#38 - Conversation with Dr. Jeff Tyus

1) Getting to Know Students

During the conversation I had with Dr. Tyus, he emphasized the importance of getting to know students. 

It’s one thing to call on students when they raise their hand in the classroom, and another thing when you actively seek to start a dialogue with them and try to gain better context around who they are and what they’re interested in. 

As a student of Dr. Tyus’, I can remember him actively trying to involve students in multiple ways, he even went so far as to invite a whole class over to his home for a field trip out to a restaurant. Those types of professors are far and few in between. 

This is unfortunate because this is this type of environment that students should seek in the workforce. It’s nice to work for an organization that places emphasis on relationships and working together collaboratively, and professors will never realize who a student is to the best of their ability if they’re waiting back and only hearing from them when the time comes for them to raise their hands. 

Dr.Tyus mentioned the relationship approach might by other professors deemed “too close” but how close is close enough? 

Are you close enough when sending out a job opportunity in an email blast? Or are you close enough when you can send a one-off personal email to a student who you know is well-suited and would benefit from a job position someone in your network is looking to fill? 

It’s best for everyone involved to have a better understanding of each other because it opens up a lot more opportunities for students and educators alike in the long run. 

2) Individuals vs. The Collective

One of the things employers are looking for when hiring students out of college is how well they perform in a group setting. 

A critical aspects of any collaboration is communication, and that’s why there's an emphasis on group communication in college programs. 

Dr. Tyus pointed out during our episode was that he'd seen cultural differences in group communications over the course of his career. 

Some cultures emphasize collectivism as opposed to our general preference towards individualism here in the US. 

The collectivism idea is one where the primary driver of success is that the group will be recognized rather than one single individual. 

In the land of “anyone can be famous” type of culture, it’s more of a challenge to take our individualistic orientation and make it work efficiently in a group setting. 

But groups are scalable because it combines perspectives, skill sets, and creativity in a more efficient manner. In short, two heads are better than one. 

An excellent approach to incentivize a collective strategy is to shift the mindset from scarcity to one of contribution. 

The mindset of scarcity is one of supply and demand; when you have less of something, that thing increases in value. This is the idea that the less there is out there, what is available will be more valued. This ultimately leads to a race to the bottom. 

However, the mindset of contribution is one where the race to the top has no ceiling. The potential opportunities are endless because you have more resources to tap into. Adding your piece to the bigger picture enables you and your team to work with a much broader canvas. 

We are living in a time where scarcity is not so much the focal point, but the opportunity for abundance is. With that in mind, working together encourages more growth than working alone does. 

#37 - Conversation with Nick Hartman

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1) We don’t know, and that’s Okay

Nick and I have very “deep” conversations that touch on broad and far-reaching topics. 

From discussions on consciousness to the purpose of life, our conversations are not the ones you’ll hear at the bar on Thursday nights. 

We understand that isn’t normal, but we also don’t care. 

The subjects we touch on have such extensive implications that they seem too big or too complicated to find the correct answers. 

We don’t position ourselves as people who know it all, nor do we believe that we will ever know everything but developing a better understanding and the pursuit of truth is what interests us the most. 

When I started this podcast, I had the intention of creating it for people who “overthink things” or have heard “why does it matter?” when it comes to the most critical ideas our society and we as individuals face. 

It is about conversations, a dialogue to exchange experiences and information in hopes that we might walk away a little bit better because of them. 

I can say that I walked away better from many of the conversations  I’ve had with Nick, and even if we don’t know it all, at least we’re willing to consider it all. 

2) Ideas

When I talked to Nick about his creative approach to problem-solving, he spoke about how he would meet with his teammates and just start throwing any and all ideas out on the table. 

He talked about how most of these ideas weren’t good ones but conveyed the importance of being willing to present ideas that may have a chance of being built off of. 

The more ideas you have, the more likely you are to find one that’s half decent enough to approach a problem. And just by engaging a problem is a foot in the right direction because it gives you the ability to try and revise along the way. 

James Altucher talks about writing in this way, in that he looks as writing in a similar way of sculpting. The sculptor cannot create a sculpture if there isn’t a stone available to sculpt. 

Same goes for other things we work on. If there’s nothing there, to begin with, how can we begin at all? How can we start to repair that relationship if the relationship doesn’t exist? How can we continue to build that business if the business doesn’t exist? How can we develop better skills in a specific area if we don’t even try working on the skillset at all?

This is pretty simple stuff, but it can all be tied back to the ability to present garbage ideas and go from there. 

3) Push

In this episode, Nick and I talk about pushing through the discomfort. We did a Yoga class last month which was a prime example of pushing through situations that we’d rather not be in but find ourselves in regardless. 

Physical exercise is such an excellent conduit for placing ourselves in challenging situations that force us to go through difficulties and make us realize what we’re capable of on the other side. 

When the body tells you that it doesn’t want to do another rep, another mile, another second in a particular position, these situations bring you to a mental place where you get to witness what types of decisions you make. 

Do you decide to distract yourself? To make excuses? To make rationalizations? We all truly know what’s good for us and what’s not, but how many times have we talked ourselves out of something all in the name of being comfortable and instant gratification? 

I know I have. Too many times than I’d like to admit. But we're graciously given repeated opportunities to challenge ourselves day in and day out, all the way from the living room, to the grocery store, to the gym. 

