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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I permanently damaged my ears making music, but the reason they ring is beautiful.

While recording my debut album, I permanently damaged my inner ears. That’s because I listened to my headphones at volume 8-9 for four straight months. Every day. My ears have been ringing ever since.

Near the end of the recording process, the high pitched “tinging” started. I had also started playing in a live band then but wore ear plugs without realizing that I was letting the problem in the backdoor at the same time.

I read up on the ringing, and after speaking with two permanent “patients,” it was obvious I was suffering from either temporary or permanent tinnitus (pronounced tin-uh-tis). Time was the only way to tell which version I had. All the medical literature says if the ringing stops after 2-4 weeks, the ear cells were able to heal themselves and you’re good to go. If they don’t, the ringing will never go away, according to the latest research. Mine never did.

Obviously, permanent tinnitus, especially in both ears, is an incessant annoyance. But I’ve adapted well. And I’m grateful my ears alerted me to the issue before I was made deaf by music, as the tragic but still hopeful Sound of Metal movie so beautiful demonstrates.

What’s more, I haven’t suffered any noticeable hearing loss beyond maybe 5-10% clarity. I can still hear the soft breathing of my wife lying in bed next to me or even distant sounds. Although the ringing hasn’t gone away, my hearing remains largely intact.

There’s a very specific reason for that. The ringing is by design! The way it was explained to me, ringing ears are like the hissing you hear when turning speakers up real loud or on a radio while changing the station in search of something new. Similarly, ear cells change their frequencies, if you will, to make up for the loss of damaged cells. The living cells actually re-tune themselves (or ring) in an effort to listen more acutely with the remaining cells at their disposal. Magic I tell ya!

While I wish I never harmed my ears like I did, I often feel gratitude whenever I notice the ringing. It’s proof that my body and maker (be that God or evolutionary biology) care for me more than I care for myself sometimes. Isn’t that comforting?

TL;DR: Don’t blow out your ears, wear protection, and be grateful for how the human body adapts to survive.

The 20 most iconic ‘80s movies

Courtesy Warner Bros.

My childhood was defined by ‘80s movies, music, fashion, and malls. It was a fantastically colorful, loud, fun and progressive decade to live through (although not as good as we have it today).

Although every decade has its share of hit films, the ‘80s are especially known for their irreverent, imaginative, and spectacular movies. Heck, they even invented “the blockbuster.”

If I could only watch 20 movies from the ‘80s, what would they be? In my opinion, you won’t find anything more iconic, classic, and radical than these: Continue reading…

I write for myself. You should too. ✍️

I was recently asked if I write for myself or for others.

“Easy,” I exclaimed. “I write for myself.”

After 20 years of full-time writing, it means the world that my sentences, articles, and books have reached millions of people. Affirmation is my biggest love language.

But I never write for a single soul other than myself. I do this for two reasons. Continue reading…

7 mental health resolutions, backed by science

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Every human needs a little help sometimes. Here are seven, science-backed ways to improve your mental health this year:

  1. Reconsider your social media use. While I’d encourage you to cancel social media altogether (the last 15 years have been amazing!), I realize this is a huge ask. But in the very least, you should restrict your social media use for maximum fulfillment, as I wrote in my best-selling book Log Off.
  2. Reconnect with a long lost friend. Simply text or say the following: “I thought of you today and miss you. How are you?”
  3. Empathize with someone different from you. People with high levels of empathy tend to function better in society than those with low levels. So go out of your way to meet, learn from, and befriend people that don’t look, think, or talk like you.
  4. Stop ruminating about work. It can wait until tomorrow morning or after the weekend. One of the best way to overcome this is to simply write down what you need to do and schedule time on your calendar to take care of it later.
  5. Make time for fun, mastery, social, and physical activities. You should be doing at least one of each every weekday, including fun things that excite you, cleaning or errands that make you feel good, excercize, and talking with your favorite people. If you’re the type that’s always helping others, carve out 20-30 minutes of “me time” everyday to reduce stress.
  6. Write a thank you letter. Gratitude increases happiness better than just about anything.
  7. Consider therapy if your emotions need some help. I’ve done this twice before and it saved my marriage and tempered my anger management. A good friend of mine is also visiting a therapist for the first time this year and loving it. I’m so fond of counseling that I’m gifting it to all of my kids and their spouses when they get married.

The Cyclical Nature of Cool ⛷️

Courtesy Whitelines Snowboarding

I can tell you the exact moment snowboarding became cool. It was in 1985 when James Bond fastened helicopter shrapnel to his feet and rode down a mountain on a makeshift snowboard while a bunch of goons on skis struggled to keep up. 

