You’re Scheduled To Be Who They Think You Are

“If you get paid for being crazy, I call that sane.” Yesterday I learned that my nametag topped the list of the worst tattoos in the world. I have to say, I’ve never felt prouder. Not because my ink got ink, but because every day that passes, the joke gets funnier. The audience gets bigger. And guess who’s laughing the hardest? That’s the greatest magic trick you could ever pull. The art of choreographing attention. The satisfaction of getting paid to be yourself. Inspired by an interview with Hunter S. Thompson.

“Piracy is just one of the many punches you have to learn to roll with.” A few years ago, I got the idea to create a website called, where readers can download every one of my books, for free, forever, for real, no strings. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s awesome. Second, to flip the bird to the publishing industry. Third, to completely eliminate all barriers to people accessing my art. Fourth, because I’d rather be heard than paid. Fifth, because I can. And lastly, because people have been stealing my work for years, and who am I to stand in their way? Touche, Stephen King.

“Identify the awesomely popular and pretend that the serendipity can be reverse engineered.” The only thing funnier than watching a viral video is watching companies try to recreate the same lightning in a bottle for their own crappy products. That’s the punchline. By the time they figure out the formula, the variables have already changed. Just because some deodorant company accidentally made a funny commercial doesn’t mean your next marketing stunt is going to matter. 

“You can’t do it on your own, but you can do it on your own terms.” My friend Bob is an artist in every sense of the word. For twenty years, he’s stuck his fingers in his ears, trusted his voice and taken responsibility for the reverberations thereof. But he’s never been afraid to collaborate, ask for help and enlist the artistry of others. Bob does his own thing, but he does it with people he loves. And that’s something I’ve always admired. My predisposition to working alone kind of boxed me in over the years. But now that I’m learning to function as a different pronoun, I can see what Bob was talking about.

“You’re scheduled to be who they think you are all the time.” Love this article about India Arie’s new record. Proving that success doesn’t just breed success, it breeds expectation. Proving that people develop a vested interest in keeping you where you are. Proving that you have to remember who you were before the
world told you who you needed to be. Crazy, man. Crazy.

Too Passionate To Process Rational Thought

“I’ve broken the sharing seal.” I’ve been writing music for twenty years. But it wasn’t until last year that I finally released my work into the world. Partly because I wanted to keep my art to myself, and partly because I was scared of sharing my deepest feelings publicly. What’s interesting is, once the musical floodgates opened, the sharing has only gotten deeper. Since then, I’ve taught songwriting classes, performed at open mics and played free concerts at the park. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

“Too passionate to process rational thought.” Passion doesn’t get a bad enough rap. Thanks to a legion of commencement speakers who  are afraid to scare their audiences, we’ve been convinced that passion is the answer to everything. Truth is, passion can work against us. Yes, it’s an essential component to a meaningful life, but it also can be a veneer over the realities of that life. Inspired by aninterviewwith John Oliver.

“We are solution agnostic.” That’s how my boss describesour company. I think it’s a smart way to do business. Too many organizations are devoutly religious about their deliverables. If the client’s request doesn’t fit into their neat little box, they don’t know what to do with themselves. But that’s what innovation is all about. If you’re doing it right, you’re doing it differently each time.

“I don’t believe in optimism, I believe
in optimal behavior.”
Enlightening passage from an interviewwith Ray Bradbury. What I appreciate about this attitude is, you’re focusing on the one thing you can control––yourself. Everything else is wishful thinking. Once we come to that realization, the excuses of life just seem to melt away. 

It’s Not Okay With Me That I Don’t Understand That

“It’s not okay with me that I don’t understand that.” Seth Godin made a great point about being a noticer during yesterday’s presentation. I can relate. There’s this relentless mechanism inside of me that demands to know things. Like when the cashier at the clothing store asks me what kinds of things I plan to do in my new shorts. I need to know why she asked that question. Was she trained that way? Was she genuinely curious about my life? Was she just shooting the shit until the credit card receipt printed out? Why that question? Why now? I want answers. Find me the nub of why or there will be hell to pay. 

“Boundless susceptibility to suggestion
is just another form of intelligence.”
Hypnosis scared me at first. The idea of being under the spell of a shrink made me feel uneasy and out of control. And then I tried it with a doctor I knew and trusted. And to my delight, the experience was completely relaxing. Not what I thought at all. No dangling pocket watches. No spontaneous chicken dances. Just a safe place to let go. Six years later, I don’t even remember why I needed hypnosis in the first place. Mission accomplished. Inspired by an article on quitting smoking.

