Second Chances

Sometimes we’ve been given second, third or more chances without our awareness. We simply were in the right place at the right time, someone granted us a pass, or we pleaded our way out of a bad situation. Others amongst us were less fortunate. A simple turn of your ankle and you’re spared a broken heel. As a society, we often determine who should and shouldn’t get a second chance. Historically, we’ve pinned labels on people who’ve made mistakes as convicts, and plenty have deserved the label. The question we have to ask is when have we gone too far at labeling someone something forever. Where is the appropriate line? Reading this post from Mark Suster about Defy Ventures, it appears the needle may be turning a little more toward granting of second chances.

They told me of losing fathers at 3, of moms on drugs, of uncles that asked them to hold guns to cover them at 8. Grown men, prisoners, with huge muscles and tattoos everywhere cried and told me stories. And they didn’t want pity. They wanted opportunity. They wanted to learn. Mark Suster

Unsurprisingly, when we grant those that authentically plead for a second chance the opportunity to do so, they come through.

Defy Ventures graduates have a 3.2% recidivism rate (the rate at which they are re-incarcerated) against a national 5-year average of more than 75%. The 3-year recidivism rate in California for comparison is more than 50%.

Have you given yourself a second chance recently? As hard as we are on ourselves, remember that we’re all due a second chance sometimes. If Con Body can be successful, what’s stopping you?

The Underrated Long Game

My new belief on how long I should hold stock and the best companies I investment in is forever. – Sam Altman

Sam Altman is one of those people that you wonder how he has accomplished so much for his age. He’s the President of Y Combinator, an incubator which has developed some of the companies that have had the most profound effects on how our world operates. The macro effect of all the Y Combinator companies is hard to measure. If you want to see the extensive list of them, see here. In the clip below, Sam explains his thoughts on “How To Build The Future”:

One of the few arbitrage opportunities left in the market is time. I think we have gotten good at the price of things. We have gotten worse at the long-term value. I don’t think you can go beat the market in a lot of ways. The one way I do is by making a long-term commitment to something. In a world where people are increasingly focused on the quarterly earnings cycle, you should try and go in the opposite direction.

We can blame technology, the media, parenting or a mixture of them all, but we live in a short-term driven society. It is increasingly rare to find those that consciously strive to look out 5, 10, or 20 years down the road. It takes deep courage—courage I know I haven’t developed yet. Watching that clip and thinking about how to value time horizons reminded me of this 10,000 Year Clock I stumbled upon awhile back. The designer, Danny Hillis, wanted to bring inspiration to “generational thinking,” so he designed this clock in a mountain that ticks once every year. Talk about long-term vision!

I’m very optimistic about the future. I’m not optimistic because I think our problems are small. I’m optimistic because I think our capacity to deal with problems is great. – Danny Hillis

In a time when we’re facing truly large issues such as human-caused climate change, we need more people like Sam Altman, Danny Hillis, and Elon Musk who look longer term at our place in history. Because so few are veering out far enough in the future is why we need it the most.

The Art of Fighting the Good Fight

The art of fighting the good fight.

As of this writing, this video has been seen 20,738,716 times. How many of these viewers do you think actually took his advice? How many are really “doing it” & taking on the world? Maybe 1%? We often find reasons that stop us, various roadblocks keeping us stationary. What we believe someone thinks, what we believe about ourselves or even the idea that this magical moment in the future will come and we’ll be ready then. This moment isn’t coming…

A “writer” wrote into Polly at the New York Mag asking Should I Just Give Up On My Writing?

The whole idea of “breaking through” is such a crock of shit. If you do nothing else, build a religion around this one fact. Beyond the ability to feed yourself, it doesn’t fucking matter if a million people love you or five people do. It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 75. You cannot pollute your life with this fixation. You can feel relevant, you can imagine that you somehow matter in the larger scheme of things, you can commit to being a force in the world, without hitting some arbitrary high score or crossing some imaginary threshold of popularity…. You can’t try to “reach” some imagined mob of dipshits, molding your work to match their dipshitty tastes. Be a lovely odd duck instead, one who hardly notices if people are booing or cheering.

On Communication

Think of those times when you’ve read prose or poetry that is presented in such a way that you have a fleeting sense of being startled by beauty or insight, but a glimpse into someone’s soul. All of a sudden everything seems to fit together or at least have some meaning for a moment. This is our goal as writers. – Bird by Bird by Anne LamottOn Communication ir t jster0a 20 l am2 o 1 a 0385480016

Substitute writers with communicators.

