Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

As seen on CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, Wired, Yahoo!, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal
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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

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

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…

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. 😁

Courtesy Shutterstock

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

Courtesy Shutterstock

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: ★★★★☆

Published works: It’s Okay to Just Hang at the Hotel and Do Absolutely Nothing

Courtesy Blake Snow

My latest for Paste Magazine: I recently read a quote that said, “I don’t want to leave vacation without knowing anything about the destination.” The implication was that travelers have some sort of moral responsibility to learn about the places they visit.

This rubbed me the wrong way. I say that as a lifelong student who usually devours foreign customs, culture, and ways of life while traveling. But sometimes you don’t want to do anything on vacation, and that’s totally okay. Sometimes you just want a break from daily routines, schedules, tasking, and commitments, and that’s wholly appropriate.

Whether you travel a lot or not, sometimes it’s refreshing to do absolutely nothing on vacation. No sightseeing. No local cooking classes. Just rest and relaxation. After a year of travel at nearly pre-pandemic levels, that’s exactly how I felt on a recent family holiday to Newport Beach, California.

Continue reading…

More than just tin cans and sushi: Tuna are amazing creatures!

As one of the fastest fish in the sea, tuna can swim nearly 50 miles per hour. The largest species, the Atlantic bluefin, and grow as long as 15 freakin’ feet.

In short, tuna are incredible, as this captivating profile by Katherine Rundell so deftly proves: “If you land a big tuna after a six-hour fight, fight him man against fish when your muscles are nauseated with the unceasing strain, and finally bring him alongside the boat, green-blue and silver in the lazy ocean, you will be purified and be able to enter unabashed into the presence of the very elder gods, and they will make you welcome.”

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FANTASTIC: The highs and lows of professional soccer (and investing in hope)

What happens when two Hollywood actors who know nothing about soccer buy a middling pro team in Wales? GQ’s Tom Lamont spent a season following football’s newest fans to find out. “Maybe we don’t make it all the way to the Premier League,” Reynolds allowed, “but if this club is promoted, once, twice, that’s epic, right? That’s history.” Continue reading…

Published works: Top 20 National Parks

The author at Badlands National Park (courtesy Lindsey Snow)

My latest for Paste Magazine: America invented the national park when it made Yellowstone the world’s first in 1873, introducing the idea that “extraordinary” land should be protected from public development and preserved for future generations. After visiting half of the country’s 63 National Parks, it’s obvious some are better than others. A handful of recent ones (Cuyahoga Valley, Indiana Dunes) seem downright ordinary, if not political, when compared to less prestigious but clearly superior state parks like Na Pali or Custer.

With nine total, California has the most National Parks, followed by Alaska with eight, and Utah with five. In fact, the western United States is home to over 80% of National Parks, even though just a quarter of the population lives there. This explains why The Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee welcomes the most visitors, over 14 million annually, compared to Zion’s 5 million, the second most.

Wherever you go, if you only see 20 in your lifetime, make it these icons. Continue reading…

Cliff jumping the Irish coast is a thing now. I tried “coasteering” and oh my…

“I don’t think I’m suppose to jump into that.”

This thought came to my mind only moments before my first leap from the edge of a seaside cliff in Ireland. The fall was no more than six feet. But the swelling sea was angry, frothy, and splashing to and fro. Despite my mega-sized life vest, double wetsuit, protective gloves, and helmet, this massive tide pool surrounded by skin-cutting rock on all but one side looked like it would swallow me whole.

“Jump!” my expert guide commanded. Like many of you, I’ve been told to respect the ocean my entire life. Now some self-proclaimed authority was telling me to plunge into the worst of it. All in all, the conditions couldn’t have been any less inviting.

But like all good lemmings, I disregarded my instincts, trusted my equipment, and accepted the advice of my convincing leader. I jumped.

