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Disrupting My Own Life

Disrupting My Own Life

Most of us strive for comfort. I know I have. Our society is full of comforts and panderings to the smallest of inconveniences. As human beings, we don’t like pain, so we do whatever we can to get away from it. Some pain physically hurts. If something is wrong with our body, it often notifies us through the sensation of pain. If something traumatic happens to us, we experience emotional pain, and this is where pain gets really interesting.

I have had a lot of trauma in my life, most of it is self-inflicted trauma, but it was trauma none-the-less. When you experience trauma there are a couple of different reactions that are common. The first is to fall into the victim role and sometimes we are the victim. If the actions of someone else hurt you, you have a right to be a victim. The problem with being the victim is that it is easy to get stuck there. We live in a society that makes it very comfortable to be the victim, so comfortable that it is likely you will become the very trauma that you were once the victim of. We all want to belong to something and to be understood so when someone understands our trauma and sympathizes with us it is easy to become addicted to that.

The different traumas I have experienced in life have never been more talked about before and that is the case for most traumas out there. If you were molested as a child, people talk about that now whereas not too long ago it was something people hid from others. Considering all of the hurt in the world, it is a great time to be alive because of the breaking down of these kinds of walls in society. It is now normal to admit that you struggled with something and that is a great thing. Being able to find and converse with others who have gone through what you went through is a good thing. The problem is that many people have allowed their identity to become the trauma they experienced and outside of that, they have no identity. People end up reliving their trauma day to day because it’s the only thing connecting them to people “who understand them.” People, we were not put here on earth to get hurt and then shut ourselves in around others who were hurt in the same way. How will you ever grow and become stronger if the only thing holding you together is other hurting people?

The other reaction is to grow from the trauma you experienced. Now obviously the best way to grow as a person is to just live a life in search of enlightenment and self-awareness, but we were not raised that way. I was raised by the generation who believed all advertising was truthful and that the Government is only trying to help us lead healthier better lives. It is only now that some of the Babyboomer generation is becoming more self-aware and understanding that there is a better way, but they already finished raising us so now we have to figure out how to undo the tendencies we have to microwave our boxed dinners and wash them down with “Sugar Free” beverages laced with chemicals we don’t understand. We were raised by the first generation to experience true convenience living and the last to experience the real “American Dream” as it was. We have our own version of the American Dream but it looks different and does not revolve around a single career and home ownership. Or at least it shouldn’t.

So trauma has definitely put me on a different path than I would have been on without it. Some people don’t need to experience much trauma because they were either raised in a way where they were taught to seek enlightenment on their own or they were an observant enough person to see what was going on around them in the world and were able to learn from what was happening to others. While I believe I am very observant and can easily learn from the mistakes of others, that has not stopped me from making my own mistakes and allowing myself to fall victim to trauma.

So now that I have explained a bit about where I am at on my path to becoming a more enlightened and self-aware person, let’s talk about this whole concept of Disrupting One’s Own Life. What does it mean to purposely disrupt your life in a world where most people are looking for the least about of disruption? First, let’s take a look at where I’ve been the past few years.

About two years ago I made some decisions to start dealing with some of my own junk which meant talking about it. That started first with my wife, some family, friends, and getting a counselor. I was in a rut and I also felt that I was dragging those around me into that rut as well. There were some things I needed to talk about that I had never talked about and unbeknownst to me at the time, I would end up going super deep into those things with my counselor over the coming years. The decision to talk to a counselor, and the right counselor, not just any counselor, was the best decision I have ever made. I plan to talk more about the importance of having people in your life that are deep thinkers and how this has helped me. The problem is that at first, it was kind of depressing. A lot was coming to the surface and it was really bumming me out. All of this stuff I was dealing with was already there as it was stuff I buried down inside me so I was not dealing with anything new other than the realization that this damage had been done.

I apologize if some of what I am saying sounds a bit cryptic. I very much plan on getting into the deeper details of my past on this blog and in other ways in the future but I am also wanting to make sure that I do that in a way that is beneficial. There is no purpose in me simply dumping my mess all over the internet with no real context. I was not given the experiences I have had in this life to present them that way. I need to not only honor my past appropriately but also make sure I share it in a context that will be able to help people. Otherwise, what was it all for?

So for about a year, I was super depressed. I was so depressed I wanted to isolate myself from everybody. There were moments I believed in my mind (thankfully only moments) that my family would be better off without me. I would keep them supported financially of course, but they would be better off without me around. Thankfully those dark moments were nothing more than moments, but thoughts like that haunted me for quite some time. I was not a very effective human during those months. If I didn’t have a business to run and others whose livelihood was my responsibility, I probably would have gone deeper into that darkness, but thankfully I had responsibilities and enough resilience left to keep moving forward.