I can also tell you the exact moment it became uncool—at least in my world. While discussing the upcoming winter season recently with two millennials, I doubted my age after both of them grew up skiing since, “snowboarding is what my old man does.” 

“If I still snowboard, does that make me an old man?” I asked myself.  Continue reading…

After making a mistake, this sign instantly cheered me up

I made a boo-boo at work yesterday. The client I was working with was very understanding, forgiving, and even accepted some of the blame. But I felt pretty rotten about the oversight.

Now, I’m not a perfectionist because done is better than perfect. But I couldn’t shake my disappointment of letting them down. So much so that I continued to worry about my mistake into the night.

Then I awoke to the above new sign on display in our kitchen today, which was ironically crafted by my eight year old daughter. It immediately cheered me up. Partly because I learned some things from my mistake and instituted two immediate changes that will make me a better writer. But also because the sign reminded me that it’s okay to make mistakes.

Showing up really is half the battle. As my friend David says, “You gotta play some sour notes in order to make your sound sweeter.” I’m grateful of those simple truths that make improvement possible.

Thanks, Jane.

This story first published to blakesnow.com in 2018

A fanny pack is the only travel bag you need

Hope you enjoy my first story for the Washington Post: “That’s all you packed?” my fellow hiker asked, looking at me in disbelief.

“We were just about to start a four-day, 50-mile hike along the Jordan Trail into Petra. And I had carried only a single fanny pack across the Atlantic Ocean for my first week in the Middle East.

“At 10 liters, my Bergans “hip” or “waist” pack is the biggest money can buy. But it’s still only half the size of a small backpack. How is it possible to travel so far with so few possessions? And why on Earth would anyone do that?”

Continue reading…

Celebrity’s newest cruise ship is the billionaire boat for everyone

Courtesy Celebrity Cruises

FORT LAUDERDALE—Celebrity Cruises look different, taste different, sail different, and value things that other cruises lack, like “all included” packages, plus ship layouts and guest rooms that feel more like a spacious resort than cramped passenger ship.

They are not the funnest ships on the high seas—nor the biggest or family-friendliest. But they are the most relaxing, delicious, and healthy ships sailing today. And thanks to incentivized fares that are only slightly higher than its competitors, Celebrity is also a “best buy” in cruising, despite their premium digs.

The recently launched Celebrity Ascent is the embodiment of this approach. Built for nearly a billion dollars, the 1,000 foot, 3200 passenger vessel doubles down on what its three older “Edge Series” siblings do so well. It’s 20% more fuel efficient, which is good for the planet. And it serves a greater variety of global cuisines, fanciful restaurants, and fresh produce than others, which is good for the belly.

On the inaugural christening last month, my daughter and I boarded the Ascent in less than five minutes, while armed with Celebrity’s snazzy app. We then devoured two charcuterie plates, a wholesome salad, and washed it all down with a pretentious Pellegrino from the Ocean View buffet, which seriously gives Vegas buffets a run for their money. Not exactly. But close.

Continue reading…

Published Works: 10 years of travel writing, hiking Petra, 7 wonders, cruising tips

Here are my latest columns for Paste Magazine. Thanks for reading and sharing the ones you enjoy:

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Want to live to 100? Do these eight things

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

One of my goals in life is to become a centenarian, someone over 100 years of age. A few years ago, a team of researchers identified four areas that had the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world. They studied these people, wrote a book about them, then distilled their similar lifestyles down to a set of consistent life-giving habits.

And by life giving, I really mean death halting. Since there’s no brake on death, the best you can do is ease off the accelerator. With my added commentary, here are eight ways to do just that, as compiled by author Dan Buettner:

  1. Find a physical activity you enjoy and keep doing it. Do it for as long as you enjoy it. If and when you tire of that activity, find something else that pleases you. For example, you could start jogging, and if that becomes a bore, move to biking. Then swimming. Then Pilates. Then kickboxing. Then underwater basket weaving. Whatever it is, be sure to do it at least three times a week, moreso for idle or cubicle people. (In my case, since I sit at a desk and work from home, I have to move a lot more than most people to achieve the optimal amount of fitness.)
  2. Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, as opposed to being full. There’s a difference. About 20% less food per meal, in fact. In short, this is the best known way to eat less. Stop when satisfied instead of stuffing yourself. Continue reading…

Why travel “comes easy” to some but harder for others

Wild elephants walking a road in Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park (Khunkay/Wikimedia)

(ENTREPRENEUR)—Is it easier for extroverts to travel than it is for introverts? Can travel be learned? If so, what does it take to overcome the fear, anxiety, and logistical challenges often associated with long-distance travel?

