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.
While working onsite with a client last week, I met an Englishman that shared my love of music. At some point we diverged into a discussion on the merits of Daft Punk — his favorite band — and where their latest album went wrong. We both agreed that Random Access Memories was better produced than it was written; Discovery was “bloody brilliant;” and their soundtrack to Tron: Legacy was their second best work to date.
As I was about to leave, my new friend excitedly announced, “I have something to show you!” He left the room, then returned with a custom, LED-lit Thomas Bangalter mask. “May I?” said I, giddy at the prospect. “Of course,” he replied. I put it on, struck a pose, then took several snapshots for posterity’s sake before bidding him farewell.
What’s funny is this Englishman had just traveled 6,000 miles from his office in Munich for weeklong meetings with “corporate” in Los Angeles. While most people scramble for chargers and underwear the night before travel, I laughed at the thought of this kindly bloke deciding to bring his shiny keepsake along for the journey. “Ah, yes! Mustn’t forget my smashing mask.”
PROVO, Ut. — Want to get ahead in this world? Work lots of extra hours — even nights and weekends — experts say, and it will all be worth your while.
“It’s easy to forget what’s most important in life,” says Bill Loney, a certified life coach who hasn’t quite made it in life yet. “Family, friends, and social activities that can often inspire and enrich the life of an individual… these are all distractions in getting more work done,” he adds.
Emma Royds, who hasn’t stopped looking at her smartphone every five minutes for three straight years, councils that most people actually die wishing they had spent more time — not less — working. “People never regret working too much,” she says. “My neighbor opted to do adventurous, social, and fitness-related activities with family and friends in his spare time.
“Now 80, he told me recently he really wishes he would have spent more time on TPS cover sheets, obsessively trying to turn his company into the next big thing, and reading email during every waking hour of his life. It’s kind of sad, really.” Continue reading…
Lindsey and I have been blessed with many genuine friends — ones that make us laugh, can celebrate our accomplishments, and extend considerate help.
This week, while visiting one such family, we discovered that they’ve been dealing with some “friends” that reputedly became envious and judgmental of our friends’ recent good fortune. This saddened me. Time is too precious to waste on such superficial friends.
With that in mind, here’s my proven guide to ditching and avoiding fake friends, so you can better enjoy your days in the sun. Continue reading…
I’m convinced there are two types of creators in this world: genius ones and everybody else. By my estimation, 99% of us fall into the latter category, myself very much included. As such, we must play by different rules. Continue reading…
It only took me a few minutes to fall 10,000 feet, but I didn’t really come down for another couple of hours. That’s the best way to describe my first time skydiving. That and recognizing it as one of the greatest physiological sensations I’ve ever endeavored.
On a royal blue morning recently, I drove forty minutes south of my home to Skydive the Wasatch in Nephi, Utah. I was greeted by Andrew the drop manager, Jordan my instructor (or more accurately the person I’d strap my life to), and Joel the pilot.
Free snacks, a row of leather sofas, and caffeinated drinks lined the open hanger in an effort to ease or at least distract the nerves of would-be jumpers. Just outside, an old Cessna plane came to life to take a woman in her forties and her friend in her twenties on their first and second respective dives. While waiting for their quick return, I signed and initialed the longest waiver I’ve ever seen without reading a single line of legalese.
“Are you ready?” Jordan asked with a friendly smile. I honestly answered in the affirmative, and then he explained the safety and protocol procedures. “The whole experience takes about 25 minutes,” he said. “Twenty minutes to climb, around half of minute to free-fall, and three or four more to parachute down.” Continue reading…
Like so many other peasants — and royalty for that matter — I owe much of my good fortune to luck and timing. And nothing has been more beneficial to my career than getting into blogging before it became blasé.
The following was a sermon I gave in 2018 to 50 juvenile detainees. I cried through most of it.