After Thanksgiving of 2017, I had had enough. I had spent enough time sad and needed out of the rut I had gotten myself into. I was not doing anybody any favors by living in the mindset I had been in so I decided to change it. I literally changed my mind and decided I was no longer going to be depressed about where I was in life at that moment. You see, I think that we have done ourselves a disservice by giving everything a name and a personality. Depression is a big thing and affects a lot of people but giving it a name and a personality has only grown the depression epidemic. More people suffer from anxiety and depression than ever before, even during the depression era where people had good reason to be extremely bummed out about life and the outlook of the future. A few months prior to pulling myself out of the depression I had gone to see a therapist through my medical provider. My counselor even suggested it. The Psychologist was quick to diagnose me as clinically depressed and recommended I start medication, which I did. The problem is that I took medication for about three months and felt no different. I was told and believed that the medication would make my life better, but that was not my experience at all. For all I knew I was taking sugar pills. After about three months of being on medication, I slowly backed off my dose over the course of three weeks to nothing at all. I don’t want to get into an argument with anyone here about whether the medication works or not, whether or not I was truly depressed or argue any other unknown factors influence on how it all went down, but I pulled myself out of depression, not medication. It is possible people (but please only do this after consulting with your doctor). You just have to have had enough. And yes I know that not every person out there is capable of this due to the varying degrees of mental illness. What I am saying though is that there are many people out there who were told they are clinically depressed when really they are just going through a patch of depression. I now know that there is a difference and I am sad that clinicians treat all depression and anxiety the same way.

Deciding to be done with sadness was not enough though. After deciding to pick myself up off the floor my life did not change. I still had the same struggles and battles to fight each day and I continued to fight them for almost an entire year. About five months ago, my last employee quit to move on to different work. That left me alone at my office. Each day I would go to work, and work alone. It was just me, the tasks I needed to complete, and my thoughts. At first, I had a lot of work to catch up on as I had enough work for two people, actually enough for four people, but two of us were supposed to be there for it. It took me until the end of September to get caught up, so three months after my last employee quit. After I was caught up I had some time to think and think I did. I found myself looking around my office at all of the equipment I had acquired over the years feeling anxious about it. I didn’t have to be at the office by any certain time anymore because nobody else was going to be there so I started looking into my daily routine, which seemed to have been causing me anxiety as well. I started making notes about my day and logging my activities which quickly led me to the realization that I was not being very effective with my time. I knew something with my work life needed to change.

I had also been chasing the goal of building passive income revenue streams that would offset and eventually replace my need for a traditional source of income. I have been chasing freedom from the traditional occupation for my entire life. Now not having employee overhead I realized that if I didn’t have the overhead of my office, I would already be there. Between the income I was receiving from my YouTube channels and online content combined with the recurring revenue from managed services I provide through my online marketing agency, I had enough income to live that freedom now. Recognizing that and the fact that I needed to change my current daily routine led me to the disruption of my own life, where I am at today, and my new plans for the future.

I started off this blog talking about comfort. It is comfort that is unnatural. We were not designed to be comfortable and comfort is why so many of us are unhappy and end up depressed. Comfort keeps us from living out our true potential and from becoming what we were told we could be when we were young which was “anything you put your mind to.” I knew that I needed to be more productive with my time and that was not going to happen in my current routine so I needed to disrupt it. The disruption started by deciding to close my office and work from home. I had worked from home before, so I knew I was capable of it, I just didn’t have three children before. Working from home meant that I would have to be as productive as I could during the hours they were at school. After they were home from school the house was theirs so my entire routine would need to change in order to make sure I got stuff done within this new window of time. To be honest, when they are home from school, I want to be able to hang out with them, not be stuck at an office until dinner time. I am running out of days where my kids will prioritize hanging out with me over friends. I need to prioritize them now when they are young. It would be much harder for me to make this change later in life when they are older and all they know is that there Dad works all day and gives them his leftover attention. They deserve the best of me and I want them to have that.

Because we live in a world of comfort I think it is important to disrupt ourselves from time to time. In the past, trauma has disrupted my life and I noticed that I have always come out stronger because of it. This time I wanted to be the one leading the disruption, not circumstances. This disruption is just the first of many to come as I never want to become complacent about where I am at or what I have achieved. Everything is an opportunity to learn and grow. I want to raise my children to be adults that see every opportunity as a chance to be enlightened. I want them to be self-aware and able to quickly recover from life’s hurts. On this Earth, we will never be free of trauma or pain, but we can choose to learn from it, better ourselves, and empower others through it.

Discussing what I have been doing with others seems to be unsettling with them, which is why I know I am heading in the right direction. Disruption is a good thing. It keeps us moving and learning. Industries are being disrupted because their providers got too comfortable. General Motors announced today that they are laying off 10,000 employees and closing down five factories when Tesla is hiring like mad and building factories. GM is refocusing on electric vehicle production and will scramble to catch up to companies that have been moving in that direction for years now. I want to be the one proactively disrupting my life rather than being reactionary to what is going on around me.

If this post stirred you in any way or if you are at all interested in what I am doing, I would love to hear your thoughts. Let’s talk about it in the comments section below this post. You can also be notified when I post new content by signing up for my email newsletter.

