6. Find a Mentor
6. Find a Mentor
“This is what every successful person loves: the game. The chance for self-expression. The chance to prove his or her worth, to excel, to win. This is what makes footraces and hog-calling and pie-eating contests. The desire to excel. The desire for a feeling of importance.”
(Article originally posted on rsvlts.com)
Well, anyway, I’ve gotten over my squeamish fear of appealing to the mainstream, enough so that I wrote an article about all the nifty things I’ve learned this year. I’m sure I sound naive. And I am. All “twenty-somethings” that write “twenty-something” articles are naive. Because, they are “twenty-somethings”. Duh.
Being well aware of that fact, I still think some of these ideas can help you. They’ve helped me out over the last year. These ideas continue to help me still. I’m sure some of them will be replaced by better ideas, but so goes the nature of life and living.
Here we go:
1) Take advantage of free live music. Until I started marketing for a music venue, I never went to the free shows they put on. Why? I don’t know. But I go now, and I discover a lot of cool talent.
2) Drinking craft beer helps me appreciate the delicious experience of life. Craft beer is an adventure, and it’s one that has an incredible, and growing, community around it.
3) If I wake up a little bit early, say 2-3 hours before I have any obligations, and read, my brain feels twice as sharp throughout the day. Morning TV mitigates this benefit.
4) Late night exercise alleviates the day’s stress. Early morning exercise prevents it.
5) Cereal is a dessert. Eating dessert for breakfast is bad. Instead, I eat a heaping pile of bacon and eggs and grapefruit and coffee. Black coffee. I put some cinnamon in it sometimes.
7) “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”-Aristotle. The scary thing is that the same thing is true for failure.
8) When faced with a decision, it’s usually better to choose the more difficult path (I got this from Paul Graham’s fantastic essay).
9) Life is too short for matching socks. If you waste time worrying about the little things, like conforming to silly “rules”, not only do you waste time, but you also waste precious opportunities to dazzle, to innovate, and to be remembered.
10) You may think you have goals, but you really don’t until you write them down and look at them every night before you fall asleep. Goals need to be internalized to be realized. Most are held up at the phase of whimsical dreaming.
11) When someone is lying or making something up (creating a picture in their head), their eyes turn up and to the right.
12) Save at least 10% of your income (preferably more, like 15-20%), no matter how much you make. This is your capital. Don’t spend it; only invest.
13) Write a bucket list on 100 things you want to do (could be big things, could be small). Every weekend, make sure you check off at least 1 item. (If your bucket list is too unattainable, like, every item is on par with climbing Everest, try scaling it down. Write down 100 things you’d like to do IN YOUR CITY.)
14) Whatever made you unique in your childhood has the potential to come back in the form of a really badass job. Hence my work with ski racing company, Arctica Race. I have a friend that makes a lot of money teaching piano lessons. I have another that gets paid to ride horses. Nobody ever told me I could make money doing things like that.
15) Do yoga. I almost forgot to write this one down, as I do it so often that I forgot that I just picked up the practice this year. I go with my roommate every Thursday, the start of our weekend (no Friday classes!), and it’s the most relaxing activity in the world. Yoga de-stresses you, builds your abdominal muscles, and makes you more flexible (and makes you better at sex). Namaste.
16) Read a book every week (or more). You won’t expect the crazy fucking benefits this gives you. This was the first year I took reading seriously, and every facet of my life has improved. Thousands of years of history have proved that the most willfully educated people prosper. It’s simply foolish to buck that trend.
18) What you ask for is usually what you get.
20) Journalism classes taught me how to write better. That’s just the obvious benefit. More importantly, they taught me how to listen to people (interview). I’ve learned more from my friends and from strangers this year than I ever have because of this crazy awesome ability. Dan Pink suggests an exercise: try waiting 5 seconds before you respond to someone during your next conversation. Will it be awkward? Fuck yes. But you’ll definitely be aware of the fact that, previously, you were only waiting your turn to speak.
21) Read David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. Then, if you haven’t already, go back and read all of his other books.
22) Same thing goes for Mastery and Robert Greene’s books.
23) You can’t do it all alone. You need compatriots. You need mentors. You need to delegate. You need help, and you need to acknowledge the fact that you didn’t succeed on your own (Looking at you, hip hop).
24) Find ‘your spot’. That restaurant where all the staff knows you, that coffee shop, that whatever. A public home is a weird treasure to own.
25) Teaching is a good way to learn; writing is a good way to think.
26) Treat everyone like normal people, because they are normal people.