It comes down to having the awareness to realize when you’re mind is tempting you to take the shortcut and become undisciplined. It’s in these moments when you get to realize what you’re capable of when you decide to push back, push through, and do more so that you can become more. 

4) What’s Happening Now

As a musician, Nick has become accustomed to performing in front of strangers. This can be a scary thing to do. 

What are they going to think of me? Are they going to like my work? Am I prepared enough? Am I good enough? Are all questions that can flood the brain when on the stand. This is why Nick has been pushing me to do an open mic comedy set so that I can grapple with these challenges. 

We’ve had numerous conversations about performing, and he always talks about the power of leaving expectations out of it, and just going up to perform and be in that moment while you do so. 

Nick talks about how when you pull away from what’s happening now, you can’t be yourself entirely, and because of that, you can’t fully display your talents to the best of your ability. 

If you’re not a musician, a comedian, or any other type of performer, you can still apply this to your day-to-day lives in that when you pull away from what’s going on right in front of you; you’re not entirely invested in the present moment. 

You can’t be fully in the conversation if you’re thinking about what’s coming next. You can’t be fully enjoying that movie if you’re thinking about what happened before you started watching it. You can’t be fully yourself while on a hike or simply sitting at home scrolling through your phone to find something that passes the time. 

It’s one of the most challenging things to do, but when you can bring yourself to what’s happening right now and fully be there, you can also fully be yourself. 

5) Things Take Time to Develop

“People miss out on relationships because they keep their conversations safe.” - Nick Hartman

Nick and I have abnormal conversations that most people would rather not discuss. Things like how we’re floating on a rock in outer space, or life and death, or the pursuit of the “good life.” These are things that are broad, complex, and even complicated on multiple levels in which most people in our society feel they don’t have time to deal with. 

I want to talk about complicated and complex topics more often than not, but it’s just not sustainable in day-to-day conversations, nor should it be. 

I think these topics deserve compassion and understanding so that way the conversations lead to growth rather than ego stroking. 

It takes time to develop relationships, and in time you can hold more significant conversations with the people you’ve developed significant relationships with. 

This is obvious in the sense that you’re more willing to share in-depth details of your life with your mother than you are with the guy at the gas station down the street. However, long-term thinking of developing significant relationships goes out the window when you pass judgment on another person or group of people who aren’t into talking about the same things you are. 

If they’re not down to discuss interplanetary motion with you, then you shouldn’t hold that against them as much as you should become curious as to why they aren’t interested in and learning more about what they are interested in. 

When you don’t start a conversation at all because they’re not what you’re into is limiting, whereas being open and trying to gain context of the other person is beneficial to both you and them. 

#36 - Conversation with Dom Polito

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1) Yoga

I remember the smirk on people’s faces when I told them I was getting into Yoga about five years ago. I once suggested it to a friend to help with his back issues and was laughed at. “What’s funny?” I asked him. “Yoga is for girls,” was his answer. 

The thing about Yoga is that the practice teaches you to be calm and therefore, you don’t see a lot of yogi’s grabbing people by the shoulders and screaming “Who cares if people think Yoga is for girls. If it works, then it works!” 

I spent ten years playing sports from Elementary school through Highschool, and I always avoided stretching. It was hard, tedious, and that’s the point. 

That’s the inevitable point that yoga practice brings us all to. It’s difficult. And in those strenuous positions, you get to connect with the only thing that can make things better: yourself. 

The first five yoga sessions I took was challenging because I would hold my breath under challenging poses. That’s the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. 

You’ll notice that in any Yoga session, the instructor will emphasize the breath. I once heard a saying that meditation is breath and stillness while yoga is breath and movement. 

As you move, you follow along with the breath and allow the breath to bring you to a place that’s present. That place may be a limb that you’re stretching, or it may be a thought or an emotion that’s running through your mind. 

Either way, it’s tension and the strain is brought to the forefront when you’re moving your body while following your breath. 

Yoga places you in positions that you could go avoided for the rest of your life. It manipulates the spine in a way that increases flexibility and durability by strengthening the muscles that surround it. 

Yoga forces you to breathe into the tight spots of a position and forces you to sit with what is rather than wander into a place where you'd rather be. 

Yoga reaches parts of your body that you forgot about because they’ve gone neglected by non-movement for years at a time. 

 During my first Yoga session, the instructor told us that it was a “judgment-free” zone. 

I’m so glad that she mentioned this because if it hadn’t been for that comment, I would have thought the whole room was judging me due to my stiffness and coordination. 

Every time I found myself in an awkward position, I would just remind myself that nobody is judging me. I would just bring myself back to my breath and focus on myself, right there at that moment. 

Obviously, this has benefits off the mat as well. When difficult times present themselves to you, how do you react? Do you feel as if everyone else is out to get you? Or do you turn inward and breath through the tension? 

2) Being Better at Being Human

Dom mentioned that as a human, he wants to get better at being one. That can mean a lot of different things, but narrow down on being stronger both mentally and physically. 

Dom has been an inspiration to me, in that he’s always learning new information that's challenging and difficult to grasp. Along with his growing intellect, he’s been optimizing himself physically as well. 

We need more of that. We need more smart and strong dudes (or gals). Why not? If you can be well rounded and sharp in all areas of being a human, why wouldn’t you pursue it? 

When you think of success, that term has many definitions. But can one honestly be successful if they have a lot of money, but compromised physically? Can one truly be successful if they have “one-punch” knockout power but not a clue how to add value to a business? 

