I read my first Steinbeck novel recently, starting with his magnum opus, East of Eden. Spoiler alert: the celebrated author deserves all the hype he received over the last century. This book is a masterpiece of biblical proportions.
At first I didn’t think it was perfect, though. I didn’t love how one of the main characters quickly exists the book towards the end with an unsatisfying resolution, until my more astute reading wife explained to me that said character was already likable and therefore disposable without having to change like the other main character.
That realization changed my mind. This book is perfect. It is long-form poetry that made me laugh, broke my heart, filled me with rage, let me celebrate, and taught me over two dozen proverbs.
Five stars out of five—I loved it. These were my favorite passages: Continue reading…
Not everyone can become a great writer, but a great writer can come from anywhere. The latter happens in one of two ways: they are naturally gifted like my wife, or they have to learn the hard way like I did.
For those like me, here are four certainties I’ve learned after 16 years of writing for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies:
Say what you mean. Never mask or muck up your message with buzz words, cliches, or technical gibberish in an effort to sound smart or more convincing. Readers value clarity over all else. So instead of adopting garbage speak like “transformation,” say “change” instead.
Mean what you say. Be sincere in your writing. If you don’t believe what you’re saying, why should the reader? Secondly, use adjectives and superlatives sparingly. This builds credibility. And if you’re writing for a business (or ultimately trying to sell something), don’t hide the fact. Own it. Readers respect that.
Compose conversations. Make your writing breezy. Use contractions 99% of the time. Keep your sentences short. Read them aloud to ensure you’re not gasping for air. Write like you would talk to a friend. Give it to them straight with informal language they cannot call your bluff on.
Use spicy words. These little devils delight readers, give them pause, and force them to feel your sentences instead of skimming them. If you’re nervous or embarrassed to use a certain word, that’s probably the spice for you. Some of my favorites include bodacious, skedaddle, gusto, deafening, splendid, ballsy, terrific.
Be brave. You got this! 💪
Need help writing this year? If so, I know a really good guy. Thanks for reading.
The Atlantic reports: “Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market. Even worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking. The problem isn’t a lack of good new music. It’s an institutional failure to discover and nurture it… The moguls have lost their faith in the redemptive and life-changing power of new music.” Continue reading…
It’s not rocket science. To get the most of your day, we must do the following:
Live by a daily prioritized calendar.
Surround yourself with positive people by shunning toxic ones and resolving tensions directly.
Break large tasks into smaller chunks (i.e. write chapters not books).
Do work you can be proud of while limiting distractions (i.e. email, social media, doomscrolling, mindless diversions)
Celebrate successes and overcome challenges with positive thinking.
Those are the most fulfilling habits I’ve adopted over the years, many of which are featured in Caroline Webb’s helpful How to Have a Good Day.
Although Webb spent too much time rehashing Kahneman’s groundbreaking Thinking Fast and Slow, I appreciated her earnestness in helping others.
Her formatting was also a little blocky, but the message rings true: “Studies have found we can reap immediate intellectual and emotional dividend from investing in exercise and sleep, or even from taking a moment to breathe deeply, smile broadly, and stand a little taller.”
I was recently asked what I know for sure. I didn’t have time to answer everything in detail, but upon further reflection, this is what I would have told them.
We live on the most beautiful planet in the universe. There are over 400 million planets in our galaxy alone and an estimated 21 million more galaxies in the observable universe (i.e. the only part of space that we can see with telescopes and far reaching satellites). So far, we’ve only observed all brown, red, or blue planets with no water or diversity on them. We are literally living on a home that is 1 in several gazillion. The math doesn’t even make sense—it’s that rare, meaning there is a God or we won the greatest evolutionary lottery in the known universe. Either way it’s profoundly beautiful.
Possessing a human body is a beautiful experience. I love the animal kingdom, but other species don’t hold a candle to the awesome existence of being a human. If you are reading this, again you won the universal lottery for most amazing species in the known universe. It. Is. Wonderful.
Humans are inherently good. They can be trusted, they really do try, the sometimes change, and they will amaze you if you let them. Don’t let the lemons or fear mongers tell you otherwise. We would have not have gotten as far as we have as a species if that weren’t the case.
The world is in good hands. On a similar note, people who say that youth cannot be trusted have no idea what they’re talking about because they only talk or listen to older people, especially loudmouth ones on TV. Having worked closely with youth for many years, they are even better than we are, just like we are largely better, more educated, more disciplined, and more empathetic than generations that came before us. Statistics bear this out, in fact. So don’t be old by saying the world is going to hell. It’s not, and younger generations will figure out the future just like we did, even if we don’t understand the new rules they play by. Continue reading…
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 sometimes.