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I’m Raising Material Obsessed Children

Too Much Stuff

I was pretty lucky growing up. My life was not perfect, but I had a roof over my head in a nice neighborhood. I remember having things, but not too many things. My parents did not have much money, especially after they divorced, so my Grandparents provided the extras for us. I had a computer in my home at a young age, which was rare in the late 80’s. I had new shoes at the start of every school year. Clothes that fit me. Stuff like that. What sticks out to me more is what others had that I did not and here I am in my late 30’s just now realizing how much of a problem it was.

Fyi, the photo I used for this blog is a stock photo but the storage at my office is just about as jam-packed with stuff.

When I was young, my Dad and Grandfather both had their own spaces. My Dad’s was the garage, which was unattached to our house. It was like his own little world out there full of tools and fun stuff like that. We went out there to hang out with him as often as we could because it was where Dad was and we wanted to be near him.

My Grandfather built a large shop when I was very young and filled that with machines that he used to make just about anything he wanted. Growing up we would go out there and make our own little things using whatever scraps we could find from the bigger projects. This is where I learned to weld, turn a piece of metal on a lathe, shape something on a mill, and much more. Adult me has a strong desire to return to that part of my childhood. I just want to make stuff.

Though these aspects of my childhood were pretty cool, what I have brought from it into my adult life is the need to have a tool for everything. The tools of my trade are the different technologies I use for work. This ranges the gamut of computers and accessories to cameras and the like. I have acquired a lot over the years for work but my work life and personal life are very closely tied together. Since I own a business, everything that the business is composed of is personally mine. My workspace has been described as by several people as a man cave or a toy room. I have computers, cameras, screens, phones, tablets, and more. All in the name of work.

Just about everything I have I purchased for work and have used it somehow. I have not been reckless in my spending on technology, though I could have gotten by with much less. I have found a way to make my desire for the latest and greatest work for.

I wanted an excuse to always have the latest smartphones and tablets so I created a blog and YouTube channel around that. The same went with cameras so I have a blog and YouTube channel for that as well. I have used these tools to work on building my passive income revenue streams. Nothing wrong there…

I have been noticing a few different things lately and I am going to talk about two of them in this post. The first is the anxiety that things bring into my life.

There have been several times in my life where I have downsized drastically. By drastically, I mean selling everything including my bed. I have done that twice. At one point I could have fit everything I owned in the back of my small truck. Those were the days when I felt most free. I didn’t have much to maintain so I had all of this mental space for creativity and serving. My expenses were pretty low as well so that made it easy to live.

Over the years I have accumulated more than I have ever had. I have a home that is filled with stuff I don’t use or have any real connection to. I have an office overflowing with stuff that goes unutilized. I have still managed to keep my expenses down compared to most of the people I know but I still desire to operate on less. I follow these blogs and YouTube channels on minimalistic lifestyles and desire that for myself. My wife and I have watched the Tiny House shows on Hulu and something inside of us desires that but fears it at the same time. Something tells me much of the rest of our society feels this too because otherwise, these type of shows would not exist.

I have noticed that my office and workspace does not bring me comfort. If anything, I feel anxiety when I am around it. It’s because there is so much here and I feel the need to do something with all of it. I should be doing more with it, right?

So I recognize that the amount of stuff in my life is causing me to be uneasy. I never wanted to have all of the stuff and now here I am with all of the stuff.

The second and more frustrating thing pulling at me is that my children look at everything I have and covet it. My boys especially, come into my office and it’s like a playground. I see in them what I felt when I was their age walking into my Grandfathers shop. It is a place full of things they can’t touch. Of course, I let them use the computers here, but it’s not their playground, it’s mine. They talk about how much stuff they are going to buy when they have money. I remember doing this with my brothers. We would make our list of tools and Go-Kart parts we would buy when we had our own money. As an adult in my early 30’s, I finally purchased that Go-Kart and all of the parts I used to dream about as a child. That Go-Kart sits in my shop covered in dust. It’s been years since I have driven it.

Living in this world and all of its messages is hard enough. You have society telling you that you need all of these things to be happy. These days the cool thing is how much money you have spent in Fortnite on digital character add-ons. Add-ons that do nothing to make you any better at the game. It was like showing up in Jordans when I was in elementary school. At least you could wear your Jordans.

All I am doing is reinforcing the messages of this world to my children with the way I have been living my life. Of course, I could be much worse. I rent a modest home in a nice neighborhood. My wife and I drive cars that are paid in full. I don’t buy many clothes these days, except I do have a t-shirt problem. I don’t even own a suit. Blasphemy!

We could be spending a lot more than we do, but that is not the point. I know that I only have a few years left with my children before what they believe about me is pretty much written in stone. I also believe that the first 7 or so years of a child’s life comprises the structure of their internal owners manual. Their beliefs about themselves and their limitations are founded during these years. That means that my oldest is already beyond that. I have spent a lot of time lately looking into what I have done with those years.

I do not want my kids to believe that their fulfillment will come from the things they obtain. I want them to have things in this world that they can be proud of and that they use. Currently, they have tons of toys, most of which they only use when we threaten to get rid of them because they never use them. My kids live in excess, just like their father.

