These 5 Habits Can Improve Your Life Immediately

These 5 Habits Can Improve Your Life Immediately

(I posted this over on Quora and it blew up, so I thought I’d re-post my answer here for those of you who might have missed it …)

This will be fun … and controversial. So, hold on to your ass. I’m going to tell you five things you can do, right now, to improve your life.

1. Masturbate.

You’ll be less anxious and less stressed if you do.

The best advice I ever got in high school? It came from my driving school instructor on the day before my road test. He was an older Jewish guy who looked and spoke a lot like Jackie Mason. After dropping me off at my house, he said to me, “Go jerk off tonight. It’ll clear your head and you’ll be relaxed for your test tomorrow.”

Now, I’m not saying this is advice you want someone to give you unsolicited, especially from someone you barely know, but … Seriously. It works.

2. Don’t Care So Much.

There are few things I actually care about. I care about the women in my life. I care about my family, even though they drive me up a fucking wall, and I care about helping people as much as I can with the time that I have left on this planet.

Everything else? I don’t care.

I’ll do what I have to do to make a living, but unless I’m doing something that involves any of the above, I’m doing what I need to do to get the job done — and done well, mind you — but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it either. In fact, beyond what I need to do to perform well on my tasks, I’m not going to think twice about it once it’s accomplished.

Put another way: Prioritize everything you do around the things you care about most. Everything else is bullshit.

3. Don’t Work More Than Four Hours a Day

This is sort of related to the above, but has to do with the way we’re wired mentally.

You only have so many hours in a day that you can be productive.

A lot of this has to do with your brain being a goal oriented machine, some of it has to do with the way the modern work day is scheduled.

For example, how many of you find yourselves trying to kill time on any given work day because what you’ve been given to work on won’t fill nine hours? I bet it’s almost all of you.

I’m convinced you can produce more, excellent work, in concentrated bursts of productivity then you can being trapped in an office all day for nine hours because someone somewhere decided that was the mandatory length of time for the average work day.

So, whenever possible, make the most of your four productive hours.

4. Remind yourself that you’re going to die.

I know. That sounds morbid. But if you find yourself losing your shit about something, ask yourself, “If I was dead tomorrow, would this matter?”

9 times out of 10 the answer is a big, fat, NOPE!

Don’t remind yourself to be morbid, do this to remind yourself that time is the most valuable thing that you have, and you shouldn’t waste it on stupid shit that’s not going to matter a day from now or even a week from now.

Take it from me. I almost died when I was 30. Everything I do after that must pass a very specific test, “If I was dead tomorrow, would this matter?” If the answer is no, and as much as possible, I won’t do it.

5. Keep an open mind.

I know. REAL controversial, but seriously. Try something new every day.

Question everything you read and hear.

Try weed.

Sleep with someone of the same sex.

Let the dog take YOU for a walk.

Life is short, do everything you can that’s within the realm of not harming yourself or others.

If you go through life shutting yourself off from everything this world has to offer, you’re going to be real bummed when you die and find there’s no afterlife and not a hell of a lot to do aside from being nothing.

So, live a little, love a lot, and enjoy.

Don’t Lose Sleep Over Things You Can’t Control

Don’t Lose Sleep Over Things You Can’t Control

This week I saw my cardiologist for the first time in a while. Since the Summer of 2013, I thought my heart troubles were behind me. I went in, had surgery, almost died, had another surgery, and everything was all fixed. For the first time in my life, I had a heart working at 100% of its capacity when I left that hospital.

Then, last Summer, I started to feel weird, but I ignored it because it was hot, and I’ve never responded well to the humid Summer heat upstate New York tends to get.

In the Fall, some new symptoms emerged. But I figured it was stress from working with that particular client and having a relationship blow up in my face. One doctor even suggested all the symptoms were in my head. So I saw a psychiatrist. Still, do. Although not as often as I probably should. The symptoms remained.

Now here we are, almost a year later, and I was still feeling weird — and tired. That brought me back to the cardiologist.

The good news is that my heart was fixed from the surgeries. The bad news is that my family has this fun genetic disorder involving the nervous system, and that disorder likes to screw around with your body. Your heart included. Lucky me.