We all have our strengths and the ability to specialize in select areas, but overcompensating in one area over another is never a good thing. 

It’s like the movies playing out in real life where the jock doesn’t study, and the nerd doesn’t exercise. That used to be the stigma but has now shifted in the other direction. If you’re honestly a brilliant mind, it’s inevitable that you’ll realize how vital exercise is. If you're in great physical condition and genuinely looking to grow, you’ll also understand how important it is to push yourself mentally. 

The mind and body are aspects that create one unit; the human being. So to optimize yourself as a human being, you must focus on improving both aspects. 

3) Control

Control feels good because it also feels comfortable. When you deal with things like fear and anxiety, you can almost always trace its roots back to control, or lack thereof. 

Dom mentioned how control over his physical body is a representation of how that control can translate into life. 
If something happens, he can physically move out of the way, or push/carry someone out of the way if need be. 

Dom also talked about the importance of understanding when you don't have control over a situation, you always can control how you respond. 

That’s where our control lives. It doesn’t happen by the situation itself or the things in our external world, control lives within us and how we take the next steps moving forward. 

This understanding frees the mind to allocate energy and resources towards efficiently responding instead of reacting negatively to anything difficult that comes your way. 

The issue isn’t the issue itself but how you respond to it is. 

4) Falsifiable Arguments

One of the topics Dom wanted to touch on was the subject of Falsifiable arguments. These are undeniable and indisputable arguments that only grow stronger with any evidence that supports their claim. 

Dom has decided to no longer engage in falsifiable arguments, and I’m right behind him. In fact, I’m to the point of not arguing in any shape, form, or fashion because it’s pointless. 

A debate should be a discussion, not a competition. So many times in my life I’ve found myself arguing over something that I wanted to be right, rather than working with another person or group towards a better understanding of the truth. 

When we want to be right more than we want to find what is right, we allow the ego to take precedence over truth. 

The bible talks about how the truth will set you free, and Buddhism talks about the true self. Both of these ideas are admirable because it leads to a better understanding of oneself. Having a better understanding of oneself means that our perception of reality is closely aligned with external reality and once aligned, we're placed in a better position to navigate the world accurately. 

The truth is essential because it allows us to know where we stand. If we let our pride get in the way of seeking the truth, it's a big deal because it leaves us with a lot less than if you genuinely cared about finding what's real.  

5) Technology

Dom and I have spent hours discussing technology and the potential for mass technological disruption. His view is a little more gloomy than mine, but at the same time, he carries much more confidence heading into the future. 

I think one of the most significant differences in views we hold is that technology will adapt faster to the point where the technology can be a substitute for organic matter. 

Take for instance the idea of sugar, refined grains, and processed foods. Our bodies are organic, and they didn’t evolve to have as much of the types of ingredients mentioned above. 

Dom believes that in time technology will allow us to surpass the organic demands of our bodies (whole foods with earth grown nutrients) and give us the ability to live optimally off of “food” that isn’t real food. 

If humans are around long enough, this may be inevitable, and I’m not the one to usually say this, but I don’t think that this will happen in our lifetime. 

I’m too uninformed to have an educated guess at these developments, and I must admit that there’s a little piece of me that’s holding on to the idea that human biology will remain dictated by evolution. 

But if a man who comes from nature produces something else, doesn’t that by default make the product natural? We often separate ourselves and the things we make by calling them man-made vs. natural, but at some level, they fall under the same scope of existence in our universe. 

What’s the difference between your house and a birdhouse? A lot when you look at the sophistication and technicalities. But both your home and the birdhouse are at some level built from materials that came from the environment accessible to each and all of those materials can trace their origin back to nature. 

The point is that yes technology may be adapting faster, but its adaptation will never supersede nature because technology itself is at some level nature. 

#35 - Conversation with Kevin Vinci

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Kevin Vinci is a musician with over a decade of experience with multiple instruments. Kevin is currently the Music Director at his Church in Canton, Ohio. Here's the top 6 topics I took from episode number 35: 

1) Always Learning

“I’m always growing. As an artist, the moment you consider yourself “there,” that’s it… You’re always learning.” - Kevin Vinci

I thought about naming the podcast “Always Learning” or “Living. Learning.” or something around that neighborhood, but it just felt cheesy. 

Nevertheless, the importance of learning have been made clear in almost every episode we’ve done, and this quote by Kevin embodies the spirit of what the guests and I have been pursuing this whole time: To learn. 

Kevin loves learning about music. I love learning about people. What do you love learning about? 

Now more than ever is the perfect time to love learning because of the ocean of information we have available to dive into. 

Whatever you’re interested in, you have a global “brain”  that you can tap into to draw education from. 

No longer are the days where you’d need to be extremely wealthy to get a high level of education, or would need to move to another location, or even meet people who are difficult to reach. 

You can simply use search bars found on Google, YouTube, Lynda.com, Coursera or even the Podcast app to find tons of information on whatever topic you’re looking into. 

It’s no longer the question of how to learn because learning is now more accessible than ever. It’s now only a matter of know what questions to ask the search bar and what to look for from there. 

2) 10 or 10,000

Kevin and I talked about the ten years or ten thousand hour rule coined by Malcolm Gladwell that presents the theory that to become a master at any craft; one must practice for ten years or ten thousand hours to get there. 