“Choose the hard path that leads to the
life you want.”
When I was in college, my academic advisor gave me the option of sticking around for a fifth year. It w
ould’ve been the easiest two semesters of my life: Light course load. All classes in my major. Part time job in the marketing department. Sounded pretty cush to me. And I seriously considered it, too. But ultimately, I made the decision to graduate on time. I had this book inside of me, itching to get out into the world, and there was no stopping that train. Little did I know how well that decision would pay off. The point is, when we sit at the feet of
that thing that sticks inside of us and says now, we should listen. Thanks for the advice, Steven Colbert

wounded by constructive criticism.”
 When I ran my own business, it was easy to insulate myself from criticism. But now that I work with a team, I have to face the music daily. And most of the time, it hurts my feelings. What can I say? I’m a sensitive guy who takes things personally. Fortunately, that pain only lasts for about five minutes. Once I realize people are both correct and helpful, I’m happy to make the change and get on with my life. Inspired by an article in Bloomberg.

“In the absence of an empathetic witness.” Most of what we do in life has no witness. We’re all just winking in the dark, hoping somebody will
make us feel seen. The secret is to point our passion in the service of that need. For example, anytime we meet with a prospective client, I always take furious notes. I can’t help myself. I’m a writer and I love sentences. But before the prospect walks out the door, I print out a copy of my notes, in the raw, in real time, look them in the eye and thank them for all the interesting things they said during the meeting. People remember stuff like that. Inspired by a book on trauma.

Forgiveness Is Not An Ability, It’s A Vocation

“People that are like batteries to your creative endeavors.” The ones who answer how with yes. The ones who spark your productivity by proximity alone. The ones who don’t make you feel stupid for speaking up. I love these people. Thanks to them, instead of your ideas solely living and dying in your imagination, they’re able to grow up and reach the world. Inspired by Kevin Smith’s description of Scott Mosier.

“My personal hell would be standing in a humid room, listening to people not make decisions.” Nothing infuriates me more than the idleness of the indecisive. Sweet merciful lord, somebody help these people. In fact, schools should teach this stuff. Not how to make a smart decision, but how to make any decision, and how to live with the result. Master this skill, and our country’s productivity would triple in a matter of weeks. Inspired by tourists.

“Forgiveness is not an ability, it’s a vocation.” I genuinely enjoy forgiving people. It makes me feel good about myself. Especially in those mundane moments of stubbed toes and bumped shoulders. I try to say the phrase, “I forgive you,” several times a week. It’s good practice. Not unlike saying, “I love you,” “Thank you” and “I’m sorry,” it’s a phrase that seeps into my conscience a little more each time. And after a while, saying it becomes second nature. Inspired by a sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

“We are more than our worst things.” We are better and bigger than our past. We will not organize our lives around our hurts and wounds. We refuse to stay fiercely devoted to whatever keeps us miserable. And we will keep our distance from those who remind us how we are no longer what we were. Inspired by Hopeful World.

You’re Paying For Psychology, Not Quality

“This is why I don’t have goals.” For years I promised myself that if I could just accomplish this, then I would be happy. But despite checking off goals on a weekly basis, the list kept growing and growing. Like a regenerating monster. And the hunger was never fully satisfied. Until one day, it hit me like a slow, hot wind. Holy shit. I’ve done enough to be okay with myself, I realized. Since that moment, my approach to goal setting has inverted. Instead of postponing happiness until a specific goal is accomplished, now happiness is the goal. And everything I do on a daily basis helps me get there. Inspired by Dilbert.

“Everything is created for stupid people.” Jeff Garlin is so right. Every time I watch television, read trashy magazines, listen to the radio, walk through the grocery store, shop at the mall or stumble across a banner ad on the internet, all I can think to myself is, I feel stupid. These people treat me like a drooling buffoon. But that’s what we’ve come to. Mainstream media are the merchants of the lowest common denominator. Because that’s what sells. Stupidity never goes out of style.

“I knew there was something waiting for me.” Patience and delayed gratification are the two most underrated competencies of the human repertoire. Sadly, schools are terrified of teaching those kinds of things because they can’t be tested. Crap. Looks like parents are going to have to step up and lead the charge. Which will be an especially tough battle to fight, since our entire culture is based around me me me, now now now. Inspired by the Nerdist.

“I’m never getting off this train.” I believe people change. I really do. I also believe people have certain wirings, certain propensities and certain obsessions that never leave them. So, any time I get a chance to meet someone who isn’t afraid to own that part of themselves, it just melts my butter. Better yet, any time I meet someone who taps into that engine to make the world better, oh man. Sparked by an interview with an original gangsta.

“You’re paying for psychology, not quality.” If you see a long line at the falafel cart, the story you tell yourself is that the food must be better. Why else would everybody be queuing up? So you get in line. And the your expectation goes to work. Because the longer you wait, the less likely you are to admit that the food is mediocre. That’s too much cognitive dissonance for the human brain to handle. We all see what we want to see. Taste buds live in the mind, not just the mouth. Inspired by midtown.