Kerplunk. Continue reading…

Published works: 7 National Parks That Will Scare The Living Daylights Out Of You

Courtesy Adobe Stock

My latest for Expedia: “Everybody’s heard of haunted houses, but haunted National Parks? Surprisingly, these green, tranquil spaces are also often backdrops for gruesome ghost sightings and other petrifying paranormal activity. And we’re not talking about one-off stories or urban (or in this case, rural) legends. All of the below top the list of the most “haunted” National Parks in the United States – places with an unexpected dark side. We dare you to hike alone.”

Continue reading…

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Spinal fusion: 10 things I learned surviving a scary-sounding and life-altering surgery

blakefusion

Frankenstein back with 28 staples (credit: Lindsey Snow)

Life isn’t fair.

I was born with an 80 year-old back. Not exactly 80, but old. It first broke when I was 29. After surgery, it worked again, but only for another six years. It teetered and failed again late this summer in the same spot — a re-ruptured L4/5 disc. The thing was so decrepit, my surgeon had to remove the remains and fuse my spine.

Now I’m resigned to a life of low impact and light lifting. I can’t even hold my youngest brown-eyed boy in his final months of baby-dom, let alone lift a gallon of milk for a month. I can’t return to full activity for six months until the vertebrae fully fuse. And after that, I’m advised to give up running, basketball, soccer, and maybe wake boarding or else.

It sucks.

But it’s not all bad. In fact, I’ve got a heck of a lot to look forward to—a lot more to live for. While having my body deteriorate ahead of schedule and the long recovery are both humbling, I also feel inspired by the experience. Here are 10 things I learned post surgery:  Continue reading…

Published works: Two canyons—one colossal, one narrow, both awesome

Courtesy Shutterstock

My latest for Paste: I am drawn to canyons. Like the ocean, they make me feel small. Unlike the ocean, they show their age and literally wear their scars on their sleeves. This, of course, makes them who they are. But it also makes them interesting. So I travel to canyons a lot.

On a recent holiday weekend, I hauled my family to two of America’s most popular canyons—Grand Canyon in Arizona and Zion Canyon in Utah. Given the rugged terrain, it’s smart to come prepared for more off-road conditions (I drove a Kia Telluride during our trip).

Transportation aside, these two massive canyons are only separated by a two-hour scenic drive, which makes them great for pairing. Before planning a similar getaway, here’s what you need to know. Continue reading… 

The discouraging odds of becoming a professional athlete

proathletechart

To many boys (and some girls), professional athletes are modern-day heroes. Iconic celebrities with fame, fortune, and power. What wide-eye youth wouldn’t want the same?

Turns out, a lot of them do. (With oversized Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan posters adorning my childhood walls, I certainly did.) But as with all desirable things in life, getting paid to play sports isn’t easy.

In fact, the odds are downright nasty for aspiring players, according to new data from the NCAA.

Continue reading…

It took me 20 years, but I finally found the college professor that changed my life

This is what I emailed to him earlier this year:

Hi, Clark.

I think I found you!

With the help of an old friend who remembered your last name this week, some helpful secretaries at BYU who identified your first name, and some Google sleuthing, I think you’re the professor that unknowingly changed my life.

Let me explain. I majored in business because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had a couple of cantankerous English professors that mistakenly made me believe I didn’t like writing. That all changed when I met you.

The specifics are foggy, but I clearly remember you giving me the greenlight to write about my passions, anything I wanted really, which was all it took to flip the switch on falling in love with writing sentences for a living.

Shortly after taking your MCOM class, I started blogging everyday. I wrote every day. And I have done so ever since as a freelance writer and journalist. It took me a couple of years after graduating in 2004 to go full-time, but I soon did, and I’ve wanted to personally thank you ever since.

Thanks for altering my career course for the better. Writing feels more like a calling than a job. I’m so grateful for great teachers like yourself.

Better yet, I was thrilled to learn you live in Provo (I never left either). May I take you to lunch and hand-deliver my first two books sometime?

He answered yes, we’ve since gone to lunch, and plan on staying in touch. The world is an amazing place!

