Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

Hi, I'm Blake.

I run this joint. Don’t know where to start? Let me show you around:

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Where locals from exotic locations vacation

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Jimmy Buffett once sang, “Changes in latitudes change attitudes.” I mostly agree, although I’d include longitudes in the lyric if it rhymed. Here’s why.

Once while rafting through the Costa Rican jungle on the beautiful Pacuare River, my group rested halfway at this extraordinary lodge. On arrival, I beelined to the first hammock I saw overlooking the area. While swaying to and fro, I watched and heard the top-rated river do its thing. Enveloped in greenery, I spotted a hanging bridge off in the distance.

I’m rafting in the freaking jungle, I said to myself, not believing my luck. Moments later, my guide approached and commented on the impressive view as she had probably done a hundred times before. She asked where I was from. “Utah,” I replied, which excited her. “I just returned from Arches and Canyonlands National Park two weeks ago!” she exclaimed. “I can’t wait to return to Zion and Bryce next year.”

Oh, the irony, I thought. The grass is always greener. Or in the case of my Costa Rican guide, the red rock desert is sometimes more appealing than the lush, green and mountainous rainforest I was enjoying at that very moment.

Continue reading…

Even science tells fairy tales to explain things (or why I believe in God)

Madagascar-Escape-2-Africa-games-wallpaper-3Like many things in life, the island of Madagascar is a mystery. A mini continent off the southeast coast of Africa, it features all kinds of crazy animals that shouldn’t be there.

How did they get there?

Since there’s no evidence of a land bridge, scientific consensus says that animals from Africa suddenly got the urge to hit the open seas on self-made rafts and hope for the best, even though currents and prevailing winds blow away from the island.

I imagine the sporadic migration of seafaring land animals went something like this:

Continue reading…

Long reads: Second place MVPs, 7 hour chairlifts, and tomb raiders

  • Joe Montana was here. “Like a lot of children from his neck of the woods, raised on the dueling icons of the crucifix and the smokestack, he’s a complex mix of work ethic and guilt.”
  • The world’s #1 million dollar violin doctor. “Making that guitar had a big impact on me. I didn’t grow up in a musical family, but I realized I wanted to help musicians. I get that same excitement working with classical violinists.”
  • ChatGPT is the blurry JPEG of the internet. “Starting with a blurry copy of unoriginal work isn’t a good way to create original work. If you’re a writer, you will write a lot of unoriginal work before you write something original. And the time and effort expended on that unoriginal work isn’t wasted; on the contrary, I would suggest that it is precisely what enables you to eventually create something original… So just how much use is a blurry JPEG, when you still have the original?”
  • Skiing has gotten worse. Why do we still go? “We do a lot for this sport, and yet it still delivers, at a payoff ratio that defies logic or rationality. One guy told me that a single untouched powder run last season made all the other lackluster snow-free days worth it. The math of skiing makes no sense to anyone but a skier.”
  • Crime of the centuries. Tomb raiders, shady dealers, complicit museums, and the ultra rich fuel the stolen antiquities trade.

Need a writing lifeline? NEW monthly tool does just that

WARNING: This is a sales call 😀

I normally don’t blog about anything but good free content. But here we are. It’s for good reason, though. Pinky swear.

Not long ago, a couple of clients (one tech, one consulting) independently approached me about a monthly retainer to help them with ongoing strategic and last-minute writing and editing projects as needed. That includes high-impact and pre-planned articles and editorial planning, but also unforeseen writing decisions and editing choices that need an outside pair of eyes to review and validate (that’s me!)

Both projects have turned out really well. So much so that I’ve decided to productize them as a “Editorial Lifeline.” Basically this new tool gives content, communications, and thought leadership executives on-call access to a seasoned writer of 18 years, who’s written for hundreds of fancy publications and Future 500 companies.

With the editorial lifeline product, subscribers get:

  1. A mix of regular short or long-form articles delivered monthly
  2. Strategic guidance for ongoing editorial decisions, big or small
  3. Rapid turnaround and response times to meet fast deadlines (aka “lifelines”)
  4. Fixed monthly/annual cost to stay under budget
  5. Full and updated access to my workbook: What 18 years of writing have taught me

Of course, I’m still committed to writing and advising on one-off custom articles or special editing projects. But I’m confident a lot more companies could benefit from a similar “writing lifeline.” If you or someone you know would like to learn more, please email me: inbox@blakesnow.com

Thanks for reading. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

5 reasons America has the most catastrophic weather in the world

The United States leads the world in weather catastrophes, reports the Associated Press. The result is a whole lot more tornados, hurricane, flash floods, droughts, wildfires, blizzards, and sever thunderstorms when compared to other continents.