I have not led by example. My kids are old enough to notice that I have a new phone, tablet, or laptop almost every month. They see the new things I have at my office. Most of them look like a lot of fun, and they are, but what am I teaching my kids?

What I thought I was teaching them is that if they work hard, they can afford to have the fun things they have always wanted. I realize that all they see is the fun things my work has afforded me and not the work that was done to get them. Thankfully we have had some cool conversations about work and the things we buy. My boys are starting to understand how much money things cost. My wife and I do not try to hide this from our kids. Our kids know how much a house costs to live in each month and how much of the month their Dad has to work just to make that happen. They know how many months of saving it took for us to go on a trip and how important saving is.

All I know is that I need to be a better example to my children by showing some restraint. There are a lot of fun things out there, most of which I want. We live in a world where there is a new version of just about everything at least once a year which continuously puts that carrot out in front of us.

I am currently working on going through everything I own. I want to operate on at least 75% less than what I have and I believe that to be obtainable. I do about 95% of my work with about 10% of the things at my office. Imagine having 75% less on your mind every day? Now, of course, I am not thinking about every little item at my office and being anxious over its lack of use, but there is a large part of me that knows there is much more than I need here. My goal by the end of this year is to be rid of as much of it as possible.

I would rather be known as someone who did a lot with a little. I want my kids to grow up knowing that they can achieve a lot without having to have all of the things and that things will not bring them happiness and always make life easier. There is a point where things actually make life harder and less enjoyable. I plan to have my kids take part in my downsizing. I want them to understand why I would get rid of so much that looks so appealing to them. I want us to operate on less so that we have more room within to enjoy each other.

I also recognize that this is going to have to fundamentally change the way I live, the way I think, and the way I project myself as well. Looking at my social media feeds you can see exactly where my problem lies.

I will probably be posting a lot on Facebook Marketplace and will probably have a sidewalk sale of some sort soon that will look like a photography studio going out of business. I am, however, not going out of business. I am simply choosing to operate with only what I need. Let’s challenge each other to live like that rather than try to keep up with those who have more than us.

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Chasing “There”

Chasing There

I started writing this blog two years ago and never finished it. I just read it and it’s never more relevant than when I started writing it so I decided to finally finish it instead of making another video.

As I kid, I don’t remember having much to worry about. That is how it is supposed to be. I remember desiring things, like toys and whatnot, but I didn’t worry about things like where I would be sleeping or what I would be eating. I was very fortunate. It was not long into my later childhood that I began wanting things and worrying about whether or not I would get them. At age 10, I got a paper route job so I could earn money to get the things I wanted. That embedded in me a mindset that I have been stuck with ever since but at the very same time fully aware of the need to change from. Before I get too far down this thought let me stop to mention that there is nothing wrong with wanting more. Our country was founded on the desire for more. More is what made this country what it is today. I’m not trying to argue that the desire for more is bad, it’s just that when we allow that desire to lead us, we lose our ability to enjoy what we already have.

Since I got my first paycheck and fell short of the funds needed to buy what I wanted I wanted more. I was not satisfied making the money I was making because it did not get me to where I wanted to go. I remember wanting a new part for my bike and not having enough money to get it. I thought to myself, “If I only had a second paper route, I could afford to get it now.” My brothers and I grew up racing. We loved building motors and working on things. We would dream of having the money to build our own motor the way we wanted to build it, with all new parts. We had catalogs of parts that we would go through meticulously making sure each part was compatible and changing our minds often on the final configuration. Later in my teen years, I did this with computer parts as I wanted to build a powerful computer. Throughout my younger years leading into my teen years, I would do a variety of jobs to make money, including starting a small lawn mowing service. Later on, I would build that awesome computer and build the motor from my childhood desires.

Through some program with the school district, I got a summer job when I was 14. This was the first job I attended daily and received a paycheck for. To me, this was real freedom. I had a paycheck every two weeks and could afford more. I remember one of my first major purchases being a new complete skateboard. Summer came to an end and so did that summer job. I was used to that income and now I didn’t have it. The one constant throughout my younger years is that I had often desired more and never felt like I had it.

In school, we are encouraged to make a life plan. They say that you have to have a five-year-plan or something along those lines. I always found that hard to do because I was chasing tomorrow to make sure it happened. I could not imagine thinking out five years in advance. When you are young, the concept of five years seems like an eternity. As I have aged, the gap seems to have closed a bit. Five years seems to go by in the blink of an eye. My oldest child almost eight years old. Where did that time go? Perhaps if I had created a solid plan for my life I would have reached it by now and would no longer be chasing after something. I highly doubt that. We always find something more to long after.