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 moving on, closure, and even improvement possible.
You have one set of teeth, one set of knees, one set of lungs and one back. If you don’t take care of them, you can’t re-boot. You can get knee replacement surgery and you can get your teeth capped and wear dentures, or get new lungs, but it’s not the same as your originals. The back is much more tricky and if you damage it enough you’re never coming back from it.
You have one set of hands and feet. They are irreplaceable as is your brain. So if you damage them you’re never coming back from it.
Your body, in other words, is a one-off. You will never have another one as long as you live. If you start taking good care of it and you’re mindful in your 20’s, you’ll be far healthier and happier in your 50’s and beyond.”
My latest for Paste: “The California Zephyr is known for being the most beautiful train ride in all of North America. Operated by Amtrak with daily service between Chicago and Oakland, the Zephyr crosses 2,400 miles and takes 52 hours to complete. Having enjoyed rail travel on other continents, this fabled route through my own backyard has been on my bucket list for years.” Continue reading…
I recently cut my daily news intake by 95%, halved the number of books I read each year, and since logging off, I don’t do social media, work nights or weekends, or watch TV beyond the occasional sportsball game. This saves me an additional 20-40 hours a week. That’s the math.
Where should you spend most of your time? For maximum enjoyment, biggest impact, and lifelong fulfillment, the magic happens in the urgent/not important quadrant of President Eisenhower’s popular Decision Matrix.
Take nurturing a child or business, for example. Both are critical but rarely demand your immediate attention. In other words, quality time is never urgent. Fostering future sales is easy to put off, especially when current income is steady.
Obviously Eisenhower’s matrix isn’t the end-all, be-all of decision making. But I believe the most successful people in life—both personally and professionally—are the ones that ignore non-critical/non-urgent distractions the most. They don’t check or even react to their “inbox” as much as others, opting instead to focus on forward-thinking but non-urgent tasks.
And they delegate or otherwise prioritize urgent but unimportant tasks better than most.
The rerun first published to blakesnow.com in 2016
DESCRIPTION: When a friend recently asked Blake Snow if he was quitting his day job to become a full-time musician, he answered, “No.” But that doesn’t mean Less Bad, his second full-length album, is something to be taken lightly. “As you can hopefully hear, I take this record very seriously, without it going to my head,” Snow says. Written, recorded, and produced at “halfway through his second act,” Less Bad celebrates self-confidence, gritty immigrants, overcoming hardship, and winning the universal lottery. The album also deals with themes of social loss, crippling baggage, self-doubt, and indifference. “It’s my yin and yang record,” Snow explains. “More fun than my first album, but also more intimate.” Standout songs include Back In The Race, Ricky’s Song, Killing My Drive, and Snow’s personal favorite, Sorta Social. (Taken from blakesnow.com)
I interviewed nearly two dozen experts this month (friends and strangers alike) for advice on my upcoming articles, new book, new nonprofit, and even new record. I cannot tell you how much I learned, and how many unseen rocks I was able to overturn with these empowering discussions.
Most of the people I spoke to donated an hour or more of their time. Several expressed a desire to talk further in the coming weeks. All of these people are busy building things and chasing their own dreams, so it’s surreal to have them be so generous with their limited time.
As an explanatory writer, I’ve always asked a lot of questions of people who are smarter than me. But in the last couple of years, I’ve made it a point to ask even more people for their advise and mentorship on the mountains I’m trying to climb.
While a handful of people respectfully decline, I’d say over 90% willingly speak to me, which is a powerful witness of humanity’s collaborative spirit. “It never hurts to ask” has blessed my life and work more times than I can count.
As a full-time writer, few things in life are better than receiving fan mail. Earlier this month, I received an uplifting email from a woman named Emily from Illinois. With her permission, this is what she wrote:
“I wanted to start this year by thanking you for sharing the offline balance movement through your book Log Off. I read it a few weeks ago and realized, to my horror, that I was spending an average of seven hours a day on my smartphone. Some of that was at work for professional communication — I’m 27 and work in a ‘young’ office where everyone prefers to text — but most of it was social media scrolling, wading into the cesspool that is Facebook comment sections, and feeling falsely connected to people I hadn’t had an actual conversation with in years.
“I fully deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts a week later and can’t believe how much my life and mental health have improved. It’s only been two weeks without social media and I have already noticed that I have far more energy for creative projects and feel much less anxious throughout my day. Your book totally changed my life, and I am sharing it with all of my Instagram-addicted friends. Thank you again for spreading this message.”
Emily’s experience closely mirrors mine over the last 12 years since first abandoning social media, deleting my phone alerts, and logging off for large sections of my workdays, nights, weekends, and vacations. In short, the added energy and free time gained to relax and create is astounding.
