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Dude, Wash Your Face!

Bro Wash Your Face - Dude Wash Your Face

I read a lot of non-fiction and often suggest books to my wife, who is not so keen on non-fiction books. The motivational and self-help shelves have blown up over the past years with books specific to women, which is fantastic. There are many powerful books out there but they lack the specifics of the individual struggles men and women face which are often very different from each other. It takes books like “Girl Wash Your Face” to speak directly to the specific struggles that men and women do not share.

The title of the book intrigued me, but that was about it at first. It would have been easy to write it off completely because it’s obviously a book written for women. My first thought was that hopefully, this is a book that will finally combat the “Hot Mess” movement as I assumed Girl, Wash Your Face meant, Girl, get out of those yoga pants and do something with your life. Not a fair statement for sure, but I am getting really tired of the “Hot Mess” mentality. Guys, we have our own version of this, so ladies, please know that I am not picking on you specifically. Life is tough, but we have to show up every day or what’s the point?

My wife completed the book and I didn’t really think much about it after that. Then, the author, Rachel Hollis, was interviewed on a podcast that I listen to, “The School of Greatness.” The interview was fantastic. She had some really interesting things to say and some amazing insights that really got me thinking. Though the book obviously was not written for men, I felt that I would get a lot out of reading it not only for myself but to better help me understand my wife.

You see guys, I didn’t grow up with much of an understanding of females. I only had brothers, I spent most of my time working on things or racing them, and the women that were in my life didn’t really teach me much more than to make sure I had good manners and to open the door for them. I didn’t know much about women at all until I got married and started living with one.

The last 10 years of marriage has been a big learning curve for me. Though I am a pretty insightful person and I feel like I pay attention pretty well, I believe that I could’ve done a lot more to prepare to be a husband to my wife than I did. This was not a new realization of mine. I noticed quite some time ago that men and women process and deal with things much differently. I have read some books on the topic of our differences but books like that don’t often give you much practical information to walk away with. I also recognize that women are not so simple that they can be boiled down and explained thoroughly in a single book, nor are us men.

After having listened to that interview I decided that I needed to read this book for myself. What was so powerful about this book that sent it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list? What kind of knowledge and insight does this woman have that seemed to shoot her directly to guru status in what seemed like no time at all? So I purchased the audiobook in an attempt to better understand my wife and the struggles of her womanhood.

Now this book was definitely written to and for women. There were some chapters that I could easily have written off as non-relatable, but I am a husband to a woman who is the mother of my children and listening to Rachel share about her struggles and challenges in this world as a woman and a mother definitely helped me better understand my wife. I also recognize that as a man, it is really easy for me to discount the struggles women have in this world. They have real struggles that men don’t have to deal with and could never relate to regardless of how hard we try to understand.

Rachel started by telling her story, which was I glued to. Her husband and I share a few traits, to say the least. I know that I have treated a few women in my life the way Rachel’s now-husband did her when they were dating. I broke up with my now wife just like Rachel’s husband did with the plan to move away from our hometown. Glad that didn’t end up happening.

I carried a lot of brokenness into my marriage. I hope to get more into that in future posts, but for now, let’s just say that I share Rachel’s appreciation for therapy.

There are a lot of lies we believe. It’s not just women, men believe plenty of lies as well. Rachel’s book was a breaking down of many lies a lot of women believe. I really connected with that. I am closing in on 40 and I am realizing more and more the lies I have believed. I also recognize many lies that the world tells us that I have believed. This is why I decided to write this post. I am going to borrow some of Rachel’s lies and explain how I, as a man, have believed a few of them, so let’s get started.

Something Else Will Make Me Happy

Men have been chasing after things in search of happiness for ages. We get the job, but we want more. We get the family, but we don’t seem fulfilled. We buy the things, but that doesn’t help either. It’s easy to look at what’s in front of us and allow ourselves to believe that they are the things that are keeping us from being happy.

I have watched people uproot their entire lives in search of finding happiness. This might mean leaving a spouse or moving their family across the country in search of something. I have watched friends go into debt over the things they thought would bring them happiness. If we believe the marketing, we can easily be swayed.

