How to Lead: Empathy, Trust & Respect

Our models on leadership are broken. We know a lot about WHAT it takes to be a leader. We know good leaders are meant to have a vision, motivate others, forge a path, and take their team there.

There are also many truisms related to leadership. For example, Simon Sinek says ‘Leaders Eat Last’. They lead by example, etc. But what’s often lost is the HOW behind it. Behind the lofty words and intentions, there’s a big void where practical skills are ignored.

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Why Workout Motivation Doesn’t Last

Keeping regular workout motivation is hard. Here’s my latest video on what to do about it (it’s only 4 minutes, so give it a view!):

Most of us can’t seem to work out daily. We look on the internet for workout motivation. We keep searching for the right exercise gear, clothing, and right workout program. Sometimes, when we hate ourselves enough, we decide that we have to change. We even start exercising and it goes on for a while, but then we fail.  What’s going on here? Why can’t we do something that we know is good for us! Let’s find out.
Oh, by the way, you can check references to every single claim I’m about to make in the video description on YouTube. Let’s look at 3 reasons why we can’t stick to a workout program and what we can do about it.
First of all, we treat exercise as something that’s done only in the gym. Or when we have the proper workout clothes on. Or if it’s done in the morning. If we miss the first few minutes of class at the gym, or we have to leave early, we say that it doesn’t count. We say it only counts if we’re completely drenched in sweat, and are pushing our bodies to their limit. But the science says that any and all physical activity counts. When you take the stairs, it counts. When we park far away in the parking lot, it counts. A good rule is to stick with what’s called the ventilatory threshold–the point at which it is hard to hold a conversation with someone. Research says that at that rate, we feel good about ourselves and want to keep exercising. And when we start liking exercising, we don’t need workout motivation to keep doing it.
Secondly, most of us treat exercise as a chore or punishment. It’s something that we “have” to do, “should” do. We’ve heard the scientists, or our own doctor has told us that we need to workout. And that’s exactly why we can’t get ourselves to exercise. When you workout to reduce your cholesterol, or to be “healthy”, you won’t feel motivated to work-out. When we “should” all over ourselves by telling us that we have to do this, we must do this, we create resistance. Our minds immediately say “oh yeah? you can’t make me exercise!” The solution? We are much more likely to do things that we decide to do for ourselves. This is called Self-Determination Theory. Stop making exercise into a punishment and find a reason to enjoy it. We’ll get into the best reasons to workout in just a moment. Before that, let’s look at…
Thirdly, the reason we fail at exercising daily is because we make it about losing weight. We don’t know how we will look like in 6 months, 12 months. And so, we give up when we don’t see any changes quickly enough. That’s the danger of making weight loss or looking good into your motivator. We don’t know when it’s going to happen. Instead, the research shows that people who make exercise and physical activity into something that makes them feel better right then and there, they stick with it.
It’s having more energy, it’s feeling better about the day, feeling more in control. Find a reason that you yourself decide, not a reason that someone else gives you.
Even if weight loss/looking good is your second or third reason to work out, you will still be less likely to workout. You dilute the energy of your goals by having too many reasons to move. Make it about making your day better and you’ll stick with it. In conclusion, remember 3 things:
  1. Exercise doesn’t happen only in the gym or in gym clothes. Find ways to move everywhere you go.
  2. Stop “shoulding” on yourself. Find a reason to exercise for a reason you enjoy – making your day better, feeling more energized, jamming to music, being in nature, or being with your friends.
  3. Stop making it about weight loss or looking good. That will definitely happen, but move to enjoy life now, not in the future.
In short, find ways to move throughout the day, and do it in a way that you enjoy and improves your day right now. Getting started with an exercise habit will change your inner identity so that if you do want to hit the gym and push yourself hard, you can one day.
If you make working out into a gift for ourselves to improve our day, you won’t need motivation to do it everyday. How can you do that today?
Leave a comment in the video to let others know, and hit the like & subscribe button for more of these videos.

Ideas in 2015

I had originally decided to write this as a post with the best books I read in 2015, but ideas are a lot more general and books are not always the best place to get ideas. I hope these ideas serve you as well:

1. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

This book was a game-changer for me. Everywhere around us, the stories that rise to the top are stories of people who had massive success. We hear about stories of Zuckerberg, Gates, Warren Buffet, et al. We hear about companies such as Instagram and Uber which are creating or transforming entire industries. Seeing all this, I used to get down on myself. I would wonder why others were succeeding while I was not. Perhaps something was wrong with me. The ones who made it are just more special or more worthy than me to have made such quantum jumps.

