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.
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…
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.
Why are suckers born every minute? How can we explain “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is“? Why are humans encouraged to “think twice” before doing things? And why do we judge “books” by their covers?
The answers to those questions and many more can be found in Daniel Kahneman’s eye-opening book, Thinking Fast and Slow. It’s a fascinating, enlightening, and scientifically accessible read.
After decades of research, Kahneman discovered that the brain makes decisions in two ways. The first is system 1 thinking—the fast, almost involuntary, and largely gut-based decision-making required to operate. It quickly processes tasks like “eat this, pick up that, move out of the way,” and even, “stay alive.” System 1 makes hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions each day and is the “hero of the book,” says Kahneman. System 1 gets things done.
System 2, on the other hand, is slow to engage, deliberate, and lazy. It deals with doubt, uncertainty, statistics, and heavy cognitive loads like writing, performing surgery, solving advanced math—anything that requires intense focus, really. System 2 is not emotional. It’s the part of your brain that questions the source, asks for hard numbers to back up claims, and is innately critical. It deems things guilty until proven innocent. Continue reading…
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…
My first time surfing (in San Diego): What I looked like days after quitting Facebook
10 years ago to the day, I quit Facebook. At the time I feared I might be committing social suicide. Today, I can happily report that didn’t happen.
Since quitting the popular boomer hangout, I’ve limited the number of work and out of office distractions I encounter. I no longer feel the desire to “check in” online at every waking hour. It takes me longer to discover new bands. And I don’t have to consciously decide or distinguish friends from colleagues, associates, and nobodies. I just let them happen naturally now; unannounced and always evolving.
Valentine’s dinner with kids at home beats crowded restaurants
Like any red-blooded American, I grew up observing Valentine’s Day, albeit casually. I traded candies with classmates, chocolates and stuffed animals with crushes, and used to take my wife to “romantic” dinners at crowded restaurants.
It was not an enjoyable experience, especially the latter. A few years after marriage, my wife and I started eating Valentine’s dinner on another day the week to beat the crowds, but that didn’t feel right either.
Then one day nearly 10 years ago, my wife proposed a radical idea: “Why don’t we stay home and cook a nice candlelight dinner with the kids and celebrate all kinds of love, not just romance?” By this point, I didn’t really care since nothing seemed to work. “Sure,” I said. Continue reading…
credit: blake snow
Life is hard sometimes. It’s always hard if you do any of the following with regularity: Continue reading…
credit: dungeons and dragons
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.
Take Let’s Play videos, for instance—one of the most popular and fastest growing types of television. Also called playthroughs, they work like this: Continue reading…
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…
“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.
With two games remaining, my daughter’s soccer team is in second place. They’ve won nine games and lost one to the third place side which—while not as talented—understands that successful passing leads to more goals than successful dribbling or individuality. In other words, they play as a team more than my daughter’s side.
That same team has likely dropped more games than the three and a half players that impressively carry my daughter’s club because playing as a team for every game is difficult to achieve. It’s easier for great players to show up to every game than a reliable team.
In any case, my daughter’s “club” will square off against the first place team this weekend, and I suspect they’ll lose unless they listen to Michael Jordan: “Talent wins games, teamwork wins championships.”
To inspire more passing, teamwork, and selflessness, I hope they’ll consider my favorite quotes on teamwork as much as you might. They are as follows: Continue reading…
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…
“If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join the conversation,” teach the smart people of Quora. “Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you, and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing another direction, they want the conversation to end.”
Wonderful observation. Another one I like: “If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother, pretend it is your grandmother. It will significantly reduce your road rage.” As of 6:58 yesterday on I-15 southbound, I can confirm this works.
Speaking of feet: Did I pass that on? Human genetics are incredible
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…
Samsung / Blake Snow
Unless you want to be average, don’t spend 20 hours a week watching TV. Fullfilment takes time. “I wish I watched more Netflix,” said no dying person ever.
A client recently asked for links to some of my favorite personal writings. This is what I sent him:
Photo credit: Sara Snow
Here they are:
They didn’t always look that way. Like most smartphone users, I used to set all my alerts to interrupt my life the second anything came in. Voice calls. Emails. Texts. Software alerts. Website comments. RSS updates. (Keep in mind this was before social media, so things have gotten worse.)