But these days? As bad as that news could be taken, I don’t lose any sleep over it.

Don’t get me wrong. This sucks. It’s going to change some things on my end concerning my career plan, my travel, and some general life things, but I still sleep like a baby.

You know why? Because you can’t worry about stuff you have no control over. I don’t have any control over this. I can take medication. I can exercise more. I can travel more strategically, but there’s no cure. This thing won’t go away. It’s just there. Being a pain in the ass.

And we all have stuff like that in our life. You can’t fix it. It’s super annoying to you, but it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, if ever. So you just sort of deal with it. The best way to deal with things like that is to not give it another thought. Do whatever you need to figure out how to work around it, and then just go forward and do it.

Sure, easier said than done. But isn’t everything worth doing?

Image Courtesy: Olichel on Pixabay

You’re Better Than That

You’re Better Than That

In life, you’re going to make giant, horrible mistakes.

If you’re lucky, you won’t make too many of them. Maybe one or two. You went to kiss that girl that one time because you thought you were on a date but thought wrong, and now in the back of your head, you think you’re a creep for the rest of your life.

Or maybe you should have said no to the crazy people who offered you a job and focused all your efforts on dating this awesome woman you totally would have had children with. But your new insane co-workers made it impossible to devote the time and attention needed to grow that kind of relationship to get it where it should have been, instead of where it ended up.

If you’re like most people, you acknowledge what you did wrong, you feel bad about it for however long that you feel sorry about it, and then you try to move on with your life the best that you can.

If something was outside of your control, you learn not to think about it because there’s no point in worrying or thinking about things you can’t solve.

If you’re like me and have OCD, you obsess over everything that has ever gone wrong in your life all day, every day until it drives you just a little crazy and makes it virtually impossible for you to open up to another human being in a non-professional setting. Mostly out of fear of adding to the list of giant horrible mistakes that you constantly think about.

You don’t want to be like that either.

You can’t let the mistakes you make define who you are. You also can’t let your mistakes prevent you from taking the steps you need to take to do what you want to do with your life.

You know I hate the “fail and fail often” thing that startups believe in. It’s real easy for them to say that when they’re wasting money that’s not their own. I’m not suggesting you go that far and embrace failure at every turn, but I do believe you have to make a concerted effort, every day, to try things without having that fear in the back of your head about what you’re trying turning into another giant, horrible mistake.

The biggest problem I’ve encountered over the past four years is that people don’t know what they want, so I’m not able to come up with a plan to get them to where they want to go. The second problem though is that, once the plan is put together, they’re afraid to try things. “I can’t.” “I won’t.” “That won’t work. “We can’t do that because …”

You have to get past all that. Unless there is a logical reason not to try something, then you’re just working off emotions. And unless there’s a strong feeling in your gut saying not to try something at that point, you should try it and see what happens. (If your gut is telling you not to do something, don’t do it. I’m a big believer in trusting your gut.)

Life is short. It’s cruel. It’s random. It’s unpredictable. And for that reason alone, it’s up to you and me to take risks and be adventurous.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

There are plenty of people out there today who are utterly miserable because they’ve let that fear keep them from doing what they want to do with their lives. Don’t be that person. Don’t be just another person in the long, exhaustive history of them, who didn’t want to take the action they needed to get shit done because of some convenient excuse.

You’re better than that.

Consistency Is Key

Consistency Is Key

If you decide that you’re playing the game, the first thing you should know is that consistency is key. The person you are at 7:30 in the morning, writing a blog post in bed with an old cat curled up next to you, is the person you are on your internet platform of choice, and the person you are when you’re out in the world interacting with your fellow humans. Whether that interaction is for business or fun is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that you’re the same person, and have the same presentation, across all those different instances.

So to put it in words of marketing bullshit, your “personal brand” has no off switch.

That … might sound terrifying, so let’s back up for a second.

If I ask you, “What does success look like?” I know from experience that the most common answer is, “I don’t know.” We get so caught up in our day to day shit that it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.