The problem is that happiness is not found in things, or someone else. It all starts within. If you can’t be happy without, you won’t be happy with. You once were happy. You were happy when you got the job. You were happy on your wedding day. You were happy the day your children were born. What happened?

You believed the lie that other things would bring you happiness. When they didn’t, you felt cheated. The world told you to get something else, so you did over and over again and now you’re overwhelmed.

“Life is not supposed to overwhelm you at all times. Life isn’t meant to be merely survived—it’s meant to be lived.” That’s a direct quote from the book and to me, it means that the things that overwhelm me need to go. I have been working on doing just this for the past few months. Guys, if we are in a constant state of overwhelm, how can we focus on living our lives? If we can’t focus on living, how can we enjoy it? We first have to admit that we are overwhelmed. I want to give you permission to admit that. The world says that it’s not ok as a man to admit something like that, but that is a lie, my friends. Men get overwhelmed too and it’s time the world learns to stop making us feel bad for it. We are all set off by different things, we all have different levels of tolerance.

What overwhelms me might be a walk in the park for you. That is what makes us different. I used to photograph a lot of weddings. People used to ask me if that stressed me out or if I ever got overwhelmed. Photographing a wedding knowing that I am responsible for capturing this couples once in a lifetime and non-repeatable moments is not overwhelming to me at all. But I can easily get overwhelmed with my kids. Handling a high-strung MOB (Mother of the Bride) is easy, handling three kids when they are tired and hungry can be overwhelming at times.

It’s ok to feel overwhelmed at times. As Rachel states, “moments when you feel like you’re drowning are supposed to be brief. They should not be the whole of your existence!” We have to take control of our own lives and for lack of a better phrase “man up” to our responsibilities. There are too many voices in the world today telling us that it’s someone else’s responsibility and that we should look out for ourselves. Bro, I am here to tell you that as men we are here to take care of ourselves and we are here to take care of those who God entrusted us with. Don’t get mad at me for saying that in 2018. Rachel is right in that women need to be their own heroes. If they rely on us to be that for them, they will be disappointed. We will fail them and they will fail us. We have to champion ourselves so that we can champion those around us.

We have to choose to be happy. Our circumstances and our things will not do that for us. We have to make that choice every day and when that doesn’t seem like enough, we have to make that choice every moment. I highlighted this statement from the book and have read it at least a dozen times over the last month: “When you’re engaged and involved and choosing to enjoy your own life, it doesn’t matter where you are, or frankly, what negative things get hurled at you. You’ll still find happiness because it’s not about where you are but who you are.” It’s about who I am? Do I even know who I am? Bro, that got deep.

We can more easily choose happiness each day when we stop comparing ourselves to other men. We do that just as much as women do even though we make it sound like women do it more. We look at the guy with the better job, the one who is more in shape, the guy whose wife looks better in a bikini postpartum than she did before getting pregnant. It’s damaging, not only to us but to our spouse as well. They are unrealistic expectations. No job, car, house, or spouse will bring you happiness if you can’t be happy with yourself.

I Am Not Good Enough

I am going to go out on a limb and say that every man ever has told himself this. I do this thing where I try something new and if I am not immediately awesome at it or can’t see myself becoming awesome at it pretty easily I stop doing it. For years I told myself that I just don’t have time to practice and since I don’t like to suck at things I will simply limit myself to doing things that I can be good at with little effort. I know how that sounds, but so many of us are that way.

I was the oldest of three boys, which meant that at some point I was expected to just figure it out, and I didn’t always make the right choices. I always wanted more than I had and even though I didn’t have a problem working for it, sometimes I decided to take it instead. I got into trouble often as a youth and was often told that I was “not good.” School also did not seem to be my thing. There were years that I did well, but for the most part, I would have rather been working than sitting on my butt at school. Good grades and/or excelling at sports seemed to be the only thing that parents were interested in and I was not very good at either.