We can blame our unlucky geography for this, specifically these five things:

  1. We are flanked by the two biggest oceans. This really messes with our air conditions.
  2. A third “ocean basin” lies beneath us. It’s called the Gulf of Mexico and it further upends our overhead atmosphere.
  3. The Rocky Mountain west. These mammoths trap air, hold it, which causes storms to build then explode as they move east.
  4. Jutting peninsulas like Florida. We’d have a lot fewer hurricanes if it weren’t for this landmass trap more air.
  5. Clashing storm fronts along the jet stream. When combined, this further brews nasty weather.

And there you have it. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Leader of the free world. And the nastiest place for inclement weather. God bless the USA.

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10 habits for a healthy relationship with food

After recently learning that a family member was suffering from an eating disorder, I read Intuitive Eating, aka “The Gold Standard For a Healthy Relationship with Food.” I really appreciated the no-nonsense advice and wanted to summarize its 10, medically backed strategies for a sustainable diet:

  1. Reject dieting (no counting calories)
  2. Honor hunger (it knows the right amount)
  3. Make peace with food (give yourself unconditional permission to eat)
  4. Challenge the food police (ie “protein is the best food group”)
  5. Feel your fullness (listen and ask yourself if you are comfortably full)
  6. Discover the satisfaction of eating (which naturally causes us to eat less)
  7. Cope with your feelings without using food (stay away from food until feeling is managed)
  8. Respect your body (get rid of scale, don’t be overly critical about its shape)
  9. Exercise: feel the difference (focus on how you feel working out, not calorie burning)
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition (make food choices that make you feel well—it’s what you eat over time that matters.)

Brilliant!

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Published Works: Urban Melting Pots, Best Value Cruises, Terrific Tokyo

Here are my latest travel dispatches for Paste Magazine and Lonely Planet:

5 ways to get rich in 5 years

My daughter recently asked how someone gets rich. Before I share my answer, it’s important to distinguish rich from wealthy (and upper middle class).

Rich is having a high income, typically north of $300,000 a year in America, regardless of debt. Wealthy is possessing a large amount of money, property, assets, savings, and/or investments relative to debt (aka “high net worth”).

For reference, the lower economic class makes less than $50,000 a year; middle class between $50-150k, and upper middle class between $150-300k. Super rich (just 1% of Americans) make half a million a year or more.

Depending on how fast you spend money, it’s possible to be “rich but broke.” It’s also possible to become wealthy over time without ever being technically rich in any given year. And depending on your lifestyle, where you live, and your family status, it’s possible to live rich and/or approach wealth without hitting those exact numbers.

That said, there are five proven ways to make a lot of money. They are as follows: Continue reading…

Why social media should be treated like underage drinking, driving, and firearms

To young, developing minds, social media can be just as harmful as underage drinking, driving, and firearm use. At least that’s what many experts told me while researching Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. Having witnessed the declining mental health and fortitude of children in recent years, I believe it.

But it’s not just children that are suffering and social media isn’t the only unregulated problem. Smartphone, internet, and online gaming use in general can be just as toxic, especially for children and upwards of 50% of American adults (myself included). Continue reading…

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Going green: 5 things to do in Ireland

Green—Ireland’s been doing it since well before it was a buzzword. And not just for one day each spring in celebration of its patron saint. “In Ireland, everyday is bathed in green,” asserts the country’s visitor’s bureau. That’s no exaggeration. Thanks to heavy precipitation and its mild climate (caused by warming ocean currents), The Emerald Isle is a scientific fact.

It’s also a popular place to visit. When considering a trip to this photogenic and evergreen beauty, forget luck and consider these worthy itinerary entries. Continue reading…

Published works: Is Fairbanks the best place in America to see the Northern Lights?

Courtesy Blake Snow

My latest for Paste Magazine: “You need three primary ingredients to really see the Northern Lights: Proximity to the North Pole, maximum darkness, and clear skies. Fairbanks, Alaska has all three and more, making it one of the best places in America (if not world) to see the elusive Aurora Borealis.

“But Fairbanks features a lot more than just shimmering ribbons of light swathing across the northern night sky. On a recent bucket list trip with my wife, I braved the coldest city in America to delight in dog sledding, hot springing, arctic snowmobiling, and even reindeer walking.