But the word “practice” is the crucial word in this concept because practice doesn’t mean merely showing up and going through the motions. Practice on the path towards mastery is considered to be dedicated focused practice that forces you past your comfort zone. It means committing yourself to an undisturbed time where you can focus on the deep work that will push you and your skills forward. 

In Kevin’s case, it may mean that he tries a new song that he’s never played and after he’s gotten the bars down pat, he might want to see how fast he can hit each note and making himself push himself past his comfort level. 

For you, it could mean lifting more, reading more, or trying out the other approach that doesn't make sense now but you have a feeling in your gut that it may make sense later. 

3) Taking What Comes our Way

During the podcast, Kevin and I talked about the first time we met. He and our mutual friend Nick Hartman are bandmates, and they were having a “jam session” in which they were kind enough to let me listen in on. 

Nick asked me to get on the keyboards, and I was hesitant. I did it anyway despite my discomfort and felt out of my element (which I was).

Kevin didn’t care if I was an artist, all he cared about was what was going on at that moment, and he hitched his wagon to whatever vibes were coming out of the keyboard through my fingers. 

It was trippy, and it was fun. Kevin was able to take my nonsensical beats I was trying to make and would just roll with whatever came his way by turning it into something better with his guitar. 

That was inspiring not only in the sense of art but also for life in general. Being able to take whatever is being directed towards you and making the best of it is a lesson we all should take on and remind ourselves frequently of. 

If Kevin can take my horrible sounds and create something of meaning out of it, what does that say about the other frequencies we put out into the universe? It’s not up to us as to what comes our way, but it is up to us on how we handle whatever does come our way. 

4) Doing Nothing

What has the smartphone given us? A lot. Both good and bad. But It’s given us the ability never to be bored. 

Any time we feel bored, we can always turn to our phones by checking the scores, the Facebook feed, or our email. 

I am just as guilty, filling in the gaps of life with artificial stimuli, but are they gaps of life when you’re alive? Just to be alive is something to be amazed over and if you’re alive, then you can experience being alive. You can “be.”

The practice of being is a practice of doing nothing. Can you sit with doing nothing? Or do you feel like you’re missing or missing out on something? There’s a tension that arises when doing nothing and comes from the stories we tell ourselves about the world. 

Being able to remove yourself from those stories and bringing yourself to what is, allows you to practice nothing and that nothingness may open up space for more meaningful experiences to enter. 

5) Move On

“Acknowledge it, and allow yourself to move on.” - Kevin Vinci

Kevin’s statement was in regards to the bombing on stage as an artist, but even we non-musicians can take this advice and apply it to our day to day situations. 

The problem isn’t the “problem” itself but rather how we deal with the issue in front of us. 

If you didn’t do well at work, with your partner, with your own goals, what does that mean? None of the previously mentioned issues are issues at this moment in time, so what matters is what you’re going to do right here right now given the current situation. 

By acknowledging what happens, you allow yourself space to be with the way things are and take the next best step moving forward. 

Digging up the past or forecasting the future does nothing to help what needs to be done right here right now. 

Acknowledgement merely is detaching your thoughts from you. Allowing to see them for what they are rather than identifying and being consumed by them. 

6) Meet Them Where They’re At

“If you can meet people where they're at, it allows the moment to flourish.” - Kevin Vinci

This statement is so beautiful that I think it’s “Etsy material” that could be placed on plaques and hung up around living rooms across America. 

So many times I’ve gone into interviews with agendas, stories, and noise in my mind about the other person that it’s clouded my vision to honestly see the other person as they are at that moment. 

Being able to meet them with sincerity and openness and free from my projections is the only way that allows me to get the most out of the interaction. 

How many times have you been in a conversation with someone else while thinking about what you just did before or what your plans are after your done talking to them?

When this happens, are you truly getting the most out of such exchange? Or how about when we’re with a partner or a close friend, and we start projecting our wants on how we wished they’d act? What does that do for them when you’re not entirely there and present with who they are as a person right then and there? 

Being able to meet people where they're at is being able to bring yourself fully into that moment, and that’s the only way you to be fully present in what’s happening in your life. 

It’s difficult, and after 35+ interviews, I can attest. It’s difficult not to have your mind being jerked around by so many inputs when you’re with another person, but that’s also an opportunity for you to become more aware of your distractions and practice the ability to bring yourself to wherever you find yourself in the present moment. 


#34 - Conversation with George Lemons III

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My cousin George Lemons has a Bachelor’s degree in Justice Studies at Kent State University,  a Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, and currently is a member of the United States Navy. Here are the top 6 takeaways from our convo in episode 34. 

1) War

“When you think about the ideology of war, it doesn’t make sense - unless you’re looking at it as a financial thing, which many people do” - George Lemons III

Listening to people like Jocko Willink and listening/reading stories of war, makes me appreciate life so much more. 

The first book I ever read was on the Hollocaust, and it was that experience that taught me how powerful reading could be because of all the emotions and questions I had when reading the book. 

Looking at the dark side of humanity has the ability to aluminate its bright side. 

But could we live in a world with no war? I can’t possibly dare to present any comment on that. 

There are too many unknown variables at play when it comes to war. What’s the rationale? What are the incentives? What’s the point? I can’t even begin to come close to answering any of these questions. 

