Four disturbing but important stars out of five. My wife and I enjoyed, pondered, and discussed it very much.
Four disturbing but important stars out of five. My wife and I enjoyed, pondered, and discussed it very much.
What might happen if humans lived an entirely simulated life, doing everything online except for eating and sleeping?
Earnest Cline has a dystopian, geeky, and fist-pumping answer in Ready Player One, his best-selling novel which I read over the holidays.
The story takes place in 2044 and follows a teenage prodigy named Wade as he seeks hidden fame, power, and fortune bequeathed by the world’s richest man. “But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue,” reads the synopsis, “he is beset by rivals that will kill for the prize, forcing him to confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”
Clever, huh? USA Today accurately described it as “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix.” I’d add a little Brave New World, ’80s game geek culture, Tron, and “The Wreck-It-Ralph of books” for good measure—all good things.
For fellow nerds who appreciate those things, I award the book a tilted four and a half out of five stars. For everyone else, particularly those who share my desire to curb compulsion disorders, I give it four stars.
These were my favorite passages: Continue reading…
I get quite reflective and often sappy during the final weeks of the year. After reviewing the past 12 months, this is what I learned: Continue reading…
Reporting for Paste Magazine…
My wife and I recently returned from the most adventurous vacation we’ve ever taken. I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I’ll start with the most important: food. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? Continue reading…
I recently finished Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, which tells the unlikely true story of the titular captain saving all of his crew after his ship was crushed by Antarctic ice floes in 1914.
All told, the 28 men survived 18 months on sea, ice, and one inhospitable island, while enduring unthinkable cold, the worst weather ever, and the first terrestrial crossing of South Georgia. Even more amazingly, they largely did it with jovial spirits, which helped them persevere and ultimately conquer death.
As I said before, Lansing’s writing is so intensely riveting, I was literally gulping and gasping for air at times. If it weren’t for a somewhat halted plot in the second quarter, I would award the book five out of five stars. These are my favorite passages: Continue reading…
Regardless, the total was less than half of what I normally devour in a year — a little over one a month. No matter. I’d like to think I’m doing this instead.
Still, I’d like to read more next year. So before starting The Space Merchants, The Power Broker, and a dozen more samples I have downloaded to my Kindle, these are the books I enjoyed most in 2015: Continue reading…
Growing old is a weird as you imagined it. Not that any young readers ever think about getting old. As a tenderfoot, I certainly didn’t. Yolo!
In any case, onset aging baffles me. The body can’t move like it used to. The brain increasingly forgets things. And it’s perplexing to watch younger generations do things in ways you and your contemporaries can’t relate.
Got the pictured from Clever Doormats last week and absolutely adore it. Like it so much, my wife and I are upgrading it to the front door welcome mat after the holidays. Clever.
Tags: published works, feature stories, tech writing, branded journalism, travel columns
Since 2005, I’ve written hundreds of feature stories and special reports and thousands of news articles for half of the top 20 U.S. media and a lot more in the top 100. In that time, I’ve also published tens of thousands of paid blog posts for fancy tech publications.
Like my favorite personal posts, picking my favorite published works is difficult. But here are some that come to mind.
If you’re a business interested in hiring me for strategic content advice, editorial management, and ongoing story production like I’ve done for Dell, Google, Cisco, and others (samples here), please email.
I’ve been an avid listener of classical music for twenty years. I’ve listened to greatest hits, lesser-known recommendations, countless composers, all three periods, one-hit wonders, atonal crap, catchy melodies, and everything in between.
While I wouldn’t call my exposure exhaustive, I will say it has been thorough. And while other composers achieved greatness in their own way, none of them come close to the prolific genius of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. It’s not even close.
This is one of those pieces that separates the cliche-but-deserving trifecta from their contemporaries. I absolutely adore it, because it sounds like two people discussing a serious issue without ever fully arguing it.
Take these. If you’re interested in journalism, the art of war, Star Wars, business, and/or are “white,” I think you’ll enjoy them:
Close your eyes and think of someone who did something important for you that changed your life in a good direction but who you never properly thanked. It could be that you’re really grateful to a teacher who inspired your love of acting and who persuaded you to try for drama school when everyone else was dead set against it. Maybe you’d like to thank your boss or a colleague for helping you with a particularly tricky project at work. Or perhaps you choose to write a friend who helped you through a tough time… Describe specifically what they did and what influence it had on you. Let them know what you are doing now, and mention how you often remember what she did.
Here’s where my travel column went last month:
When I was nine years old, I saw Big starring Tom Hanks. It’s a movie about a boy doing young-at-heart things in a grown-up’s body. That and being employed to have an opinion on (i.e. review) toys.
At the time, I thought it was the coolest movie ever made. I still think it’s pretty darn cool.