Not so. The Slight Edge talks about the incredible power of changing the definition of success to taking any action towards a worthwhile ideal. The book also has the idea that success is easy if the practice of success happens over time.

Consider the idea of losing weight. You know that drinking soda will not help you in that area. However, if you’re with friends you realize that drinking that can of soda in that moment will not make you gain weight. But you also know that NOT drinking that can of soda will not help you lose weight. And that’s where we fail. It is easy to say no at that moment to that soda, but it also easy to say yes. Yet, compound decisions like that over a long enough period of time and we are not able to succeed with our weight goals.

You can apply this to all areas of your life: schooling, fitness, relationships, business, etc. In fact, I ended up listening to this book 3-4 times this year. I found it to be absolutely powerful and I highly recommend it. The book helps you really understand the idea of the slight edge and how it can be applied to all parts of your life. It really is the secret between success and failure in life.

As a result of this, I ended up taking and following through on an online course by the University of Berkeley and edx: The Beauty and Joy of Computing.

While it may not have an immediate benefit in my life, I understand that getting more skills under my belt that interest me will undoubtedly pay off in the long run. [for more on that, read Scott Adams’ highly fun book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.] There were more areas that I applied the slight edge in, which I will get into below.

2. Giving > Getting

This idea was profound and was inspiring by a few books: The Go-Giver by Bob Burg, Become An Idea Machine by Claudia Altucher, and Choose Yourself by James Altucher, Charlie Hoehn (whom you should definitely follow), and the work I’ve done with BAPS Charities.

The goal of the list above isn’t to name drop, but to share the tremendous commonality of this idea to success and happiness that people have found again and again in all walks of life.

The idea is simple: the best way to have a fulfilling career, relationships, health, etc is to give first. James and Claudia Altucher propose the idea of giving out great ideas to people and companies. Coding, production, etc can all be outsourced, but good ideas cannot. The goal is to exercise the idea muscle (which is a muscle like any other part of your body) and give give and give the best away to people who can use it. This leads to conversations and conversations lead to opportunities to contribute. I have literally emailed founders at companies with ideas and gotten a positive reaction.

Textbooks for Change, Akira.MD, Ginger.io, and OpenCare  have been a few companies I’ve done this with in the last 2 months alone and have been blown away by how much I have learned about them, but also how appreciate they have been with my insights and ideas. In one instance, I have had a chance to become an adviser to the company.

Bob Burg and Charlie Hoehn mention that giving out ideas, but also connections, and opportunities will lead to more exciting career fulfillment. This is something that I plan to dive very deeply into in 2016. I find this method of forging a career to be a lot more rewarding than the apply via a cover letter and CV to jobs and move ahead. By giving with any expectation of getting anything back before any real tangible opportunity, we are much more likely to get a positive response back.

This technique above helped me make new friends as I’ve reached out to people I’ve admired and shared ideas that they may like.

3. Education != Schooling

 

John Taylor Gatto is a revelation. I first stumbled across his 5 hour interview titled The Ultimate History Lesson. As New York State’s teacher of the year, and New York City’s teacher of the year many times over, he had had enough and had to quit.

Gatto goes deep into the history of schooling and goes on to outline with startling clarity how modern schools are not designed to educate citizens, but rather designed to create a class of workers. These workers are conditioned over at least 12,000 hours of forced schooling to base their intellectual and emotional value and worth in external approval, have others set the agenda for their lives. The system is designed to enforce hierarchy and class structure so that most do not deviate from it.

He goes on to highlight alternative methods of education, which should develop the…

  1. Ability to define problems without a guide.
  2. Ability to ask questions that challenge common assumptions.
  3. Ability to work without guidance.
  4. Ability to work absolutely alone.
  5. Ability to persuade others that yours is the right course.
  6. Ability to debate issues and techniques in public.
  7. Ability to re-organize information into new patterns.
  8. Ability to discard irrelevant information.
  9. Ability to think dialectically.
  10. Ability to think inductively, deductively, and heuristically.

If you are short on time, at least carve out 1 hour to listen to his lecture titled “The Seven Lesson School Teacher: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

If you are more interested, there are many interesting ways to follow-up. Gatto’s book titled Weapons of Mass Instruction come to mind. There is also a massive open-sourced learning community that untethers education from schooling and encourage people of all ages to take control of their education. These ideas make it very clear that fixing schools won’t do it. For a real revolution, we must learn to educate ourselves. We must learn to take control of our own lives and not wait for the power-that-be to grant us the golden ticket of our destiny.

I know this all sounds very conspiratorial, but after doing your own independent reading and listening to the story that’s laid out, you cannot help but get how true the story presented above is.