In search of answers, I asked several seasoned tourists and travel converts for their stories and advice. This is what I found.

First, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. People that travel as children are far more likely to travel as a adults. “Thanks to my parents, I started traveling when I was young,” says Avery Blank, an avid international traveler and strategy consultant from Philadelphia. “That made it relatively easy for me now to adapt to new cultures, surroundings, ways of doing things.”

Obviously if you were raised by homebodies, you’re at an immediate disadvantage. But so are risk-averse individuals who are particularly scared of the unknown, of which there are substantial amounts of when traveling to a new place with new customs and sometimes new languages.

“Much of the anxiety arising from travel revolves around being infantilized,” says Sheridan Becker, an American art director living in Belgium. “For example, not knowing how to do anything in a foreign language, asking for a bathroom, what to do if you lose your wallet, where your next meal will come from (and will you be able to stomach it), or how to handle medical emergencies.”

These are all disorienting questions, the fear of which keeps many people away. So extroverts don’t necessarily have an easier time traveling than less outgoing individuals. Rather, it’s more about how you were raised coupled with a willingness to try unexpected things that determine your propensity for travel.

The good news is wanderlust can be learned. Here are six ways to do just that.  Continue reading…

Really?! 5% of people feel nothing for music

“Some people lack the ability to get pleasure from music, researchers say, even though they enjoy food, sex and other joys in life,” reports NPR. Apparently that number is 5%, according to the University of Barcelona. Which is both higher and lower than I was expecting. Either way, it means 5% of people have no soul.

LISTEN NOW to my latest album

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“Mostly water weight!” My before and afters

Sixteen years ago, I was in the worst physical and mental shape of my life. I was a work-a-holic, Internet addict who never exercised and mostly ate junk food. When the food was healthy, such as my wife’s home-cooked meals, I always ate 2-3 plates.

The next year, I lost a lot of weight, abandoned narcissism, disconnected, and started living large on low-caloric technology. I even wrote a best-selling book about it.

In the proceeding years, I maintained that balance. But I was still 5-10 pounds more than my doctor wanted after my back surgery. “The lighter you are, the longer your back will last,” he said.

This year, I finally shed those last 10 pounds, plus an extra five for insurance (because I quickly gain five pounds sometimes, especially on vacation). That way I’m never over my target weight, which makes me feel good about how I’m treating my back and extending my physical health.

I’m not sharing this to sell you anything. In fact, my mostly vegetarian diet is free of charge and basically this: eat real food, mostly plants, not too much, and only dessert on special occasions. On top of that, I rigorously exercise for 21 minutes each weekday and play soccer three times a week.

Why, then, would I hurl something so superficial onto the internet? Because people can change. Maybe you don’t need any changes. But most of us do. I’m grateful for a lifetime of change where each of us can learn and grow at or own pace and by our own free will and choice.

To be fair, life was still beautiful all those years ago. And I was more than the sum of my weight and mental compulsions. But I’m grateful to have achieved peak health this year and hope to inspire others to do the same.

If I can do it over 16 years, anyone can.

How overdoing Christmas taught me the reason for the season

Courtesy Shutterstock

Sometime in my late twenties, my wife and I started to make serious money. I’m talking legitimate thousandaires. A penthouse apartment even. Life was humming. 😁

By the time the holidays rolled around, I had already dropped $1000 at a single clothing store all on myself. For me at the time, this was an enormous amount of money and a clear indicator I was spending almost as fast as I was incoming.

Lindsey and I had two adorable little girls under the age of three. For Christmas that year, I remember buying them both lots of little gifts. But Lindsey and I really bought the bulk of the gifts, especially the big ones, for ourselves. Continue reading…

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How low-impact, old lady workouts saved my life

Ten years ago, I had back surgery for the second time. Because my spine was fused, total recovery was six months—an eternity for a busy-body like me.

The first two months of little to no physical activity made me restless. The next several months of low-impact workouts was emasculating. Basically all of the participants on YouTube were senior citizens, if not gray-haired women.

That’s not a bad thing. But it was for a thirty-something like me who was impatiently wanting to return to full activity. Continue reading…

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How to live richly on any income

Getting rich in five years is one thing. But living richly involves a lot more than just money.

Indeed, many people are rich in cash but poor in assets, broke on time, impoverished in relationships, destitute in health, and underprivileged in experiences and ongoing education. Of course, the inverse is true too. Poor people can be rich in many other areas that matter.