But I do know that the world overall is now a safer place. It wouldn’t seem that way by watching the news, but even when you look back on the twentieth century, we saw rivers of blood drawn from the likes of Two World Wars, a Korean War, a Cold War, and a Vietnam War among others. 

There’s much we can learn from war because it’s the most extreme example of humans behaviors. I’m not so sure if the question is can we stop war is as essential as it is for us to study it so that we can better understand and challenge ourselves to stop our destructive behavior because of it. 

2) A Different Angle

George is always looking at the opposite argument. He’s constantly playing devil's advocate and because of this, it at times seems as if he’s a contrarian. 

That type of outlook on life is refreshing because we usually don’t get pushback from our ideas, no matter how trivial they may be. Being able to look at things from the opposite side and maintain two beliefs that contradict themselves is learning. 

Think about when you learn something; you held one idea about a subject, and new information came to you. That’s when you took what you already knew and what you just found out and tried placing them together in a way that now makes sense. 

Testing our assumptions is underrated. We don’t give ourselves enough credit, or maybe we give ourselves too much credit when we don’t question our own self-limiting beliefs?

What’s the opposite argument for when you tell yourself that you’re not dedicated enough? Smart enough? Strong enough? 

The opposite of these beliefs may open up doors that you never knew existed, and the only way to uncover them is by looking at things from a different angle. 

3) Being Right vs. Finding the Truth

Although they may come from a place of good intentions, some of your beliefs may not work and acknowledging that is the first step in the direction of growth. 

We all understand that we don’t have all the answers, so the question now becomes what are you going to do when more compelling evidence is evident? 

When you pick one side or the other, it can be tempting only to take the things that support your argument and leave out any and everything that doesn’t. 

What good does that do? It makes you feel right at the moment but does that encourage growth? 

Picking and choosing the things that make you right comes from the ego that desires to look right more than it wants to find the thing closest to the truth. 

When you place ego over the truth in any situation, you’re not only limiting yourself, but you’re limiting progress as a whole because you actively deny the chance to contribute more towards the truth. 

4) Being Scared of the Dark

“Genetically we’re uncomfortable with uncertainty” - George Lemons III

George shared an example of how children are scared of the dark and at the root of that fear lives uncertainty. The same goes for adults in one form or another; we just know how to cover up our fears better than children do. 

The fear of someone disagreeing with your ideas or the fear of what someone might say in that email or the fear of what someone might comment on your Facebook post is all fear of the unknown but when you look at it on paper in black and white does it matter?

Does it matter if they text you back? Does it matter if you get 100 likes vs. 10 likes? Does it matter that you got an 89 vs. 90 on that exam? Not really. 

But what does matter is energy, and you only have so much of it. Understanding that there’s uncertainty in life and moving forward regardless is a better use of energy than the alternative. 

If you truly spent energy on all the things that could or might happen, you’d never get anything done. So why waste any energy on things that don’t matter regardless even if you knew them to be certain or not? 

5) Learning from New Places

George is an avid traveler. Of course, traveling is fun and sometimes even romantic and provides experiences that lead to looking at the world and life differently. Travel is another form of learning. 

Learning about other cultures, other people, and also about yourself and what it means to be in another place. Travel can bring a lot out of us that we previously didn’t know to be there. 

George is always pushing me to get my passport, and I’ve made excuses as to why I haven’t. But although I haven’t gone overseas, I’ve been able to do forms of traveling that are a little less glamourous. 

I can remember the first time I went to Edgewater Park in Cleveland for the first time. I had been working ten minutes away in downtown Cleveland for almost a year before I set foot on the beach there, and I was blown away of what I was able to experience on the edge of Ohio. 

There was a beach party (in the middle of the week), an open field of grass where people played soccer and flew kites, and there was even a parkour course that surrounded the edge of the park. 

Now I understand that this is no Venice or South Beach, but the point is that you can go to places that you’ve never been before without having to leave the country, your state, or even your city. You can be a traveler anywhere that you find yourself if only you allow yourself to get curious, get out, and be open to learning from new people, places, and things. 

6) Priorities

“We prioritize work more than we prioritize life.” - George Lemons III

This quote immediately stuck out to me as soon as George said it. He mentioned how he has friends that will show up early to a job that they hate and at the same time show up late to spend time with the friends they love. It doesn’t make sense. 

Of course, we have responsibilities and there’s something to be respected about a person who’s ambitious enough to work their way to a better position in life, but why allow that to come at the expense of the things you love?

If you truly love your work, spend more time at work. If you truly love your friends, spend more time with them. If you love both, make it a priority to maximize your experience in both contexts and remove anything else that might get in the way of that. 

Anytime that I start to let something “slide” in my life, whether it is reading, exercising, and spending quality time, my wife will always point out that whatever needs to get done comes down to priorities. 

What are your priorities? Take a hard look at what they are because these are the aspects of life that are driving you towards whatever place you find yourself in. 

#33 - Conversation with Myself

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I’m hesitant to write a post about the things I picked up during a podcast I did myself, but I have a new rule that I’m following: To treat myself how I’d want others to treat me. 

Yeah that last sentence is a little cheesy but I’m often too hard on myself and from conversations I’ve had with other people offline, there’s more people than not who’d agree that they could be nicer to themselves. So let’s dive in.

1) Energy

I’ve been sensitive to energy and where to place it as of late. Not only in the sense of my physical body but also mental energy. The thing that has become most apparent to me is to repeatedly ask the question “Is this productive?” in everything I do. 