“Before following suit, here’s what you need to know.” Continue reading…

Trust the system: Truck shortages and higher border crossing temperatures

Courtesy Shutterstock

I recently watched two documentaries that left me shrugging.

The first was a an hour-long report on the lack of truck drivers. Basically the filmmakers openly wondered about how to correct the truck driver shortage. They never acknowledged that everyone’s packages are still being delivered. And they offered no answers to the proposed problem, even the dead-simple one that capitalism is really good at solving (i.e. paying more) for talent shortages.

“This isn’t my and/or society’s problem,” I remarked to my wife afterwards. It’s Amazon’s, Walmart’s, and anyone else who heavily depends on shipping. Let them figure it out. With trillions of dollars at stake, they’re highly motivated to do so. No need to worry. Next!

The second documentary openly wondered about what to do about rising temperatures at our Southern Border, which are sadly killing a growing number of immigrants. While I appreciate the documentary’s concern, the filmmakers implied this was society’s problem to fix. And not by reversing climate change, mind you. Rather, the government should do something to help migrants withstand hotter temperatures as they sneak into America, the documentary asserted.

This too, left me shrugging. Maybe just put up signs warning people who exercise free will of the heightened temperature risks and call it a day? Or trust that migrants will increasingly make the attempt during cooler winter temperatures. They have brains too, ya know.

I don’t mean to be insensitive, but the level of distrust for the systems that are actually making the world a better place surprise me.

The world is getting better. Maybe not as fast as you like, but it’s getting better. And there’s no evidence to suggest that trusting in the system actually hinders progress.

You can have both trust and progress. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, humans are very good at building systems of trust that work more than they fail… while making progress. Trust in that.

Next!

3 adventure movies to add to your watchlist

After rewatching Indiana Jones with family recently, my wife and I screened a handful of other adventure movies we’d never seen before.

Two are Oscar nominees and absolutely crazy fun. One (RRR) breaks into random music videos at times and the other (Everything Everywhere) made me cry by the end. The other is 20 years old and nearly as entertaining as Top Gun 2. I award all three 4 out of 5 stars and highly recommend them.

As for upcoming movies, I have the following on my calendar: 65, Dungeons & Dragons, Air, Guardian 3, Indiana Jones 5, Mission Impossible 8, and maybe Oppenheimer. It’s finally shaping up to be a year where I’m looking forward to more than just a couple of new movies.

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Published works: Why you should consider travel to Nicaragua

Courtesy Blake Snow

My latest for Paste: “Sometimes a country is more defined by what it doesn’t have than what it does. Nicaragua is one of those countries.

“While it doesn’t have the shiny amenities, rave reputation, and tourism machine needed to attract a high volume of visitors, Nicaragua also doesn’t have the crowds, beaten paths, and routine experiences you’ll increasingly find elsewhere. Instead, it is refreshingly undeveloped. Because of this, Nicaragua is notably more affordable when compared to other Central American hot spots (including neighboring Costa Rica, which it definitely resembles).“

Continue reading…

The world’s #1 million dollar violin doctor

Courtesy Chicago Magazine

We wouldn’t have music in the world if it weren’t for the master wood makers and instrument caretakers like John Becker, whose world renowned and million dollar restorations were recently profiled by Chicago Magazine: “Making that guitar had a big impact on me. I didn’t grow up in a musical family, but I realized I wanted to help musicians. I get that same excitement working with classical violinists.” Love it.

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How I got to where I am today

Until I get around to writing a condensed, more interesting story, here’s a chronology of mostly personal events:

bskids.jpg

1979. Born in Moscow, Idaho to goodly parents named Brent and Cathy Snow as the fourth child of six and second son in the family. Moved to Oklahoma one month later.

1985. Started my formal education at Westwood Elementary School in Stillwater, Oklahoma while my father taught psychology at Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!). Said formal schooling would last me 17 consecutive years (gulp) across three state programs.

1986. Exposed to my first home computer and modern video game console after my mother bought a colored IBM PCjr and some neighborhood friends scored a Nintendo Entertainment System. The love affair with technology, personal computers, and video games had begun.

Continue reading…

Get some: 8 ways “awe” makes us better people (and how to cultivate it)

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I often catch my breath while seeing an otherworldly landscape or snow covered mountain, hearing moving music, or witnessing a simple act of kindness. I love that feeling, which researcher Dacher Keltner describes as “Awe—the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world.”

Keltner and his team at Berkeley have studied awe for a long time. What they found is this: Not only is awe a compelling feeling for romantics like me, it makes us happier, healthier, and humbler in the following ways: Continue reading…

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Does accepting (or celebrating) social progress hinder future progress?