I have always been a risk taker, which was obviously bad when not exercised correctly. Running your own business is risky and scary. I have not had a regular paycheck since I was 21. If I want to get paid, I have to find the work, do the work, and make sure I get paid for the work. There have been times where work was harder to find. It is easy for me to feel like I am not good enough when a client decides to go in a different direction. I often get told that it must be nice to work for myself because I can set my own hours. I laugh on the inside. If it was only that simple.

We all feel like we have something to live up to that is beyond our capabilities. We either chase it or we sit on the sidelines and watch everybody else. Regardless, both believe they are not good enough and allow that mindset to limit them.

In the book, Rachel explained how she knew she was under too much stress from trying to live up to a standard that was not realistic. She could see it on her face, literally. For me, it started with an ulcer in my early 20’s. That ulcer would come back in my early 30’s and I am still dealing with digestive issues today. Damage has been done and I have to pay attention to what I consume, or I will feel like garbage. I wish I could say that the acid reflux is all it took to get my attention, but it wasn’t. Perhaps I will share more about that one day. What damage are you doing to yourself by trying to live up to something you don’t even believe in?

We have to find enjoyment in what we are doing. It is easy to end up chasing the wrong carrot in life because we were told that was the goal. I had a family that constantly beat into me that I would not make it in life if I did not go to college. I couldn’t afford college and was not about to go into debt over it so I spent many years believing that I was not good enough because I didn’t have a piece of paper on the wall.

Stop believing the lie that you don’t have what it takes to get that promotion, start your own business, lose the weight, or whatever it might be. Whether you decide to sit on the bench or you chase after something until your stomach bleeds, you have to decide if it is worth it and you have to decide that you are worth more than “it.” Your health is one of the only things you have complete control over. You might have to start over to find out what brings you happiness and contentment because you were chasing after what someone else wanted for you for so long. You might have to prioritize some things over others because you have to start living for yourself so that you have the strength and health to lead those around you.

I’m Not A Good Enough Dad

Being a Dad is hard. It’s not as hard as being a husband, but it’s right up there. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t receive a handbook with each of my children. I was not prepared for everything that would come after we came home with our first child.

I was ready to hold and comfort my first baby boy, but he didn’t want me, he wanted his Mommy. I would try to play with him, but he would get upset until he saw his Mommy. This seemed to go on for almost two years until finally he and I started connecting. I was jealous of the closeness my wife got to have with our babies. At times I would keep myself busy with other things since it didn’t seem like my kids needed me. It’s easy to get emotional over things like that, but they are babies. Babies are not doing anything on purpose, they are just being babies. It may seem like you don’t have a connection to your newborn, but you do. It just takes more time to surface than it does with their Mother.

As my kids have started to grow up, I have felt like I wasn’t succeeding as a Dad. I am not good at disciplining my children. I don’t know how to do it well or in an effective way. I don’t always respond to their outbursts well. At times I have a short temper with them. I often feel like I am hurting them more than I am helping them, but that is mostly my internal self-talk. It would be much easier to just be their friend and let them raise themselves.

Then there are those Dads that seem to have it all together. Their kids are amazing in public, play all the sports, seem to do things without arguing, get along with their siblings, and even seem to respect their parents. Is that all smoke and mirrors, or am I failing somewhere?

Men don’t stand around talking about parenting, they talk about common interests. It’s easy to assume that other Dads have it all together but we would never know that because we don’t talk about it. I have allowed myself to believe that I am not good enough. It is easier for guys to disconnect from their families than it is for women because of the motherly connection they feel responsible for. Rachel mentioned in her book that she considered flying the coop in a moment of struggle. I think us guys have our moments as well. It’s also much easier and more acceptable for a guy to separate himself from his family in today’s culture. Some even do it without ever leaving the house.

For me, I have found a few guys who have gone before me to ask questions and vent to. It’s equal parts relieving and frustrating when they smile and explain that what I am experiencing is not unique. What I need more of is guys with kids of similar ages, yes this might mean that I have to talk to some of my wife’s girlfriends husbands. Trust me guys, we need to do life together on a deeper level than whatever sports ball is on tv. I have kept myself at a distance from a lot of other Dads for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that I have a hard time connecting with other guys. This has been a problem for as long as I can remember. If we continue to try to be Dads on our own, we will always feel like we are not good enough. If we listen to that voice enough, we will put distance between us and our kids when what they really need is for us to draw near to them.