In my case, I estimate that limiting my phone use to only 1-2 hours per weekday (and less on weekends) saves me nearly 20 hours a week. Not watching TV saves me an additional 20 hours. So between those two screens alone, I get a full-time job worth of bonus time every week!
Obviously a large portion of those gains are spent on domestic duties and rejuvenating downtime. But an equally large portion is spent on creating things. Nurturing passion projects. Building side hustles. Some of my most recent finish lines include shipping my second full-length record (hitting stores Jan 31), conducting dozens of interviews for my third book (pictured), and getting my nonprofit off the ground to help more people like Emily change their life and reclaim lost time.
Granted, I was born with energetic DNA, and there are a lot of people who create and do a lot bigger things than I. But I wouldn’t have been able to achieve some of these minor accomplishments had I used the default and more popular smartphone, social media, and screen settings. That’s the real power of logging off. It buys us the most precious, finite, and fleeting resource that all of wish we had more of: time. And with even fewer digital distractions in life, we can do and be and relate to an even greater number of things, people, and relationships.
A close friend recently joked, “Stop doing impressive things, Blake. You’re making the rest of us look bad.” I’m honestly not trying to, but I am trying to demonstrate what’s possible after logging off.
I’m not the only one. The dentist from Bogota, Columbia that read my book says so. The tech worker from Sweden who read my book says so. Most recently Emily from Illinois says so.
What would you do with a part- or full-time job of extra time each week?
I don’t always study philosophy, but when I do, I make it count.
Case in point: A friend and I were recently discussing the human condition over email. Exhilarating stuff, I know. I’ll skip to the best part.
Basically, we decided that humans struggle to internalize both complex and simple realizations. Complex ones because they’re harder to grasp, and simple takeaways because we’re usually too distracted by temptations, desires, and pleasures to see them through, even if we believe in them (or so argues Aristotle; more on him later).
At this point, I asked my buddy, “So if humans struggle to comprehend both complex and simple ideas, what in the HELL are we good at?”
His reply, “Entertainment. And nothing else.” Full stop. The gravity and strategic double periods of his remark made me do this:
At which point I enrolled in a 36-course undergraduate class from Smith College. Not exactly. But I did download the audible version of the class, The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Greatest Thinkers, from Amazon!
Having already graduated (go, fight, win!), I did this solely for my own enlightenment. Little did I know how much impact professor Jay Garfield’s masterful curriculum would have on my worldview, existential outlook, and shared beliefs with others.
My latest for Paste Magazine: “Humans are so scared of dying, they’ll often go to excessive, if not extreme, measures to avoid that dreadful fate. In cases where death isn’t the biggest concern, the secondary worry is going hungry, being cold, getting stuck outdoors, or some combination of the three.
“I recently came across an old but still relevant rejoinder by comedian Jack Boot that perfectly sums up our often overstated fears: ‘Hey guy with hydration pack, two hiking sticks, and North Face vest; my 5 year-old walked the same trail in Crocs carrying a naked Barbie. Relax.’
“The great outdoors—and by close association, travel—can definitely be intimidating. But it is possible to actually over prepare, overthink, and over plan our adventures sometimes. Like this adorable man so comically demonstrates, sometimes our excessive gear, packing, and planning plays into our obsessive compulsive disorders instead of curing them.”
Hey friends—I’m live streaming my new album on YouTube next Saturday before it hits stores the following Monday. I’m trying to get 1,000 music fans to attend. Will you please join us for the 51 minute listening party, live chat, and good vibrations? Thanks for your support! 🙏🕺🤘 https://youtu.be/R-kfrzaVFJs
For the last eight years, I’ve written and published hundreds of travel articles for CNN, National Geographic, USA Today, LA Times, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Orbitz, Frommers, Paste Magazine, and Travel Weekly. For my most recent articles, click here. For some of my recent favorites, see below:
After six months of work, my second full-length album, Less Bad, drops January 31 on all major music stores!
All 14 songs were written, arranged, recorded, sung, and produced by me. The album was mixed and mastered by Adam Miele, my talented brother-in-law whose music has been featured in a SuperBowl commercial. In addition to his sonic mastery, Adam co-produced and played ginormous drums and additional keyboards on songs 3, 8, and 12. Track 9 features studio musician Matt Giella on trumpet. Song 11 was co-written by my good friend Derick Pulham, who also provided backing vocals and additional guitars. You can listen to the lead single and video here.
With their help, this record sounds bigger than it otherwise would. If you like the album, I hope you’ll check out my first record, Mr. Mustache, now streaming on all major stores.