To me, communication—whether with video, an email or a glance— is when a moment or concept we are experiencing flows through us uncensored. We are merely its messenger, a passenger on its journey. It isn’t us doing the talking per se, but the piece of knowledge itself. Our desire is for the listener to grasp the message in its entirety, not to prove anything about ourselves; not to show how smart or important we are. The second we focus on ourselves, we’ve lost the ability to pass on the knowledge we’ve attained. Why do you think 140 characters are king? Because the second the writer writes one word off tilter, says one thing that doesn’t vibe with us, we move on. There’s been a break in the chain of communication, a damn in the metaphorical “river.” We’re no longer listening. It is the giver’s duty and not the receiver to be understood.

Communication is a function of trust, not technique – Stephen Covey

This is the type of communication I seek to recreate every day. I want to be able to turn it on like a faucet. I’d like to believe that that level of connectedness in communication is the natural order, the way things should be. If not simply because I want to forget the struggle and pain of feeling misunderstood.

Or as Jason Silva says more beautifully than me:

I’ve also explored the dread, the haunting paralysis of realizing that all is temporary. So even our greatest ecstasy is tinged by a bit darkness. This moment will pass, this moment will end… Cinema allows us to share subjectivity, to feel connected to somebody else who has also experienced what we have felt. That’s kind of amazing because we feel less alone in that moment. And I think my own desire to make media about this is at least I can explain to you how I have felt when I have probed and contemplated loss, it makes the sadness less acute because at least we are in it together.

[Book Review]: Emotional Equations

Emotional EquationsEmotional Equations [Book Review]: Emotional Equations ir t jster0a 20 l am2 o 1 a B004T4KRHE is by far a top five favorite book of mine. As simple as the title is, Chip Conley goes very deep into the various types of emotions we experience and explains how he came to start using these equations in his business as a successful hotelier. The equations helped him and his team through hard times. I’m sure what he learned by writing this book has helped him as the Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy at Airbnb.

Why I find his book useful and very informative is because it gives a framework for evaluating feelings. Humans evaluate our lives with contrasts and comparisons. We compare our personal situation with those of others. We compare our careers with our peers. Our emotions are no different.

Emotional equations provide a novel and well thought out process for comparing and contrasting these feelings. Sometimes doing so gives us a better understanding of the struggles we are facing. It has certainly helped me. Sometimes we don’t even understand what the underlying feeling is that we are actually feeling.

Think of your emotions as messages that give you the freedom, rather than the obligation, to respond. Fear protects. Regret teaches. Sadness releases. Joy uplifts. Empathy unites.

Our emotions let us know that we are alive and that we care about something. But modern life can be a form of “tri-zophrenia” when we think one thing, feel another, and act out a third. The more conscious we become about the ingredients of our emotions, the easier it is to transmute the more complicated, high-volume emotions into something more manageable.


Happiness = Wanting What You Have / Having What You Want

“Wanting What You Have” is like practicing gratitude. It means appreciating the good fortune in your life. “Having What You Want,” to me, means that you are pursuing something that will give you gratification, potentially to the neglect of what you already have.


Anxiety is an emotion, not a character defect. People with the greatest need to control their lives are often hit hardest by anxiety symptoms. Those who experience high anxiety levels tend to be high-functioning, high-achieving, strong individuals who exercise a lot of influence over their lives, yet can’t understand when things go wrong. For me, anxiety is a big clue that something in my life is out of balance— whether my mind is too future-oriented, my desire for control too amplified, or my sense of my own power too unappreciated.

My Own Equation

At the end of the book, Chip recommends we make our own equations. This is one I came up with myself:

Insecurity = Ego / Vulnerability

Our insecurities come from a place of an outsized ego. Being vulnerable will diminish the value of the ego in comparison, and leads to a healthy level of insecurity. That is why they’re represented by division. If, on the other hand, you’re not being very vulnerable, your ego will overshadow in comparison and leave you with a high level of insecurity. When someone talks about another being very humble, it is typically synonymous with a small ego. Essentially, their ego is in check. When someone lashes out and is domineering it can often be because of a misbalance of the ego and vulnerability equation. They may get a momentary high for their primitive dominance, but these are brief and in their wake is narcism and emptiness. It is like a bully, they’re compensating for insecurity.

I could have copied the whole book here because it is that good. I highly recommend it.

Ask And You Shall Receive

The simplest concepts are sometimes the hardest to learn.

How many times have you wanted to ask for what you want, then decided not to?

I couldn’t count the times there are so many. The fear of asking for what I want is something I’ve struggled with. I remember reading somewhere that the best topics to write about are the things you struggle with—the things that are hardest to admit. So, for me this is a deeply personal admission.

I think the skill of asking for what you want is like any skill, it takes cultivation and practice. It isn’t natural, but something we can improve. In that spirit, this is the best example I can think of someone asking for something and hitting it BIG:

Every time I see this post, I get chills.