These distractions understandably drove my wife crazy because I was, in essence, having an affair with my phone. White lies were told when asked, “Blake, what were you doing?” Often times I’d leave the room – or wherever it was we were vacationing – for “a quickie” to avoid sideways glances that accurately accused me of being elsewhere in thought, priority, and identity.
I did this for a couple of years until it drove me crazy. I had formed a love/hate disorder with my phone. I liked it for the conveniences it did then (and now), but I knew I was unable to have a personal life with my leash-phone around. So I began purposefully leaving it behind on nights and weekends. Continue reading…
Hey, Internet. I found the secret to life. It comes in five parts. Here it is: Continue reading…
Eating well is hard to do. Here are a 13 lucky food strategies I follow to keep extravagance at bay.
- Never order a cheeseburger. I said never. “But, Blake,” you ask, “Don’t you like cheese and beef?” Yes. Both are bursting with flavor. But there’s no sense overdoing it when each are good on their own. “I really wish this delicious burger had cheese on it,” said no one ever. “I really wish this grill cheese had meat on it,” also said no one ever. Pick one and enjoy.
- Hold the mayo and sour cream. Speaking of burgers, my wife and I made homemade ones over the weekend. Mine was topped with red onion, lettuce, tomato, Dijon mustard, and ketchup on a Texas toasted bun. It was a taste explosion, even without the mayo. Same goes for the tacos we had tonight. Beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, on a freshly cooked tortilla. No sour cream required. Again, sour cream and mayo are delicious, but there’s no sense in adding them to an already heavily-flavored meal. Continue reading…
If you’re happy with your health, nutrition and self-image, skip to the next post. If not, read on.
In nine years of marriage, Lindsey and I have never owned a weight scale. Not one.
Why? Because they’re superficial, largely meaningless, and a lousy motivator of long-term health. Continue reading…
I was searching for “internet authors” last week and stumbled on this man’s webpage, who dubs himself “the best-selling Internet author of all time.” I chuckled a bit upon reading his claim and seeing his photo, until I realized he knows what he’s talking about on at least one subject, How to get rich:
In the long run, it’s what you do day to day, over many years, that makes the difference. When you fall in love with what you do, and you work hard for a long time, you are offering the world your very best.
Think of the economy as a huge complex organism. If you learn to contribute in the right way, the economy will reward you. If not, you will be poor. The recipe for success and wealth is simple. Find the work that is best for you. Spend years engrossed in your work. Do a bit of long-term planning.
If you follow these guidelines, I can’t guarantee you will become a millionaire. What I do guarantee is you will live a useful, productive, happy life. And, over the years, that will be your very best chance of becoming rich.
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Harley. Although less than a third way through my planned 100 year life, I’ve found this to be the case for me. Do what you love, and monetary wealth will often find you.
At the same time, I’ll one-up what Harley said: Although millions can never be guaranteed, an enriched life can be guaranteed by following your passions. So you can get “rich” doing what you love in life, with the bonus being the best chance at finding monetary riches as well.
Either way, that’s how one gets “rich” in life.
Awkward photos with big furry cats totally optional.
Happy Sabbath, all you crazy believers!
Sound advice. The only pre-requisite: You can’t be greedy.
As the value of higher education continues to decline, these are some great alternatives: Start a business, travel the world, create art, make people laugh, write a book, work for a charity, master a game, master a sport. Splendid!
“The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.”—Thomas Carlyle
I can’t for the life of me understand why so many people despise checking email. For me, it’s like getting little packages in the mail several times a day. Of course, that’s not the case if you fail to follow a few sanity rules. Mine are as follows:
Only check your inbox from 9-5pm, M-F. Since quitting my data plan, I only check my inbox during work hours—never at night or on weekends. Since I’m batch processing email now, chances are I’ll come across exciting, fun, or otherwise encouraging emails a lot more than I would fielding menial messages one at a time, 24 hours a day. Admittedly, I’ve had to check email under work emergencies a few times this year. But I never clean my inbox during those times. I only target the time-sensitive message I’m looking for, so it’s not a problem.