My wife and I at the summit of Olympus (courtesy Steven Smith)
I firmly believe that all humans are remarkable and average at the same time. As my father used to say, “We are all statistically average in most things, above average in a few things, and below average in many things.” Even Da Vinci, Einstein, and Mozart were average to mediocre in many areas of their lives.
The vast majority of us, however, are neither geniuses nor special. We must accept that, on the whole, we are average. That shouldn’t keep us from dreaming big and trying to be remarkable in a handful of special ways. But acceptance of our averageness can be a powerful motivator in the proper context.
Recently I summited Mount Olympus, an eight mile roundtrip hike that climbs (then drops) 1000 feet every mile. While approaching the difficult push to the top, my brother-in-law Steven blurted out, “I’m average—but average people make it!”
We all laughed out loud and immediately appreciated what he was reinforcing. That is, life is hard sometimes, but the average life overcomes hardship—at least on average.
It’s reassuring to know that over tens of thousands of years (and millions if you consider our ancestors), average humans have survived incredibly difficult things, over and over again. Pandemics. Floods. Pestilence. Earthquakes. Racism. Wars. Famine. Poverty.
We survive despite our averageness. And that makes us remarkable. 💪
This story first published to blakesnow.com in 2020
My adorable daughter photographed by my devoted wife Lindsey
I love this fact-based, feel-good article by Ben Carlson: “Since 2008, we’ve experienced flash crashes, government shutdowns, natural disasters, trade wars, a contested presidential election, a pandemic, and the fastest bear market in history. Yet the Dow rose from 11,497 to more than 36,000 and counting. Maybe our best days are behind us. Maybe it will be impossible to see the same amount of growth going forward. It’s certainly possible. I choose to believe that most people will continue to wake up in the morning looking to improve their lot in life. People have been betting against the U.S. economy for decades. They’ve never been rewarded for it. Progress is in our DNA. Good luck betting against it.”
This is an excellent essay by Derek Thompson: “I want more new companies and entrepreneurs, which means I want more immigrants. I want more megaprojects in infrastructure and more moon-shot bets in energy and transportation. I want new ways of funding scientific research. I want non-grifters to find ways to innovate in higher education to bend the cost curve of college inflation. I want more prizes for audacious breakthroughs in cancer and Alzheimer’s and longevity research. As strange as this might sound, I want the federal government to get into the experimentation game too and found new agencies that identify and solve the problems that will be created by this riot of newness, as the CDC and DARPA once did. And, finally, I’d like Hollywood to rediscover a passion for cinematic blockbusters that don’t have numbers in the title.”
Not long ago, browsing the Internet, I happened to stumble on a list titled, “The Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time, According to the Internet.” Like most lists of its kind, it was subjective and far from definitive, but still, it represented an interesting challenge. As someone who reads for pleasure as much as for job security, I decided to finish as many of the titles as I could handle.
After completing over a dozen (and taking in many of the film adaptations) the following occurred to me: Not one of these acclaimed futuristic stories—at least none of the many I was exposed to—took place in a world with any version of the Internet. All instances of published media, daily communication, romance—all offline.
In part, this has to do with the constraints of narrative writing, explains the technology writer Clive Thompson. “A lot of science fiction was primarily focused on moving people and things around in exciting ways,” he says. “These forward-thinkers were using flashy visuals to hook their readers, while understandably overlooking non-sexy things such as inaudible conversations.”
And inaudible conversations are the bread and butter of the world wide web. As Jon Stewart once put it, the Internet today “is just a world passing around notes in a classroom.”
But my experience led me to an interesting thought experiment: How might we live without the world’s largest note exchange? Or, in other words, what would the world be like today if the Internet ceased to exist? Continue reading…
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…
This is a moving love story by Bill Adair about a lying journalist, redemption, Alzheimer’s, and compassionate honesty. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
From the article: “Glass says he decided against assisted suicide because “she actually loved her life more than she ever had and she expressed enormous joy in her life.” Despite what she’d written two decades earlier, Glass decided that “your former self doesn’t get to kill your current self” if your current self doesn’t want it.”
When it comes to extending your buying power, being thrifty and frugal is an important half of the money equation (i.e. the other is income). But as with all things in life, too much of anything can lead to harm. Here are 10 ways you might be unknowingly sabotaging your savings.
