Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Embracing cold for a season, respecting winter for life

credit: lindsey snow

credit: lindsey snow

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…

Stop telling yourself that: Life’s biggest lies

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

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…

Easy peasy: 5 ways to rewire your brain for happiness

Grant Wood/Wikimedia Commons

Grant Wood/Wikimedia Commons

As a leading psychologist, Shawn Achor has spent two decades studying happiness. His bona fides include award-winning researcher and teacher at Harvard, best-selling author on positivity, and popular TED lecturer.

So when he speaks you should listen. For instance, Achor asserts our circumstances — including age, race, gender, social status, and wealth — only account for 10% of our happiness. The rest is determined by our genetic baseline for happiness (i.e. optimist vs pessimist) and our individual intentions, including the way we spend our time and the things we ponder.

Obviously, happiness means different things to different people. But there are plenty of standardized things we can do to boost our chances of finding it. Somethings such as knowing oneself, learning how to forgive, and balancing the personal, professional, and social demands on our time can be life-long pursuits.

But other happiness-building attributes are quite easy, Achor argues. In order from least difficult to most difficult, they are as follows:  Continue reading…

Science: “A mountain of theory built on a molehill of evidence”

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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…

You are more than your occupation: This question proves it

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

“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.

Continue reading…

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

blakefusion

Frankenstein back with 28 staples (credit: Lindsey Snow)

Life isn’t fair.

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

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

It sucks.

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

Fair weather fan: I cheer for these football teams in this order for these reasons

logos

Football began in earnest last week. Not that kind. The oblong American kind. The “hoorah!” kind.

For now, I couldn’t be happier. BYU‘s undefeated and ranked 25th in the country. Seahawks look dominant enough to repeat as Superbowl champions. And even the most jaded fans are full of hope, smiles, and optimism right now. That always makes the world a more enjoyable place to live.

Of course, that’ll change as the season wears on. For most of us, frowns are just around the corner. But there’s a simple trick I’ve learned over the years to avoid letting an uncompetitive or unlucky sportsball team ruin your night, day, week, month, autumn, or even year. It is this: Embrace fair weather fan status. Be proud of it. Bandwagons are fun.

Continue reading…

Fast food, hard work: What I learned as an underpaid Chick-Fil-A employee

Chick-Fil-A

Chick-Fil-A

I want all my children to work fast food someday. Why would I subject the little darlings to low pay, hectic dinner rushes, rude customers, demeaning work, ignorant coworkers, monotonous tasks, slippery shoes, and stinky clothes?

The short answer: Life is filled with the above, so you might as well expose ’em while they’re young. The long answer: Much of what I learned in business I learned from fast food. Not the creative stuff. Not sustained rejection. Certainly not cerebral problem solving.

But working fast food taught me the essence of hard work—livelihood’s version of basic training. After two years as a low-level cooking, toilet cleaning, truck unloading, chicken suit wearing, stench absorbing, fry serving, drive-thru calling, and overly perspiring wage-worker at Chick-Fil-A, here’s what I learned about business, customer service, teamwork, and life:  Continue reading…

Wasting away: 5 reasons people work too much

Photo: Blake Snow

Photo: Blake Snow

Americans rank near the bottom in work-life balance because we work more than anyone, that much we know. (Caveat: We don’t work more than we used to, according to decades of research by John Robinson. We just perceive busy-ness as work and fill our free time with it. More on that later.)

But we don’t have to work as much as we do. Quite the opposite, in fact. “Researchers note that productivity rates have risen, which theoretically lets many people be just as comfortable as previous generations while working less. Yet they choose not to,” reports the New York Times. Even visionaries admit as much. “The idea that everyone needs to work frantically is just not true,” says Google CEO Larry Page. “Reducing the workweek is one way to solve the problem.”

I decided to do just that recently in switching from a five to four-day workweek. Like after I quit working nights and weekends, I won’t ever go back (given the choice). In four days, I’ve gotten just as much done as I did in five, because I waste less time now. As the forward-thinking Jason Fried explains, “Constraining time encourages quality time. When you have a compressed workweek, you focus on what’s important.”

So we have evidence that all this snazzy technology lightens our load, increases our productivity, and allows us to work less. And yet we still choose to work more than we need to. Why?! I’ve researched the issue for my book and came away with the following five answers:   Continue reading…

How my daughter helps me “master” life

Photo: Blake Snow

Photo: Blake Snow

Last month, my eight year-old daughter subdued me in a remarkable way.

Our dog Harley had just disobeyed orders. As I confronted him, he urinated on our floor for the umpteenth time.

Now, there are a lot of things I dislike about Harley. He pees like a girl. Recoils from house flies. And his nervous system is a little too nervous. But my least favorite thing about Harley is his knack for urinating a few teaspoons at times when I—the perceived “leader” of the pack—order or reprimand him.

It’s called submissive urination and it’s downright annoying for two reasons. First, I’ve had to clean up dog urine, several times a day, even though he’s been house trained for months. Second, I have no idea when to expect it, even though Harley is normally an obedient dog.  Continue reading…

American businessman misses point of life, hilarity ensues

Geoff Livingston

Geoff Livingston

An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal village in Mexico. Just then, a skiff docked with one fisherman inside. His boat contained several large yellowfin tuna.

The American complimented the fisherman’s catch and asked how long it took to reel them in. “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied. The American then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish. The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s needs.