Over the last few years, my goal has been to become debt free. We are close. We paid off our cars and carry very little revolving debt. I have been chasing the idea of purchasing a home for a long time. As a self-employed person, it is very hard to purchase a home without telling the IRS that I made more money than I actually did, which in turn would require me to pay more taxes, or saving the money and purchasing a home with cash. Since I believe the government does not deserve any more of my money than they already take, my goal was to save up. We were well on our way, but had some setbacks with medical expenses we decided to pay in full and for some living expenses that I did not want to make payments on. I have allowed myself to get stressed out, even depressed over the idea of not having achieved these goals. I wanted to own the home my wife and I would grow old in by the time my kids were old enough to remember their first home. Since having kids, we have moved twice and are currently renting. Sometimes I have to remind myself that there is nothing wrong with that. The alternative would be being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to a bank, which is not freedom or something that would make it easy for me to sleep at night. I know people that are upside down on the homes owing more than it is worth and others who have had to short sale a home or even foreclose on one. Life happens, but I am glad I avoided those mistakes.

People are so quick to go into debt to buy a home, get an education, or purchase other things. I try to be a more cautious with how far I stretch myself, especially now that I have kids. I believe that any money owed to anyone for any reason is a debt. Somehow people seem to think certain debts are actually investments. You don’t have an investment if the bank is who owns it. An investment is an asset. You don’t have an asset until you have equity.

Regardless, I still have ambitions and things I want to achieve. The problem is that I always feel like I have a level I need to get to before I can even get started. That results in me not getting started until it’s too late. I often fail to remember that some of the best and most profitable things that I have done in my lifetime I started the moment I had the idea.

The frustrating thing is that I know that I am getting in my own way. I get caught up in the things that I feel need to get done at the moment and neglect the ideas that I know could be great. I tell myself that I just need to get that done first and check off a few other tasks before I could get started. I tell myself that I have responsibilities and I need to make sure that they are all taken care of before I can work on what I want to work on. I get those tasks done but I lose the feeling that I had when I first had the idea. It becomes hard to start working on that idea again because the passion was extinguished by the busy work.

I have been full-time self-employed since I was 20 years old. You would think that by now I would not have moments where I felt like I was near the end of my self-employed journey. Having generated my own income for the last 18 years of my life, you would think I would have nothing but confidence in myself. That is not always the case. I know that many entrepreneurs deal with these feelings. Being responsible for it all and making all of the decisions even when you are not sure if they are the right decisions to make can leave you feeling like a fraud at times, even after 18 years.

Back to chasing “there.” “There” is always somewhere just out of reach. It’s the pursuit of more, and not always just more stuff. The problem with it is that it’s a destination. But life can’t just be a series of destinations. We make everything about the destination rather than part of the journey. If you live your life trying to get to the next destination all you are going to want is a new destination once you get there.

Sometimes I get frustrated because I feel like I have put in the time to have made it to some of those destinations. I see others reach greater heights having put in a fraction of the work, or at least that is how it seems. This is another dead end. The end result is what’s publicized but that is all we see, not the hustle that it took to get there. I know this fact, but moments of weakness, remember? It’s one of the ways I allow myself to get demotivated.

What our world really needs is to understand that the pursuit of “there” is not healthy. It’s too easy to fall into the trap that enough is not enough. If we can’t appreciate what we have in the moment, we’ll never enjoy anything.

I need to give myself the freedom to think and to work on ideas when I have them. I used to be good at this and that is why I have had success in some of my endeavors. Anytime I feel atrophy it’s a direct result of spending too much time trying to focus on what I think needs to be done rather than doing what should be done.

Over the past few years, I have been cutting away elements of my work that are contributing to an unhealthy desire for more. I have been trying to simplify, but it’s hard to do. When you worked hard to build something, you don’t want to let it go, even when you know the time has come. I need to focus less on the destinations I keep looking toward so I have more time for the journey.

As a parent, I think about what mindset I want my kids to grow into adults with when it comes to achieving. I want them to have a healthy understanding of what achievement is. I know that I can not program my kids to do anything or be any certain way. All I can do is let them observe as I live my life as their dad. Some people grow up not able to handle the fact that they are not reaching the destinations they built up for themselves so they push those emotions down with alcohol or drugs. What’s worse is that some of those destinations were put on them by others such as society or their parents.

What are your thoughts on chasing “there?” What is that destination you find yourself fixating over because you never seem to reach it? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Vlog

5 Tips for Managing an Attention Deficit + 1 Game Changer

5 Tips for Managing an Attention Deficit

As far back as I can remember, I have had a problem focusing. As a kid growing up in the 80’s, people often equated a kid with lack of attention to someone who wouldn’t amount to much later on in life. If you can’t focus in school you won’t get into college and you won’t get a good job. That was beaten into me by teachers throughout my years as a student. I carried that baggage with me into my adult years which included shame because I didn’t measure up to what society deemed as normal.

It was not until the last few years that I realized I have developed somewhat of a method to deal with an active attention deficit so I could accomplish tasks. I am not sure if I would end up being diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) or not, it would probably depend on what I told the doctor. I just think that the medical field is too quick to diagnose someone as having a disorder when they simply need a framework for accomplishing tasks.

In this video, I discuss five things I have found help me focus on accomplishing things when I am able to implement them correctly. These 5 Tips for Managing an Attention Deficit have helped me a lot. In addition to that, I discuss one game changer that I think is a huge factor in being able to focus on something at all, to begin with.