By a show of hands, who here believes in second chances? I believe each of us have several second chances in life. All of us do. And I’m here to tell you that if we want the most from our second chances, we must do two things: 1) seek forgiveness from God; and 2) forgive others instead of seeking revenge or succumbing to resentment—both of which will enslave us for as long as we let them.
This is easier said than done. But it can be done. Today I’d like to share five stories of people that have done just that in order to inspire each of us to do the same: Continue reading…
Until I get around to writing a condensed, more interesting story, here’s a chronology of mostly personal events:
1979. Born in Moscow, Idaho to goodly parents named Brent and Cathy Snow as the fourth child of six and second son in the family. Moved to Oklahoma one month later.
1985. Started my formal education at Westwood Elementary School in Stillwater, Oklahoma while my father taught psychology at Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!). Said formal schooling would last me 17 consecutive years (gulp) across three state programs.
1986. Exposed to my first home computer and modern video game console after my mother bought a colored IBM PCjr and some neighborhood friends scored a Nintendo Entertainment System. The love affair with technology, personal computers, and video games had begun.
Over the last week, the world radically entered a health crisis mode. What was normal just a few days ago is no longer the case. In addition to school, office, sports, and recreation closures, many restaurants are even closing in some parts of the country. That can be a scary thing.
But it’s not all scary. We can still play music, congregate in tight groups, go outside, and carry on as best as possible. To help you do that, here are eight proven ways to overcome uncertainty, regardless of the source: Continue reading…
I volunteer with a support group that counsels and encourages ex-prisoners back into society.
It’s heavy stuff, especially since many of them are homeless when they first get out and largely ostracized by friends, family, and greater society. Those are hard conditions to beat, which is why so many of them return to prison (upwards of 70%).
That said, these meetings are usually incredibly warm, uplifting, humbling, and inspiring. Just last night, one participant expressed frustration in how difficult it can be to leave negative relationships behind, especially if you don’t have any positive relationships to replace them with.
In other words, misery loves company. As social creatures, many humans would rather stay with toxic people than endure loneliness.
When I quit recreational drugs, I spent a lot of lonely nights on my own. My friends were still good people, but I had to remove myself from negative behavior.
It was hard. But after a while, I gradually started fellowshipping with less dependent, more “naturally high” individuals. That felt wonderful and totally worth the temporary loneness I suffered in order to meet them.
So if you’re in an unhealthy relationship but don’t want to be alone, that’s understandable. But it’s better to brave temporary loneliness than to endure ongoing negativity.
My sister-in-law challenged our family to a plank-off recently. Person who could plank the longest wins. “I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t stomach those things for 30 seconds.”
Or so I told myself.
Before continuing my story, a quick note: Like any inherently lazy human, there are a lot of exercises I hate doing. But planks are the worst—invented by Satan himself. They’re right up there with Turkish getups, mountain climbers, and wall sits as most uncomfortable for me. So I wasn’t enthused to participate.
“I’m in!” my wife said. My daughter, too, was excited to compete. “I’ll try,” I relented, offending Jedi Masters everywhere. Continue reading…
Not only is 2020 the start of a new year, it’s the start of a new “roaring twenties” (hopefully one that doesn’t end in another Great Depression). That’s exciting–the new decade part, not depression.
Regardless of what greater society elects to do, I’m here to tell you that individual people can change. Granted, a lot of people try and fail to change, especially in January. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us are incapable. It just means change is hard.
It’s easier, however, if we make small, daily choices that can have a big impact on our future prosperity, health, and fulfillment. For example, here are 10 simple things you can do on a daily basis to improve your future and slay the next decade of your life. Continue reading…
This story first appeared in Paste Magazine after the heated election of President Trump
I just returned from an extraordinary hike through Patagonia’s great outdoors (review here). When I left, the world was collectively bracing itself for a politically incorrect and hugely unpredictable man to assume America’s highest office. Two weeks later, I returned to a world that was deeply concerned about Donald Trump’s hasty, religiously-profiled, and arbitrary American hold on accepting immigrants and visitors from seven Middle East countries.