Billy, when asked, responds with such a simple “OK.”

This kids got chops …He’s got chops”

In yiddish, we call that chutzpah.

So, when seeking what you want, it simply comes down to is realizing that you have to ask. If Michael Pollack doesn’t ask, he doesn’t ever get to play with the Billy Joel. When else do you have the chance?

Whether we are talking about a jury verdict, a sale, or a proposition we present before a board or commission, we must ask for exactly what we want. …. Those who leave justice to the power persons’ whim, who are afraid to ask, have already been defeated. If we do not ask, we will likely not receive. If we are too timid to lay out our prayer for justice, why should the jurors do it for us? Being candid about our expectation of justice is merely a continuation of the policy of honesty we have learned to adopt in our presentation. Lawyers ask me, “How do you get those big verdicts?” I reply, “I ask for the money. I simply ask for it.” -Gerry Spence Win Your Case: How to Present, Persuade, and Prevail–Every Place, Every TimeAsk And You Shall Receive ir t jster0a 20 l am2 o 1 a 0312360673

Best, Yet

Experience  Best, Yet Experience

Do you ever find yourself after a great experience saying something like “Wow, that was the best (fill in the blank) I ever had?”

Today, I found myself saying exactly that about yoga. Every time I go to this particular class with Fit Lotus I think “that was the best session I’ve had.” I told the Angie, the instructor, I felt like I had a rebirth. I felt rejuvenated, fresh, and sharp.

High from that class, it reminded me of a Gerry Spence video I had seen. If you don’t know Gerry Spence, he is one of the most prolific trial attorneys in American History. He was asked in an interview what was his most important case he had ever tried.

“As times go by… its like looking at a series of movies over your lifetime. Do you remember walking out of a great movie and saying this was the greatest movie I’ve ever seen? Then you see another one. It isn’t better, it’s just another one, and it’s the greatest movie that you’ve ever seen…. And the last case that you’ve tried is probably the most important one.”

I love his answer because it isn’t what you’d expect. Maybe his answer was so because the question is an impossible one. It’s futile listing the most important cases, the most important sale, the most important pitch. The most important pitch is the one you just threw. That’s it. It follows, then, that the next most important pitch is the one right in front of you.

“The secret is that everything is always on the line. The more present we are at practice, the more present we will be in competition, in the boardroom, at the exam, the operating table, the big stage. If we have any hope of attaining excellence, let alone of showing what we’ve got under pressure, we have to be prepared by a lifestyle of reinforcement. Presence must be like breathing.” The Art of LearningBest, Yet ir t jster0a 20 l am2 o 1 a 0743277465

Approach each moment like it is should be your best. Each moment we have that ability, and in doing so we have the chance to improve. I know that at yoga this morning I gave it my all. I pushed. I left knowing I gave it my all. Next Saturday I’ll be pushing even harder and I hope I can leave saying “that was my best yet.”

The Innovator’s Playground

The media today often focuses on the narrative of how fast things are moving. There are countless examples; here and here are two examples.

In my opinion, this narrative is harmful. Not because it isn’t important to analyze the speed of change and innovation, but the story repeatedly carries a tone that pushes fear on us. I’m left asking “what does it matter how fast the progression of change is if that knowledge creates a fear of movement and leads to inaction?”

With the proliferation and constant bombardment of information from the media, fear of change is more pronounced in our psyche.

Let’s not focus on the progression of innovation causing jobs to be lost and people being “left behind.” The more important issue is how do we embrace it? How de we understand it better? Embody change and live it out to its fullest? How do we make sure we are ready for the next big thing, and not get caught up in how things were?

The world is indifferent to how you believe it functions today or how it did so yesterday. It is especially indifferent to your attachment to this feeling.

There are countless examples of people and companies being blindsided and left behind because of a lack of understanding of this idea. On the other hand, those companies and individuals that understand it are the huge winners.

Travis Kalanick has a term for this dichotomy and how to work around it. He calls it the Innovator’s Playground:

“When conventional wisdom thinks the answer is over there, and you believe the answer is over here, the largest distance between the two, I call the innovator’s playground. Now, you better be right, because conventional wisdom can be correct. But if you are right, and there is a huge distance between the two, that is where innovators and entrepreneurs find all the value and opportunity. Sometimes its really confusing to know what really is reality and what is perception.”

Humans (and all living things for that matter) have lived in constant change. Even so, our bodies and minds want some level of normalcy. We need it because our body strives for homeostasis. Predictability equals survival.

Surviving and thriving are two different things. Don’t confuse the two.

“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been.” – Albert Einstein

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