What can each of us do, then, to ensure we’re living richly in most, if not all, major aspects of life, regardless of income? While I don’t have all the answers, this is what I know for sure: Continue reading…

Published Works: Margaritaville, Legoland, Traveling Music, Paris with kids, Skydiving

Courtesy Blake Snow

Here are my latest travel dispatches for Paste Magazine:

Thanks for reading and sharing with the travel lovers in your life.

Ultra-long haul flights: How I survived 16 hours in the sky

Courtesy Shutterstock

I didn’t notice the duration until after I booked my airfare.

Total flight time from Salt Lake City to Durban, South Africa: an intimidating 22 hours—just under a full day. And that doesn’t include the 7-hour layover at two different airports. Nor the three additional hours of airtime on the return flight (because trade winds).

Gulp.

The longest nonstop I will take on this trip—New York to Johannesburg—lasts 16 hours and 27 minutes. It won’t be as long as the record-setting 18-hour-and-50-minute doozy from Singapore to New York, but it’s close. And it may make you wonder, why would anyone do that to themselves?

If I’m going to go on a life-changing safari, I’ve gotta get my hands dirty, right!? So I do it—I book the flight. After processing the sheer amount of time I’ll spend in the air, however, I mistakenly think my past experience on 10-plus hour flights will make this long-hauler a piece of cake.

I am wrong. Hour 12, I learn, is like hitting “the wall” in a marathon, and at that point I’ll still have five more hours to go. Someone get me outta here! In fact, the latter half of the flight will feel like a slow-motion time warp. Zombie-land in a flying metal tube, and I’m the zombie.

Sounds nice, right? For anyone planning on taking a similar “ultra long-haul”—any flight greater than 16 hours—here’s a psychological run-down of what to expect, plus tips and tricks to maintain your sanity. Continue reading…

Top 10 tips for living your best life

Courtesy Shutterstock

  1. Prioritize your health. You cannot be your best or help others if you’re mentally or physically sick. It is never selfish to share your feelings, exercise regularly, or visit a doctor. This is how we put on our own oxygen mask before helping others. It is the foundation for everything that follows.
  2. Create what excites you (not others). Not being true to one’s self is the number one regret of the dying. When deciding what you want to do, never let a family member, friend, society, or logic decide for you. Follow your heart or die with regret.
  3. Take time off. Working too much is the number two regret of the dying. So enjoy downtime on weekends, nights, and periodic vacations. Don’t work extra hard for money you don’t need. Enjoy the limited time we’re given instead.
  4. Keep a calendar. You can’t spend your time with purpose without keeping a life calendar. Failure to keep or outsourcing your calendar is a great way to let others decide how, where, or who you spend your time with, which is how we end up unhappy.
  5. Swallow your pride. Hey, you over there. You’re not that special. You’re one of billions of humans, most of which have done much more impressive stuff than you. So please, suppress your ego and accept your averageness. You are a social creature and not the exception. So act like it, and you’ll enjoy life a whole lot more.
  6. Count your blessings. This is hands down the fastest way to happiness, regardless of circumstances. Harvard research proves this.
  7. Stay curious. Formal education is overrated. Asking lots of questions everyday is not. So ask questions, even big, broad, and hard ones. Seek truth. Talk to people smarter than you. Read books. Watch documentaries. Enroll in classes. Learn something new at an old age. Then learn something else. Do this again, and again, and again. This keeps the mind active and helps us grow, which is a huge factor in living large and finding fulfillment.
  8. Invest in relationships. You don’t want to live or die alone. Like physical fitness, you must spend time on relationships if you want lots of friends and family. At the same time, you must understand that saying “no” to others is saying yes to yourself. True friends and family will support you in that regard, so long as you’re taking an interest in them, initiating social encounters, and reciprocating.
  9. Be adventurous. Travel the world. Go skydiving. Do something that scares you. Visit the “wrong” side of town. Talk to people that look, act, and think differently than you. Do at least one daily thing that makes you uncomfortable. Doing so challenges your beliefs even better than a formal education.
  10. Invoke God. Sorry atheists and agnostics. You’re not gonna like this, But prayer, mediation, and recognition of a higher power does wonders for the soul. You might think it’s a placebo effect. But it doesn’t matter. Invoking God works.
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Blue Zones revisited: How to live to 100

Many years ago, I was inspired to live to 100 after reading Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, who with a team of researchers studied what the longest living humans have in common.