Count Your Fingers After You Shake His Hand

“There’s a breed of nerd that’s become a bully.” Awesome interview with Jim Jeffries about the evolution of nerds. One one hand, all the nerds who grew up in the seventies and eighties have become successful. On the other hand, all the nerds who grew up in the nineties and beyond have now become trolls. To the point that they’re using the Internet to bully each other. What happens when the nerds become the bullies? Sounds like a perfect horror film to me.

“Count your fingers after you shake his hand.” Earlier this week, a woman whispered that warning into my ear moments after I met her husband. I’m pretty sure she was kidding, then again, every joke contains a shred of the truth. But I should be okay without a pinky. Except for those diminished ninth chords that I love so much. Dang it.

“Men reenter humanity at age thirty.” Terrificpodcastabout how men and women are wired differently. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. The process of getting as much as you can out of your system––spiritually, sexually, professionally, whatever––and then coming back to Earth and rejoining the rest of the species. I’m glad I did it. Turns out, once you’ve checked those boxes, once you’ve conquered the need to conquer the world, life becomes a lot less stressful. 

“I’ve put in too much effort here.” You can only burn so many calories before your body wears out. And I don’t mean physically. When we’re doing various projects, eventually, we come to a point where we either let go and move on, on get someone to help and come back later. Otherwise we drive ourselves nuts. Inspired by chaos.

“I would tell you about myself, but I think it’s highly irrelevant.” Ramone Ray made that disclaimer during his speech this week. Made me really happy. In fact, I may start using that line. Good way to keep narcissism at bay. Because as much as I’d like to believe, people aren’t as interested in me as I think. That’s how I describe this city to my friends back in the midwest. New Yorkers aren’t rude, they’re just goal oriented. 

Everyone In New York Has Four Jobs

“Fill the silence with ideas.” The first step in creating value is taking initiative. Literally, the first step. Only when you physically move your carcass out of our chair can you truly contribute. That doesn’t mean you have to be right. That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Nor does it mean you have to be loud. But if you wait for people to tell you what to do, you’ll disappear. Inspired by the winner of the award for the best acknowledgements.

“Young people overvalue the importance
of their own opinions.”
 Fascinating article about the digital manifestations of modern narcissism. Their study points to the millennial generation as the highest offenders. But you don’t have to be young to fall in love with your own image. You don’t have to be in college to have an inflated sense of self-importance.
Facebook’s average user is forty years old. We live in a culture that celebrates narcissism, and we live with technology that enables it. Perhaps age isn’t as big of as factor as people think. 

“I examined your words as colorful butterflies flashing at my eyes.” That was the headline of an email I got from a guy in Malaysia. Totally made my day. Don’t you just love those lost-in-translation moments when the language feels off, but the spirit in which it’s spoken feels awesome? There’s something so human about that moment that just kills me.

“Everyone in New York has four jobs.” Somebody once told me that when I first moved here. And they weren’t joking. In this city, nobody does one thing. Partly because it’s crazy expensive and people need to underwrite their lifestyle. But the other part of it is, New York is a permissionless platform. It’s a city that naturally accelerates the process of putting dreams together. So when anybody can do anything, anytime, anywhere––and maybe even make a few bucks in the process––they will. And it’s a beautiful thing.

“Made merciless demands on his own body
as a transmitter of ideas.”
 Creativity is not physical labor. It’s not hard work. And it’s rarely worth complaining about. But the process taxes your brain, and the pressure toys with your psyche. Especially when the 
quality and frequency of
your thoughts determine your livelihood. No wonder so many artists go crazy.

Built With Thousands Of Tiny Perfect Bricks

“The emotional center of my customer is the most magical data I could have.” I spoke at a business conference yesterday along side Gary Vee. Loved his philosophy on research. Real research. Not quant. Not sentiment analysis. Not fabricated consumer profiles. But the excavation of actual human feelings, usually compressed into something as small as a single tweet, that provides insight into their world. That’s the drop of iodine that purifies all the water.

“Built with thousands of tiny perfect
Fascinating book about famous artists and their journals. Wes Anderson’s chapter was my favorite. His approach to the screenwriting process is highly incrementalist. He focuses on one small chunk at a time, makes that piece as good as he possibly can, and trusts that all the bricks will hold up in the end. I’ve always taken the same approach 
with books, songs, even business strategy. It’s a lot less threatening when you only have to worry about the bricks, not the entire cathedral.

“The art of strategic indifference.” The secret to not caring is doing some simple math. Here’s an example. If somebody emails me with a list of typos they found in one of my books, I quickly factor in the calories it would take to care, plus the calories it would take to correct, then measure that against the importance of the result. That equation takes about a half a second to, and most of the time, the answer is the same. At which point I delete the email and get on with my life. You should try it sometime.