I Can’t Tell The Truth, I Need a Drink, I’m Not A Hero

This post is getting super long, I get it. If you are still reading, you deserve an award.

In all honesty, I want to rewrite Rachel’s book for us men. We need it. We live in a world where it seems like we are getting attacked and blamed for everything. Some of us deserve it. We have not been the best leaders or the most truthful. We have taken advantage and not been responsible. Guys, we have been lazy and now that women are standing up for themselves it is easy to feel like we are the ones being attacked. It’s easy to feel like a victim and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to read Rachel’s book.

I was not a truth teller. I mean, I was pretty honest most of the time. Some of my friends might tell you that I actually don’t know how to keep my opinion to myself. That might be true, but I had a lot of secrets that required lies to keep in place. Things I did when I was young and decisions I made brought me shame and I allowed that shame to drive my decisions. I did not deal with my emotions in a very healthy way. I have allowed my struggles to tear me apart and others have been hurt because of them.

I have also gotten in the habit of needing a drink to unwind. I have never been addicted to a substance, but it became a habit and if we were out of wine or I didn’t have any tonic water for my gin, I would feel a little uneasy. I never needed a drink, but I found myself desiring one especially after a stressful evening with the kids.

The truth is that I have never been very honest about what I am going through. I always felt like I was the only one going through it. My struggles were unique and since everybody else’s lives looked perfect, I could not afford to let my truth out. I still struggle with it, but I am working on it. My counselor has helped a lot with that. As I mentioned before, I am an all or nothing kind of guy, so at times I feel like putting it all out there but I am trying to be patient and prepare myself for opportunities that my experience could be helpful in. I am also being careful to make sure that I have healed enough to help others. There are too many people in this world who woke up one day from a major struggle and felt they were ready to teach the world how to heal. I don’t want to be one of those people.

Being a man in this world is not as easy as it used to be. I’m not talking about jobs and equal pay. I believe that anyone who works hard for something deserves to be compensated equally for it. That means that the person needs to work hard. I don’t care what your race or gender is, you don’t deserve something just because you are something other than a white male. You deserve it because you made the choice to work hard for it. Equal opportunity should not have to be a policy, it should be assumed because it’s the right thing to do. The fact that society seemed to hand those things out to white males much easier than anyone else is wrong. I have never assumed I deserve anything for being a man. I grew up with my Grandmother who was a successful businesswoman, as my example. She built a successful Real Estate business during a time where that was dominated by men. To top that off, she was barely five feet tall. After my parents divorced my Mother went back to school and achieved her goal of becoming a teacher. I never knew that women couldn’t achieve something because my environment told me different.

If you watch any tv at all, you know that the Dad is usually the joke, and guys, we have allowed ourselves to become a joke. We are irrational, simple-minded, and easy to entertain. We get angry at things we don’t understand and as long as we can enjoy a football game from our living room in peace, we are happy. We are allowing ourselves to be minimized and emasculated. We are being taught that masculinity is barbaric. We are being misled. We need to regain our masculinity, not to rise as the dominant gender, but to utilize and appreciate our strengths to use them for good and to build others up.

There is beauty in femininity and masculinity but we need to learn to respect each for their uniquenesses. We also need to take the time to understand our differences. Society today is so quick to say that the other side is wrong. We read an article and immediately alienate a whole group of people instead of taking the time to understand why they might think that way. Instead of technology bringing us together, it is further separating us. Have a difference of opinion with someone? Prepare for unrealistic conflict over something that doesn’t really matter that much.

Our society is in a transitional place. We have come into so much information over the past thirty years and we don’t know what to do with it all. Rather than appreciating the little things that make us different we are using them to separate us further. Instead of learning to live together in one society we find people who have our exact beliefs and silo ourselves from everyone else around us.