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I was recently talking to an ultra-liberal friend who admitted that today is a better time to be born than any other time in history, regardless of race, gender, and let’s say 99% of nationalities. While the world is far from perfect, it is a better place for the greatest number of people. That includes higher life expectancies, education, and literacy rates, and remarkably less death, disease, poverty, war, crime, dictators, and injustices.

Nevertheless, this same friend expressed fear that acknowledging said progress might encourage conservative society to stop making progress. I argued that most conservatives have made social progress, albeit slower than liberals, since forever (especially since the industrial revelation). Furthermore, there’s no evidence suggesting that conservatives will suddenly stop once a tolerable threshold of social equality has been reached. And yet I suspect this liberal fear exists in more than just my friend.

I don’t know the exact number, but I do know many outspoken liberals feel the need to qualify any acceptant that the world has gotten better. They almost always couch it with, “Yeah, but we still have a long way to go!” I sense many of them share this fear that by acknowledging our social progress, we’ll suddenly stop perfecting the other flawed areas of social inequality.

To get to the bottom of what I believe is an unfounded fear, I interviewed several people on the subject. This is what I learned. Continue reading…

Published Works: Top 5 travel trends—more cities, kitchens, and 3-star hotels this year

Courtesy Unsplash

My latest for Paste: “How might travel change this year? Where are people going this year? And how can you save a buck on your next trip while moving about the planet?

“To find out, the folks at Expedia, the world’s largest travel company, surveyed 2000 people and paired their responses with the most recent booking data. Although not a foolproof way to predict the future, this approach offers an inside look at the purchasing behavior and changing tastes of travelers.

“According to the data, this is what we’re in for this year.” Continue reading…

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My 9 year-old son: “That was a close game. Good job to the team that won.”

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Much of my family enjoys watching football with me in the fall and winter. It’s the most TV we watch all year.

Between both college and pro, we’ve enjoyed a lot of exciting games this year. But one in particular stands out. And not because of the result.

Midway through the season, Washington (where my wife is from) nearly pulled off an incredible upset of a highly ranked team. It was back and forth football for a full four quarters. Really great stuff.

On the very last play, however, Washington lost.

That’s not the story that matters, though. A few moments after the game ended, my son Jack turned to his mother and I and said, “That was a close game. Good job to the team that won.”

I was so proud of him for not confusing loyalty with entertainment. Better yet, he’s already beginning to understand what it means to be magnanimous, an elusive trait that makes the world a better place.

I was proud of the example he set and hope to demonstrate the same attitude whenever my favorite team loses.

Made a writing mistake? It’s okay—you’re still cool (because editing)

Courtesy Warner Bros.

I’ve been writing full-time on a professional basis for almost two decades. In that time, I’ve written two books, hundreds or reports, and thousands of articles.

To publish that amount of work, I’ve also committed tens of thousands of mistakes. Maybe more. My last book alone contained thousands of errors after my editor bled all over it. On top of that, I was born with bad diction, and am subjected to nasty hate mail after some of my mistakes.

Why am I telling you this?

Because in both life and writing, mistakes are an everyday thing. In fact, the latter happen every minute. That’s because language and communication are incredibly complex, even for professionals like me who get paid to write fewer mistakes than you do. The sooner you accept, if not embrace, mistakes, the better writer you’ll be. Continue reading…

Google Reviews are perfectly human

I loved these recent profile of Google Reviews written by Will McCarthy and hope you do too.

These were my favorite sentences: “Google Reviews is like having millions of friends around the world who can give you a reliable recommendation on literally anything… I have lived, these reviews say, I have fought and struggled and cried in the face of beauty. I have felt pain, and I have been to Taco Bell and it was only average.”

See also: One-star reviews of National Parks

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The news is wrong. Humanity is getting better. These stats prove it.

Pay no mind to what some old people, many talking heads, and all fear-mongerers say. The world is NOT getting worse. It’s getting better, even under controversial and sometimes divisive climates.