Seemingly overnight, the world had become a more isolated and divided place. In uncertain times like this, it’s best to batten down the hatches, stay inside and keep to our own, right? At most, whirl a few zingers on social media from the comforts of home maybe?
While I can’t do anything for the millions affected by the travel ban and am hesitant to recommend visiting unwelcoming or otherwise hostile places, my answer is an emphatic “NO!” Continue reading…
As parents for over a decade, my wife and I have forced a lot of dogma upon our five children. Some might call us total meanies for doing so. Nevertheless, here’s how we’ve indoctrinated them so far: Continue reading…
I’m quick to extol the benefits of expressed gratitude. Not only is it scientifically proven to make us happier, it can be super easy to do—if you get in the habit, that is.
Take thank you letters for example. All you have to do is think of someone who has blessed, supported, buoyed, transformed, changed, or even saved your life. Then visit them, call them, or write them to express your gratitude for helping you. (For more tips, click here)
I like to take this a step further, however. Eventually you might run out of people to thank. What can you do then? Thank them again for their continued support. Then again and again. When that gets awkward, I move to the next best thing. Continue reading…
Many years ago, Disney released a Pixar film that had a profound impact on the course of my professional life.
At the time I was a full-time video game critic for several online magazines. I had a knack for raking mediocre games and announcements over the coals. I gained a reputation for publishing smart but scathing copy. Back then, I felt it was my job, if not duty, to critique everything I touched as if the orbit of the Earth depended on it. Continue reading…
Prior to graduating from college, I played drums in a trio band. We mostly played Killers, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, and Led Zeppelin covers in our bassist’s basement. We maybe played once a week for a month or so and didn’t even have a proper name. But we still wanted to rock.
Anxious to play a live set, we caught wind of an “Acoustic Battle of the Bands” to be played at BYU’s 22,000 seat capacity Marriott Center. I remember thinking, “Who says we can’t rock that? It says ‘acoustic,’ not low energy or slow tempo.” So we traded our electric guitar for an acoustic/electric and proceeded to tryouts that were being held in some small theater room in the English building.
Upon arrival, we were clearly out of place. As we lugged our full drum kit, half stack bass rig, and guitar amp down the hall, dozens of Dave Mathew wannabes practiced three chord love songs in squeaky voices to admiring girlfriends. My opinion of humanity worsened a little that day. But I digress. Our name was called, we entered the room and setup stage.
You are bound to encounter a noticeable number of people in life who don’t watch TV, avoid books, or ignore performance art and sports altogether. But you’ll probably never encounter someone who doesn’t watch movies—they’re that universal.
Because of this, film tourism (or “location vacations”) are a big deal. Indeed, an untold number of scenic or otherwise interesting places might not have entered our collective radars had some movie director chose to shoot somewhere else.
Of those immortalized backdrops, few trips are more iconic or deserving than to one of these. Continue reading…
On a recent fishing trip with friends, in which we purposely neglected to pack in food, in order to make our catch really count, I went empty-handed after two full days of fishing. Thanks to my more-skilled-than-me buddies, who generously shared, I didn’t go hungry, however.
After serious bouts of self-doubt and nearly giving up on the third day, though, I decided I wasn’t going to quit until I caught at least one keeper. After empowering myself with that mindset, I actually ended up catching five that evening—enough to feed me and my friends, who coincidentally failed to catch one on that final day (really!).
On the return hike home, I thought a lot about dependency, perseverance and the power of determination—in life as much as business. Here’s what that experience taught me.
A businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal village in Mexico. Just then, a skiff docked with one humble fisherman inside. His boat contained several large yellowfin tuna.
The businessman complimented the fisherman’s catch and asked how long it took to reel them in. “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied. The onlooker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer to 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 man pressed.
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, stroll the village each evening, sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos,” the fisherman replied. “I live a full life, señor.” Continue reading…
Before taking office, the vast majority of U.S. presidents were lawyers. President Trump, on the other hand, was a real estate developer, TV star, and hotelier of 14 properties—some of which by name-only.