“Compete in clear air by writing all those pseudo
covers out of your system.”
 I spent the first five years of my writing career impersonating the work of my favorite authors. But eventually, once I wrote all the mimicry out of my system, there was nothing left but my own voice. I think most art is that way. We start out as carbon copies until we become originals. Inspired bythe best bookI’ve read all year.

Learning To Fall In Love With The World Again

“I’ve learned that I need to give it the first energy of the day.” I’m fascinated by human routine. If I could host a television show, I would interview happy people and find out exactly what they do in the first three hours of their day. Then I would broadcast the show into university cable stations, require all students to watch weekly episodes in groups, and then discuss with their class the importance of daily routines. The name of the show is: Get Up! To me, that’s the difference maker. That’s what separates the best from the rest. Those first three hours. Thanks for that one, Salman Rushdie.

“We live in a world made of more story than stuff.” Interesting article about the relationship between mobile technology and human alienation. You almost have to make little rules for yourself. At my yoga studio, I try not to use the phone until I’m out the door. Sure, there are messages and emails and texts I could check while sitting in the lobby. But that’s where all the people are. People I like. People that like me. People thatare like me. And if we’re only sitting there for a few minutes, why resign our attention to digital involvement shields when we could make a human connection? The rest of the world can wait.

“The world is not real for me until it
has been pushed through the mesh of language.”
 I’m weird like that. I don’t know what I think until I write what I feel. It’s just how I’m wired. Even if that means taking the long way around a problem. When we’re crafting a creative strategy for a client at POKE, I like to compile all the research and discovery and findings and insights, physically write everything out in a logical narrative, then step back and take a look at the whole picture. It not only helps me understand the situation, but makes it easier for me to communicate that situation to the rest of the team. Inspired by an interview with John Banville.

“Take it and steer it down a creative path.” We all notice little things about the world that drive us crazy. The question is, where do we put those frustrations? One option is to bury them in our bodies beneath a steaming pile of addictions. That does nothing but add stress to our lives. Another option is to purge them from our bodies through a creative expression. That has the potential to make meaning, make a difference and if we’re really lucky, make a profit. Inspired byThe Adam & Dr. Drew Show.

“We’re learning to fall in love with the
world again.”
 Somewhere around the age of seven, our childlike sense ofwondermentbeings to fade. And unless we stay in touch with our sense of curiosity, unless we practice infatuation on a daily basis by finding the memorable in the mundane, we’ll never get it back.Instagramis a great solution for this. By proactively looking for interesting things to take pictures of, we can stay engaged with the world around us. As long as it’s not food. For the love of god, please stop taking pictures of food. We get it. You like to eat. 

Solitude Was Like A Purification

When you get to the reception, you’re fired.” Encouraging words from our wedding emcee, Beth. She’ll have the event under control, she explains. Our job is to stay in the moment and have fun. What a selling point. Forget about the songlist, music is just the functional benefit. What you’re paying for is the freedom to not to think. To be able to enjoy your own party. If more entrepreneurs positioned their services in this value-added way, nobody would go out of business. 

“Solitude was like a purification.” To a certain extent, yes. There is something cleansing about being alone. Especially when you’re communing with nature. Solitude restores body and mind. But after about two hours, solitude starts to degenerate into loneliness. We start to feel like something’s missing. And if we don’t proactively forge meaningful connections with other people to lift us back up, before we know it, we’re alone in a corner of a restaurant with our earbuds in, eating a double bacon cheeseburger, feeling sorry for ourselves. Inspired by a woman who paints in the cold.

“Trying to paint his masterpiece by beating a blue ball against a concrete wall.” I’m enchanted by any occasion an artist takes to express how
they interact with the world. Like this article about Joe, the trash talking handball player. He proves that any activity, any passion, any meaningful endeavor––paid or unpaid––can be approached with a sense of craftsmanship and mastery. So cool.

“Battling your antisocial tendencies.” Here’s the stark difference between being a freelancer and being an employee. One is a life of solitude punctuated by moments of connection, the other is a life of connection punctuated by moments of solitude. I spent a decade doing the former. The problem is, I’m a textbook extrovert. I get my energy from interacting with other humans. And while networking events, virtual lunches, coffee meetings and coworking spaces kill the hunger for a few hours, ultimately, I still had to go back home to my living room and stare at the wall for most of the day. Fuck that noise. Thank god I found a way to flip the funnel. These days, that brand aloneness doesn’t show up that often, so when it does, it’s kind of nice.

“Drink big cups of toxins and head to work in
soulless skyscrapers.”
 It’s both trendy and tempting to demonize the corporate lifestyle. Especially if you’re standing on your own two entrepreneurial feet. But how do we know these people hate their jobs? How do we know they’re unhappy? Maybe they modified their expectations. Maybe they took a stable, boring job so their spouse could follow their passion. Maybe they sucked it up so they could provide a better life for their children. Hey man. People do what they have to do.

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