28) You can buy books incredibly cheap on Amazon by clicking on the title you want, then clicking to the ‘available used’ button. Sometimes, great books are sold for pennies. I’ll never buy a $200 textbook again (not that I usually bought those textbooks anyway.)
29) Find a mentor.
30) I’ll end with a saying that Ryan Holiday quoted in a recent article: “Be a good person, do what you love—those are the only rules for life”
(Post originally published on Thought Catalog)
“Look Before You Leap.” For skiers and snowboarders, it’s common knowledge. It’s a warning that should we should probably heed. It’s safe.
Sometimes, though, inspection can turn into obsession, and we can spend our whole life studying as an excuse for avoiding action. In which case, I think we should just jump.
I think we should do insane, irrational things. I think we should look ridiculous. I think we should feel ridiculous. I think, sometimes, we should leap before we look.
After all, life inside a comfort zone is hardly life at all.
Here’s a story: when I shyly stepped into salsa dancing class wearing my mismatched socks, I was pretty nervous. I had never done something like that before. My dancing prowess goes about as far as that awkward flailing thing that white boys do. And dancing sober? Not a chance. In addition, salsa dancing is a partners’ game; I went to solo to group lessons. None of this sums up to a comfortable situation. However, it turned out well for me. I know, now, how to salsa dance. I’m not very good, but it’s a new skill under my belt and another experience for the chamber. I also had the unexpected pleasure of realizing that I was not the worst person in class.
Count on this: Any time you feel nervous about throwing yourself into an intimidating situation, understand that there will be someone there who is more awkward than you are. And they are brave. They’ll eventually be good, and they’ll eventually be teaching the next round of awkward and nervous learners. That’s the process: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, unconscious competence. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Still, jumping into these things is daunting. Here are some things I’ve learned:
If you jump in expecting one outcome, the only thing you can be certain of is that you’ll receive a different outcome. Folks in Ireland are not all drunk all the time, not everyone in Alaska is an Eskimo, and not everything is the way that our cookie cutter cultural narratives make them seem. Don’t let your past repertoire limit your thinking. This is a new experience and should be treated as thus. You’ll get the most out of BJJ if you allow yourself to soak up BJJ, in itself. Likewise, if I’d closed my mind to what I thought salsa/tango dancing was, I’d have deterred myself from entering those lessons in the first place.
That being said, it helps to study. Like, really, immerse yourself in your new adventure. Buy a plane ticket to Rome in the heat of the moment, before you can give it second thoughts. Then, immediately, buy a bunch of books about Rome. Study its history, its people, its language, its culture. For salsa/tango/any skill, really: watch videos online. Skiing: study the greats. As Ryan Holiday said, “No one is ever going to teach you enough or hand it to you on a platter. Books and articles, and ask questions—an endless amount of them.”
This goes along with the whole “no preconceived notions” thing. Go with the flow. Submit to the process by which your instructor teaches. Sometimes, it’s going to feel ridiculous. You’re going to feel like a fool. Learn to shrug it off and laugh at yourself. One of my favorite quotes is by Fyodor Doestovsky and goes: “I could not become anything: neither bad nor good, neither a scoundrel not an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. And now I am eking out my days in my corner, taunting myself with the bitter and entirely useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot seriously become anything; that only a fool can become something.” As Ludacris said, “Act a fool.” (100% wrong context for this quote, here, I know. Just go with it.)
You know, salsa dancing classes are a great way to meet people. The people that go are thrilling; they’re, at least for me, not who I usually run into during my daily routine. Some of them are fantastic salsa dancers. As I said above, some aren’t at all great at dancing. I find it to be a good practice in humanity to be interested individually in each person that I meet through classes like this. The benefit of taking a leap out of your comfort zone is quickly reduced when you hole up in a corner and close off your mind. You quickly eliminate most of the adventure that you signed up for. Plus, there are cute girls at salsa dancing classes.
I wouldn’t consider myself a worrier. But I am human. If you’re human too, and if you’re at all like me, sometimes you have trouble staying in the ‘here and now’. What I mean by that, is that you probably have thoughts like:
Fuck those thoughts; You’re here to dance. Shake ‘em out, breathe, and fugetaboutit. Focus on your feet. Your instructor will tell you not to do that, but it’s better than focusing on things that make you anxious. Focus on your breath. Better yet, focus on the music. That’s what you’re there for. The world has a funny way of sorting itself out without need for your anxiety.