One of those properties is Trump Waikiki. On a recent trip to Oahu I stayed there because at the time of booking and during my stay, Trump Waikiki was the number one rated hotel out of 84 in Honolulu, according to TripAdvisor.
That alone piqued my interest, as did the political novelty. But the real reason is because I was being hosted by the hotel in the hopes that I would write about it. And here we are. Not because I was contractually obligated to. In my capacity as a travel writer, I never guarantee coverage, meaning if I feel something doesn’t deserve your attention—even shiny freebies—I don’t write about it.
There’s solemn appreciation whenever I tell someone I’m headed to New Zealand. “Oh, wow!” they say. “My [insert relation] has traveled the world and that’s their favorite place.”
That reputation isn’t lost on me. But I wanted to know for myself—what’s so special about this two-island nation near the bottom of the world?
For one thing, it’s a long way away. Up to 10,000 miles for most people. In my case, it was 14 hours one way by jet. But after visiting both islands this month, I’d travel twice that number to visit New Zealand again. Here’s why. Continue reading…
It took the world a long time to discover Patagonia, the trendy adventure area shared by both southern Chile and Argentina. While other mountaineers had been hiking and climbing the Alps and Rockies for over a century, Patagonia wasn’t explored much until the 1980s. In fact, the recreational area didn’t become mainstream until the 21st century, when more accessible transportation, lodging and tourist amenities were finally added.
What’s all the fuss about? In between knife-like mountains, this is arguably the best place in the world to see moving glaciers. It is also a great place to meet gentle but playful people.
Last month I had the chance to examine this hauntingly majestic land up close on a guided tour with National Geographic Expeditions, the society’s official tour operator. Spoiler alert: it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here’s what I witnessed hiking to what some call South America’s greatest “national park.” Continue reading…
On Earth, 12,450 miles is the farthest anyone can get from home. Take one more step in any direction, and you will have started your return journey from the halfway point.
Until I visit one of these places (aka 45° meridian east), I came as close to that point as I ever have last month. The distance from my home in Provo to Durban is over 10,000 miles, where I began a life-changing journey through the motherland.
I should have grasped this impressive separation sooner than I did. Upon booking airfare, total flight time read over 22 hours across three flights. “That’s a long haul,” I passingly noted, before moving to other travel arrangements. Continue reading…
There are a lot of productivity myths. For instance, early birds are more productive, structure kills creativity, adding resources increases output, and more. Although well intentioned, these are all wrong.
So what works? What productivity hypotheses have been tested and proven by science? After sifting through dozens of top search results, reports, and studies, this is what I found. The most convincing, substantiated, and established productivity strategies: Continue reading…
Most of it relates to typos. Some of it relates to disagreement or additional viewpoints. On occasion, I even get fan mail—how lovely.
As for typo-related mail, most of that is really nice. “Hey, Blake. Enjoyed your story on [insert popular story here]. Noticed a typo, however, and thought I’d share.”
Some of it gives me the benefit of the doubt. “Hi, Blake. Perhaps your spellcheck mistakenly changed ‘espoused’ to ‘expelled’?”
“No, kind reader,” I’ll reply. “My bad diction stuck again. Thanks for keeping me honest.”
Still, some of the mail I receive is unforgiving. As if my mistakes should disbar me from contributing to mainstream media. As if I should master English before using it to articulate a point, tell a story, answer a question, or inspire change. Continue reading…
While on vacation this summer, my family stayed at a Hampton Inn in Gallup, New Mexico.
At breakfast the following day, my five year old daughter couldn’t stop gawking at an under-clothed woman seated at the table next to us. “Why is that lady showing her belly?” she loudly inquired. A little embarrassed, Lindsey and I told her to stop starring and eat her breakfast.
Admittedly, I think everyone in the room was a little uncomfortable and probably judgmental. But for the most part, everyone carried on and we had an enjoyable breakfast.