Buying things you don’t need because they’re on sale (i.e. “half off” is still hits your wallet by half)
Avoiding preventative health visits (this can be super costly)
Avoiding preventative car maintenance (this can too)
Buying cheap, non nutritious food and paying for it with your health (you don’t want to pay with that type of currency)
Buying wholesale or “free shipping” memberships without using them enough to justify the membership cost (do the math)
Driving longer distances to save pennies on gas (silly)
Believing that “doing it yourself” will always save money (it doesn’t, by my estimate, using experts half of the time can actually save you money in the long run)
Failing to notice unit price before making a purchase (this takes five seconds but can have a big impact in the long run)
Buying cheap products that you use often, which increases replacement costs (I’m guilty of this sometimes, so consider usage before paying for cheaper durability)
Not buying things that bring you joy (money is a tool to get you things you want, need, and benefit from. It has no value in and off itself, so use it to invest in your daily fulfillment)
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. By all means, spend wisely, but consider the long-term costs before you do.
My latest for Paste Magazine: This story begins with a struggling musician in the 1970s who didn’t fit the establishment. Rock ‘n’ roll didn’t like him. Nashville didn’t either. So he said, “To hell with it,” moved to Key West, and popularized a new genre of counterculture music called Gulf & Western or Tropic Rock. He championed “island escapism” over hard work. Made fun of inebriated debauchery. Sang heartfelt songs about retired Caribbean sailors. And paired unapologetic poetry with catchy melodies.
His name was Jimmy Buffett, a name that has since outgrown the brilliant but often overlooked and underrated sound he created during that groovy decade. Not long after, Buffett started capitalizing on the endearing lifestyle he created by the late ‘80s, which grew to “Parrothead” levels by the late ‘90s, and stratospheric status by the turn of the century. Today, Jimmy Buffett is worth nearly $1 billion dollars. His “Margaritaville” empire includes dozens of best-selling albums, cafes, and hotels, three best-selling books, and even a handful of Southern retirement communities boasting thousands of homes. In truth, the “brand” far outweighs the music that inspired it.
Last year during the pandemic, just as the world was entering a second round of lockdowns, Buffett Inc. quietly launched the Margaritaville Island Reserve, its first all-inclusive resort, near Cancun, Mexico. Operated by the well-run Karisma chain of all-inclusives, Buffett’s resort could have easily turned into a tacky, kitchy, money grab. It is anything but. After visiting with my wife this winter, Margaritaville Island Reserve is one of the finest all-inclusives I’ve ever visited, replete with the best all-inclusive food of any resort, a helpful staff worth writing home about, and an impressive attention to detail (i.e. custom furnishings) to appeal to fans and non-fans alike.
About the only “on brand” thing the resort is missing is the debauchery, which no one wants on vacation anyway. Continue reading…
PROVO, Utah (Dec. 14, 2021)—There’s no doubt: humanity has a smartphone problem. But there is surprisingly little research on understanding the mental toll that severe screen, social media, and internet use have on adults and children alike. Log Off Institute, a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit, hopes to change that this year with their first national study on digital compulsion disorder—who it’s affecting most, why, and what individuals and society can do about it.
“When I first published Log Off: How to Stay Connected After Disconnecting, I was baffled by the lack of research on digital addiction,” says Blake Snow, writer, author, and director of Log Off Institute. “While we know roughly half of all adults and children spend too much time looking at tiny screens, we’re just beginning to understand the long-term effects of this impulsive behavior, and why some are able to break free while others are not.”
Log Off Institute hopes to combat this trending health concern starting with a donation drive to help fund the first of several national studies to be published in spring 2022. This will be followed by national media campaigns and ongoing awareness programs to support this important cause. “We’re not anti-technology, but we are pro-user,” Snow says of the new nonprofit. “We exist to empower people with helpful information about the growing problem, the benefits of offline health, and the joy of living a heads-up life.” Continue reading…
The following comes from my self-mastery newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.
Being honest with others is hard enough, especially when it involves any embarrassing, compromising, or (heaven forbid) incriminating information. If honesty really is the best policy—which all behavioral psychologists agree with—then we will spend a lifetime trying to master this crucial, trust-building, but difficult skill.
If that wasn’t hard enough, I’ve got some more uncomfortable news for you: being honest with yourself might be even harder. That’s because we often lie to ourselves for extended periods of time about the person we really are, so we don’t have to confront the parts of ourselves that we don’t like.
That explains why so many people delude themselves or live in denial. If we are close to perfection or blameless in our own mind’s eye, then we don’t have to change. We just need to wait for others in the world to change for us. This, of course, is a recipe for stagnation. Not to mention loneliness, depression, and remorse.
Heavy stuff, I know. But I have some good news. All of us can learn to be more honest with ourselves and others, even if we were raised around bad examples of both. Granted, doing this is a life-long endeavor, but we can all increase momentum and hasten our own awesomeness by practicing the following: Continue reading…
Fritzel’s European Jazz Club is a French Quarter main- stay for over 50 years (Photo: Blake Snow)
My latest for Travel Weekly: As one of America’s most distinct cities, few places are more beloved by both travelers and the travel media than New Orleans. My wife and I recently visited the Crescent City and found it to be just as charming as ever, even with pandemic restrictions in place.