In reality, my work as a writer over the last decade is not unlike protagonist Josh Baskin’s. I get paid to have an opinion and ask a bunch of questions. I tinker with ideas, learn from those who are smarter than me, and slay the dragon of misinformation with research as my shield and a keyboard as my sword. Continue reading…
A pottery teacher split her class into two halves.
To the first half she said, “You will spend the semester studying pottery, planning, designing, and creating your perfect pot. At the end of the semester, there will be a competition to see whose pot is the best”.
To the other half she said, “You will spend your semester making lots of pots. Your grade will be based on the number of completed pots you finish. At the end of the semester, you’ll also have the opportunity to enter your best pot into a competition.”
The first half of the class threw themselves into their research, planning, and design. Then they set about creating their one, perfect pot for the competition.
The second half of the class immediately grabbed fistfulls of clay and started churning out pots. They made big ones, small ones, simple ones, and intricate ones. Their muscles ached for weeks as they gained the strength needed to throw so many pots.
At the end of class, both halves were invited to enter their most perfect pot into the competition. Once the votes were counted, all of the best pots came from the students that were tasked with quantity. The practice they gained made them significantly better potters than the planners on a quest for a single, perfect pot.—As told by Eric Scott
I recently finished The Last Place on Earth, Roland Huntford’s well-researched, sometimes heavy-handed, but always legendary retelling of the 1911 South Pole race between Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott. In addition to being published the year I was born, the book’s important for the following reasons: Continue reading…
I recently finished Highbrow’s excellent 10-day course on inventions that changed the world.
In keeping score, half of the cited inventions quickened the sharing of information (writing, printing press, telephone, personal computer, internet). A third hastened our transportation (steam engine, automobile, airplanes). One marginalizes or maximizes physical dominance, depending on who owns more of it (gunpowder). And the last one lengthens our days (light bulb).
Interestingly, every one of these inventions involve some element of speed. The speed of a bullet. The speed of light. The speed of travel. The speed of knowledge. That’s why the world moves at an increasing rate. Our greatest inventions all involve speed.
Even this century’s greatest inventions largely involve speed. How fast you can get new or old music to your ears (iTunes, Spotify). How fast you can get answers to questions (Google). How fast you can connect with friends and family (Facebook, SMS). And how fast you can see the latest cat videos (YouTube).
Of course, many of these inventions involve size, frequency, and power. But when it comes to bigger, stronger, better, and faster—always bet on faster. It’s the future. And it’s likely what the “next big thing” will do more than others.
Over the last decade, I’ve mostly written about technology. Among the hundreds of magazine articles and thousands of blog posts published, some cover entertainment. Some science. Some travel. And rarer still, some sports. (All topics that personally appeal to me.)
Of the latter category, these are the stories I’m most proud of, along with the backstories that created them. Continue reading…
Because he wrote this masterpiece, I consider Bill Bryson one of the greatest non-fiction writers of our time. And while his similar At Home: A Short History of Private Life is brimming with domestic insights, it’s not as powerful or focused as the former. Three stars out of five. I’d only recommend it to die-hard home owners. My favorite passages:
In response to “What are some examples of intelligence disguised as stupidity?” Graham Zaretsky offered the following on Quora:
When I was a freshman in college, one of my fellow freshmen, a young girl who obviously had skipped a bunch of grades would occasionally come to my dorm room in the evenings to ask for help on the homework we both were taking. I was happy to help her out.
After this had happened a few times, she came and asked me about a problem that I, myself was still struggling with. I was stuck on it, and I told her that. She then proceeded to explain to me in great detail how to solve it.
It turned out that what she was doing was going to multiple people (not just me) to see all the different methods that people were using to solve the same problem. She knew how to answer all the questions that I thought she was having trouble with. She just wanted to see if there were other ways to solve those problems, or to see how well she was doing as compared with everyone else. In the end, she far surpassed me in those classes in every way.
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
There must be something in the water in Montana. It changed my life. It set the stage for this tragic love story. And it recently humbled one individual who was previously indifferent to nature. Continue reading…
Smart people don’t make better decisions because they’re smart. They make better decisions, research shows, because they habitually do the following:
1. Remove unimportant decisions. If a decision doesn’t have an impact on your work, relationships, or spirit, then remove it from consideration. For example, many CEOs, heads of states, or creative people wear the same thing every day. Steve Jobs wore blue jeans and a black turtleneck everyday. Mark Zuckerberg only wears blue jeans and a gray t-shirt. Similarly, the leader of the free world only wears blue or gray suits, “Because I have too many other decisions to make,” the president recently told Vanity Fair. “I’m trying to pare down decisions,” he added. “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing.”