“What do you do with the rest of your time?” the American pressed.  Continue reading…

Before sharing this on social media, check your motive at the door

Blake Snow

Blake Snow

I quit social media four years ago. By that I mean I quit Facebook, Twitter*, Google+, LinkedIn and other “social networks” that require the declaration and management of electronic relationships. Since then, my personal and professional lives have been greatly enriched. So much so, I don’t plan to join digital social networks ever again. (More on that here.)

Unless, of course, those networks can enhance my physical relationships. Consider, for example, Google Hangouts, an ad-hoc social network. After reluctantly declining six months of invites, my wife recently convinced me to join. I’m glad I did. It’s allowed me to stay in close touch with extended family without colleagues, associates, admirers, like-minded people, or old high school acquaintances getting in the way. It’s also let me indulge in animated gifs.

But even this endearing network has become a distraction at times. By my own doing, it’s sometimes made me lose sight of the big picture.  Continue reading…

50/50: My wife is so much more than a “silent” business partner

Snow Family

Snow Family

My wife and I recently borrowed a large sum of money to buy a highly illiquid asset. To secure the loan, we disclosed more of our financial behavior to the bank than we’ve admitted to anyone else, including God. And rightfully so—again we were borrowing a large sum of money, and they wanted to make sure we’d pay it back.

In addition to scouring our personal finances, the lender took a fine tooth comb to our business finances. I’m self-employed. But my wife owns 50% of “the company.” I generate and service all the income. She gets half. Many would call her—as my lender often did—a “silent partner.” But she is anything but.  Continue reading…

Doesn’t happen often: When the movie is better than the book

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

My wife and I watched Stardust recently. It’s been on my watch list for years, given its high viewer rating. But the crap poster always kept me from hitting “play.”

I’m glad I finally did. Stardust is a five-star film. The best fantasy movie I’ve seen since The Princess and the Bride—maybe even better. It’s certainly better than the under-edited Lord of The Rings, the most popular fantasy film of late. (Don’t worry nerds, I kept my sub-genres separated.)

In any case, I liked Stardust so much, I immediately read the book. It’s good but ends with a limp. The movie, on the other hand, ends with an enormous and climatic bang. The similarly-ended The Natural is the only other movie I can think of that is better than the book.

Can you name any others?

Now I remember: Why I quite working in bed

I slipped up. After resolving five years ago to never work from bed again—thank you, Montana—I did it again recently.

“I’ll just work a little,” I told myself. Several hours later, I finally put the computer down. It was AM o’clock and I was fried. With lights off, I stayed up an hour or two longer, still trying to solve work stuff.

Of course, I woke up exhausted and sluggish. Had an unproductive day. Struggled through much of it.

But it was an effective reminder: Working from bed and overtaxing your brain is no way to live—at least for me. To be fully operational, you gotta keep your thirds separated.

Misunderstood: Why “fake it til you make it” is great advice

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Dan Waldschmidt thinks “faking it til you make it” is horrible advice.

But the catchphrase doesn’t mean what Waldshmidt thinks it means (spoken in my best Inigo Montoya accent). A quick Wikipedia search would have informed him that “faking it til you make it” means imitating confidence until you find real confidence—not stretching truth, bending rules, or denying reality, like the columnist mistakenly believes it means.

The first commenter on his syndicated post said it best: “‘Faking’ doesn’t mean “lying.’ It means faking that you are confident, self-assured, knowledgeable—when you, in fact, you’re not. It is excellent advice and helped me overcome many fears and doubts.” Or as Amy Cuddy says, “Fake it ’till you become it.”

Hear, hear! I, too, have faked my way to becoming a responsible adult, marketable guyhusband of one, and father of five. For me, the catchphrase is easily one of the top 10 pieces of advice on finding success.

Here’s the part where I declare new year self-improvement

blake-snow

Excepting more embarrassing personal stuff, here are the changes I hope to make next year:

  1. I’m gonna speak softly to my kids. I’m loud. With my choice of words and opinions as much as my volume. Children don’t need that extra emotion as they’re figuring out the world. Often times I bark at my kids when they make a mistake or disobey. On a whim recently, I tried something different. Instead of scolding my three year old with a mean face and verbal outburst, I kneeled down, leveled my eyes with hers, softly expressed my disappointment, and encouraged her to change. She lovingly accepted and immediately improved her behavior. After overhearing the exchange, her older sister said, “Dad, I like when you talk to us like that. I feel a warm spirit in the room when you do that.” Then this happened. Then I resolved to speak kindly when disciplining my children from that day forward.  Continue reading…

Before you exercise: 7 side effects of fitness

U.S. Army

U.S. Army

Beyond the obvious weight loss and cardiovascular benefits of regular fitness, here are a few bonus consequences of working on your body:

  1. Your skin improves. If vanity is your top goal for getting in shape, I’ve got good news: Regular exercise, particularly when coupled with a healthy diet, does wonders to your hue. If you’re white and pasty like me, your skin starts glowing the longer you work out. It looks healthy, full of color, slightly tan. The reason: “Exercise enhances blood flow to skin,” says Dr. David Katz. Plus, sweating works as a natural cleaning agent, unclogging pores and removing oil and dirt for fewer zits. My skin has never looked healthier. What a pleasant surprise.  Continue reading…