Understanding these ideas helped me understand many of the feelings of general helplessness, loneliness, and poor self-image I have often experienced (or keep experiencing at times). Understanding the role of schooling in my life has given me such a large portion of my power back. It has helped me be bolder in my thinking in actions, fear less, and find happiness and self-worth in my own self.

4. Move!

Spark! The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey at the Harvard Medical School convinced me beyond a shred of doubt that daily exercise is a great lifetime practice not just for my body but also for my brain. As a nerd, it was the brain talk that convinced me to start exercising daily.

Aerobic exercise changes the brain completely and significantly impacts its ability to learn, manage stress, ward off and treat ADHD, depression, and addiction. The opening chapter alone is worth the price of admission as Dr. Ratey highlights the impact of exercise on a school population with an absolutely staggering impact.

I’ve been almost pretty disciplined since this summer to have kept a regular exercise habit going. Exercise has become a mainstay in my life and without it, I have a hard time thinking and functioning well. My body gets antsy after a while if I haven’t exercised. I highly recommend this book for those who do not take exercise seriously because it presents ideas on how the brain itself is impacted.

Credit goes to the incredible Special Ops trainer Mark Lauren for writing You Are Your Own Gym to help me devise a High-Intensity Interval Training program.

That was 2015 in a set of ideas. I’ve tried to present the most life-changing ideas above. I hope some of them were useful to you. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or clarifications you would like and I would be happy to go into them.

70% of New Businesses Fail…so what?

You may have heard the statistic that 70-80% of all new businesses fail within the first 5 years. This statistic is meant to act is a deterrent for you to venture out and experiment on your own.

The unstated fact remains that while 70% of new businesses may fail within the first five years, but do 70% of business owners fail? The answer is: no.

For most business owners, the failure of the business is not tied to their own personal failure. From my own personal experience running small experiments and a small start-up subscription box company a little over a year back, I can definitely say that while those business ideas failed to take off, I learned more about how business is done from those few experiments than I had from my 4 years of undergrad. It also cost me significantly less.

From talking with hundreds of entrepreneurs in my current role, I can confidently say that while many of them have had businesses that have failed, none of them have taken it personally. The lessons have been invaluable in growing their next venture.

Steve Pavlina puts it another way:

While a business or a job may cease to endure after a certain number of years, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing. You’re still going to learn and grow and create value along the way, regardless of the outcome. Just as a job can be a stepping stone, so can a business, and there’s no reason you can’t start a new business with the expectation that it’s only temporary. Jobs and businesses come and go. Your own personal growth is what endures. (source)

Do not let statistics deter your desire to experiment and try out new things. The failure of an idea or process is not the failure of the person. It is most likely a massive success in growth.

 

A look back at 2014 and A look ahead to 2015

2014 has been a good year and I wanted to review some progress I have made, some stumbling blocks, and discuss a few things I would like to accomplish in 2015.

Social Assertiveness
Perhaps the most significant change in 2014 has been a growth in my assertiveness. I have been perhaps my own harshest critic. I used to beat myself up (not literally) over my mistakes, my shortfalls, and every time I would fail at something such as resisting junk food, candy, etc. In many ways, it was like carrying a bat around with me and hitting myself over every thing I did wrong. However, I never expected the people around me to live up to a certain standard as well.

This last year changed that. I have gone from being a bit of a pushover, to the other side where I demand more from others as well. Perhaps a bit too much. I have had people tell me that I can come across as abrasive, rude, and offensive. I am fine with this, because the pendulum had swung too far in the other direction where I would stretch myself too thin for others and risk my own happiness. Asserting myself, leading from a place of honesty (even if it hurts), and asking for more from others have been ways to develop my internal power.

I shall now work towards striking a balance. However, going from one polar to another with this issue has been immensely helpful in my growth this past year. I am still going to approach from a place of honest and forthright intentions, especially when it comes to meeting women and relationships. It has been easier for me to move on if the compatibility is not there. This confidence and ability to weather rejected has undoubtedly been a positive thing.

Social Media
I quit Facebook in the fall of 2013, and I have been able to stay off it all this year. I have also quit Instagram, but have been struggling with Snapchat. I expect that I will continue down this path of removing “social” media type connections, and moving towards more actual social connections. This includes using my phone less, YouTube less, and less random internet browsing. Ironically, here is a sketch on YouTube that highlights how big of a problem this has become:

And here is a recent article in New York Magazine about our addiction to the validation wagon of social media. I have perhaps noticed this most when I have gone out with girls (one instance of that posted here). People are having a hard time being with another human being where they have to make an effort to be social, when the quick validation from a selfie (by say a pretty girl) is enough for them to feel they got their social fix.