For those of us without a personal chef, deciding what kinds of food to eat is a very important decision. But removing or outsourcing unimportant decisions to other people helps us make more meaningful decisions. One of the ways I achieve this is by removing TV from my life, limiting the number of sportsball games I watch, and restricting the number of news sources I read to only three per day. Doing so introduces more social encounters, analog experiences, and thought-provoking literature into my life, which make me a better writer (instead of regurgitator). Continue reading…
As compiled by Highbrow:
See also: My review of Old Man and The Sea
If you prefer heavy, protective, and stiff hiking shoes, this story isn’t for you. Go ahead and Google “Keen Liberty Ridge.” They are the mother of all high-performance hiking boots. Seasoned guides swear by ‘em.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something lighter, more flexible, and less clunky, you’ve come to the right place. Having tested more than a dozen candidates, these are the best I could find: 5 alternative—if not low-profile—hiking shoes that rock.
Before listing the winners, remember: you can wear whatever you like while hiking. Said footwear doesn’t have to be gray or brown or chunky or even necessarily labeled for “hiking,” so long as you find them comfortable. Enough preaching. Onto the list. Continue reading…
As I’ve said before, Heather Smith’s art is creative, meticulous, and “non-machine,” something I believe an increasing number of people will value in an overly processed digital world.
She just opened a store of hand-drawn greeting cards, wrapping paper, silhouettes, and canvas tote bags. I hope consider, dig, and buy them as much as I do.
Disclosure: Heather is my sister-in-law, but nepotism this talented must be rewarded.
I’ve successfully completed two rounds of therapy. I say “successfully” because the first (marriage counseling) saved my marriage after a checkered first year. The second (anger management) helped me harness my emotions.
Like Wreck-It-Ralph, my passion bubbles very near the surface. I’ve known this since adolescence. But I didn’t know how to manage it until group therapy. This is that story.
Here’s where my travel column went last month:
I was late for safety inspection.
In a blur, I rushed to the garage, hopped on my moped, and scooted out of suburbia. While doing 35 miles per hour over train tracks, I elevate my hiney to let my knees absorb the shock. Doing otherwise aggravates my bad back.
I exit right at the roundabout. Left at the bridge. Right on 500 West. Then left again to my first of three stops. “Just the safety test?” a greasy face asks me. “Yes,” I reply. After satisfying all of his procedural requests, I’m cleared for registration. Continue reading…
I’m fortunate to have found my calling in life. I don’t dread Mondays. Returning to my desk after lunch isn’t a chore. I welcome the challenge of pleasing several bosses (aka “clients”).
But I’m still human. I look forward to weekends. I fake “sick days” and play hooky. And I daydream of dorking around, even when working with people I like on projects I’m passionate about.
I was reminded of this last Wednesday while on assignment for Google, writing a fun but challenging story for them. Once late afternoon hit, however, all I wanted to do was paddleboard or cut home movies. Continue reading…
Nine years ago, I stumbled upon an obscure YouTube video with only a few hundred views. Although I can no longer locate the video, the image it contained has haunted me ever since. A granite-green fjord flanked by towering cliffs, an enticing inlet, and an open invitation to hike it. I added the place to my bucket list and waited for the right opportunity to visit.
Three weeks ago, it finally happened. While on assignment for work (someone’s gotta do it!) and with my brother-in-law begrudgingly assisting, I hiked Western Brook Fjord in Newfoundland. Spoiler alert: It was everything I expected it to be. More beautiful than the already stunning photos of it.
I still don’t fully understand why word hasn’t gotten out; why more people haven’t visited it.
Well I hope to change that, starting with the above video and some feature stories to follow on not just the awesome hike, but the friendly locals, unexpectedly good food, and other exceptional adventures the island affords.
Make no mistake: I went for the fjord but left with a love for an entire province. I’ll be back.
Last week while eating lunch with my family, my playful wife invented a new game called “Clap for [insert person’s name here].” It works like this. You prompt everyone to applaud someone for several moments. Then watch their face, eyes, and smile light it while you do it.
Even though the act is forced, the game works every time. At least it does on my family, my wife and I very much included.
The only way I can explain why it works is that recognition matters. Just hearing your name, being complimented, or even just having your presence recognized as the above game so deftly accomplishes is enough to make people feel elated and special. When that happens, we want to become better people. That’s powerful.
As silly as it sounds, I invite all reading this to play this game and report your findings. Like Dale Carnegie taught, praise people, even the slightest. Recognize their contributions.
But more importantly, acknowledge people by remembering their name, take a genuine interest in what interests them, and applaud them for being who they are.
It’s magic, I tell ya.
Perhaps one of the below might inspire your next offline adventure:
I recently read Dale Carnegie’s popular How to Win Friends and Influence People. Here’s what I learned:
My wife taught me a valuable lesson recently.
For years, we’ve been planning to build a new house for our growing family. With that decision, we pegged a lot of other things to it, such as a new living room, new places to see, and even a family dog.