How to succeed: Don’t quit until everyone in the room tells you “no”

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After a decade of self employment, I’ve been told “no” several thousand times. I have records. For the same period, I’ve been told “yes” a few dozen times. Fewer than a hundred. I have records of that, too.

As you can tell, I–like most humans, salesmen, and business owners–experience rejection more than acceptance. Unlike many people, however, I don’t let that discourage me as a proprietor. But I almost did once.

Continue reading…

Forced writing is bad writing. Only write what you know for sure.

I didn’t want to become a writer until my second to last semester of college.

I was in business school at the time and wrongly assumed I didn’t like writing. That’s because I took a couple of freshman English prerequisites that were taught by crotchety old professors who were more concerned with grammar and punctuation than writing with substance. So I assumed English and writing was the study of syntax, not creative or effective communication.

That all changed when I met Clark Hammond, my professor of the mandatory business writing class I had put off until my final year of school. The specifics are foggy, but I clearly remember him giving me the green light to write about whatever subject interested me most that semester. At the time that was sports and video games. So that’s what I wrote about, and it was a blast!

Because I was writing about something that interested me, I finally made it a point to learn the proper “syntax” so my message could reach the widest possible audience. In that way, I still learned what my earlier English professors wanted to, I just did it with my heart this time because the substance actually mattered to me.

I’ve written almost every day of my life ever since. I’ve covered dozens of topics and only turned down a handful that just didn’t excite or interest me. Obviously we’re all forced to write about things we aren’t passionate about. But as long as you write about what you know for sure, what you believe in most, or the point of view that matters to you most, honesty will always come through in your writing.

You want this because readers are starved for honesty. They get bombarded with so much fakery, so much “forced” writing.

So they next time you put fingers to keyboards, try to write from the heart. And if you’re heart’s not fully in it, at least try to write from a perspective that matters most to you. Your writing, influence, and readership will be better for it.

See also: Bestselling author Blake Snow enters the Provo music scene

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Words to live by: Nobody cares. Work harder.

I recently stumbled on this phrase at a high school soccer game. I instantly liked it and can easily see what it’s popular among weightlifters, athletes, entrepreneurs, and optimists alike.

It also reminded me of some other mottos I’m fond of:

  • The harder I work, the luckier I get.
  • Don’t take things personal.
  • Pity parties are a waste of time.
  • There is no shortcut for hardwork.
  • Life moves on, with or without you.
  • If you want something, YOU have to go out and get it (that’s your job).

And last but not least, “Do you know where the power lies? I said it starts and ends with you.”

When is it okay to lie?

Honesty is the best policy. Except in two very specific situations.

  1. To protect yourself or someone else from danger. For example, we tell our kids to lie if someone at the door asks if their parents are home when we aren’t. Similarly, if someone is trying to manipulate, trick, or hurt you, they don’t deserve the truth, as they will try to use it against you. In these situations, you should always lie and encourage the loved ones in your life to do the same.
  2. To protect the feelings of others. If you have someone’s best interest at heart and are not lying to them for selfish reasons, research shows it’s beneficial to lie when someone’s feelings are involved. The classic example is if your spouse asks if they look good before leaving the door, especially when there’s no time to change. Rather than exaggerate, however, a comical half-truth can work much better to boost the confidence of loved ones and hopefully illicit a calming laugh. For example, “You looked worse on your wedding day,” spoken with a playful smile.

When in doubt or when trying to avoid the natural consequences of your bad behavior, honesty really is the best policy. But in these tricky situations, careful lying is the way to go.

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“Most humans don’t want the truth—they want to be told they’re okay.”

I have a super smart neighbor that’s now retired. After competing in the Olympics in track, he became a college professor as is the quintessential deep thinker. He dropped the following sentence at church recently, which gave me pause:

“Most humans don’t want the truth—they want to be told they’re okay.”