Use Gmail. No other email client can rival the auto spam protection of Gmail, which is constantly updated. Additionally, I’ve setup more than 30 custom filters to keep my inbox clean from no-response required emails. If you’re using the right tools and are judicious when giving out your email, spam shouldn’t be a problem.
Use it as a sales tool. After “thank you” and “I love you,” “you’ve got a deal,” is the best expression in the English language. To hear it though, you always have to be trying to cut deals with prospect buyers, partners, and shareholders. Much of this should be done in person or over the phone. But when it makes sense, a lot of it can be done via email. Once you start doing that, you’ll quickly learn to love your inbox, as it’ll become an income generator, a money-maker.
Do you love your inbox?
Update: As of 2013, data is now included with my cell phone plan. But thanks to my four year break from it, mobile data no longer interrupts my life like it use to. When used sparingly, it actually enhances it.
A year ago this week, I canceled my data plan. The unexpected catalyst was an awesome trip to Montana. After being tied to my Blackberry for four years, here are 10 observations of “my rebirth” into mobile obscurity:
- My quality of life has improved while productivity has remained constant. By that I mean I get as much done as I did before, only now I enjoy a lot more personal time without work interfering. In many cases, that translates into greater productivity upon returning to work the next morning or after the weekend. Believe it or not.
- My relationship with my wife and children has improved. I recognize them more. I play with them more. With fewer alerts to interrupt us, it’s a lot more fun now.
- Email still waits for me on my computer. Continue reading…
Since quitting Facebook in May, I periodically visit My Life Is Average for a good chuckle. Here are some of my favorite recent stories:
- Today, my brownie got detained in airport security. MLIA.
- Today, I discovered you can reuse calendars every eleven years. Guess who is using their 1999 calendar this year? MLIA.
- Today, I pushed a door that said pull. It opened. MLIA
- About a week ago, I went to the optometrist. While the doctor was looking at my eye, he told me to “open wide.” He was talking about my eye, but I automatically opened my mouth as wide as I could. MLIA.
- Today, I decided to make a grilled cheese sandwich in the toaster. Tomorrow, I’m getting a new toaster. MLIA
- Today I found a book called “How to Read a Book.” MLIA
- Today I was walking across the park and there were a bunch of teenagers. First kid smoking. Second kid smoking. Third kid smoking. Fourth kid was eating a apple. I think we know who the biggest rebel is. MLIA
- Tomorrow, my school has a spirit day. The theme is “Gender-Bender,” where boys wear girls clothes and vice versa. My father, knowing nothing of this, comes downstairs to find me in a jean miniskirt, gray tank top, black leggings, trying to put my hair in a suitable girly fashion. We stare at each other awkwardly, and without saying a word, he turns and walks back upstairs, shaking his head. MLIA.
- Today, I read last year 4,153,237 ppl got married. I don’t want to start any trouble, but shouldn’t that be an even number? MLIA
- Today, my shoe laces came untied. I tied them back up and carried on. MLIA
- Four years ago, when i was 18, i noticed at night that my front window is very reflective, so i was pretending to dive in slow motion and shoot, dual pistol style. Suddenly a really hot girl walked past and i was startled and fell over. Embarrassed i waited for a bit and then stood up. As i stoop up i saw her slowly shooting an imaginary rifle from behind a car. We then proceeded to do this for 10 minutes until she did an extremely dramatic death. She wasn’t getting up so i went outside to meet her. Once i got to where she was, there was nothing but a piece of paper with a mobile number on it. Today, we are getting married. MLIA
Nonverbal tells. Liars don’t rehearse their gestures, just their words. The cognitive load is already huge, so when they tell their story, they freeze their upper body, look down, lower their voice, and slow their breathing and blink rate. And they will exhibit a recognizable moment of relief when the interview is over. Interrogators will often end an interview prematurely just to look for that shift in posture and relaxation.