The Boyhood of Raleigh by Sir John Everett Millais
Earlier this year, I watched a TED talk by Will Storr about the science of storytelling. As social creatures, each of us possess a brain that was preprogramed to tell stories for the influence of other humans.
While all of us have storytelling in our DNA, there are several things we can do to tell more believable stories. According to Storr, they are as follows:
Like many people, my family is the ultimate joy. Although happiness and fulfillment are deeply personal, my wife and children inspire me to be better and make me feel like the luckiest man alive. I am forever grateful to them, and this year was no different. Same goes for the many friends that have stayed with me over the years.
But there are several new things that came into my life this year that I’d like to recognize. Some of them are simple. All of them make me even more grateful to be alive. While I don’t mean to be insensitive to anyone still struggling with this moving goalpost of a pandemic, I can honestly say that I’m happier today than I was pre-COVID.
Six years ago, I started taking Scottish Showers, which are ice cold then finish with a warm rinse. By the end of the year, I abandoned the warm rinse altogether and stayed ice cold the entire time, even during the mountainous Utah winter.
Cold showers still take my breath away on extremely frigid days, but I love how they make me feel. In addition to the scientific skin, blood circulation, and immunity benefits of cold showers, the act cools me off after a hard workout and gives me a free energy boost at the start of each day.
But there is another benefit of cold showers I absolutely love and take advantage of once or twice a week: they turn my hot showers into a built-in hot tub or steam room. For example, on Sundays I always take a relaxing hot shower. I did this yesterday and felt like a Turkish king.
Additionally, I sometimes take hot showers after an extra fatiguing day of soccer with friends or after I pull a muscle or something. Again, this turns my shower into a free therapy station. But even then, if I know I have to be somewhere, I’ll finish with an ice cold rinse to get me going.
Now some of you might be thinking, “Uh, Blake, you realize you can take hot showers everyday in the developed world?” Of course I do. But after taking ice cold showers virtually everyday for the last six years, the benefits far outweigh the discomfort.
I’ve become so addicted, I get disappointed while showering closer to the equator, because there is no such thing as cold showers there. 😭 In a world filled with mindless “life hacks,” this one truly is a keeper.
Utah is well-known for its “Mighty 5” National Parks. But there is way more to see in this disproportionately beautiful state. Consider the following landmarks that are routinely overlooked by visitors but beloved by those who know. I’ve visited all several times and plan to again:
Fantasy Canyon. Like something out of Star Wars.
Mirror Lake. Picturesque mountain lake.
Goblin Valley. Like walking among giant rock people.
Snow Canyon State Park. Would be a national park in any other state.
Cathedral Valley (pictured). One of the most remote sections of any national park (4×4 only).
Wire Rim Pass. Stunning slot canyon.
Lower Calf Creek Falls. Best hike in Grand Staircase National Monument.
Peak-a-boo/Spooky Slots. Also out of Star Wars.
Muley Point Overlook. Dramatic finish at the end of a dramatic drive (i.e. Moki Dugway).
Kanarraville Falls. Terrific short hike.
Corona Arch. Probably the best arch in the entire state accessible by land.
Kodachrome State Park. Would also be a national park in any other state. Really.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Probably the best arch period, accessible only by boat on Lake Powell.
Valley of the Gods. Almost as good as the nearby Monument Valley but worth visiting nonetheless.
I’m putting the finishing touches on my second album right now. I’m very excited to share it with the world in the coming weeks and months.
Until then, I wanted to look back at my first album, Mr. Mustache (streaming on your favorite music store) released last fall. While I believe every song should speak for itself, as a writer I’m also big on context, if not over explaining things until they are crystal clear.
To that end, here is why I wrote each of these songs, how they came to life, and what the recording process was like:
When it comes to believing a story, most people think there are only two kinds of truth: objective realities (such as a physical head wound) and subjective realities (such as an untraceable but observable mental illness).
But there is actually a third kind of truth: intersubjective reality, which depends on communication among many humans, rather than the observations, beliefs, or feelings of a few individuals.
Take currency, for example. Money only has value because we say it does. Is $100 bill really worth $100? Only because a lot of respected people (i.e. governments) say it is.
Similarly, the stock market is another great example of intersubjectivity, since a stock is only worth as much as a lot of people believe it is.
Same goes for alma maters, sports teams, companies, even nations. While we can physically view these institutions, they only have value because a lot of people believe in them. From an objective or pure subjective point of view, they do not exist.