Men are not immune to this of course. I have been with many buddies who are quick to reply to every single message they get on their phones, even during important one-on-one conversations. I am guilty of this as well, and I shall be working on this.

It is not enough to remove this habit of course. I have to fill it with something. I want to spend 2015 actively cultivating more rich in-person relationships with people. To meet new people again who I want to get to know. This is remarkably difficult after university where spontaneous meetings with new people are a lot easier. I will undoubtedly have to grow well past my comfort zone and actively go after social activities where I can do this. I am most looking forward to this area in my life.

Health & Fitness
This has been another area of positive growth. I started off the year being a raw vegan, eating a high carb low fat diet. I soon could not eat enough fruit to stay full during the day. I then transitioned to a cooked diet with very little fat (no oil at all) based in starches (still completely vegan). I came to this place after much reading. I am grateful I finally have a eating pattern that is easy to maintain, fills me with a lot of energy, and keeps me in shape. I started the journey by reading The China Study (the largest epidemiological study of nutrition), Forks Over Knives, The 80/10/10 Diet (which put me on the raw vegan path) and The Starch Solution by John McDougall (which finally helped me eat cooked foods again, while keeping the right macros). There are many other books/articles I am probably omitting, but this has been a good place of growth for me. I have experimented and failed at my approaches to diet and nutrition over the last 3-4 years, but the entire picture makes sense to me now.

In terms of fitness, I started the year doing crazy 6-day workouts in a week with programs like Insanity by Shaun T from 2013, but I have since transitioned towards more HIIT over fewer days in a week. I am currently working out 3 days/week, and I am satisfied there. I have finally come to the acceptance that exercise and fitness is something that will happen over my entire life. Programs such as Insanity, P90X, etc are 30/60/90 day programs, and I would always fall off the wagon with them. I was trying too hard to turn my fitness around in 30-90 days at a time. That sort of mindset was destructive as it made me think that fitness was a destination, not an on-going practice.

I experimented with going to the gym, but I have since found that working out at the home is the best option for me. I save a tremendous amount of time a week this way, and I have a lot more flexibility at when I can work out.

I expect to have the greatest gains in health and fitness during 2015 now that I have a sustainable and consistent path to follow. I would like to re-introduce yoga into the mix, because I really enjoy it tremendously.

Misc
I now only shave with a straight razor. James Bond style. It had a steeper learning curve, and there were many many cuts in the first few weeks, but I wouldn’t shave any other way.
There is a major life-altering goal I will start working on near the end of 2015, but I expect that to unravel in its own way.
I experimented a lot with side projects in 2013 such as the children’s education subscription box business The Travelling Monk (which got some great reviews and great customer traction). I did not pursue anything of that sort in 2014, but these side projects really added a lot of zest to life and really helped me grow. I expect 2015 to have more side projects to keep me busy.

How have you grown this last year and what are your areas of focus for the upcoming year? Any comments/criticism/questions about what I shared above? Share below! And don’t forget to subscribe to this website.

I want to be a failure in life. I want you to be one as well.

Stephen Covey once wrote: The deepest need of every human being is the desire to be understood.

This need is greater than our desire to be loved. We can all think of people that love us but do not understand us.

I have spent a long amount of time trying to be loved and understood. I thought if only I could be successful enough, good looking enough, rich enough, wear the right clothes and say the right things and hang out with the right people, then I can get it.

LIES!

I would see these people outside who were all successful and had it all together. They were rich, they were smart, they were good looking, and they were being in the places I wanted to go to and hanging out with people I wanted to hang out with.

And I felt less. I negated the successes I had. I worked hard and kept spinning my wheels. Until I realized something important:

We are living a lie. We are living the lie of failure. Failure is pretty much dying to get out behind the pretty facade that people put up. Society sculpts you in a way to hide this. Friends, family, fancy-tech-conferences-with-guys-in-blazers-and-cool-shoes are all telling us this lie.

And I hate it. And I’ve had enough.

Failure is the backbone to living an extraordinary life. Failure is the foundation of a satisfying life. Failure is the foundation for us to understand one another. And failure is the key to satisfy that deepest need of all: our desire to be understood.

If we can discover that it’s alright to fail, then we can let go of the tension, the stress, the fear, the facade of living life and actually go on about LIVING LIFE!

That’s what I want to do. I want to change the world by failing. I want to help others fail. And I want to make it ok to fail.

Because I want to be alive. And I know I’m going to need to fail for that to happen.

 

 

Share your story below if you can relate.