This is the most important thing to remember: you’re here to play. (Why do writers always save the best point for last, anyway?) So, go ahead, learn the basics, the twists, turns, steps, and then let go. Laugh. Smile. “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different,” Vonnegut said. In your average day, you can only be so productive, so serious, before you burn out and end up worse off for it. For this reason, I prefer to introduce a certain amount of ‘distractions’ into my life. I like the break the routine. These are hardly distractions, though; they are the life blood of my work. What I do in my leisure time is what inspires me to create and innovate in my work time. So instead of stressing about taking the leap, instead of completely dissecting it and turning it into work, I like to let go, and simply feel the music.
(Post originally published on rsvlts.com)
Politicians are excellent at a certain rhetoric device called “framing.” They know how to switch conversations to more favorable topics, they know how to avoid the ugly answers, and sometimes they can flip a public relations disaster into an underdog victory.
On the 50th anniversary of his assassination, I’m going to show you how JFK did just that, winning over the audience as an underdog even after some sharp criticisms from Harry Truman.
In 1960, just before the Democratic National Convention, Harry Truman openly criticized his own party for favoring JFK’s presidential nomination. He attacked JFK on multiple fronts, including his age, lack of experience, his powerful political backing that “pressured” votes, among other things. This was the last Democrat president to hold office, not only contributing bad press to JFK’s political career, but asking him to step down from the Presidential race. Naturally, this was a public relations disaster
Kennedy now had a couple of options. What would you do if a leader in your industry attacked the very core of your business, of your character? Would ignoring it help you or hurt you? Is there a chance you could position yourself in a way that leverages the criticism as an advantage? You already know what I’m going to say.
Using some crazy form of PR Jujitsu, JFK took everything Truman said, and using the weight of Truman’s own words, came out on top. He presented his weaknesses as strengths. He did this on live television in the style of a Western showdown. It was dramatic. The end result was that JFK positioned himself as an underdog hero representing the emerging generation, his “new frontier.” And of course, he won the presidency.
So how did he do it? What lessons can we take away from his victory?
(The implicit 1st rule of his success here is that you must view your obstacles as opportunities. If the paradigm is always pointed to the positive and the possible advantageous outcomes, it is not difficult to turn a negative situation around.)
1. Pick Your Battles Wisely
The internet has made PR as confusing as it has ever been. At any time, from any angle, your image could be attacked. How do you deal with that kind of pressure?
Evidence suggests that often you can ignore it.
Ryan Holiday recently wrote a brilliant article about negative press. In it, he says that the first lesson is, “A significant portion of all criticism (especially online) is just trolling. It depends on and desires your participation. Opt out and you’ve robbed it of the oxygen it needs.” Smaller people bate larger people for a response. Don’t acknowledge it. You’re simply giving fuel to criticism that otherwise would not have taken off. Jay-Z never needs to acknowledge some loud mouthed no name, because nobody hears the dude. But if he does acknowledge, the position of the no name has suddenly been given a platform.
Look at it this way: you can save your energy for bigger battles. You can save your energy to make a better product.
However, JFK was criticized by the former president of the United States, the last Democrat to hold that office. That he chose to respond proves that Kennedy knew how to pick his battles wisely. John Hellman wrote that his response was so effective that his team was “grateful the attack had given them such a well-publicized opportunity to confront doubts about Kennedy’s qualifications.”
2. Play by the Rules of the Real World
There are about two schools of thought regarding public relations. Option A: all press is good press; Option B: positive press is good press. The real world is not so cut and dry. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of your press was positive? If everybody you knew said nice things about you all the time? Of course! But if the world is anything like the YouTube comments section (not the new boring one), it is filled with trolls, who are embittered and scornful people. The world is also filled with sneakier villains: competitive friends, friendly competitors, attention seeking (read: click baiting) journalists, and faulty team members. And sometimes, shit just happens. You’re going to want be able to respond when something does not go according to favor. It’s something that is really tough to plan for; I’m sure JFK didn’t expect Truman to fire into him with complaints. But bad news is something you should expect.
Sidenote: according to a study published in 2010 (Berger, Sorensen, Rasmussen), sometimes negative press can increase sales, especially when dealing with smaller brands. Here’s the link.
3. “Always Create Compelling Spectacles.”
Robert Greene’s 37th Rule of Power, “Always Create Compelling Spectacles,” comes in quite handy. Since we’ve already established that this is a necessary battle and that, in reality, there is no cut and dry way advice for a response, now we have a story to tell. And we’re going to make this story exciting. Ryan Holiday’s advice is perfect: “If you are to respond, remember this simple rule: The response must be more interesting than the initial salvo.”
John F. Kennedy baked compelling spectacles into all of his actions, which contributed to his public image as a young war hero, fighting for the new frontier for the next generation. This particular event was perfect for bolstering his image.