“Let’s update the living room after we move,” we told ourselves. “Let’s hold off on that vacation until we’re settled. Let’s wait for a dog until we have our own yard.”
We’ve held that belief for many years with various plans, not just shelter. Wait, wait, wait. When.. when… when… After, after, after. Continue reading…
I recently sampled a book in which the author said such-and-such was the “second most enchanting thing” he’d ever seen, save only seeing his wife for the first time. The line made me reflect upon the first time I met my wife:
In a hot tub. Continue reading…
After 36 years of excruciating mystery, humanity finally knows how many people prematurely bite into Tootsie Pops, and how many licks it takes to reach the center. New research conducted by yours truly and NYU has the answers. Continue reading…
I posses five and a half of the seven denominators of American millionaires, according to The Millionaire Next Door. Assuming each of these traits are weighted equally, I have a 79% chance (78.5% to be exact) of becoming one.
While the extra play money would be fun, I’m content with my thousandaire status. I have my health. I’ve got my soulmate. I found my calling.
I have five fabulous children, many uplifting friends, and a loyal dog. When kids ask me if I’m “rich,” I say yes, because I am.
Enough of the feel-good crap. A millionaire I am not. Let’s get down to numbers: Continue reading…
From the “we live in incredible times” file comes… “When I was your age, we rode jetpacks at the lake!”
Good summation of advice that certainly mirrors my independent research. #bookmark
My travel column entries from last month:
Feedback if you got ’em.
I recently read Paul Ford’s special report on software—all 36,000 words and three hours of it. If you work in computers, you should read it. If you work in business, you should read it. If you’re an adult human, you will learn a lot about the way things are and where they’re headed by reading it.
Admittedly, the story could have benefitted from some additional editing. Ford, after all, veers a little off topic. But like Bill Bryson, Ford is a master at explaining why things matter—in this case, why coders matter, and how they will increasingly influence the future.
If that’s doesn’t convince you to read the article’s entirety, maybe my 10 favorite excerpts will: Continue reading…
I’m grateful to my parents for teaching me basic personal hygiene. Things like regular bathing, brushing teeth, grooming, laundry, and hand-washing.
But in recent years, I’ve picked up new habits that have improved my life. My parents probably tried to teach me some of them. Others I discovered on my own or with the help of my wife.
Whatever the catalyst, all of the below have greatly improved my life:
It was my brother’s birthday yesterday. Rather than offer a lot of obligatory “Happy birthdays,” my siblings and I did this: Continue reading…
But sometimes things go a long way to enhance life, especially little things or anything that encourages experiences.
Here are five such things that have done that for me recently, in no particular order: Continue reading…
Just do it: @blakesnow. Don’t make him mad. You don’t want to see him mad.
Thanks for reading.
Of course, finding balance has always been a part of the human condition, at least since the industrial revolution, if not before—many recorded and Biblical accounts acknowledge this. Our imbalance plight accelerated in the ’80s, however, after we entered the information age.
Why does more imbalance exist in America than anywhere else? Continue reading…
Outside of groceries, my household shops online 90% of the time. That’s not me overstating something. That’s my wife’s estimate. She does the budget.
Over the last 10 years, Amazon Prime, Zappos, Target.com, iTunes, Netflix, and many other e-tailers have dramatically improved my family’s standard of living, product selection, and buying power, while reducing buyer’s remorse, time spent, and money spent consuming wants and needs.
Every now and again, I get romantic and decide to “shop local,” as they say. Usually I regret it. The last time I needed a pair of slacks, I went to a big box store. The style selection wasn’t what I wanted. 30 minutes of my life, gone.
Before leaving the parking lot, I launched the Amazon app, found a better pair of 4.5/5 star fitted-pants for less, and clicked “buy now.” The transaction took two minutes. The slacks would be on my door step two days later, and if, for whatever reason, I didn’t like them, I could put them back on my door mat, and a brown truck would magically return them for free.
We live a charmed life. Continue reading…
I get paid to publish online stories. I love my job. But the harsh reality is my contributions cease to exist in the absence of power. Save for only a few printed artifacts, I don’t keep hardcopies of the hundreds of feature stories and thousands of blog posts I’ve written over the last decade.
I was humbled by that realization earlier this spring. The first two publications that ever paid me to write—Engadget’s gaming blog (Joystiq) and GigaOM—both shuttered within 30 days of each other. Their closures reminded me how impermanent life (and work) is. For now, my archives live on (here and here), but there’s no guarantee they’ll remain. They’ll be totally wiped out in a post-apocalyptic world like Mad Max: Fury Road (which you should run, not walk, to see right now).