Is it productive to get into an argument with a friend over what a sports team did? Is it productive to spend more time on your phone than not? Is it productive to beat yourself up over the things you didn’t get done? Does that put you in a better place moving forward?

All of this mental energy takes place within you - but if left unchecked could result in a feeling as if the world is crumbling on top of you. 

“Is this productive?” and “Is this the best use of my energy?” are two critical questions to keep in mind throughout the day. And sometimes you won’t always like the answer you know to be true. When you feel that tension, that’s the time when you need to take a step back the most and realign yourself towards the things that are most important to you. 

2) Relationships and Expectations

Relationships and expectations are challenges we’re all trying to figure out the best way we can. And in the relationships we have, we don’t always recognize the expectations we place on others. 

Expectations are as simple as assuming that they’d be the first person to say hi when you see them in the grocery store. Or the hope that they’ll return your text or that they’ll be thoughtful enough to remember something that’s important to you. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things no matter how trivial are lovely to receive, but if we know we’d like it, why not be the one that first puts that type of vibe out into the universe?

There would be so much avoidance of disappointment if people took the lead in each relationship. 

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly.” - Marcus Aurelius 

This quote is a groom way of looking at the world, but at least you start from a place that can only get better. Can you be surprised when others think of themselves before you? Can you get angry at someone not doing something you assumed they’d do? Anger, confusion, resentment, where are they coming from? They’re coming from within you, and that’s where they live. The other person doesn’t care nearly enough as to how you should be feeling as much as you do, so why put yourself in such a place to be let down when they don’t care the way you think they should?

They’re “your” feelings, and you should treat them as such. This isn’t an excuse to give people the right to treat others in any way they want to, but when your feelings are hurt, they're "your" feelings which means you own them and you’re the one that has to live with them. 

3) The Ripples of Life

This podcast was specifically for me. Joe Rogan and Dan Carlin spend a lot of time talking about how people should take action towards the life they want. They used podcasting as an example throughout the episode (thank god). 

The quote that stuck out to me the most was when Carlin said “Life is a verb” and talked about how when you take action on anything; it causes “ripples” in life that go other places. 

Sometimes we feel stuck, and we’re not sure what the next step should be but things only happen when you put some action, any action, into motion. 

Why would the life that you want to live magically fall into your lap? Who/what would bring that to you? It’s not going to happen because it’s an illusion. The only life you have is the life that you’re experiencing right now in this current moment, and that’s also the only place where action can be taken. 

Do you want to get stronger? Go workout now. Do you want to work somewhere else? Apply and talk to other people about working elsewhere now. Do you want to live anywhere else? Start making a plan about what you’ll need and what you’ll do to move somewhere you want now. 

Life doesn’t reward thinking about it; it only rewards action and action can only be taken right here, right now. 

4) Seeking Peace

One of the themes I’ve picked up from the 30 plus interviews I’ve done for this podcast is that people are seeking peace, both for themselves and for others. 

Peace on earth seems too naive to think we’ll ever achieve, but why is that the case? 

What if we all took it upon ourselves to have a peaceful mind filled with compassion and care? 

Is that too much to become a reality? Isn’t everyone capable of pursuing this? It may not be the case 100% of the time, but I think the world would be a better place if we all are actively seeking to become better individuals mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. 

Why not? What else is worth doing with the finite time we have here? People are afraid of dying so much to the extent they’re also scared of going after the things that would make life better while they have it. 

It doesn’t have to be monumental, and it can start with the smallest of acts. Can you help someone put on their coat or open the door for them? Can you write someone a meaningful note on an index card? Can you volunteer for the cause that’s down the street?

All of these things make us individually better because it allows us to contribute and in return, the outside environment is better because of it. 

5) Clinging to Certainty

I sold insurance for four years. During that four years, I heard the word “no” more than I heard the word “yes.” Not purchasing a policy because it doesn’t meet their needs is one thing, but often people would reject a free quote. 

I tried understanding where rejection came from and realized that it’s a place of wanting to be safe. It comes from a place of wanting to have more certainty than not. 

The shopper at the mall who answers “I’m just looking around,” to every salesperson to approach them does so because it’s safer than letting the store know what they’re looking for.

The friend who avoids the tough conversation is someone who sees it safer to not acknowledge an issue than risk the chance of upsetting the other person. 

The person who stays with an abusive partner does so because it’s the devil they know rather than the devil they don’t. 

In such an uncertain universe, anything that remotely resembles certainty, for better or worst, is attractive and sometimes gets the best of use. 

That went a long way to explain why people don’t get insurance quotes, but at the most fundamental level, it’s this desire for certainty that doesn't allow us to say “yes” because it’s safer to say “no” and stick with what you already got. 

6) Defusion of Responsibility

Why can’t you do what you want to do? Is it because you physically can’t do it? Or is it because you can’t do it within the time frame that you want? Is it because you’re impatient? Undisciplined? Soft?

Nobody wants to look at themselves and ask these questions because they’re afraid of the answer. I know this to be the case for me more than I’d like to admit. 

We often wait around for people to talk us into/out of something that we’re “chewing” on. We look for reassurance, but in reality, we’re looking for defusion of responsibility. 

If someone else tells you to do or not to do something, the outcome isn’t entirely dependent on you (or at least you think). 