These recent stats compiled by USA Today, Business Insider, Factfulness, and Vox Media offer irrefutable proof. For example:

  1. Life expectancy has doubled over the last century
  2. “The hungry” have been reduced to just 10% over the last 50 years
  3. More than 90% of Earth have access to clean water now, leading to 40% fewer sanitary deaths
  4. Fewer than 10% of people live in extreme poverty—the global economy has never been richer
  5. The world is historically less violent—fewer wars and 40x fewer murders. The little that remains is just more televised and promoted now.
  6. We are reducing pollution and are much more literate than ever before
  7. Individual freedoms and democracy has never been higher
  8. Societies are more open to more genders, races, and orientations than ever before
  9. Teen pregnancy is in decline
  10. Cancer mortality is dropping
  11. Child mortality is just 4%, down from 40% in 1800
  12. Child labor is just 10% now, down from over 70% in 1800
  13. U.S. high school graduation is at an all-time high of 84%
  14. Fear is more irrational in richer economies, so the richer we are, the more fear-mongering we engage in
  15. Although social progress is slower than some liberals like to admit, it is slowly marching on and improving

The glass isn’t half empty, readers. It’s measurable fuller than ever before. Although the world is still imperfect, it’s on the way up more often than not.

First published to blakesnow.com in 2018

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NEW MUSIC: My latest single goes out to all you weary solo travelers

My new single, Fancy Hotel, released today on all major music stores: Spotify, Apple, Amazon, YouTube Music, YouTube, and more. It’s the lead single from my forthcoming third album, out later this year.

I wrote the song in the same hotel room I photographed for the cover art, while on assignment for Paste Magazine in Spain. It’s one of the darkest songs I’ve ever written. But since my optimistic self was the one writing it, the chorus is actually super uplifting. So I’m proud of the mixed feelings it captures, something all of us experience in our own headspace.

I’m also proud of the cover art, which is equally dark. But light is still beaming through the windows. Because there’s always hope. Lyrics after the break. Continue reading…

Published works: 5 things to love about top-rated Celebrity Apex

My latest for Paste Magazine: “It took a minute, but cruising is back. Although most liners halted their sailings over the last couple of years, all ships are now full steam ahead.

“The same is true of Celebrity Apex, the best-rated, recently launched ship from the ocean’s top-rated cruise line, according to passenger reviews. After being christened just before the pandemic, Apex basically sat unused for the better part of two years, before settling into its current Caribbean itinerary last fall.

“The week before Christmas, my family boarded Apex in fantastic Fort Lauderdale for a week of all-you-can-eat fun, island hopping (e.g. Key West, Cozumel, Grand Cayman), and sunny relaxation. Here’s what we liked most about the ship.”

Continue reading…

5 things I learned after publishing Log Off, the best-selling book that changed my life

It’s been half a decade since I published my first book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. It sounds melodramatic, but that little book changed my life. I owe so much to the stories and research contained inside, as well as the rippling effect it created after publication.

Five years later, here are five things I learned after publishing the book: Continue reading…

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How to cope with inflation

Courtesy Shutterstock

Short answer: Figure out what’s abnormally expensive, and then don’t buy that thing.

Long answer: Think creatively about how to still satisfy your wants and or needs in a different way. After the price of brisket recently skyrocketed, for instance, I slow-cooked a roast instead and it turned out pretty good! I’d say maybe 80% like real brisket and would eat it again. Plus, it was a lot more palatable to pay $15 for a hunk of BBQ instead of $55.

My wife and I do the same with travel. We try to book during low season when prices are less. This requires a flexible schedule or some additional sacrifices in time, but it’s a wonderful way to save on airfare, hotels, and tours.

In short, you gotta follow the “SUCC” framework if you wanna beat inflation:

  1. Substitute items or experiences (like roast for brisket or off-peak travel)
  2. Use existing resources in new ways (like credit card cash back points for new home decor)
  3. Conserve the little things that add up over time (cut out subscriptions that no longer delight you; these can add up quick and pay for things that still do)
  4. Coop with others around you to pool and or share resources (Not just Airbnb and Uber, but ask friends and neighbors if you can exchange or borrow things without imposing on their kindness)

Lastly, if you really love something and can still afford it, don’t overthink it. Just buy it.

Published works: 5 funny ways Europe differs from America

My latest for Paste: “Since yearly records first began in the 1960s, no other continent welcomes more traveling Americans than Europe. Roughly half the size of the US with almost an equal number of countries as we have states, Europe is a convenient, safe, and diverse way to expose yourself to a lot of foreign cultures (and languages) in a short amount of time.

Thanks to a strong dollar, Europe is also a lot more affordable now than it’s traditionally been. As with all continents, however, Europe does a lot of things differently than we do here at home. Whether you’ve visited before or are planning your first transatlantic visit this year, here are some of the bigger dissimilarities you need to understand.”