As we were finishing up, the lady approached our table. Looking at Lindsey and I with a gentle smile, she said, “You have a beautiful family.” She then turned and offered the same smile to each of our four children. It was the nicest compliment and gesture anyone has paid to me all summer, if not all year.
So thank you lady from the Hampton Inn in Gallup, New Mexico. Thank you for your unexpected example of kindness, friendship, and reminding my family never to judge a book by its cover.
After a decade of self employment, I’ve been told “no” several thousand times. I have records. For the same period, I’ve been told “yes” a few dozen times. Fewer than a hundred. I have records of that, too.
As you can tell, I–like most humans, salesmen, and business owners–experience rejection more than acceptance. Unlike many people, however, I don’t let that discourage me as a proprietor. But I almost did once.
How can we stop such trends toward dishonesty (in this case, broader acceptance of illegal downloading)? The problem is that if someone has acquired 97% of their music illegally, why would they legally buy the next 1%? Would they do it in order to be 4% legal? It turns out that we view ourselves categorically as either good or bad, and moving from being 3% legal to being 4% legal is not a very compelling motivation.
This is where confession and amnesty can come into play. What we find in our experiments is that once we start thinking of ourselves as polluted, there is not much incentive to behave well, and the trip down the slippery slope is likely. This is the bad news. The good news is that in such cases, confession, where we articulate what we have done wrong, is an incredibly effective mechanism for resetting our moral compass.
Humans are more distracted now than ever before, at least since we’ve started keeping records. Over the last decade, the average attention span has dwindled from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds in 2014, according to the U.S. Library of Medicine. The kicker: our eight second attention spans are one second shorter than a goldfish’s. No joke.
Who or what’s to blame for such abhorrent focus? “External stimulation,” says the Library of Medicine. That’s code for mobile internet, apps that vie for our attention, push email, social media alerts, work from anywhere, persistent connectivity, and our enthusiastic adoption of “the internet of things.” In other words, the only person we can blame is ourselves.
What’s a working professional to do then? You have three options, according to popular thinking: fall off the grid, stick with default technology settings for substandard productivity, or my personal favorite, set usage boundaries to upgrade concentration, contributions, and welfare levels.
For those interested in options one or two, this article won’t be any help. But for for those interested in the latter, there’s quite a lot you can do to stay focused in a 24/7 world. After extensive online research, here is the most celebrated and pragmatic advice for doing just that: Continue reading…
I was jogging last week and ran past a parked patrol car. A cop was in it.
I make it a habit to wave to everyone I encounter, so I cut the air with my hand and smiled. He waved back and flashed a big grin, as if I had just made his day—as if he rarely gets acknowledged by civilians.
Surprised by the effect it had, I started thinking of other people that might benefit from extra kindness. This is what I came up with: Continue reading…
I asked myself that upon seeing Luke Spiller perform with The Struts for the first time. He had just finished ripping through the opening four songs of their recent set in Salt Lake City. Two singles. Two of his debut album’s most anthemic tracks. No stops or pauses in between songs. All in the first 15 minutes of a performance that would eventually double the running time of their only album plus one new song.
But unlike a punk act that similarly keeps the punches rolling, Spiller was wholly uninhibited on stage. He wore glittered capes and spandex. Shimmied his shoulders like Freddie Mercury. Calculated dramatic toe steps and emphatic kicks in every direction. Choreographed his carefully rehearsed movements to the music.
While observing all of this, I couldn’t decide if Spiller wanted to imitate Michael Jackson, Robert Plant, Prince, or Mick Jagger. On top of that, the size of his mouth suggests his mother may have slept with Steven Tyler during the British leg of Aerosmith’s Pump tour.
In a later interview after the show, he brushed off a facetious question about his outrageous showmanship. “That’s just what I am,” he told me. “It’s just what I enjoy.”