This book was eye-opening for me: Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
This book helped me become more self-aware: Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life
This book gave me some tips on how to get un-stuck: Why You’re Stuck: Your Guide To Finding Freedom From Any Of Life’s Challenges

Vlog

5 Tips for Recovering from Failure

5 Tips for Recovering From Failure

Failure is a part of life. What counts is how we rebound from failure. We must accept it, but we can’t let it define us. In today’s video, I discuss how I try to recover from failure. There are five steps that I try to take myself through. I don’t always do it right, but this framework tends to get me back on track without too much wasted time. I hope it helps you as you find yourself in need of a reminder that failure is ok.

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Does Technology Enable or Disable Us?

Does Technology Enable or Disable Us?

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like without all of the technological advancements of the last 40 years. I was born in 1980 and grew up with a computer in my home. Technology has definitely made a huge impact on my life, but at times I feel like it can disable us rather than enable us. Though I am a very early adopter of many technologies, I am very careful not to introduce too much technology into my home. I want my kids to grow up using technology as a way to enable their lives, not as an escape from real life. In this vlog, I talk about my thoughts on this topic.

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Focusing On The Small Wins

Focusing On The Small Wins

Everybody wants to get rich and it has to happen today. If you look at social media, people are either living the good life or in shambles. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between these days. Though 2017 has been a tough year for me both physically and emotionally, I am choosing to focus on the small wins.

I love discussing life and it’s various pursuits with people. I have met a lot of driven people in my life. I have also met a lot of people who are obviously stuck in a rut. How do I know they are stuck in a rut? I only recognize a rut because I have been stuck in too many to count.

One bit of advice I have received over and over again is to focus on one thing that I am good at and give it 100% of my effort. To me, that would mean choosing one thing and focus on doing that better than anyone else. While that seems like simple advice to follow, it has not been that easy for me. You see, I have a problem with sitting still. I don’t have the ability to focus on just one thing. I have tried. It just doesn’t work for me. My brain is not wired in that way, and yes I know that you can rewire your brain. I just don’t know if I really want to in that way.

I have often measured my success by the big tangible wins. The first year I marketed myself as a wedding photographer I booked 32 weddings. That was a big tangible win. In 2008 I started a website reviewing smartphone apps and technology. That website quickly became a huge win that lasted for several years. It’s easy to see those wins because they are big and they change your life for the time being.

What I have ignored is the small wins and today that changes. The small wins are what I believe really define us. The small wins are what give us daily contentment. Looking back on this year, I realize that all I have had is small wins. There were no big wins this year. There really haven’t been any big wins for a few years, and I notice that in my emotional health.

While big wins are great, they take a lot of time and hard work. There is nothing wrong with big wins, but big wins can be lonely. On the way to a big win is a lot of doubt. The path to a big win is a tough path that you often do alone. Few people understand that path and can relate to it.

I have been at it long enough to know what it takes to make a big win happen, the problem is that I am not willing to sacrifice everything in order to get to the next big win. I am at a point where in order to make a big win happen I would have to subtract a lot from something else. I am completely fine with that. I don’t need another big win to define myself by. I watch people chase big wins every day and most of them never reach them. They jump between big win opportunities never giving them the time to become anything.

I have a couple of projects that I am working on that could be big wins if I stopped everything and focused on one of them. The problem is that I don’t really want to stop everything and focus on one single thing. While I might be able to see a huge growth in success in one of those things if it was my only focus, I don’t want to let go of the other things. I enjoy these projects and I want to continue on them. I also enjoy my business and do not want to sacrifice that for short-term success in one of these projects.

I have a long game but I am also focusing on my short game. You can’t ignore one or the other. You need to focus on the future and what that is going to look like but you have to make time for the small wins and celebrate them. You can’t jump from opportunity to opportunity, you have to invest time and effort to see a return.

If you are young, it is much easier to focus on the big wins that come with the investment of time and effort. In some areas, I have succeeded in this way. In others, I have fallen short. I have always invested in learning and exploring. That has never led me astray.

For now, I am going to be better about acknowledging the small wins and celebrating them. Small wins add up to a big win over time. I didn’t give some of the small wins of this year the appreciation they deserved. I don’t see any big wins happening in 2018, but you never know when something small shows opportunity to become something big.

What were some of your small wins this year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

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Making Time For Experiences

Prioritize Your Children over Work

Growing into an adult I realized that it was the experiences I remembered from my childhood. I remember some of the material aspects of my childhood, but the experiences outweigh that by far. I remember racing go-karts, going to the park with my brothers and Mom, I remember going on trips with my grandparents. These were some of the experiences that I can vividly recall.

What I don’t remember is the specific brand of clothing I wore when I was in kindergarten. I don’t remember the kind of shoes I had on. I don’t remember what kind of car my Mom drove at that time, though I do remember a few of our cars from childhood, and it was the experiences in those cars that I remember. I don’t remember what was considered cool at the time for my Mom to wear. I didn’t know what fashion was. I don’t remember if the restaurants we ate at were the popular spots or not. I don’t even remember too many of the toys I had, though I do remember some of them and they were the toys that I could be creative with.