The truth of the matter is, no one cares. Sure, maybe someone cares enough to tell you  what you want to hear, or tell you what they feel, but at the end of the day all you have is you’re own attitude and actions, and as soon as we realize this, the ball is in our court to do something about what we want to accomplish. 

Anything else is just an illusion and often a distraction from what we could be doing to push the ball forward towards our goals. 

7) Why You Can’t Relax

When I graduated high school, it was a time in my life that was full of anxiety. 

I had no clue what I wanted to do leaving high school, and on top of it all, I didn’t know what I could do. I finished high school towards the bottom of the class GPA standings, and I didn’t see myself as “smart.” 

To top it off, I wasn’t physically gifted our developed enough to play sports in college, so in a sense, I felt weak both mentally and physically. 

So what was the next step? Drowning myself in work. The first week out of high school I started working two jobs. I thought I had to because I didn’t understand loans (which I soon would be introduced to student loans - unfortunately). 

What was good about work was that it distracted me enough to worry a little less about what was going to happen next. 

I worked as a busboy at a restaurant and as a stocker at a fireworks store. Each moment of working both jobs, I thought about wearing a tie to work. I thought about eventually working in business and that I’d get to that point through brute force and effort. 

I thought that once I got an office job, I’d be able to breathe. A month later I got a call from my Aunt who owned an insurance agency on my birthday. I thought that she was calling to wish me a happy birthday, but she didn’t. She left a message on my phone telling me that she had an opportunity for me to come and do office administrative work. 

I knew that meant I’d be taking phone calls and filing paperwork, but I didn’t care. It was an office. So I jumped on the opportunity and started to work for her. 

I’m so grateful for that opportunity, but when I think back to that time, I still carried anxiety. I wasn’t sure what I was capable of or if I was going to be able to do the job. 

Every day is stocking shelves or cleaning tables; I thought to myself that I’d be okay once I got into an office but once I did I still felt fear. 

I’ve since realized that there’s no destination point. There’s no place that I’ll reach where I can say “Ah, I’ve made it. Now I can relax.” That place doesn’t exist because the only place that does exist is this moment in time. 

If you can’t relax and sit with the experience you’re having right now, you’ll never be able to relax. Even when you feel relaxed on vacation, that relaxation can only happen during the present moment. So why not bring that experience to this very moment that you’re reading this?

Whether you’re in a factory, a warehouse, an office, it doesn’t matter. You can be here right now, and when you consciously do that, you’re entirely investing yourself into the only thing that life has to offer: This present moment. 

8) Speaking Body Language

Body language is a form of communication that we’re all aware of but hardly acknowledge. Our bodies are always communicating with others and with ourselves. 

I write this on a bus commuting to work, with a gentleman sitting to the left of me. His posture is relaxed and unthreatening, and these are all assumptions I’m making without verbally communicating with him. 

But imagine if he were bent forward and aggressively looking toward the front of the bus through the aisle. What type of vibe would I be picking up then? A much different one. 

That’s pretty simple and apparent, but what is our own body telling ourselves? What is your body saying to your mind when slumped over at your desk, or when you’re halfway sitting up while on the couch, or when you’re in a room waiting for someone else on you’re phone hunched over and closed off from the people around you?

You have complete control over what your body is saying. If you want to be strong, confident, and energize, you can put that into motion by merely standing, sitting, and walking up straight and leaning towards the world instead of away from it.

Write down how you feel right now, and then try perfect posture and moving with intent and enthusiasm for three days. On the fourth day mark down how you feel and what you think. 

Compare notes and see if you’re better off than you were before when starting the experiment. 

#32 - Conversation with DeVaughn Townsend

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DeVaughn Townsend is a recording artist, painter, and entrepreneur. Here's the top 7 things I took away from our Conversation in episode 32. 

1) Influence 

Going back and listening to the episode DeVaughn and I recorded made me realize how I missed what he was trying to communicate when it comes to being influenced by the environment outside oneself. 

I carry this “no-nonsense” type of approach when it comes to going within and getting things done, but the reason I’m so strict on this method is that I realize the challenge of not allowing the thoughts, opinions, and suggestions of others affect how I behave. 

DeVaughn talked about how someone could influence another person without even realizing it. 

I spent the first 22 years of my life in this way. I lived in a place that was dictated by my culture, and it wasn’t until I realized that everyone has their own unique experience that I could embrace my own. 

Culture, social influence, and the environment are realities, but they're not the only reality. Sometimes we’re so deep in our reality that we don’t recognize this to be the case. 

Ironically DeVaughn and I experienced exactly what he was trying to tell me the day before I released the podcast. We were hanging out with a group of friends, and I influenced our actions in a way that wasn’t productive. 

I take full responsibility for that, and in a sense, I’m glad that it happened. DeVaughn and I talked about the situation later in the week, and it was a great learning experience for me to recognize that although our intentions may be right, the influence we have on others can be impactful for better or worst. 

It’s crucial to be aware of not only how others are influencing you, but also how you’re affecting others and if you’re not influencing for the better, why influence at all?

2) Being Curious

DeVaughn is one of the most open-minded people I know. I’m so thankful to have someone I can talk to without holding a single thing back from fear of judgment. This relationship has enabled me to grow in so many ways that it would be impossible for me to put down in words. 

I asked DeVaughn what's the common theme amongst the friends we have that share a similar worldview. He said that it’s a community of open-minded people who are curious. 