John Hellman said that Kennedy “chose not to downplay Truman’s remarks, but rather to heighten them into a dramatic crisis.” Furthermore, he said “Kennedy transformed the political problem into a dramatic crisis evoking the showdown toward which the western movies of the day invariably moved.”
Check out Truman’s initial speech:
Now watch Kennedy’s response:
Don’t have time to watch? Here’s what happened:
Kennedy confidently stated: “I do not intend to step aside at anyone’s request.” He then went on to say he had “encountered and survived every kind of opposition,” re-positioning himself as a bold war hero. Kennedy went point by point against Truman’s criticisms, and without emphasizing what Truman said, reasserted his own strengths. He expertly framed the situation in an exciting way. Which leads to the next tip:
4. Learn How to Frame Stories
“If we are to establish a test for the presidency, whereby 14 years in major elective office is insufficient experience, then all but 3 of the 10 possibilities mentioned by Mr. Truman last Saturday must be ruled out. All but a handful of our presidents, since the very founding of our nation, should be ruled out. And every president elevated to that office in the 20th century should have been ruled out, including the three great Democratic presidents, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, himself.”-John F. Kennedy (source)
“Kennedy shaped the problem of Truman’s attack into a scenario pleasing to both himself and the public.”-John Hellman
At stake was Kennedy’s reputation and image, and he was vulnerable. Here he stood, directly preceding the nomination, being harshly criticized by the most able person to do so: the last Democratic president. Truman presumably was everything that Kennedy was not: experienced, tactful, and most importantly, organic.
See, Truman actually had a point in his critique. He described Kennedy as a “victim of circumstances,” and blamed “some of his overzealous backers.” He actually said that Kennedy demonstrated ability and energy, but then turned to ask if Kennedy was ready for the country, or if the country was truly ready for him. Truman then urged Kennedy to be patient with his ambition. He hoped that someone with “the greatest possible maturity and experience would be available at this time.”
Kennedy’s response: flawless. He demonstrated his energy and vigor by framing his lack of experience by comparing it to Truman’s own amount of experience. Kennedy’s point: if Truman criticizes Kennedy’s amount of experience, then he is hypocritical. Smarter still, Kennedy ignored what he couldn’t frame: his candidacy’s “overzealous backers.” Instead, he focused on his own battles and experiences and ended up sounded brave, conversely making Truman sound old and bitter. This certainly reflected on his campaign image of the youth leader bringing America into the “New Frontier.”
5. Stay Cool: Smile Through It.
“Just remember this: the cliche “all press is good press” is a cliche because it is true. In six months, no one will remember particulars of a news story you’re freaking out about right now–it probably won’t even make it on Wikipedia. Unless you make it worse by overreacting, saying something stupid or pissing the journalist off even more”-Ryan Holiday
It’s probably a smaller issue than you’re making it out to be. Even if it’s a big deal, put on your actor’s mask and play it cool. Don’t ignite the fire; the spark will die out if you let it. Let’s say a small fire has been kindled: calmly put it out. What does freaking out do? Even if you get the issue under control, you look like a disheveled fool doing so.
John F. Kennedy was the denotation of confident the day he called his July 4th press conference. John Hellman wrote, “Kennedy’s heavy-lidded, detached stare and slightly ironic smile also suggested the young rebel’s attitude.” Robert Greene echoed this, saying he resembled James Dean, “particularly in his air of cool detachment.” Hell, Kennedy was known for his coolness. During the famous 1st televised debate against Richard Nixon, he showed up tanned, toned, and relaxed. This contrasted with a sweaty, anxious Nixon. This leads to the lesson: whether it is a crisis or not, act like it is not. The way it tends to be, you decide the tone of the confrontation. If you’re unreasonably emotional, prepare for some more shitty backlash. Kennedy played it cool, he parlayed his weaknesses into strengths, and he won the crowd. Heed his lessons, protect your image, and master every public relations event, planned or not.
This post originally was originally published on rsvlts.com
Forget the bold words and speeches of John F. Kennedy. Let’s look at his actions. John F. Kennedy undoubtedly holds an allure over Americans as the young, attractive Catholic that presided over “Camelot” and fought for the ideals of a new generation. But his dark traits have also been well established over the last 40 years. Surely we can learn from his speeches and his noble characteristics. That isn’t hard to do. But I think he “dark side” offers some valuable lessons as well. What made him a dangerous President can also make you a stellar leader, if you apply these traits reasonably. Remember: those who can’t learn from the bad in life are missing half of life’s lessons.