Guys, we have always been called to be leaders and I don’t see many men leading these days. Women are stepping up and doing everything us men have become too lazy to do. To put it simply, they are more driven than us. Women are fully capable as leaders and should have every right to lead in any capacity as a man is able, but that doesn’t mean we should also give them the job of leading us. We all need to be a leader in our own lives. I see too many men whose wives have to step up and lead in ways they shouldn’t have to. Many men traded their birth mother for a wife who they expect to treat them as their Mom did. That is not fair to women in a relationship.

I am not the best leader and I am definitely not my wife’s hero. I have slacked off at times because I know that she won’t let the house go sideways. I have not always shown up for her as a husband should. I have allowed myself to feel minimized because of the way society portrays men and fathers these days, but lately, I have felt a tugging at my heart and I am starting to finally realize what it is. It’s starting with honesty and openness about the real struggles of being a guy in today’s society. Not out of a response to some sort of movement or to defend myself, but to be vulnerable and open in an attempt to break down the silos that I have put around everything in my life in an attempt to be comfortable. The comfort I built around me doesn’t feel good anymore.

What’s Next?

This post took on a life of its own. I hope that it came across as a call to action for men to step up and take control of their lives again. I hope that it encouraged you as much as it empowered me writing it. Writing helps my thoughts make sense to me. I highly recommend you try writing about the things you feel strongly about. It really helps you understand what you really believe when you have to write it out.

If you have a wife and struggle to understand her, I highly suggest reading “Girl, Wash Your Face.” Keep in mind that your spouse is unique and different than Rachel. What was real about the book was all of the insecurities she shared. We all have insecurities but ours as men are different than what women deal with. It is important that we understand them so we can be better husbands to our wives.

I don’t want to become complacent. I want to continue to grow and better understand myself and those around me. I want to show up as best I can for my wife and kids because they deserve that, not because they need a man to rule over them, but because they were given a man to support and encourage them.

Check out Rachel’s book on Amazon:

Listen to it as an Audiobook like I did, Rachel narrated it herself. Get your first audiobook free from Audible:

What are your thoughts? Are there some lies you tell yourself? I would love to continue the conversation in the comments below this blog or on my Facebook page. Please share this post with a friend if you found it helpful!

Update: I just heard from a friend that Rachel’s husband Dave is writing the “guys” version of her book next year so I will be looking forward to reading that when it comes out.



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.


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.


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.


In Search of Success & Freedom

I have written on the topic of personal freedom many times. Since my early 20’s, my ultimate goal has been to work toward achieving freedom from the regular things that end up tying us down. I have had success and failure along the way through my efforts to achieve personal freedom and have learned a lot along the way. We moved across town this weekend and through that process, I spent a lot of time in the car with my father-in-law. We discussed work and life, which ultimately led to a discussion of basic life securities.

My father-in-law is a hard worker. He recently retired from many years of service to the same company. Though he is not old, or quite at retirement age to draw from social security, it was time for him to move on. Being that he and I are from exact opposite ends of the workforce spectrum, we occasionally discuss the topic of work and all that comes with it. Though he does not have any direct experience as a business owner, he recognizes the role differences between his jobs and my job.

Over the years, I have received job offers, usually from clients I have worked with. There have been a few years where business was slow and I actually looked around at what was available. I have never entertained anything to this point, but sometimes the concept most people refer to as “job security” is fun to fantasize about.

During our discussion, he brought up a few of my complaints I have had over the years such as rising healthcare costs for my family, taxes, and the challenges the self-employed have purchasing a home since the housing market crash. That led to discussing the various job offers I have received over the years. To most, the solution to my “first-world-business-owner-problems” would be to get a job where I had health benefits and a w2. I understand that perspective. Beyond that, most people would assume that a business owner can’t just turn off the work mindset at the end of the day. Society typically portrays business owners one of two ways:

  1. The Tyrant: This is the business owner who sits in his office all day counting money as his employees slave away for low pay.
  2. The Founder: This business owner works near 24/7 giving themselves little sleep and even less time to their family.

Through the many conversations I have had with people, most see business owners as one or the other. Media and the startup business community considers long hours as a requirement for being successful. There are popular online personalities such as Gary Vaynerchuk and Casey Neistat who broadcast a perceived lifestyle of working 14+ hour days. Whether that is the case or not, that simply is not healthy and should not be honored as a lifestyle to follow in the footsteps of.