According to the highest populations of centenarians (100 and older) in the world, this is what the researchers found, ordered from most in common to least:

  1. Long-lasting humans have families, don’t smoke, eat plant-heavy diets (beans, lentils, peas, etc), are physically active, and social.
  2. They believe in God, eat whole grains, are culturally isolated, don’t drink alcohol, empower women, garden, and get lots of sunshine.
  3. Lastly, they eat a handful of nuts everyday, aren’t in a hurry, and occasionally drink a glass wine (although that’s recently been disputed).

Ever since I first read Blue Zones, I’ve adopted most of the above and feel great. That’s no guarantee I’ll live to 100. But I’d do it anyways since I feel better now than when I didn’t do the above.

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Which countries work, relax, and volunteer most?

AM Charts

AM Charts

I did some light reading on time-use recently and came across some insightful observations from researcher John Robinson. He’s spent the last four decades reviewing thousands of “time journals” from people around the world.

Contrary to what you might think, Robinson argues we have more free time today than when he started keeping records in the ’60s, something The Atlantic corroborates. Only now we choose to fill that free time with overwork or busy-ness instead of proper leisure (e.g. relaxation, hobbies, or adventures) because that’s how many of us validate our existence.

A few highlights from Robinson’s research: People in Spain spend the most time walking (good for them!), Italians and Slovenians spend the most time relaxing (nice!), and Bulgarians (not Americans!) spend the most time watching TV (tsk, tsk). In the United States, people spend more time on computers than any other country, they volunteer more, and they spend the most time taking care of children and the elderly.

I suspect the increase in childcare is partially due to the rise of helicopter parenting. But those are mostly noble uses of American’s time, I believe. That is, of course, if we’re using computers to work smarter, work less, and facilitate really cool offline adventures.—Blake Snow

The story first published to blakesnow.com in 2014

Is it possible for an unsigned writer to make radio-quality music in his free time?

I get it. I have no business asking you to listen to my songs. I’m an amateur musician after all.

But if you stream my latest records (all professionally mixed and mastered), I’m confident you’ll hear a handful of catchy melodies that could arguably air on popular radio.

Promise they don’t suck. Only one way to find out.

The Breakers (2023):

All songs written, recorded, and produced by Blake Snow. Co-production, mixing, and mastering by Adam Miele. Additional bass, guitar, and backing vocals by Derick Pulham. Additional drumming by Steve Hill.

Less Bad (2022):

All songs written, recorded, and produced by Blake Snow. Co-production, mixing, and mastering by Adam Miele Continue reading…

Top 10 best classical piano sonatas ever

pianofingers

Piano is hands down the greatest instrument ever made. Even better than drums. And as far as genres go, classical is, without a doubt, the most timeless music ever.

What happens when you combine the two in their most essential forms? You get this: The best classical piano sonatas ever written.

Before I move on, please note: I use the term “sonata” a bit loosely — my list includes some pieces with no additional movements. But I am using the term “classical” strictly — anything from the common practice period of 1600-1910, spanning baroque, classical, and romantic periods.

So put on your powdered wig. Dress in a frilly shirt. And don’t applaud during the pauses, please. It’s the top 10 best classical piano sonatas of all-time. Continue reading…

As an aging athlete, playing competitive soccer humbles and encourages me

For that last three years, I’ve played competitive soccer three times a week on my lunch break. I mostly play forward with really good guys between the age of 20-50 at this incredible, $10 million indoor football field (pictured). It’s quite the hookup!

More than just being a fun way to stay in shape though, the weekly games constantly humble and encourage me. The other day I played really poorly, which frustrated several of my teammates. I left feeling doubtful and inadequate, even though my family and work life were both going really well.

The week before that, I scored two hat tricks and assisted on several more goals, which left me feeling like a bigger deal than I really am.

Sometimes I play well when there are stresses at home or at work, and that gives me confidence to push through the hard times. Other times I play poorly and that humbles me when I’m riding high in other areas of life.

Of course, I’d rather be firing on all cylinders all of the time. But the uneven experience helps me grow in what I hope is a slow, upward trajectory, which I’m thankful for.

Moral of the story: find a hobby outside of work and family that can continually humble and encourage you. The rest of life will be better for it.

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The moment John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice” entered my stratosphere


Several years ago while traveling for work, I heard 61,000 Aussies belt out You’re The Voice by John Farnham at a college football game in Sydney. While I had heard the song before in that great scene from Hot Rod, I had no idea Aussies could sing it word for word like it was their National Anthem. As a devout musician, it was one of the most memorable moments of a remarkable trip to one of my favorite countries. And a great tune to boot. A message to future generations: don’t let this song die!