Verbal tells. People who are overly determined in their denial resort to non-contracted rather than relaxed language. “Did not” rather than “didn’t” They will use distancing language as in “ that woman” rather than someone’s name. They will often pepper their story with inappropriate detail as if to prove to you they are telling the truth. They will look you in the eye too much, as if to appear honest, when in fact most people telling the truth only look you in the eye a comfortable 60 % of the time.
Stories told in perfect chronological order. Try to get them to tell their story backwards. They can’t do it. Honest people remember stories in the order of emotional prominence. Liars tend to concoct a time-stamped story but they falter when asked to recount it differently.
ESPN this week interviewed Jonathan Goldstein, the man behind The Most Interesting Man in the World. My favorite quote:
“It’s every guy’s fantasy to be like him — including mine,” he said. “I hope our viewers can get a chuckle, but also get good advice. Be interesting, don’t be boring.”
I despise Flash. It slows down your computer, starts without being asked, and crashes my Internets. So until YouTube finally abandons Flash, as does the rest of the web with media-rich HTML 5, here are two easy plugins I use to grab life by the horns:
Both programs are free and make it so you dictate when a Flash file is played, as opposed to it taking over. Now that’s browsing with power!
When used properly, I think iPhones are nifty devices. Like all Apple hardware, including my two Macs, they have an impressive interface. Still, iPhones are probably the most overstated status device of the decade. Case in point: Apple’s latest “Did you get my email?” commercial (shown), which attempts to embellish and sell three bad behaviors “without ever leaving a call.” Let me tear ’em down for you, may I? Continue reading…
Wanna search the web faster? Ditch your browser search bar and use URL commands instead. In minutes, you’ll be burning down the information superhighway (aka cyberspace) at neck-breaking speeds. To do this in Firefox, follow these three easy steps: Continue reading…
Two years ago, I launched the Smooth Harold Helpdesk and Open Lunch Invitations (see sidebar). In that time I’ve met with more than a dozen individuals I previously didn’t know, fielded upwards of 50 email inquires—ranging from typography design to how to make a pregnant wife happy—and rekindled relationships with countless friends, colleagues, and associates. To say the program has broadened my horizons and created new opportunities would be a gross understatement.
“If you have a specific question you think I might be able to answer (business, web, personal, etc), don’t hesitate to ask via email or in person over lunch,” I wrote at the time. “If I don’t know the answer, chances are I can refer you to someone who does. And no, this isn’t ‘you scratch my back I scratch yours.’ It’s just a genuine attempt to share the little that I’ve learned from talking with people smarter than me, reading good books, and seeing what sticks.”
EDIT: I caved.
If you like status updates, but don’t want to invest time managing both a Facebook and Twitter account, here’s an easy way to make Status Updates act like Tweets:
- Login to Facebook and grab your Status feed by clicking here, then copy the “My Status” RSS URL, which can be found in the lower right corner of the page. Share the link with others.
- Optional: Login to Feedburner (if you haven’t already), enter the URL as a new feed, then activate “Buzz Boost” under the “Publicize” tab of your feed. Adjust settings to your liking.
- Optional: Copy your “BuzzBoost” HTML code, repaste on your blog, then share your link and subscription with others.
You could just sign up for a Twitter account and enjoy a few additional networking opportunities, but I don’t know a Tweeter who isn’t also a Facebooker. With 50 million strong, the same cannot be said of Facebookers. As a bonus, rolling your own status updates gives you greater control and lets you keep all your third-party social networking efforts in one consolidated place. Sweet!
Lindsey and I took the girls and our friends The Andersen’s on Friday to Jumping Jacks, an indoor playhouse with more than 6 dozen connected trampolines. I especially liked the warning sign: “Please jump in control. Don’t be stupid!”
I love taking jumps in life, so long as they’re “in control,” and I hate the consequences associated with being stupid. Definitely words to live by. A cute picture of Lindsey and the girls after the break…
Randy Pausch, a computer science professor diagnosed with terminal cancer, clearly understands the value of life. His thoughts on carpe diem, achieving your childhood dreams, and materialism are precise, inspired, and honest (no gimmicks here).
At the time of his discourse (Sept. 2007), doctors said Pausch would have “three to six months” to live. As of today, he is still alive. His original full-length lecture at Carnegie Mellon can be found here.