Admittedly, I don’t sell life-altering work. I mostly help tech companies and media publications sell more widgets (i.e. products, services, or advertising) with believable stories that interest wide audiences. In any case, grasping your own insignificance is never easy. Big wheel keep on turning…
Brian Hamilton is head of a million dollar software company. He believes work-life balance is a myth. “Working obsessive hours is nearly a requirement for success,” he writes for Entrepreneur. “For those who feel possessed by entrepreneurship and want to get their idea or product out to the world, you can have work-life balance, as long as the two are one in the same.”
What Hamilton is describing is the trendy practice of anything-goes, work-life blending, which treats imbalance as a pipe-dream at best, a casualty of war at worst. To that I say: Keep telling yourself that. The only thing that seems to change peoples’ minds is a death bead. After not being true to oneself, overwork is the second biggest regret of the dying.
Deep down, I think even Hamilton and others like him know this. “The ability to compartmentalize and separate work,” he concedes, “probably leads to a much more content and happy existence.” But he, like many others, seems dead-set on wholly identifying with (or at least spending the majority of his waking time on) what he contributes economically to the world. Often times popular ego-feeding is to blame. Continue reading…
Lindsey and I took the kids to fabulous Mesquite, Nevada last month for spring break. The city bills itself as “The way Vegas used to be.”
With only three casinos and extremely limited food options, I’m not so sure about that. But I was charmed by the place and plan on returning soon the next time I crave a desert oasis. Here’s why. Continue reading…
From the “never give up” files—Last month, I received a suprisingly condescending email in response to a story I was pitching. “Does this strike you as something we would publish?”
It was sent by a deputy editor from the nation’s third largest newspaper. “I was hoping it might it might fit your travel section, which I guessed you might oversee,” I replied. “Would you be willing to forward to the appropriate editor?”
The next day, the gentlemen apologized for being rude. But then he continued “in a spirit of friendliness” to list many greviences in a patronizing 350 word follow-up.
I just started a new travel column for Paste Magazine. It’s called “Off the Grid.” You should read it.
First one up: 5 overlooked National Parks. To help you along the way, I’ll follow it up every week with all things awesome.
Thanks for reading (and for sharing if you like what you read).
The young man was hiding something. Perhaps unknowingly, but he was still hiding something.
He had spiked hair with an Archie look to it, albeit dishwater blonde instead of bright. A little under six feet tall, he wore an oversized t-shirt and basketball shorts like something out of the ’90s—two sizes too big.
He was pigeon toed, around 175 pounds, and with a case of mild acne. I’m guessing he was 20, give or take a few years.
Why was I so concerned with this guy’s looks, especially as a heterosexual man in a public gym?
I’ll tell you why. Continue reading…
Clay Christensen, a man I deeply respect, has the answer:
“Christensen had seen dozens of companies falter by going for immediate payoffs rather than long-term growth, and he saw people do the same thing,” writes Larissa MacFarquhar for the New Yorker. “In three hours at work, you could get something substantial accomplished, and if you failed to accomplish it you felt the pain right away. If you spent three hours at home with your family, it felt like you hadn’t done a thing, and if you skipped it nothing happened.
“So you spent more and more time at the office, on high-margin, quick-yield tasks, and you even believed that you were staying away from home for the sake of your family. Christensen had seen many people tell themselves that they could divide their lives into stages, spending the first part pushing forward their careers, and imagining that at some future point they would spend time with their families—only to find that by then their families were gone.”
In other words, you become what you prioritize. Metamorphosis from sustained work-a-holic into a well-rounded and interesting person doesn’t just happen.
As shared by Nikola Gjakovski; edited for potency:
An edited version of this story first appeared on USA Today
North American is known for a lot of things. Transcendent, soaring, and gaping fjords isn’t one of them. For that, most travelers understandably head to Norway, New Zealand, or Chile first—all renowned for their glacier-carved “canyons” that outlet into swallowing seas.
But the northern half of the continent has its fair share of majestic cliffs cut by frozen (instead of liquid) water, especially in parts of southern Alaska and Canada. As a bonus, they’re more proximitous than Europe’s beloved Grainger Fjord, less travelled, and still rate at least 4.5 out of 5 stars, according to average visitor reviews on Google and Tripadvisor.
Behold, the most fantastic fjords of North America: Continue reading…
ANAHEIM, Ca.—Comedian Jim Gaffigan once joked, “My favorite ride at Disney was the air conditioned bus back to the airport.” When asked why he paid so much money to wait in long lines for underwhelming rides, he replied, “Because I love my children.”
I love my children, too. But unlike Gaffigan, I’ve been unwilling to visit Disney until recently because I viewed it as a rip-off, an unneeded parental sacrifice, and not nearly as rewarding as natural wonder. Although I have fond memories of visiting Disneyland with my family as an eight year old boy, I have fonder memories of visiting the nearby Laguna Beach that same week. “So I’ll take my kids to more majestic, less expensive places instead,” I’ve told myself ever since.