Top 10 greatest things ever (my ranking)

Courtesy Shutterstock

I like rankings. Although imperfect, they quickly prioritize the best things in life. At least those that the widest number of people recommend seeing, doing, and experiencing.

After seeing this ambitious list, top 10 greatest things ever (as voted by the internet), I thought to myself, “Oh, this should be interesting or funny.” But it was actually quite good!

Although movies and books should have cracked the list, I think the voters got this 90% right. Here’s my slight re-ording plus commentary: Continue reading…

New research: After decades of “healthy moderation,” alcohol is poisonous again

Like added sugars, a glass of wine a day is back on the chopping block.

“From a public health perspective, reducing per capita alcohol consumption saves lives, full stop,” reports Slate. “One team of scientists computed a ‘cigarette-equivalent of population cancer harm’ and found that in terms of lifetime cancer risk, drinking a bottle of wine a week is like, for men, smoking five cigarettes or, for women, 10 cigarettes a week. Almost 4 percent of cancers diagnosed worldwide in 2020 were due to drinking, according to the WHO.”

After presenting a lot of damning research, however, Slate likens moderate alcohol consumption to eating cake or getting into a car. As a biased teetotaler, I disagree with this justification for two reasons: 1) You shouldn’t eat cake on a daily basis; 2) You have a .001 chance of dying in a car, according to simple math provided by the CDC and the 7.8 billion people that live in the world. Alcohol related deaths are several times higher than that, so it’s not the best comparison.

Either way, it’s good to know the guy who invented “a glass of wine a day is healthy” was a wine seller who tricked a lot of people into thinking it actually was. It’s not. The latest research bares this out.

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Published works: African safari, 16 hour flights, unseen Utah, 18 travel tips

Here’s a few of my latest travel clippings. Thanks for reading and sharing:

Gotta see them all: 7 wonders of the world

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In 2007, an international body polled more than 100 million people to name their favorite, man-made monument from a list of 200 nominees. After all the votes were counted, these were named the winners—aka the “New 7 Wonders of the World.” I’ve visited four so far and hope to see the others soon. Until then, here’s a summary of each.

Continue reading…

Moral decline is an illusion caused by dramatic news and “good ole days”

Courtesy Shutterstock

Statistically speaking, the world has drastically improved in recent centuries. We live in a measurable (albeit imperfect) Golden Age—never has there been a better time to be born, regardless of gender, race, religion, economic class, and 99% of nationalities.

And yet, most people think morality is in rapid decline, according to new research by Adam Mastroianni. After studying half a million humans, Mastroianni cites two causes for this: biased exposure and biased memory. The first is how people pay more attention to negative news, which journalism disproportionately publishes in order to increase advertising revenue. The second means the outrages of yesterday don’t seem so outrageous today (even though they are).

In short, media bias and our brains have tricked us into thinking everything is worse. As Mastroianni writes, “If you think that morality is declining, then you must think that some switch has been flipped in society, causing it to produce worse humans. No doubt you would want to un-flip that switch, whatever you think it is: smash the social media companies! Kill all the politicians! Ban the bad books! None of that is going to reverse the trend, because the trend doesn’t exist. It’s like activating the sprinkler system in a building that’s not on fire.”

This realization is both refreshing and frightening. In the meantime, let’s not “fix” anything until we verify that it’s actually broken.

See also: Does accepting (or celebrating) social progress hinder future progress?

I like doctors who don’t call themselves “doctors”

I’ve recently corresponded with a woman who insists on being called “doctor.” As the principal of an elementary school, I’m told she asks her students and others to call her “doctor” as well. To further complicate matters, she goes by a hyphenated last name, so basically she insists on being called by three different names, instead of—ya know—just one like everybody else.

It’s awkward.

Contrast that with the man who raised me, my outstanding father. He went by Brent both professional and personally his entire life, even after getting his PhD. He rose the ranks in higher education and eventually become the second in command at a big university in Texas. But he always went by Brent. No fancy salutation needed.

Last month I met an accomplished woman named “Jen” who earned multiple Ivy League degrees from USC, Berkeley, and a PhD from Princeton. She works for National Geographic and is as accomplished as they come, yet as humble as ever. She simply goes be “Jen” and lets her work do the talking (instead of a salutation).

My family practitioner is the same. He goes by Aaron.

I could be wrong, but I suspect the first woman got a PhD to feel good about herself. She uses it as a reminder that she’s important. For whatever reason, she seemingly has confidence issues. Or maybe she feels the everyday world should validate the extra years of college she went to with a special salutation. “I’ve earned it!”

I wouldn’t call this woman a bad principal by any means. But I understand her insecurities and childish mannerisms have negatively affected some aspects of the school, which is a shame.