See also: My attempts to be a shoe designer | You have a choice
ABC News published an interesting story this week about a middle-class kid who imposed homelessness upon himself and claimed to never use his degree to upgrade his life over the course of a year. Ten months later, he had an apartment, a car, and $5000 in savings from nothing more than $25 and a gym bag, suggesting that the American Dream is alive and well, and that hard work alone can overcome poverty.
I believe in the last line adamantly, but the experiment fails to consider certain variables that the privileged kid was unable to isolate. First, he’s male and white — that helps. Second, college is more than just a piece of paper, so even if the kid didn’t market his degree, he was capable of greater deductive reasoning, logic, and creativity than most homeless folk. Lastly, he was fortunate enough to carry (though he never used) an emergency credit card.
So was the experiment a success? I think so for the most part, though I’d like to see the result using a motivated individual with no background resources at all. Penny for your thoughts?
Seth Mnookin, a freelancer of four years, waxes poetic on the subject of unproductive efficiency in a recent Wired column:
“My campaign to increase productivity had become yet another distraction — and a significant one. Suddenly I needed to time-manage my time management… [so] I forced myself to quit optimizing how I get things done and start actually getting things done.”
Amen to that — and precisely in line with what Timothy Ferriss counsels in The 4-Hour Work Week. Productivity, not efficiency, is paramount. Now if I could only practice what I preach…
Steve Jobs told a class of Stanford undergraduates in 2005: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” meaning don’t let external factors such as other people’s thinking dictate how you make a livelihood. In short, do what you love.
But doing what you love is just some overused romantic expression that doesn’t really apply outside of über geeks like Jobs, right? Wrong. Despite its being cliché and having been hijacked by get-rich-quick schemes, doing what you love can be achieved by anyone assuming you have the patience to seek it out, have the guts to act on your instincts, and are not easily persuaded by societal pressures when determining your career path.
As a professional blogger for nearly two years now, I’ve seen tens of thousands of comments aimed at me. Most of them are favorable, a lot of them are entertaining, some of them are negative, and a handful of them are just nasty. It comes with the territory when you publish your opinions, passions, and stories freely to the web.
But nasty commenters have a bright side. They help motivate me to work harder and make it so my output has to do the convincing. They give me thick skin and chutzpah to take risks as both a writer and businessman.
You know mulitasking is nothing more than a feel-good concept, right? It’s a word people use to make them feel more productive. And “work-life balance” is anything but according to productivity ninja Tim Ferriss:
“For most of the planet, I would assert that the ideal dream job is the one that takes the least time. Be productive instead of busy, and recognize that life is full of special relationships and activities that need to be protected from one another. Focus on artful separation instead of integration, and you might just—as I did—feel as though an enormous burden has been lifted. Expect a lot out of life, but don’t expect too much from your job. It’s just one tool. Make it a specific one.”
See also: Book review: The 4-Hour Work Week
What makes something the worst job ever? In my eyes, it’s a lack of excitement. The worst jobs in the world are boring. Yeah, Discovery’s Dirtiest Jobs Ever are pretty bad, but I’d like to think I’d pick one of those any day over boring work. Excitement = Happiness.
Before I describe the worst job I’ve ever had, let’s run down my list of employers and/or clients in chronological order: Chick-fil-A (first job), IBM (PC specialist), Lucent Technologies, Youth Soccer Coach (paid, baby!), Cingular Wireless (retail clerk), BYU Performing Arts (male secretary), BYU web developer, Griffio (my company, still a male secretary), Combat Films (freelancer), Weblogs Inc (blogger), Provo Labs (business incubator), Next-Generation (writer), GamePro (writer), and GigaOM (reporter/blogger). A large number of the latter gigs have been managed concurrently and are/were part-time.
Well, this has to be the coolest list of lifehacks, productivity tips, and stress releivers I’ve seen in a long time. Some of my favs: Synchronize recurring events, put all of your home access points on a single key, outsource your chores to the local neighbor kid for $10, avoid traffic, use autopay, let the phone ring, say “no,” and keep lists (or send yourself notes). Get that!