Deep down, however, I wanted to know: Could so many people be wrong? Why do over 70 million folks visit one of Disney’s templated parks each year, making it the third most-visited tourist attraction on Earth, according to Travel and Leisure? Can a place that averages 4.5 out of 5 visitor stars really be an overpriced tourist trap?
To find out, I caved recently and booked my family for two-day passes to Disneyland. Tickets cost $100 each per day; children were $5 off (that’s it?!). In fact, admittance to the park totaled more than the combined airfare and four-day stay we paid for a well-rated hotel across the street, not to mention the expensive dining we were sure to encounter inside the park.
Upon realizing that, I had buyer’s remorse. Had I make a mistake? Was I turning into sheep? Maybe. But I was determined to find out for myself, if not for humanity’s sake. Continue reading…
Constantly checking your wrist watch is less rude and less distracting than constantly checking your smartphone. It might even improve your life.
“Your phone is ruining your life,” writes David Pierce, who, like many others, ignorantly blames the object instead of the abuser. Rather than setting boundaries on his technology, Pierce and others like him egotistically search for reasons to be elsewhere in thought and suffer the consequence. Continue reading…
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…
From the short and sweet files: “Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”—Dalai Lama XIV
I had a bad day last week. Or so I thought.
After an afternoon full of rejection, major story revisions, and haters hatin’ on my efforts,* I turned to my wife and said, “I had a crappy day at work and am glad it’s over.”
“I’m sorry,” she acknowledged. “Was it all bad?”
In truth it wasn’t. I had a great morning, a nice lunch, and the first hour of the afternoon was smooth sailing, I conceded.
She replied, “A friend and I were talking yesterday, and we decided that there’s usually no such thing as bad days, only bad hours.”
I quickly recalled all the “bad days” from recent memory and realized none of them were that entirely. While I’m sure I’ve had extended periods of bad hours, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a bad day from start to finish.
That’s probably the optimist in me speaking. But country songs are mostly fiction. Very few people (if any) people get divorced, fired, miss all their meals, and lose their dog in a single day.
In other words, “bad days” don’t exist, only bad hours.
Selling is a challenge. It requires unwavering confidence, polite persistence, and a deep understanding of buyer demand. It also requires an ability to withstand constant rejection, unfortunate timing, and even bad luck.
Whether you sell to businesses or consumers, overcoming buyer objections in another challenge. Some may be unique to your trade, but most are quite common, regardless of industry. What are they and how can they be surmounted?
To find out, I ransacked dozens of reports, expert analyses, and top Google results. After the dust had settled, I encountered close to 100 specific objections. But most (if not all) of those are merely variations of seven fundamental objections, which I’ve distilled and categorized below.
Before getting down to the nitty gritty, a word of caution: sellers must first understand theirs and their prospects’ available “walk-away” options before addressing any concerns. If you don’t respect those, you’ll fail to appreciate the nuances of your market and have a harder time overcoming legitimate buyer objections.
Furthermore, “objections are a gift,” says Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft. “It’s the customer telling you something that will help you sell to them.” In that sense, buyer concerns are rarely outright rejections—they’re merely requests for more information. Hence, good communication is key to overcoming them.
With that out of the way, here are the seven most common buyer objections and advice for overcoming them: Continue reading…
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.
My wife and I watched Atari: Game Over last night on YouTube (part II here). It’s an hour long documentary about the fast rise and even faster demise of video games in the early ’80s and the misinformation surrounding their fall (the games, not the decade).
That’s just the pretext, however. The documentary is really about hurtful group think, toxic urban legends, and the unfair, if not tragic, treatment of Howard Warshaw, a talented and pioneering game designer that was ostracized for his largely innocent role.
Although the documentary handles some weighty baggage, director Zak Penn keeps it fun, fast-paced, and peppered with likable characters. When Warshaw is partially redeemed by the end of the movie, I was rattled with sympathy.
Atari: Game Over isn’t as fist-pumping fun as Kong of Kong, which you should watch posthaste if you haven’t already. But the former is more accurate and just as endearing. Furthermore, it challenges the viewer to scrutinize their beliefs before accepting them and encourages us to give others the benefit of the doubt.
Five stars out of five.
I learned to play guitar sometime in the spring of 1994. I did it in a single day. Sort of.
Although I knew how to mangle the open chords for A, C, D, E, and G in the months leading up to that fateful day, the instrument didn’t click with me until my brother and his friend Dylan Denny demonstrated how to play bar chords the night before. “You mean I just keep the same finger formation and slide up and down the neck to play any chord I like, even flats!?” I enthusiastically asked. “Yup,” they replied. “That’s the beautify of power chords.”
I was so excited by this revelation — this power, if you will — that I called in sick the next day (i.e. I faked a cough and my mom let me stay home from school).