As a parent, I have found that it is all too easy to bury my kids in toys and stuff to keep them busy. Sports are no longer leisure activities, they consume lives. People are all too ready to commit themselves and their kids to all the things. While there is nothing wrong with toys and sports, it has never been easier to take it to a level that could be considered an unhealthy obsession. That obsession is usually more about the parent than it is the child.

With that said, it was obvious to me that the experiences I have had in life were more important to me than the things. I know that there is nothing wrong with acquiring things. I have more things than I need. I could do with fewer things. However, I have always wanted to make sure that things don’t get in the way of making time for experiences.

Through observation, I have found that many people do not share my take. They seem to be working extremely hard during the childhood years of their children where experiences matter most. They are focused on the future while at the same time wasting the now. The now is most important to me because if I focus on the now, the future will work itself out.

I will not trade a few extra dollars for the childhood of my children. There is no value in that. I can make extra dollars later. At the same time, I do recognize that I want to have some level of achievement of my own during the younger years of my children. I look at every opportunity and say no to what would not fit into the lifestyle I am trying to have for my family.

Hill Family Color Factory

We recently visited The Color Factory in San Francisco. This popup museum featured color specific rooms with different experiences in each room. It was a lot of fun and my kids loved it. We spent about almost two hours going through each color room playing, laughing, and taking a few photos. It was an experience my kids will remember. After that, we had dinner and stayed at a hotel in Sausalito, which is just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. My wife and I had stayed there before so we knew it would be a fun experience for the kids as well.

It was a challenge to get tickets to The Color Factory. It was very popular and only sold a certain amount of tickets to assure it was not overcrowded. It was like trying to get an iPhone on launch day. I was waiting on my computer with the order page open just waiting for the moment. I almost missed it they sold so fast.

Confetti Party Color Factory

In 2015, we took a road trip up the coast of the US stopping off at different destinations every day. It took us a little over a week to make it up to Seattle Washington. We stayed in hotels each night at a different location and visited interesting spots along the way. Some of the highlights included Fern Canyon off the coast of Northern California, a Dinosaur Attraction in Oregon, and several other roadside attractions that will forever be fun memories to remember with my kids. I also filmed our experiences which we revisit to keep those memories fresh.

I don’t do everything right and sometimes can’t. I have had to miss a few of my kids’ school things, though I have made the majority of them. I occasionally have to travel for work. I often leave for work before they leave for school. I recognize that we can’t be perfect and attend everything, but we can try.

The purpose of this post is to remind parents that the childhood their children experience is important. We all want to provide our children with a better life than we had but please don’t put it off. I often hear people say that once they make a certain amount of money that they will be able to vacation more and spend more time with their kids. The problem is the pursuit never ends and before you know it, your kids are grown up and don’t want to spend time with you. Your kids will grow up recognizing that you traded time with them for money, or something else. I want a healthy balance there. I want my kids to see that I work hard but that I also build into my work-life enough time to spend experiencing life with them whether that be playing in the front yard or taking them to The Color Factory. My kids need to know that I prioritized them in my life. People complain about the selfishness of the Millennial Generation, but those kids had to learn from someone.

Prioritize time with your children. Give them your attention, especially if both parents in the household work. Give them experiences over toys. Rather than new iPads for Christmas, take the family on a trip. Invest in your children, rather than investing in distractions so you can keep your kids busy.

I know I have written before on spending time with kids, but it’s so important. There is enough time in the day for our kids and a healthy level of personal achievement. If you are not able to find that, I would suggest you take a look at what is in your life and how you could revise it.

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I Almost Shut It All Down!

I have been self-employed since I was 18 years old. I went full time self-employed when I was 21. Perfect timing considering that it was 2001 and two months after I quit my job to go full time after my business the biggest attack on American soil ever took place.

Since then I have had my share of setbacks as an entrepreneur, and a lot has changed in my life. When I quit my job and went full time into my business, I did not have any responsibilities. I lived on my own, so I had rent and a car payment, but that was it. If I ate ramen three meals a day because I had to put out money to order more product, I did it. I started my business with $2,500 in inventory and grew it in less than four years to a business that grossed $1.5 million in sales. In 2003 I was shipping products internationally from orders that came through my website when most companies were just learning what a website was. It was fun, but it wasn’t what I saw myself doing for the rest of my life.

My online business taught me more than just how to run an online business. Through that process, I taught myself how to code and that set me up for my next business venture as a web developer. Though I have had a few other ventures since such as Photography and running a Tech News and Review website, website design and development has been my constant since 2005.

In 2008 I had a rough year. The economy was down, and nobody was spending money. Businesses were cutting back on marketing expenses and Brides were spending less on wedding photography. I almost took a job with a company in Southern California handling search engine optimization for a large corporation. I stuck it out, and the market returned.

It has not been easy running a business and trying to grow that business. I have had some success, but it has been matched by frustration and some failure as well. Nothing has come easy.

During the slow days of 2008, I started reviewing iPhone Apps on a blog I set up and that turned into a business that generated an average of $13,000/mo over the course of six years with the best month earning me $32,000. It was pretty amazing.