If you are going to own or start a business, the mindset is that you are going to have to work extremely hard up front, in order to have success later. This makes sense as it’s the only way most people can wrap their head around rising to success. Before I talk about success to much more, I want to be clear that success means something different to everybody. My definition of success is different than yours, and that is ok. Besides being a business owner, I am a husband and father to three children. I see my wife and children as my most cherished worldly possessions, so that is the lens in which I focus my life through.

I want to be able to exist with the basic comforts we expect to have here in the United States. I need a home in a safe neighborhood with walls that has heating and air conditioning. I need a reliable vehicle and food to eat. I need clothing that is in decent condition and a few dollars left over to buy the occasional piece of technology. What I do not need is excess. I did excess for a couple of years in my early 20’s and it did not lead to happiness or contentment. At age 24, I was making more money than I have ever made to date with my retail business, but I was spending all of it. I was also working long hours. I have discussed this before in other posts.

My definition of success has changed over the years. It used to be all about money. I was a kid and had no real concept of what contentment was. My current definition of success is to be able to provide a decent life for my wife and children. Not a life where they get whatever they want, but a life where I can provide basic comforts and securities, without going overboard. I have been blessed with the ability to do that so far.

My definition of total personal freedom will also change, but right now the definition and goal is to one day be able to self-sustain financially. That means that the work I have done so far is producing enough income to cover our life expenses for a while without having to do more work. Some call this retirement, but I don’t really like the definition most people give retirement. Most people see retirement as the end of the line where they do not have to work or use their brain for much anymore. I plan to follow in my Grandmother’s footsteps and use my brain to the best of its ability until I take my final breath. Of course, I could work extra hard now in order to obtain self-sustainability much earlier, but at what cost?

It is important to have a clearly defined understanding of what being successful means to you. If you do not have that understanding, you will never reach a level of success you can feel comfortable with. I know plenty of people who make more money than I do and even more who have a dual income household. I know people who work twice as many hours as I do, and I know people who barely work what would be considered part-time, yet still make more money than I do. None of that affects how I feel about what I have or haven’t achieved yet in life.

It is easy to think that if I just worked two more hours each day, I could take an extra vacation or afford to have a bigger house, but what would that do to my freedom? I am not the best at it, but I try to weigh each decision I make that requires my time against what it would cost my family. That puts things into perspective quickly. I see time away from my family as a deficit regardless of what the result of that time produces.

Getting a job with a company would not necessarily make me feel any more secure or provide me with any additional freedoms. Having paid vacation might make it easier to take one vacation, but if you set it up right, owning your own business gives you the flexibility to take multiple vacations and occasionally work from them if need be. It’s getting harder to do that now that I have kids in school, but we still try. The photo above was taken a few years ago when we went to Del Mar on vacation. I worked while our kids napped and we spent the rest of the time at the beach (Look how chubby Cohen was!!).

For me, reaching total freedom does not mean never having to work again. That would actually be torture. My brain does not operate that way as I am always trying to solve problems and come up with solutions. Beyond that, I never tire of learning about new things. Whether I am working for myself, someone else, or in partnership with someone else, all must align with my defined goals of freedom and success. Anything short of that would lead to confusion and frustration.

The reality of it is that there is no true freedom from everything. We will always have obligations and requirements. People will always expect something from us. However, if you have a personalized definition of what freedom is to you and what being successful is, you will more easily be able to obtain it. As a side effect, you will also prevent the endless chase that comes from nothing ever being enough.

What would your definition of a successful person be? Are you working toward reaching that level of success? What do you consider “true freedom” to be? Are you working toward reaching that level of freedom?


Success isn’t found, it’s Built

The different ways we view success in America makes me laugh. The viewpoint we are shown is usually through the eyes the media or some other platform wishes to show us and it always makes it look so glamorous. Apparently people just wake up and are successful according to what we are shown. All of the sudden they are engulfed in resources, decision makers and the spotlight. Success must just smile upon whomever it wishes right? Nothing could be further from the truth. However I do believe you can wake up one day and will yourself into being successful. I am going to provide some insight as to what I believe success is and then give you a few thoughts on how to set yourself up to be more successful not only in your eyes but in the eyes of others. Many times during my years as a website designer and wedding photographer I have had to readjust my thinking. It is an ongoing process.

