad year since Sprewell choked Carlesimo. We deserve this.
  4. Warriors Championship #3. And deserved this too.
  5. Warriors vs. Atlanta in Atlanta. This regular season game stands out to me because Curry clearly came ready to shut down comparisons between Atlanta’s Trae Young.

Favorite Video Games

  1. Fallout 4. Sometimes games are how I come to know specific cities. This is how I know Boston.
  2. Diablo III. It’s the first time I’ve ever played a game from this series. I get it now.
  3. Forza. This is my mindless entertainment.
  4. The Witcher 3. My favorite game ever.

Favorite Books

  1. Why Are We Yelling?. Here’s why I thought it was the most important book of 2019.
  2. March books 1–3. This is John Lewis’s story of the American Civil Rights movement.
  3. Three Body Problem. An amazing translation of an amazing Chinese science fiction book.
  4. Flow. Completely changed my philosophy on optimizing my life.

Successful Gear Upgrades

  1. Bought the new 16" Macbook Pro. My last laptop was six years old and that’s by far the longest I’ve gone between upgrades. The best feature is definitely the fingerprint unlock. But also, faster matters too.
  2. My workout watch is the Garmin Fenix 5. I like it for the swim features, the long battery life and the automatic posting to Strava.
  3. I’m now a drone owner, the DJI Spark. This shot, that completely explains the feeling of boondocking, is priceless to me.
  4. I’ve been using the Power Pod power meter on my bike and it’s completely sufficient for my needs. Strong recommend.
  5. I’ve upgraded my office with a turntable so that I can play a record during think time. My dad made it his personal mission to find me the most esoteric setup — I’m sure this combination of turntable, vacuum tube amp, and Rogers DB101 speakers (designed by the McLaren’s industrial designer) is completely unique. Also, more than half of the records in my collection were mastered by my dad.
  6. Also key to the office setup is the Blue Dot Field Lounge Chair. This is so comfortable that we have one in the living room and one in my office. It’s for when I want to step back from my more traditional Aeron-chair, dual monitor desk.
  7. I swear by the Ketomojo Ketometer for testing both ketosis and blood glucose levels.

Best Backpacking

  1. My first time in the Grand Canyon was an out and back to Horsehoe Mesa. Hard to top the first time being here. This trip was solo and fasted. The Pizza Hut I ate when I got back to the rim was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
  2. My second time in the Grand Canyon was a two night trip to Hermit Rapids and then down to the Colorado. This trip was with a good friend from college and his wife.
  3. A 28 mile out and back on Bryce Canyon’s Rim Trail. What I remember most vividly was choosing between a water source that was labeled as containing e coli or the entirely correctly named “Swamp Creek.”
  4. Backpacking with my sister and soon to be brother-in-law in Coe State Park near San Jose. This was especially notable for talking through their wedding vows.

Best Hikes (Non-backpacking)

  1. Glacier —I ran into a bear on one, even to the point of having to disengage the safety on my bear spray. On a different hike, I ran into a Wolverine.
  2. Angels Landing in Zion.
  3. Observation Point in Zion. Epic view of the valley.
  4. Monument Valley in Arizona. Pic.
  5. Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Memorable: the sounds as the first wave of bats exits the caverns at dusk.
  6. White Sands in New Mexico. Pic.
  7. Shenandoah National Park ridge hike. This was my first true getaway from NYC.
  8. Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park.
  9. Crazy Horse Monument. 100 times more thought provoking than Mount Rushmore.
  10. Devil’s Tower, i.e. the one from Close Encounters.
  11. Mono Lake. I really need to spend more time in the eastern Sierras.

Best Mountain Biking

  1. Moab. Perfectly calibrated to making me a better rider.
  2. Bentonville. Manicured trails where you literally ride past groundskeepers in white suits. This is paid for by a tiny drop of Walmart money.
  3. Castlewoods. Returned to St. Louis to ride the trail where I first learned to ride mountain bikes.
  4. Cunningham Park. This is a surprisingly long and fun trail tucked into a park in Queens.

I always end with a bonus gratitude for my partner Sarah who always plays a big role in the things that go right, and especially during this period for caring for Eggs during his cancer treatment, giving me the time for Van Life, and completely owning the visual aesthetic of our renovation. She keeps her own list which I didn’t peek at until I was nearly done with this one, otherwise I might have included two LA trips, the movie Hidden Figures, the play Oslo at Lincoln Center, the television show Catastrophe, the live podcast taping for Another Round: Kwanza Special, the Atlanta Botanical Light Show, and the final two seasons of Girls.

Every night we end by telling each other Two Good Things from our day. That means this four year period had us sharing at least 2,920 gratitudes with each other.

Written by

Human potential busy body. Founded @coachdotme, @bttrHumans, @bttrMarketing. Helped @medium @calm. Current work focus: Habit Coach Certification.

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