For lovers of live performances that make you forget the troubles at home, Spiller’s dramatic charisma is all for your gain. Continue reading…
The world is full of qualitative statements. Exaggerations. Subjectiveness that cannot be measured. The people that make such statements are easily forgotten.
Quantitative statements, on the other hand, leave an impression. They measure your place in life. My father taught me this at an early age.
When I was nine years old, I ran a fast 400 meter dash, which is no easy feat. The thing about the 400 is not a lot of people run it. It’s difficult, because it’s not quite a sprint and not quite a distance race. As such, few amateurs compete in it. At least that was the case when I ran it.
So my father encouraged me to run the 400. I did. All the way to the ’88 state finals. Here’s how it happened: Continue reading…
Content marketing has been around for centuries—ever since the first newspaper figured out they could sell ad space against stories that interested people. But it wasn’t until the last few years—even after mostly failed corporate blogging efforts—that content marketing has become a staple of modern marketing budgets in the social media age.
Consequently, commercial brands, communication departments, and Fortune 500 marketing arms are hiring former journalists, editors, and content strategists at an astonishing rate. One well-known software maker I consult for even has a bona fide news department. The place bustles like the New York Times newsroom. Their editorial content is generating executive interest and finding traction with online audiences.
That said, we’re still in the wild west of content marketing. Here are 10 ways to lay claim on the new frontier. Continue reading…
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:
For the next month, soccer fans watching the World Cup will see more fake injuries than any amount of magic spray could possibly cure. And by fake I mean diving, flopping, conniving—temporarily feigning injury in an effort to draw an advantageous ruling on the field.
Although seen in international soccer with regularity, diving during the World Cup happens in greater frequency because the stakes are higher. (This is the world championship, after all, held once every four years.) And when the stakes are higher, cowardice teams will employ anything they can for an edge.
“In the British game, it is often seen as an import from foreign players,” says psychologist Paul Morris, who studies diving at the University of Portsmouth. “Many people argue that it has been common in Italian football for decades.” Continue reading…
In honor of the World Cup, which starts next week in Brazil, here’s how I fell in love with the game.
The year: 198X. I was at a friend’s house in a remote part of northern Oklahoma. We were watching Victory, a so-so Sylvester Stallone movie about a POW soccer team playing Nazi Germany during World War II. My buddy and I were no older than five or six at the time.
Not wanting to endure the feeble character and pre-game drama, we fast forwarded the VHS “through all the boring stuff” to get right to the climatic game. While the build up to said game will likely keep most adults engaged — more for its interesting plot than acting skills — the last 20 minutes of the movie is most triumphant.
I’m convinced that cellular data plans will someday replace the broadband cable lines most of us still use to access the internet. I also think data plans are great for mobile workers, extended-stay vacationers, or anyone else who doesn’t have access to the internet for the entirety of the work day.
I also know, however, that the last four years of my life after quitting my data plan have been irreversibly better than the four previous years in which I subscribed to a plan. The reason I abandoned the portable internet? In short, I did it because I was tired of being on a self-imposed work leash. That and the “always there” internet didn’t mesh well with my indulgent lust for information. So I cut it.
A lot of people I encounter are surprised by this, mostly because the mainstream view incorrectly assumes that staying on an internet-connected smartphone for extended periods lets you get ahead in life (i.e. make more money). It doesn’t. It’s just an illusion. In fact, all-day internetting actually leads to less inspired work, since obsessive users are never able to truly break away, recharge their batteries, and return to work with a hungry mind.
Nevertheless, smartphones are still great, even on dumb plans like mine. Here’s why: Continue reading…
In 2009, I started running in the ugliest shoes ever. The first time I did it, my calves and feet ached in places they hadn’t before. The second time I did it, I knew I’d never run in cushioned shoes again.
With the exception to select frozen days of winter, in which I run in Nike Free 3.0s to stave off frost bite, I’ve run in Five Finger Classics (pictured) or KSOs ever since. Here’s why: Continue reading…