Web Development started to pick back up in 2013, and I started focusing more heavily on what I knew would carry me over the long haul as a business owner. The app review site had garnered a ton of competition, and I could tell I would need to focus my attention elsewhere after that.

I have always found it necessary to reinvest in my company. If I am not reinvesting in myself and my business, I am stagnant. The revenues from the app review site allowed me to do this more freely. This was also a challenging time for me as I had started growing my family in 2010 and by the end of 2013 had three children. Yes, three kids in three years.

Now I love people, and I love my clients, but not all clients are easy to work for. I am very thankful that I have had more good clients than bad ones. The problem with bad clients is that they suck the life out of you and leave you beaten on the side of the road. I have always taken my work seriously and being that I don’t have a traditional education to fall back on, I always took myself very serious as well. Bad clients can make you question yourself and your core competencies. Like finding out that your significant other doesn’t love you anymore, it makes you question yourself and your self-worth. It’s hard not to get emotional about business when it’s your work and your business you are putting out there. I have never been able to believe anyone who says they can completely separate business from personal life. Business is personal. I do not trust anyone who does not take their business personally.

As I mentioned before, I have celebrated plenty of little wins in business, but I have also taken quite a few jabs to the ribs both from clients and from the logistical aspects of running a business. I have a wife and three kids. We don’t own a home, not because we don’t want to, but simply because it is very challenging for a self-employed person to purchase a home. We are a single income household by choice. We made the decision to provide our children with a Christian education. We are considering adoption.

I am closer to my 40’s than my 20’s, and my personal responsibilities will only continue to grow. My goal since closing my retail shop and starting web agency was to provide myself with more freedom. Running my shop, the online store, and a small parts distribution center was time-consuming. I found myself working 14+ hour days. I closed my store on Mondays simply so I could catch up without customers coming through the door. I knew that I could not live that way if I was to get married and start a family, so I shut that down. I pivoted in my life toward something that offered me more freedom, and since then, freedom has been my goal.

My professional life has allowed me a lot of freedom. Those that have known me since I started having children know just how much time off I have been able to take to be with my family. At the time of writing this, I currently work a regular 8-5 day, but I am working every day to change that to provide myself and my family more freedom.

About a month ago I was offered an opportunity to work for a fast growing company in my area. I always recognized that if I were going to quit working for myself, I would probably have to move to the Bay Area or Los Angeles to find a company that could afford someone with my skillset. The idea of working for someone else was desirable to me because it was something constant. There is not much in my life that is consistent other than the needs of my family and my clients. The concept of money getting deposited into my bank account every two weeks and only having one client to deal with sounded great.

Over the course of three weeks, I was all over the place. I was all for the job one moment and then the next I was totally against it. I was a wreck. I constantly prayed over the opportunity. I knew that if I took this job, I would not have time to run my business any longer. I didn’t want to run my business on the side while working full time. I was not going to let my work cut into the time I wanted to spend with my wife and kids. Whether I worked for myself, or another company, freedom still had to be my guiding cause.

If there were any time during the year that a consistent income would be welcome, it would be the holidays. I think anybody can relate to that. Being that my business does the majority of its business with other businesses, holidays are notoriously slow. Nobody wants to start designing and roll out a website or a new online marketing plan in December. Most of our clients are small businesses, and they are focused on the holidays. Turning down the job offer was very hard to do going into the holiday season.

Ultimately, I decided not to take the job because I have not yet had the time to flesh out all of the ideas I believe have a lot of promise. I often get too busy to work on my ideas because I am focused on my clients, but I never stop thinking and dreaming. If I wanted to start working on one of my ideas, I could by simply cutting back on client work. If I was working for another company, I would have to be all about that company during work hours. To moonlight on other ideas while on the clock would be giving less than 100% to the company I was working for. I am not ready to turn off that part of my brain, and I am not going to divert that energy to time I am at home with my family.

I am not going to say that this is the last time I will consider taking a job, but I can honestly say that it is the closest I have come to working full time for someone else. I work for myself, but I have clients whom I work for as well. My clients have expectations of me just as an employer would have. People often comment on how nice it must be to be my own boss. I explain that it is nice to be my own boss, but I also have a dozen clients I have to answer to as well, so it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be.

Another thing this opportunity has given me is a renewed drive to grow my business. I can not honestly say which direction I will point all of this renewed energy, but I do have a renewed focus and am excited about the future.

Who knows what will happen with Trump in office, but the last almost decade has brought more regulation and difficulty to small business owners than ever before in the history of our country. Regardless, challenging and uncertain times are often some of the best to start a new business. I am blessed to have been able to direct my own professional direction for the last 15 years of my life and I am not quite ready to give that up, even if the opportunity is great.

I have had job offers from other clients in the past, but I appreciate this one the most because I believe in the company and it’s potential. Even if I had taken the job, my life as an entrepreneur wouldn’t have been over; it simply would have been paused. I am looking forward to finishing this year strong and focusing on new things in 2017.