There are better and far easier ways to feel good about yourself. Getting a PhD isn’t one of them.

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NEW singles out now: Blake Snow & The Breakers


Hey power pop, indie rock fans. In support of my new third album, The Breakers, coming this fall, I’ve recently released a couple of “hit” singles with my new band that are now streaming  on your favorite music store:

In case you missed it, earlier this year I released Fancy Hotel and Word Games, all streaming on all major music stores (including Amazon).

Thanks for listening, liking, following, and sharing my music. If you’re local, my supporting band The Breakers and I are playing at the famous Velour in Provo on Thursday, August 24 at 7:30. Hope to see you there! 🤘💪🙏

5 ways to rig your environment for success

Columbia Pictures

Humans are easily distracted by a lot of things.

Smartphones, gossip, social media, substance abuse, endless email, mindless web browsing, too much TV, video games, unnecessary meetings, bargain hunting. When done in excess, these activities rob you of energy, productivity, a willingness to serve, and ultimately fulfillment.

It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Here are five ways to rig your environment for greater success and happiness: Continue reading…

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How thinking small often leads to big results

Courtesy Shutterstock

Once upon a time, I played adult fast-pitch baseball for several years in my late 20s. It was incredibly intimidating, since I played against several ex-major leaguers and college players. Some guys threw in the upper 80s, even, which is unnerving at best and scary as hell at worst!

Anyways, I started at right field, which baseball fans know is where you put the worst fielder. But I usually batted third, fourth, or fifth, which is where big hitters usually line up.

Only problem was, I wasn’t a big hitter. Why did my coach put me there?

Because I had one goal—get on base. What’s the easiest way to do that? Hit singles or walk. So that’s what I did.

I hit a lot of singles back then. Walked a lot too. I never swung for the fences and always made the pitcher work for three strikes, which is very hard hard to do at amateur levels, especially if the hitter isn’t swinging. So I only swung at strikes.

Halfway into the season, my teammate Russ pulled me aside and asked, “Have you looked at your online stats?”

“No,” I replied. As a rookie, I didn’t even know that was possible. “Well you’re leading the team in RBIs (runs batted in) and have an on-base percentage over 70%. NICE WORK!”

That praise and realization felt good. But it also reminded me of an important life lesson: thinking small often leads to big results. Since small ball is boring and unglamorous, however, not many people engage in it. Big ball, you see, gets most of the fame and attention.

Obviously, big ball works too. Maybe just as much, if not more, than small ball. But big ball is harder to pull off. It requires more skill and God-given talent. I’m often short on that.

So I in life, business, and baseball, I usually choose small ball.

PS—Small ball works in all aspects of life and sport, not just baseball. For example, Italy plays some of the smallest, most boring soccer you will ever see. But they are tied for second for most World Cups. Because small ball works. 

An open letter to my dead father

My dad with my oldest sister Cami

Dear, Dad.

Although you’re technically dead, I still believe you’re alive somewhere. After all, you taught me to believe in an afterlife, and I still do. So thanks for putting me on the path of faith, moral redemption, and hope after death. And for doing it in a way that was never dogmatic but wise and open to the possibility that you didn’t really know. I respect that immensely.

It’s been two years since you died. I read years ago that it’s healthier to say “die” instead of the more ambiguous “passed” or “no longer with us.” So if I sound harsh, it’s for good reason. No sense beating around the bush. You’re dead. I miss you. End of story.

I don’t know if you can hear this. I’m guessing not, because I’m not comfortable with the idea of being watched, listened to, or otherwise spied on by the deceased. We all need our privacy, right!? But I hope if there is a way, you still get this message. Continue reading…

Is tipping getting out of control? Many consumers say yes

“Which button lets me quickly clear the screen after I don’t leave a tip?”—New Yorker

The Associated Press reports, “As more businesses adopt digital payment methods, customers are automatically being prompted to leave a gratuity — many times as high as 30% — at places they normally wouldn’t. ‘The onus should absolutely be on the owners,’ one barista said. ‘But that doesn’t change overnight. And (tipping) is the best thing we have right now.'”

While I’m happy to tip for sit-down restaurants and drivers, I feel no guilt clicking “no tip” for counter service or other non-customary situations. If consumers stand their ground, underpaid employees will eventually bolt for better paying jobs, and underpaying owners will be forced to raise their wages.

Am I wrong?

Published works: Amsterdam’s tulips, Costa Rican creatures, Colorado TikTok’s

Here are my recent clippings—thanks for reading:

You are worth more than you think

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

$375 an hour is a lot of money. It was even more money 20 years ago when a bougie investment bank paid me that to share my honest opinion with some of its biggest customers.