Armed with this new “life hack,” I learned to play Green Day’s entire breakthrough album by ear that day. I was so elated, I didn’t even break for lunch, let alone breakfast. I just played, played, and played, stopping the CD only to find the right chord. I even learned a few of the album’s basic “fills,” or poor man’s solos, as I call them.
Upon returning from school, my brother and friend were impressed with my progress. It’s not every day a rhythm guitarist is born. From that day forward, I wanted to “play rhythm” forever.
That all changed on a Wednesday night 13 years later. Continue reading…
Bad habits. We all have them. Here are some of mine. But not for long. I’m not doing any of the following any longer. I’m done. For good. Watch me.
What do great speakers such as Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, and top TED presenters have in common? Why do we remember phrases such as, “I have a dream,” “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing to happen to me,” and “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”? What’s the most effective way to persuade a listening audience, either to laughter, action, awareness, or inspiration?
After researching dozens of the Internet’s top search results from a broad range of expert or otherwise popular speakers, we have answers to those questions and more. Of course, there’s no foolproof way to becoming a charming or memorable presenter. But there are several virtues all great speakers uphold. Chief among them: Good orators change the emotions of their audience, rather than just informing them. They inspire them, encourage them to act.
Whether you’re motivating a distrustful audience, leading a team of individuals, selling the next big idea or product to market, or even entertaining a hard to please crowd, here are 10 qualities all good presenters posses: Continue reading…
Most people don’t know the difference between copywriting and editorial copy. I write the latter, which is generally understood by plebians as long-form “magazine articles.” The former is short-form and widely used in advertising and marketing to persuade someone to buy a product or influence their beliefs.
In any case, I usually don’t copywrite in a technical sense. I sometimes get asked to but usually decline. Unless, of course, Nike asks me to, which they did last year. Here is that story. Continue reading…
For any male readers born from the mid ’70s to early ’80s, listen up—Console Wars by Blake Harris has it all: your childhood, the answer to your next marketing challenge, cultural divides, innocence, under bellies, triumph, and loss.
It’s also the only book I’ve ever read that made me feel as young as I am old. Take these gems, for example:
You wanna know what scares me most about getting old? Becoming calloused, jaded, and crotchety.
To counter that, I try to see the good in the world, surround myself with positive people, recognize the value of younger generations (as opposed to bemoaning their shortcomings), and do things that make me feel young again.
The following have beguiled my eardrums lately: Continue reading…
Why do some people willingly participate in unpleasant things like regular exercise, cold showers, bland but healthy food, sacrificial restraint, and drinking lots of water, which cause a lot of annoying bathroom runs?
The short answer: Everything has a price. Good health is no exception. In exchange for long-term health, humans must endure short-term discomfort associated with the above.
In more succinct terms, “no pain, no gain.” That’s the catchphrase Jane Fonda popularized in ’80s workout videos to express that rewards are worth the work. Or as David Morris wrote in The Scientist, “The road to achievement runs only through hardship.”
In my experience, that’s the case for good health as much as anything in life. Of course, knowing that won’t make difficult things easy. But it does give them meaning, which I believe lessens suffering.
What a story. What a character.
Wells Tower writes for GQ: “Frank paid a few visits to the U.S. Secret Service’s website, which, handily, offers an in-depth illustrated guide to serial numbers, watermarks, plate numbers, and all the other fussy obstacles to the counterfeiter’s art. ‘I thought, if I’m going to do this, I’ll go big or go home.'”
At the turn of the decade, the Canadian ended up printing more than $200 million in twenty dollar bills — an elephantine amount compared to most counterfeiters. “If he’d printed a measlier number of millions, he would have lacked a big chip with which to bargain for his liberty,” explains Tower. “He would certainly have been jailed longer. In other words, had Frank not gone big, it could have been quite a long time before he’d have been free to go home.”
Superb read. I highly recommend it.
I really, really like this moving photo compilation. It’s further proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. Thank you for compiling it, Mr. Uttpal.
Paul Ford shared some inspiring advice recently on being polite. He writes:
“Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me… When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: ‘Wow. That sounds hard.'”
This works because everyone believes their job is difficult, Ford says, which is actually true when you consider their circumstances. “People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things,” he continues. “They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing.
“The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment.”
You just need to care, he concludes. You can start by looking others in the eye and asking their name with a smile and firm handshake. Then keep it up over time to ensure your politeness is enduring. After all, fleeting politeness is forgettable, Ford says. Lasting politeness is memorable and makes an impact.
Thanks to my wife, I’ve grown to appreciate winter instead of loathing it. Still, the persistent cold, dormant life, and extended darkness can take its toll on our mood, especially near the tail end of the season.
That said, here are four things everyone can do to beat the winter blues, according to USA Today:
See you in spring.
“I really wish I spent more time on my phone,” said no one ever. I doubt anyone will.