Success is measured in so many different ways. What you consider as achieving success may be something completely different to me. Success to you may be having a certain amount of money in the bank, owning a certain size home, a nice car, providing for your family, and the list can go on. Of course that view of success could be considered very ambitious by some or modest by others. Though there is a definition for the word success, there is no concise definition for success as a concept.

A picture of success is painted for us during our school years and growing up. We are told what reaching successfulness is in school and most of us have had a friend or two in our lives who came from a much more successful family then ours. In school we are shown that a student that achieves good grades, prepares for college, attends college and graduates is a successful person. However I know graduates with their masters who are not happy with the level of success they thought they would be achieving shortly after graduating. I have found that following the suggested path of success others provide is not always a recipe for achieving it. It has to be more intentional then that.

I opted not to continue with my education through the standard channels our society suggests. I struggled with Jr. College for a few years and threw in the towel. I like to get to the point. I want to know what I need to know to get the task done. In the age that we are living in, all data is available online. The careers that require a degree these days are thinning. In most forms of technology, schools can not keep up so in my opinion it almost defeats the purpose. School can lay a good ground work and show the rest of the world you were disciplined but it can also become a crutch that prevents you from achieving success if you assume that an education is going to provide you success.

I have came to realize that when I wake up in the morning it is me and me alone that sets the stage for how my life is going to go for the rest of that day. My perception of myself, my circumstances and the world around me determines my level of productivity for the day. When I get a bad night sleep or dwell to long on something negative it can effect everything around me. It effects my work, my attitude, my family and me physically.

Here are some things that I do to maintain success and productivity in my life:

1. Turn off the noise!
Noise can be anything that is distracting you. Noise in this case is a noun; a person, place or thing that is distracting you from getting to where you want to be.

  • Person: Turn off people who have a crab mentality. The term “crab mentality” is used to describe a kind of selfish, short-sighted thinking which runs along the lines of “if I can’t have it, neither can you.” As a general rule, an accusation of having a crab mentality is a poor reflection on someone’s personality. This concept references an interesting phenomenon which occurs in buckets of crabs. If one crab attempts to escape from a bucket of live crabs, the other crabs will pull it back down, rather than allowing it to get free. Sometimes, the crabs seem almost malicious, waiting until the crab has almost escaped before yanking it back into the pot. All of the crabs are undoubtedly aware of the fact that their fate is probably not going to be very pleasurable, so people are led to wonder why they pull each other back into the bucket, instead of congratulating the clever escape artist. It is quite often that we will find people in our lives that will stifle our growth and ability to succeed. If you find yourself with people like this in your life, they will do nothing but try to make it hard for you unless you put some space between you and them. If I listened to the people who were placed in my life as a child that were there to mold me into an educated adult I would have completely set myself up to fail, just as I was told I would.
  • Place: Get away from places and locations that have overwhelming memories of negativity. Sometimes just being in a certain place can stifle your productivity and make you feel like you are part of something negative. This mentality will ruin your ability to see yourself as someone of worth. When you associate yourself with negative surroundings it is impossible to view yourself as successful in the midst of something that brings such negativity to your mind. I am not saying that you need to move to get out of such a place, but you do need to find a way that you can view yourself as a successful person rather then a failure. People often move thinking that they can start new and their problems follow them. With the internet being so socially connected it is even harder these days for a location change to put much distance between you and past decisions. Sometimes places are people go hand in hand. It is most likely that the places that bother you are associated with people. Below I will discuss living visibly which will help shine more light on making the most out of your location.
  • Thing: Things are most often bad habits and addictions but can easily be related to people and places. The things in our life that are stifling our growth to success are often related to another person. If you can put distance between the person related usually the thing will diminish.