He’s got a point. I’m not sure if “most” humans don’t want the truth, but I know I lot of them would rather be told (or delude themselves) into thinking they’re okay. Granted, I think most humans are okay, but I think this line of thinking prevents us from progressing at times, myself included.

What do you think: Do humans value acceptance more than truth? And are the two mutually exclusive?

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Published works: Hiking Half Dome, America’s most deadly day hike

My latest for Paste Magazine: “I’m lucky to have thru- and day-hiked some of the most remarkable outdoors on the planet: the Rockies and Appalachians in North America, Patagonia and the Inca Trail in South America, the Alps and Mont Blanc in Europe. I’ve even hiked the ancient Kumano Kodo in Asia, which is considered the oldest designated hiking trail in the world.

“But last month I hiked the most demanding (if not deadly) day hike in my life so far: Yosemite’s Half Dome, located in the soaring Sierra Nevadas of California. I stress soaring because, at nearly 5,000 feet tall, Half Dome is twice as tall as the Grand Canyon. In fact, at an average of 3,000 feet tall, Yosemite’s granite canyons are some of the most dramatic you’ll find anywhere in the world.”

Continue reading…

How free mentors make you awesome

You’d be amazed at the number of experts willing to give free advice.

There are countless stories of unknown people looking up some of the world’s brightest minds, and then cold calling, cold emailing, or cold messaging them on social media to get a favorable response. Although the success rate is usually low, it’s actually higher than you think. Because of this, reaching out to expert strangers is often worth it.

The success rate for getting free advice among friends, family, and former associates, however, is shockingly high and always worth doing. In fact, you’re probably leaving tens of thousands of dollars on the table every year in free consulting and coaching by not reaching out and asking for help. For example, you could easily get guidance on your latest idea, work project, side hustle, hobby, or personal problem.

But you have to ask. Continue reading…

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What I’ve learned after 8 years of ride shares

I booked an Uber for the first time in 2015 while traveling to San Francisco for work.

Since then, I’ve booked hundreds of Ubers (and Lyfts) all around the world. I haven’t rented a car since (although I’ve rented a handful of Turos in that time).

Eight years later with every intention of ride sharing indefinitly, here are eight things I’ve learned:

  1. Ride sharing saves me time and money. It’s much faster, usually cheaper, and more rewarding than renting a car or cab. I mostly use ride shares for business and vacation. I love it.
  2. Drivers like to talk about themselves. The vast majority of drivers are talkers. Granted, I’m good at listening and ask lots of questions, because I selfishly want to learn from other humans. But several drivers just unload and never ask a single question in return.
  3. I’ve been a free therapists to several drivers. Some drivers latch on to my ears and unload their life story. Some have even cried, which is pretty amazing. Sometimes it’s too much and disrespectful, if not unprofessional. But mostly I don’t mind.
  4. Other drives are perfect. They ask a few questions, break the ice, talk a moment over shared interests, then let me quietly enjoy the rest of the ride. I like these drivers a lot and tip them often.
  5. I’m a “top tipper” (but don’t feel like one). Without my asking, several drivers have volunteered that only 30% of riders tip. This is lower than I expected but roughly in line with what I do (I tip about 40% of the time, usually no more than a few bucks). I almost always tip on longer rides but hardly ever on shorter rides. Despite this, I’m considered a “top tipper” on both apps. I miss the days when Uber didn’t ask or even allow for tips and would gladly pay higher fares if tips were included.
  6. I’m 5-star rider. I feel like the competition is thin when it comes to garnering a quality rider rating. Being kind, respectful, taking a genuine interest in drivers (they are fellow humans after all), and being polite goes a long way. It also gets you really fast pickups from the best drivers in the nicest cars.
  7. I would love to hang out with several drivers. One in particular exchanged phone numbers with me but later ghosted my texts. I felt like I was in high school again after the rejection.
  8. I’ve only puked in one car. Just kidding. I’ve never puked in a car. At least not a ride-sharing one.

All hail ride sharing!