Interestingly, intersubjective realities are just as influential (if not more so) than objective and subjective realities.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t be. But they are a fascinating and powerful reminder of just how social we are as a species. It’s another phenomenon that makes us uniquely human.
While covering consumer technology and video games as a twenty-something blogger, I would regularly receive hate mail from fanboys (never girls) who disagreed with my reporting.
I even received several death threats on occasion. While I never took these threats seriously, it never feels good to have your life, family, or property threatened.
After leaving video games in the late aughts, the hate mail mostly stopped. But I still get upset emails sometimes.
A few years a go, a man berated me for an article I wrote for CNN that was missing a comma. “You have no credibility,” the anonymous man concluded. “If you can’t master simple grammar, you have no business writing.”
He’s not the only one who has questioned my continued mistakes, two books, and thousands of published articles. In fact, the hate mail I’ve received far outweighs the fan mail—which is not unlike sustained rejection in general. Continue reading…
My latest for Orbitz: The holidays are back. And with them, a new kind of travel and family gathering stress that none of us have ever experienced. To help you make the most of this heartwarming and often trying time of year, consider the following pandemic strategies and proven travel advice. Continue reading…
My latest for Paste Magazine: “When I was nine, my father took me on an overnight trip to Kansas City. It was the first time I flew in an airplane or stayed at a fancy hotel. Even though I wasn’t allowed to leave the room while my dad attended a conference in the lobby, I felt like a VIP watching the “foreign” city just outside my high-rise window. That and cable television.
“Last month, I was finally able to “leave my room” and properly explore Kansas City for myself. Located at the epicenter of the lower 48, KC is known for many things, including its beautiful trees and Super Bowl champion Chiefs. But I followed my stomach there on a mission to identify the two-state city’s best barbecue joints.
“Known for its ubiquitous “burnt ends,” ribs, and signature thick sauce—which most Americans think of and buy when reaching for BBQ sauce (a la KC Masterpiece)—Kansas City is home to over 100 barbecue restaurants, many of which are nationally renowned. While I wasn’t able to visit all of them, I spent three full days eating slow-cooked meats and killer sauces for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The things we do for science.”
The following comes from PowerSpace, the self-mastery newsletter I co-founded:
There is a great, if slightly oversimplified, scene from Karate Kid II in which the protagonist laments to his calming sensei that his life is out of balance after getting dumped by his girlfriend and wrecking his car the night before. To help him quickly move to the present, the beloved Mr. Miyagi encourages his devoted student “Daniel San” to deliberately concentrate on his breathing.
“When you feel life is out of focus, always return to basic of life: breathing,” the master says. “No breathe, no life.” From there he instructs both the protagonist and viewers to inhale deeply and slowly from the nose. Followed by exhaling deeply and slowly through their mouths several times while using both hands as a guide to the inward and outward exercise.
Afterwards, Daniel returns to work and drives a nail into a two-by-four with a single thwack! Continue reading…
Hey, readers. In an effort to promote my latest book this holiday, I’m doing a free review drive.
It works like this: Email your address to: email@example.com. I send you a free copy of the book. You read it. Then post an honest review, short or long — I don’t care — on Amazon.com.
If you’ve already read and/or reviewed Measuring History—thank you. If you’ve read it but haven’t reviewed it yet, would you mind leaving a brief review? It really helps get the word out as Amazon prioritizes books that are getting reviewed.
Thank you. Hope you go out with a bang this year!
BOOK DESCRIPTION: In 1976, three engineers from Austin, Texas created something that would one day touch the lives of more than half of the developed world. Neither “starting a revolution” nor “changing the world” was included in their mission statement. But with the help of some very smart people, a little dumb luck, and a lot of inventive customers, that’s exactly what happened. From its humble beginnings in a garage and narrowly avoiding a burnt-down headquarters, to making it to space and being honored by the Inventors Hall of Fame, this is the story of how National Instruments (NI) made history. It might not be sexy. It might not be cool. But it’s a true tale that just might change how you see the world.
I’ve been on a Ramones kick lately. Love their Beach Boys-like melodies, upbeat songs, and humorous lyrics—not to mention their invention of the genre that made me pick up a guitar and start writing songs (punk rock).
This week I finished reading Hey Ho Let’s Go: The Story of The Ramones by British journalist Everett True. It’s an honest, compelling, and telling read about a “dysfunctional family who still loved each other.” As drummer Marky Ramone explains it, “We were brothers – brothers fight. They make movies out of it. That’s how it is.”
Highly recommended. ★★★★☆ These were my favorite passages:
The Ramones had to work for a living. They were a real touring band. The Ramones took their thing to each person individually through the years and that’s why we’re talking about them now.