Being curious is essential because there’s so much unknown about our universe that if you try to live a life with having all “the right answers,” then you are bound to be in an awkward position. 

Being curious and allowing others to be is what encourages growth because it points to the fact that we’re all trying to figure out life (a massive board game without instructions) in our way and terms. We realize that having all the answers isn’t necessarily the point but perhaps asking meaningful questions is. 

3) Be True to the Info

DeVaughn talked about being true to the information you gather and how vital it is to not second guess yourself by hopping back over the mental hurdle you’ve crossed just because someone else who hasn’t done the research convinced you to do so. 

This concept is essential to realize because once you become curious and start asking difficult and challenging questions, you’ll soon understand that there’s a lot of work to be done not only personally, but culturally and socially as well. 

The work at times may seem overwhelming and pointless, and it may be easier to fall back to old patterns of thinking, but you know what’s best for your life because you’re the only one who’s lived it. If your life has brought you knowledge and wisdom that seems counter to those around you, don’t be so quick to doubt yourself. 

DeVaughn worded it beautifully by saying “doubt is just another form of fear.”

Fear of being wrong. Fear of being separate. Fear of the unknown or becoming unknown. 

Just as I believe you can’t obliterate fear, the same goes for doubt. We can’t run away from these aspects of life because they’re a part of it. They can’t be thought through, but only felt and once felt; they can be dealt with objectively. 

Sometimes it’s easier to doubt ourselves and the experiences we’ve had because that seems safer. Everyone around you thinks differently, and it’s not worth the argument to state your case. But who says you have to argue?

If you have information that’s profound to you and not realized yet by others, the best way to use that information is by action, not words. Allow your life to reflect what you’ve learned. Allow your example of how you treat others, yourself, and the world around you to speak volumes about the information you have. 

That goes way further than trying to convince people you’re right because it doesn’t matter if they believe in you or not, it only matters if you do. 

4) Old and New Stories

Names, symbols, ideologies, are stories that large numbers of people have agreed to be true. Where did these stories come from? People. 

Some stories have been told for so long by so many people that it can be easy to mistake these stories as reality. 

Just because the stories have been around for a long time, and so have the people telling them, doesn’t mean that the stories are absolute truths and it doesn't say suggest they can’t be changed or updated. 

We are just as capable of creating new stories as much as the people who created old ones. 

5) The Outcome

“A lot of the time when I struggle with a project is when I’m thinking of the outcome.” - DeVaughn Townsend. 

I do this too, even outside of projects. I’ve carried the idea of a “finish line” of some sort in almost everything I’ve done. 

I spent too much time thinking about what high school basketball would be like while in Jr High. 

I spent too much time thinking what college life would be like once I graduated from high school. 

I spent too much time thinking about what my career would be like once I got a bachelor’s degree.

Thinking about these things are standard and can be used for practical purposes such as planning and encouragement. But when we get lost in these thoughts and start to spend more time in the future than we are in the present moment, it takes away from what we could be doing right here, right now because we’re not entirely invested in the Now. 

Non “thinking” isn’t the goal, but catching yourself and realizing when you are thinking is the key to bringing yourself back to what is right in front of you. 

Whether that be the music you’re trying to produce, the book you’re trying to write, or listening to the other person in a conversation, looking for a finish line where there is none is pointless and takes you out of a place of fully experiencing what this moment has to offer. 

6) Teaching and Healing

“A lot of the things I do are an attempt to teach or to heal.” - DeVaughn Townsend

This quote is beautiful. And it’s easy to sit back and romanticize DeVaughn’s intentions and to doubt if our work outside of music can do the same. 

“I can’t teach or heal anyone from my cubicle,” one might believe, but that’s merely romanticizing the arts over everyday life. But what if you could make daily life your art?

To do this, you must first change how you define art. At first, glance, when we think of art we think of a painting, a sculpture, or a music score. But is that all the art there is?

Art is about connection and relationships. When another consciousness gets’s to get a glimpse of another consciousness is art because it’s an experience of bridging the gap between the two and that difference is where “God” lives, where the very source of anything and everything lives. When two or more forms of consciousness experience that connection, art has been created. 

For me, coming from the cubicle, I define my art by building more trust with every interaction. You can’t have confidence without giving it first, and you can’t experience faith without some level of connection that’s beyond you. 

Art is where healing takes place because the connection it offers makes you realize that you’re not alone, that you are a part of something, that you are a part of everything.  

7) 40+ as an Addiction? 

“If we did anything else for 40 hours a week, it’d be considered an addiction.” - DeVaughn Townsend on work. 

Work is important, but defining work and understanding what meaningful work means is more important. 

What's meaningful work? It’s the type of effort you put towards something that builds the character of your soul. 

Working in a cubicle can do that, but is 8 hours a day excessive? And outside of that, do you need to be working 40 plus hours a week? We do when our work becomes our identity instead of making an effort to define a deeper metric for success.

But the work we do is going will rapidly change with the future of artificial intelligence

There will be a time when artificial intelligence will replace jobs whose primary function is to move information from one computer to another. That’s just for the desk jobs. And when automation replaces drivers, accountants, and lawyers, will we be able to be mature enough as a society to discuss what to do next?

In a world where people identify themselves by what they do 40 plus hours a week, on the path towards a world where technology replaces jobs, can we discuss what this means for individuals and their purpose in life? I don’t know the right answer, but I at least hope that we can start to working together in finding the right questions to ask.