Many people don’t know this, but I got my start in writing covering video games of all things. It was the ideal subject for an early twenty-something like me. I threw myself into the “work,” was one of the most prolific tech bloggers for AOL (aka America On-Line), and had a blast attended game conferences, interacting with readers, and crafting sentences for a living. It was a lot like Tom Hanks character from Big. I was getting paid to play with toys and critique commercial art.

The pay wasn’t great. But when paired with magazine freelancing, it was enough to support my small, apartment-living family. I’m smiling right now just thinking about it. Continue reading…

Made in America: 35 things I’m grateful for

Happy birthday, America!

I love how you’re home to the friendliest and most generous people in the world. I like how you cheer on amateur athletes (even youth ones) almost as much as professional ones. I admire how you champion democracy, protect the high seas from pirates, and smoke less than any other developed country on Earth.

Granted, you have an obesity problem, export many of the world’s biggest vices, and are often ungrateful. But as the inventor of electric guitars, rock ‘n roll, and blue jeans, I can’t stay mad at you.

Here are 35 other amazing things you invented over the last quarter millennia: Continue reading…

5 ways to change the world

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Improving the world might seem like an impossible task. But it’s actually quite simple, if you know where to look. Slow-going—no doubt. But simple. Here are five ways to change the world, starting in the very village you live in:
  1. Keep learning. To change the world, you must first change yourself. Learning is the first step in doing this. Sometimes that includes formal education like grade school or college. But it mostly involves a curious mind, asking lots of questions, talking with people from different cultures, seeking answers to questions that inspire you. To be clear, reading news is not learning—it’s staying informed, which is much less important than learning. So focus on learning. Need help? Here are 13 things I learned from the world’s greatest thinkers and 5 things dance class taught me.
  2. Practice gratitude. Gratitude is the secret to happiness. It’s why so many people in Africa are the quickest to smile whereas depression in wealthy countries is at record highs. Point being, gratitude changes our perspective of the world, and gives us hope to keep learning and growing. Better yet, gratitude is contagious. The more blessings you count, the more you see how blessed you really are. Need a good place to start? Here’s how to write a gratitude letter.
  3. Spend less time online and more time in-person. I wrote an entire book on the benefits of doing this. In short, spending more time online denies your ability to make meaningly social connections. And no, online social interactions are not meaningful. They are an illusion. To overcome this (and the related problem of FOMO), commit to spending time in-person with friends and family over meals, daily activities, and phone free periods (especially on mornings, nights, weekends, and during meals). More than anything, living offline lets you live in the present more, which is the only place you can even change the world.
  4. Be kind to everyone you interact with. That inlaces people that look and act like you. But it also includes people who need extra love, such as these 8 especially vulnerable groups. Not only is it this the right thing to do, it connects us to one another and lifts all boats like a rising tide. If you encounter someone who is rude or unkind, simply ignore them or gently remind them they are being rude before walking away.
  5. Donate your time and money. It’s easy to feel powerless when it comes to changing the world. But in addition to the above four ideas, donating your time and money to worthy causes is a proven way to make a difference. As a bonus, volunteering boosts our productivity, self-worth, and happiness. And it reminds us that someone always has it harder than us, that we can make a difference, and that together we can make it happen. So please donate your time and money.

Let’s do this!—Blake Snow

SEE ALSO: 5 ways to rewire your brain for happiness

Wanna write better? Use fewer words.

I was working with a client yesterday (Hi, Mike!) on some final edits of a publication-ready story. I really liked how the article turned out. But just as it was about to leave the door, Mike wanted to add the word “business” in front of “performance” in an early sentence, as in “business performance,” instead of just “performance.” I disagreed, because “companies” were the subject of the sentence, so the extra word wasn’t needed. That’s because most (if not all) readers will rightfully assume for-profit companies aren’t in the business of “philanthropic” performance or some other kind of performance. It’s all business all the time for them.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered keyword stuffing while working with clients. It certainly won’t be the last. While “search engine optimization” has made keyword stuffing worse, I believe there is another root cause of word stuffing. Executives, marketers, and copyrighters spend the majority of their week working hard to build and promote their products and services. For them, it’s very important work. So they often view the exercise of writing as the greatest, latests, and sometimes last chance to tell their story. So rather than let their sentences breathe and sound human, they try to add every extra word they can to get the story straight. Continue reading…

Where locals from exotic locations vacation

Courtesy Shutterstock

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…