Here are 5 positive takeaways from the dark side of John F. Kennedy:
“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”- John F. Kennedy
It was his defining characteristic. From the Bay of Pigs to Marilyn Monroe, JFK liked to risk shit. He liked to live on his toes. His sexual escapades continually disrupted national security (not to mention his own marriage), and his apparent recklessness brought us (arguably) close to World War III. Apparently, he once slept with a lover in the Georgetown home that he shared with his wife and children the night before his inauguration. As evil as some of his actions may have been, taking risks is important. Today, as an entrepreneur, artist, or anyone looking to make a difference, risk is inevitable. One cannot crawl through life avoiding misfortune and danger. Instead, to forge new paths, one must be willing to travel past everyone else’s worn out paths. As Tim Ferriss says,“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”
John F. Kennedy was blessed, in a myriad of ways. His father, a controversial figure himself, was purportedly one of the wealthiest men in America in his time. It was also suggested that he earned most of his money during, and after, prohibition, both illegally and legally importing liquor to America. Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter. Both Joe Kennedy and his son knew how to exploit the resources they had, sometimes not so morally. We’re not all born into wealth or status, but we certainly all have our blessing and resources that we’ve compiled over the years. Use them and use them strategically. This isn’t limited to money. JFK was physically ill his whole life. In fact, he was given his last rites 3 times before he was forty years old. So while his physically healthy brothers were active and athletic, Kennedy read and studied, developing his aloof and intellectual demeanor. It’s also been speculated that Kennedy used his mafia connections to gain early intelligence of the Bay of Pigs situation in Cuba. Here’s the lesson: Take advantage of what skills, money, and connections you have available in your own life. And at the same time, if you’re running a business, take advantage of the fans/customers you already have before seeking additional clientele. They are your best marketing device.
“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.” – John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy was a frail and physically weak child. He also had a slight feminine manner. Robert Greene says that because he capitalized on these weaknesses, he was successful. Had he overcompensated, as do many people, he would have only showed his insecurity. At the same time, while running for President, Kennedy was young. And Catholic. He used both of these supposed negatives to his advantage. With his youth, he rallied a new generation against the old complacency of Eisenhower’s 1950′s, and he inspired them with imagery of the American Frontier. As our only Catholic President, he made a direct appeal to anti-Catholicism, displaying both confidence in his capacity and alleviating American’s anxieties about having a Catholic President.This one is a tenet of stoicism. As Tucker Max says “Obstacles are only obstacles if you see them as obstacles. They can also be called opportunities.” You can always choose to view negative situations as that. But if you cannot control the situation, then you can at least control your reaction to it. And you can make your reaction to it positive.
Most of Kennedy’s allure stems from his legendary charisma. His bedroom escapades are, at this point, almost folklore in their quantity and drama. But let’s not forget that his same manner of communication he used in his affairs, he used to seduce a nation. In personal affairs, he had been described as someone who would never complain, which is substantial considering his physical suffering and back pain. On a national level, he provided the same allure. He gave the American citizens an image of hope, chivalry, and a rich future. He connected with them on their cold war insecurities and on their diminishing post war comfort. His speaking was elegant. The Great Debates for the 1960 election are always conjured when reviewing recent American History. For the nation’s first televised debates, Kennedy trained himself to look at the audience, speak positively, and use emotion to communicate his message. Richard Nixon was said to be sweaty and anxious, although his radio audience appreciated his use of facts and his deep voice. As James Altucher says, “Arguing with people is like reading your email at 4 in the morning. There is absolutely no good that can come of it. It’s just scratching an itch.” Take this to heart in both your business management and personal skills. Arguing won’t bring people to your side. It will make them defensive and less likely to be persuaded. Dale Carnegie wrote about this. Learn to connect and engage instead of arguing.
“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” -John F. Kennedy
The biggest lesson, and the one that ties it all together, is that Kennedy was persistent. JFK had a deep base of insecurities, failures, and personal baggage. You can call it ambition or persistence or whatever else, but he kept moving. In his frail youth, he stayed alive. That was a major feat, given his Addison’s Disease. He struggled with his health his whole life, but neither complained nor stopped moving. It wasn’t just his health. Khrushchev beat his ass in a debate over Berlin. Bay of Pigs was a famous failure. Time and time again, Kennedy f*cked up and embarrassed himself, but kept moving. You can do the same. You’re (likely) not making major decisions on international diplomacy or dealing with the threat of impending nuclear war. Take risks, and learn from your f*ck ups. Don’t stop moving; keep going.