Continue reading…

There is no expiration date on art (or why journalism should critique old “news”)

Many years ago, I read a mind-bending book by Bill Bryson. But I did so a full decade after the best-selling author first wrote it. Surprisingly, I later learned that the book didn’t get as much coverage as his earlier travel books. “I gotta share this,” I said to myself. So I reached out to several newspaper editors with whom I worked with—none of which had covered the book—about doing a retrospective review. Their collective reply, “Sorry, we don’t review old books.”

In other words, modern journalism only touches recent “news,” however you define that. In art’s case, that usually means weeks or months, and typically never more than a few months old. Journalism, you see, is built on helping readers process the recent world—in many cases without context to our past. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “You’re on your own for anything good that’s older than a year, but we’ll help you find the good stuff coming out of the firehose right now.”

That’s negligent at best, narrow-minded at worst.

As journalists, how can we inform society if we fail to critique some of our “greatest hits” from the past? The answer is we can’t. While recent happenings have always been the focus of “news,” it shouldn’t come at the expense of celebrating, elevating, or criticizing some of humanity’s most viral ideas and works, especially for newer generations who weren’t around when that once important news dropped off the feed.

There must be a better way. While it’s impossible for news to cover everything that’s ever happened, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t revisit the more profound ideas that are still relevant.
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My son Max after a 25 point loss: “It’s okay—we’re still cool”

Kids say the darnedest things. But their mental fortitude is even more impressive.

After recently losing his first basketball game by a whopping 12 buckets, my son Max (pictured) turned to one of his teammates and said, “It’s okay—we’re still cool.”

His mother and I laughed, of course. But it was obvious this friend was familiar with the sentiment. We asked Max about it later. He said he and his friends often say this to each other whenever they screw up.

I love this mentality. We all make mistakes. But that doesn’t diminish our value, Max says. Brilliant!

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Published works: Brazil is badly underrated. Here’s why (and what to do)

My latest for Paste Magazine:

It doesn’t make any sense. I’m looking at the most beautiful city I’ve ever visited on six different continents. That city, Rio de Janeiro, is a masterpiece of God, Mother Nature, or whatever force created it. Its lush mountains and iconic beaches are the crown jewel of Brazil, a country that includes two “Wonders of the World,” the world’s largest rainforest, and more natural and cultural diversity than any other country in Latin America.

Despite this, Brazil doesn’t even crack the list of the top 50 most-visited countries in the world. Continue reading…

Book review: The Greatest Game Ever Played makes me proud to be an amateur

I recently finished The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost. It tells the inspiring true story of Francis Ouimet and his endearing, 10-year old caddie winning the US Open in 1913 as an amateur and first American-born player to do so. It was a wonderful account and inspiring to boot, especially since all of us are amateurs in most areas of our lives. If Ouimet can do it, any of us can!

Rating: ★★★★☆ These were my favorite passages: Continue reading…

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“Stuck in time:” The life story of Ralph Macchio as told by The Karate Kid

I recently finished Waxing On by Ralph Macchio. It’s about his celebrity and often stuck-in-time life as the Karate Kid. As a huge fan of the original movies, I thought it was a fascinating and entertaining read about how it all came together, and what effect the typecasted role continues to have on Macchio’s life.

Rating: ★★★★☆ These were my favorite passages: Continue reading…

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Published works: Mexico City is awesome, toad-licking is dumb, magic travel pills

My latest for Lonely Planet and Paste:

Thanks for reading.

You can’t force creativity: Feeling inspired in Madrid but failing in Mexico City

I’m currently working on my third album to be released sometime next year. And I was recently reminded that you can’t force creativity.

For example, I visited Madrid this fall for work. On the first day, I was feeling jet lagged, isolated, and especially restless. So much so that I wrote two really great songs from that emotional state. They just came out of me.

Afterwords I decided, “Maybe I should always write songs when I travel.”

The next month, I visited Mexico City, another Spanish speaking capital. “This is going to be good,” I excitedly told myself. I even bought a new travel ukulele and blocked off some time during my trip to dedicate to songwriting.

What happened? Absolutely nothing. It was a total bust. Not a single idea or spark came. “Well that was a waste,” I told myself.

That’s not entirely true. It never hurts to try. But the experience reminded me that emotional highs and lows are always the best conditions to create in.

If we want to create more, we must put our psyches in unique or new situations, and then let our emotions tell the story. I’m in awe of how effective strong emotions are when creating.

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I stopped swearing this year to temper my anger. It mostly worked. 😁

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I sometimes yell at my immediate family members when arguments arise. I’m not proud of it.