Although driving five or more hours a day, weeks on end, in a van with someone you never speak to, might seem like a good enough reason to quit. But then, loads of people are in jobs they hate, and stay in them for long past 20 years.
Even if it was just going back to the hotel, they would stop at a 7–11. To get cookies, milk, something for the hotel room. It was always nice, you know… Pizza was the only ritual before show time – just plain cheese, the round ones, nothing extra. They’d always ask for it on the rider, and be very upset if it wasn’t there.
They were always bitter about the success they didn’t have. They didn’t have the hit record. They didn’t get the respect for starting punk rock. They didn’t get the respect they deserved for this, that and the other. They were so concerned with what was written about them and their image, unlike any band I’ve ever seen.
The Ramones represent the truth of the fact that you’re never too old to rock’n’roll as long as you believe in what you’re doing, and you can do it with a purity and conviction. The age of your band is irrelevant. Rock’n’roll is not for the young. It’s for people who refuse not to give a shit.
As you or I might love the Ramones, Johnny and Joey loved the Ramones more than any of us could even comprehend. They wanted the Ramones’ legacy to be pure. We will all miss Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee very much. And we all wish we could see them together, just one last time.
My latest for Orbitz: “If you enjoy hiking but aren’t fond of heavy packs, dry food, or sleeping in tents on the hard ground, we’ve got something for you. It’s called hut hiking, and it combines remote wilderness with some modern “cabin” conveniences such as bathrooms, a roof over your head, the wonder of mattresses, and easily prepared hot meals.
Although big in Europe, hut hiking never really caught on in America. That’s not to say hikeable huts don’t exist here. But they are limited to only a few routes in the entire nation and are noticeably more primitive when compared to the often full-service, multi-course meals, and shower-powered huts found abroad.
Regardless of quality, hut hiking is a game-changer for people who like good food, better sleep, lighter packs, fixed shelter, and improved hygiene as they explore the great outdoors on foot.” Continue reading…
Once upon a time in the mid ’90s, my family regularly enjoyed lunch or dinner at Applebee’s. The national restaurant chain was founded in my home state of Georgia and rapidly expanded across the country that same decade. Americans loved the affordable comfort food, as did my father. Our whole family did really. So we ate there often.
Fifteen years ago, that all came to a screeching halt. After the last of an increasingly disappointing, if not unappetizing, meal, my twenty-something wife and I turned to each other and announced, “Let’s not eat here again.” So we didn’t.
I’m incredibly biased and totally indoctrinated, but I admire America. Objectively speaking, it truly is one of the world’s most diverse playgrounds. Granted, I cherish my adventures abroad and look forward to future ones. But I treasure my own backyard as much as I do exotic soil.
So far I’ve managed to spend meaningful amounts of time in 35 states (excluding states I’ve driven or flown through without doing more than filling gas or eating a roadside meal). As you can see from the accompanying map, I’ve traveled through all of the West, much of the South, and the better part of the Northeast.
Which states have left the biggest impression on me so far? To keep things fair, I’m excluding my home state of Utah, although many would argue it’s an impressionable one. Also, I tend to value “great outdoors” over cities. That said, these are my favorites until further notice: Continue reading…
Before moving to Georgia in my adolescence, I lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma for the first 12 years of my childhood. It was a wonderful place to grow up as a boy.
There were flat streets for my brother and I to skateboard all around town, lots of arcades for us and our friends to dump quarters into, and fishing at Theta Pond. Oh, and chili cheese dogs on Washington Street.
But there was also a harrowing threat of living in Oklahoma, especially in the summer. That’s because the state is home to more tornadoes than any other place in the world—right smack in the middle of Tornado Alley. And I distinctly remember many close encounters with them, if not once every other summer.
My first memory of a tornado was watching a slow and calming funnel cloud form directly over my house on Admiral Street. It was this giant, swirling, but graceful thing that looked like it could explode into a tornado at any moment. My family and I all watched from the front street. No one said it, but I’m sure all of us we’re thinking: “Please don’t touch down. Please.” We didn’t run because it wasn’t violent looking, and the sirens hadn’t gone off yet. In other words, when you live in Oklahoma, you learn to live with the threat of tornadoes every summer. And you don’t scramble for cover or storm shelters until you can feel, observe, and hear that something violent is about to happen. Continue reading…
The following sample lesson come from my employee training curriculum, Power Space.
No one disputes the overwhelming evidence that volunteering does wonders for our self-worth and happiness. Giving, it seems, really is better than receiving when it comes to how we feel about ourselves and the greater world we live in.
But the power of service doesn’t just begin and end with our own improved happiness. In fact, when we feel better about ourselves, we are much more likely to contribute, collaborate, and ultimately work at maximum capacity, research shows.