And yet, many of us can’t resist the Kavorka of our phones, in times of idleness or activity. What’s a modern human to do?
Don’t worry, Internet denizens. I got you. After five years on a lean, enlivening, and offline-rich phone diet, here are eight things you can do right now to put your phone in check, free yourself from its compulsive clutches, and live in the moment: Continue reading…
I don’t remember everything I read this year. But excluding short-form literature, these are the books and essays that impacted me most: Continue reading…
I don’t know if falling in love is more challenging today than it was before. But it can’t be easy with the constant allure, cover, and distraction of smartphones.
Case in point: I saw a guy macking on a girl recently—or at least trying to. He was obviously interested; his attention undivided. She was preoccupied with her phone, however. She occasionally rejoined his advances with peppered smiles and words, but she mostly focused her attention on the tarot card-sized device she cradled in hand and poked at with thumbs.
From a distance, I couldn’t tell if she was coping with embarrassment behind her phone, considering a counter-flirt, or not at all interested. If I had to guess, I’d bet on the latter because newly crushing or in love couples usually stay fixated on each other’s eyes. Of course, interested males are horrible at deciphering this universal truth — always have been, always will, with or without smartphones. But I know first-hand how complicating phones can be to loving relationships. Continue reading…
Locals and tourists only—Metropolitan Utah welcomed two large museums this year: The re-located and significantly expanded Living Planet Aquarium and the all-new Museum of Natural Curiosity. Although both have their heart in the right place, only one is worth your family’s time and money.
To find out, I tapped the most imaginative minds I could find: my kids. Within a four day period last month, my wife and I took the children to both museums for the first time. Upon visiting, we didn’t coax, herd, or otherwise rush them to any exhibits. Rather, we let them set the pace and decide the order of exhibits. Here’s how it went. Continue reading…
I read Quora once a week. Although many of the questions are half-baked, impatient, and ill-prepared for a wise answer, the site is a good source of mental stimulation.
For example: “What is the most useless talent/skill?” Excellent question! The top answer is underwhelming, however. Continue reading…
A funny thing happens to humans in winter. At first, the coldest equinox is a magical time for children, especially when it snows. With age, however, those same humans sometimes grow to despise the season. They become calloused by it; discouraged by it. They forget the importance of it to new life; the relevance of it as a requisite opposite.
Upon relocating to Utah 12 years ago, I felt even more jaded by winter given the increased snow here. I didn’t care that this desert land accumulates most of its water from white-capped mountains that melt in spring. I didn’t realize just how water-less summer would be without winter.
All I knew is that I didn’t like commuting in it. And I was a really important person then, busy getting from A to B as fast as I could. Winter, you see, slowed me down. Continue reading…
Several months ago, my wife and I were discussing truths we want are children to know. Although I’ve covered the topic before, I’ve since recognized several more while reiterating others.
Granted, you can’t expect to learn the below principles in a couple of sentences. But maybe, just maybe, this commentary will spark your curiosity and challenge your worldview for the better: Continue reading…
I recently finished A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. From a single book I’ve never learned so much and so little at the same time. I’ve also never read a more absorbing science book. Whereas I usually highlight a few passages from each book, I highlighted more than two dozen parts of this book upon completion — it covers that much ground. Continue reading…
Cold showers went viral this year. I jumped on the bandwagon this summer and haven’t gone back, not even in winter. Here’s why:
After deciding to attempt centenarian status, I’ve become hyper-aware of my health.
So health.com caught my eye last month after crunching the numbers on foods that may shorten life, specifically those that harm our DNA’s ability to protect itself from disease. The four that made their list: Continue reading…
“What do you do?” is a question humans often hear. It’s a new acquaintance’s favorite ice breaker because it’s socially acceptable, easy to answer, and easy to process. Doctor. Carpenter. Businessman. Homemaker. Forget and move on.
Problem is, we are so much more than our occupation, even workaholics (although they might not realize it if wholly absorbed by their trade). The better question to ask when meeting new people is this: “What do you like to do?” Asking that will give you a truer glimpse of who someone is, because what we think about and do under no obligation is a better indicator of who we really are.
I believe final, condemning, or otherwise hasty judgment of others is like hatred. It is learned, immoral, and vile behavior that worsens with age and leads to unhappiness.
Obviously, we’re required to make mortal judgments on the accused if on jury duty. And we need to judge the fruits and motives of others to make important decisions in life, such as choosing friends, voting for government leaders, engaging in business transactions, shielding our children from danger, or marrying someone.
(Similarly, hatred of conditions—never people—can inspire action, but that’s another story).
While many of us struggle in making the above judgments, all of us suck when it comes to judging others out of misguided fear, selfishness, or an attempt to validate our lifestyle over another’s. It is this type of misjudgment that is so difficult to avoid.
Earlier this year, I learned a useful trick for combating this. Continue reading…