I’ve talked with other anger “patients” that have road rage or easily yell at strangers or people in public, but never at their own family—something I don’t identify with.

Granted, I believe 99% of outbursts are wrong, regardless of who they are directed at. But I feel extra guilty for having better manners with strangers and fellow drivers than the people I love most.

Because of that, 11 years ago I admitted myself to anger therapy. It was a life-changing experience that didn’t fix the problem, but it definitely improved it and gave me great coping mechanisms.

This January, I had an epiphany. “I wonder what would happen to my temper if I willingly removed swear words from my vocabulary?” To find out, that’s exactly what I did this year.

Here’s how it went. Continue reading…

If we want to write well, we must read often

When it comes to great writing, practice will only get you half of the way. To really gain an understanding of how language currently works (and how it fails), we must read often.

That’s admittedly hard for many people. One in four of you reading this didn’t read a single book last year, according to Pew Research. And the 75% who did only reported reading “at least” one book in the last 12 months, so it’s unclear what the average number of read books per year is.

In my own life, I have friends that read over 100 books a year. And I have friends that read no books. I like both kinds, but I know the former are better writers (and often communicators) than the latter. Personally, I read a dozen books per year, in addition to a similar number of long-form articles each week (via Longreads and Digg).

Wherever you are, sometimes we forget the impact that regular reading has on effective writing. This is your reminder. As we head into the holidays and new year, I challenge each of you to read more often. If you need a recommendation, read my recently reviewed books, my own two books, and/or subscribe to the above. Not only will this make you smarter, it will make you a better writer.

Need help writing anything next year? If so, I know a really good guy. Thanks for reading. 

5 things dance class taught me

Snow Family

Snow Family

My wife—hi, hot stuff!—bought me ballroom dance lessons for Christmas. Even though I can cut rug freestyle, I was really excited about taking formal instruction. After finishing the eight week course last week, I am pleased to report it did not disappoint.

I fully expected to learn some new moves, but I didn’t expect the class to broaden my worldview and deepen my appreciation for music. But it did. Here’s what ballroom dance lessons taught me:  Continue reading…

The overview effect: Why I’ll NEVER travel to space


Most kids want to go to space. This is because kids are stupid, myself included.

I no longer want to go to space. Here’s why.

  1. The overview effect. This is the “overwhelming sadness” many astronauts feel upon reaching space and realizing they just left the most beautiful thing in the entire, observable universe. As astronaut Bill Anders recalled on Christmas Eve, 1968, when he shot the iconic Earthrise photo (pictured), “When I looked up and saw the Earth coming up on this very stark, beat-up Moon horizon, I was immediately overcome with the thought, ‘Here we came all this way to the Moon, and yet the most significant thing we’re seeing is our own home planet, the Earth.'” William Shatner, who traveled to space in 2021, remarked, “All of a sudden, as though you whip a sheet off you when you’re asleep, and you’re looking into blackness, into black ugliness. And you look down. There’s the blue down there and the black up there. And there is mother Earth and comfort. And up there… Is that death? I don’t know.”
  2. It’s all right here. As I sung on my second album, everything that’s good in the observable universe is “all right here.” Maybe something is cool beyond the observable universe. But within the bajillions of square light years that makes up the universe, nothing even comes close to the beauty, life, diversity, adventure, and generosity of earth and its alpha species (humans). Yes the world can be a cold, dark place sometimes. But it’s not nearly as cold, dark, and ugly as space. Again, it’s not even close. So it is here I will stay. I’m not making the same mistake many people in literature and movies often do—leaving home only to discover that the best thing they had was right in front of them.

No amount of blackness will ever change that for me. Happy holidays!

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Study reveals: Crunches are the most popular exercise in America

Crunches are the most popular exercise in America, according to a new study by Bar Bend. The study analyzed Google search data to uncover the most popular fitness moves in all 50 states. This is what they found:

  1. Crunches. Out of all the states’ favorite exercises, crunches are the most popular. With 23 out of 50 states searching for it the most (including New York, California and Florida), the crunch is one of the best ways to train the abdominal muscles. Other than strengthening the core, this type of exercise dramatically improves the posture and the mobility and flexibility of the body.
  2. Deadlift. Deadlift is one of the most loved (and hated) power lifting exercise by gym-enthusiasts. With 16 out of 50 states searching for it the most (including Virginia, Minnesota and Hawaii), deadlift is the second most popular workout across the country. Deadlifts can help reducing lower back pain and improving core strength.
  3. Hammer curl. With 6 out of 50 states searching for hammer curl exercises the most (including Missouri, New Hampshire and North and South Dakota), hammer curl is the third most popular exercise in the US. Other than increasing biceps strength, this exercise boosts wrist strength and refines muscle endurance.
  4. Bench press. Bench press is the fourth most popular exercise across the states, with three out of 50 countries searching for it online (Indiana, Arkansas and West Virginia). Despite being a very good exercise for increasing general upper-body strength, the bench press can be replaced by regular gym goers wanting to work the same same muscles with barbell floor or overhead press, push-ups, or dumbbell bench press.
  5. Squat. The squat is the most popular exercise only in Utah, with a total average search volume of 5,400 searches per month. Other than improving posture, strengthening core and leg muscles, and defining glutes, squats also prevent knee and ankle injuries.
  6. Lateral raise. Finally, the lateral raise is the most popular exercise in the state of Nebraska, according to the study. Lateral raises help strengthening the shoulder muscles and improving the general upper body strength.
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Can GREAT ART come from happy, well-balanced, and multi-dimensional people?

Courtesy Yue Minjun

Over the years I’ve observed first-hand how great art often comes from the most tormented people. Musicians, movie stars, writers, entrepreneurs.

As I’ve written before, to become an icon (if not achieve worldwide greatness), you have to sacrifice just about everything else in life, which often makes said person a one-dimential, incredibly driven, and often sociopathic.

Is it possible, however, for happy, well-balanced, and/or multi-dimensional people to create great art? Joseph Berger, an artist from New York, sure thinks so.

“The perpetuation of the long suffering mythology of art is a thing which makes me unhappy,” he writes. “It is promulgated by people who have either never suffered enough to really know what suffering is, or otherwise by happy idiots who have never done a worthwhile thing in their lives, and by people who watch way to much TV or its equivalent, and buy the shopworn notion of art and artists, which predicates itself on a cultural aesthetic that is arcane at best, and insulting to the very fabric of the quality of mind that art does require. Art has nothing to do with any single emotional state of being. Art is thing that people do, just the same as feelings of all sorts are things that we each experience. And I am far more concerned about the state of mind of the person driving a car on a highway in vicinity of mine, and how their emotional state affects their driving in the moment than I am about how it affects their art.”

As a self-prescribed multi-dimentional, well-balanced, and happy artist, I sure hope so.

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Re-reading The Old Man and The Sea for the first time since high school

Spoiler alert: I loved it nearly as much today as I did as a teenager. The only difference is it meant a little more back then to me as this was the book that turned me onto literature and reading in general.

Rating: ★★★★★ These were my favorite passages this time around:

  • He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
  • The thousand times that he had proved it meant nothing. Now he was proving it again. Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it.
  • Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. But imagine if a man each day should have to try to kill the sun? We were born lucky, he thought.
  • Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.
  • I hope no one has been too worried. There is only the boy to worry, of course. But… many of the older fishermen will worry. Many others too, he thought. I live in a good town.
  • “The hell with luck,” the boy said. “I’ll bring the luck with me.”
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Published works: Misjudging Madrid on foot, scooter, and bougie Range Rover

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My latest for Paste Magazine: After years of traveling, not once have I heard the following: “I love Madrid!” A quick Google search confirms this consensus; the Spanish capital is notably absent from most “Europe’s best cities to visit” lists. In the two instances it was, the unassuming city barely cracked the top 40.

That’s not to say Madrid isn’t a great city. It’s rich, ornate, bright, pedestrian-friendly, and filled with some of the warmest locals and food on the continent. But not all great cities double as desirable tourist destinations.

Does Madrid? To find out, the generous folks at Land Rover recently invited me to drive their new electric Range Rovers through the city’s scenery, in between some of the top sights, and even on some outskirt off-road terrain. This is what I learned.

Continue reading…

Tom Cruise: Anatomy of an Actor is a case study on acting, ambition, and acceptance

Because I think Top Gun 2 is the greatest blockbuster in a decade, I recently finished Tom Cruise: Anatomy of an Actor by Amy Nicholson.

I was originally unsure of some of the “10 iconic roles” Nicholson chose to break down, especially from some of Cruise’s poorly rated performances. But in hindsight, I actually appreciated her critique of his weaker roles, as well as her wide-ranging coverage of most of his other roles.

In other words, no one is perfect. And sometimes critique of our misses is just as insightful and inspiriting as our hits. If you like cinema, movie stars, and/or driven people, I highly recommend this well-written and eye-pleasing hardback.

Rating: ★★★★☆