2. Constantly Seek Empowerment
If you just sat around and listened to the world’s buzz for an entire day you would be the exact oposite of empowered. A great thing about the age we live in is that there is a lot of resources available to us. In my life I surround myself with positive content from podcasts, audiobooks and most importantly my church. I read a recap of the news to keep up with what is going on around me but I do not get attached to it. I read it through an RSS reader and do not include images. I want to be informed enough about our society to be able to hold a conversation but not so informed that I allow it to drag me down. Besides listening to great audiobooks and audio podcasts I also enjoy music. Music lifts me up and clears my mind. When I am at the gym I turn it up loud in my ears which keeps everything else out. When I am driving in the car or find myself in the middle of some downtime with nothing to do I put on an audiobook or podcast. There are so many great people who have positive attitudes and a lot to say in this world. Many of these people have overcame negativity or some sort of stronghold to reach success. There is absolutely nothing wrong with listening to what they have to say. Of course I don’t think that we should take everything that every “talking head” out there has to say to heart but you can take it in, think about it, and disregard anything that you do not think is of use to you personally. You can even take it one step further and keep those bits of information in your mind registries as something you could use to help out someone else should you see them in a situation that seems more fitting.

Some podcasts I frequent include: Freelance Radio, The Official BNI Podcast, The Public Speakers Quick and Dirty Tips Podcast, Mars Hill Sermon Church Audio Podcast, You Look Nice Today – A Journal of Emotional Hygiene and many more.

3. Live Visibly/Transparently
When your life as an adult does not start out the way you wanted it to you can correct it. I have had multiple failures that I often wish I had seen coming but at the same time understand that my mistakes have made me who I am. When things come up about your past, don’t be afraid to address them. There is no reason to hide anything because it will come out. What is great about the web these days is that you can share your life online on a much larger stage then you could with out it. Using Facebook, Twitter and the other social networks allows people to watch your life as it happens. They get to know you and see what you are really all about. When and if they find out something from your past it will not weight as heavily as it would have if that was the first bit of information they had collected about you. So regardless of your past whether it be that you were a burnout in high school or partied away your college years, you can get past that perception that some may have and build the life you have always wanted to have resulting in the respect you have desired to obtain.

4. Give Back
I say give back but what I really mean is just give. Be a giver, and never think twice about why you are helping someone. I give a lot of advice to people looking to get into the photography and website design fields. People wonder why I do it, especially when they are in the same geographic location as me. I believe completely that people do business with people they like. Some people like me and the way I do things, others do not. There are other photographers and website designers out there that may be a better match for a client than I am. I also refer more wedding photography away to other photographers than I keep for myself. Sometimes because I am already booked but many times because I know that what the Bride is looking for is something another photographer could provide better than I could. I have my style and enjoy working with people who have similar styles to mine. I feel I am offering much more to the Bride by making sure that she gets exactly what she wants.

Don’t be afraid to share information. Trust me, it comes back to you 10 fold when you give something away with no interest in getting something back from it. When you share something with someone else, send them business or give them a jump start, you may not see a reward from that particular individual, but you will get love in return. It always happens this way and it is the number one reason why I am still in business today.

5. Be a lover!
The sourpuss never gets ahead. They are always complaining about how they felt it was their turn to be successful. They always look jealously at others and scoff at their success. This should not be how you handle things. When somebody you know has something notable happen in their life, celebrate it with them. Congratulate them and appreciate their hard work. It is hard to pay attention to what everybody has going on but many people share their milestones on their Facebook and Twitter. Be on the lookout for those moments and send some love their way. When I fellow photographer posts about how they just booked a new wedding, it’s time to post a celebratory post on their Facebook wall. When a website designer contact I have on Twitter talks about how they just got this new huge client, it’s time to celebrate that with them, rather then lean back in your chair and think about how much you deserved that over them.

Life is to short to be a hater. Yes I know that the term is overused and pretty cliche but it’s true. Haters will never prosper. Be a love giver instead in the purest of senses from your heart of hearts.

Suggested Reads: Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends, The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea, 17 Lies That Are Holding You Back and the Truth That Will Set You Free, Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust and many more. If you like these books and want more suggestions from me, please email me.