For me, I have a very simple guiding principle: I want to entertain everyone on the planet and make them laugh. Why? Because life is short. It sucks. It’s cruel, and it’s unfair. If I can do something to amuse my fellow humans, even if it’s just for a few moments, and help take some of that pain away? That’s what I’m going to do. That’s why I do what I do.

Luckily, I’ve now had my presentations and work translated across multiple languages, and each time without fail, regardless of where I am in the world and what language the audience speaks, everyone laughs right where they’re supposed to. So this is a guiding principle backed up by data and fact. I am very good at what I do. Unfortunately, I’ve always had more of a cult following than a mass audience, so at the moment, not enough people know I exist where I can do this routinely and get paid to do it.

I mention this because if you’re guiding principle in life is, “I want to be the next Lebron James” you might be in for a rude awakening. You should find your strengths and play into them. Or, if you want to be strong in an area you’re not, relentlessly pursue developing those strengths. Then, you should get your efforts validated, whether through data or experience. Preferably both.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to be the next Lebron, it’s just not likely. Besides, you never want to be the next anything. I spent most of my life wanting to be the next George Carlin, but I realize that I’m just as happy, if not happier, being the first B.J. Mendelson.

So, what does success look like? Well if you can figure out why you do what you do (shoutout to “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, whose book will be getting the book notes treatment on this website shortly), then you can start to figure out the answer to that question.

I’m not the first person to suggest this, but a typical consulting trick is to ask the client to imagine what success looks like. “Take us 10 years into the future; you have everything you ever wanted. How did you get there?”

Then once the client has an answer to that question, you ask them to break down the process of how they got there into smaller, actionable steps. Those are then the steps you’re supposed to follow. Will things go smoothly? Maybe. Maybe not. Are you better off for following those steps then you are just randomly doing shit? Absolutely. So it’s dumb not to do this.

You should ask yourself right now what success for you looks like, and then ask yourself how you got there. Do it. Take like a minute or two and jot it down. “What does success look like for me?” And then ask, “Ok. How did I get there?” And if you get stuck, ask, “How do I think I got there?” It’s the same question, but there’s less pressure involved.

Because what you’re going to find is that consistency is important across all those steps. You, your product, you are both who you are at 7:30am with the cat, at 10am with your boss, and at 8:30pm with your pretty / handsome date. There is no off switch.

Dale Carnegie talked about this in the ‘30s, Simon Sinek said this in the late ‘00s. I’m pretty sure there’s at least one reference to it in “Meditations.” My point is, I’m not telling you anything new here.

The challenge is just following through on what you’re hearing and being consistent in your efforts. More often than not, we don’t do this. We have excuses. For the startup and tech people, it’s that obnoxious “That doesn’t scale” response, or their tiny little brains blow a gasket when you ask them to do something they can’t measure. For others, we’re afraid of taking risks and looking dumb. “What if we fail?”

Well, shit, you probably will, but even if you do, you’ll be better off for having to take steps to pursue the thing you want to pursue. For one thing, any and all bitterness and resentment for not having done so would never have a chance to take root in your mind. For another, even if you don’t get where you’re going, you may find you like where you wind up just the same. But you won’t know that until you make some effort.

That’s on you, though. I mean that’s the big joke with marketing and PR. The reason every marketing book sounds the same is that, after a certain point, it’s up to you to do shit. There’s only so much they can say. Not much has changed regarding how we communicate with each other. And I mean really communicate, not this superficial social media shit we’ve been obsessed with since 2008. So after a certain point, you need to put the advice that does exist to good use. Or don’t. That’s why I’m talking about all this to begin with. I can easily write a blueprint for you to follow, and I will, but if you’re not clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing and whether or not you want to do what it takes to win, what’s the point? You’re either playing the game or you’re not.

So if you’re me, and your vision is to make everyone on the planet laugh, you work on being funny, and you make sure everything you put out to the world is funny and entertaining. Everything. I wear funny t-shirts that don’t use a lot if any, words so that they’re funny to people of all backgrounds and languages. I try to write and speak in as concise a way as possible so that what I’m saying is clear and easy to understand. This is as true in my personal life as it is in my professional life because the two are one and the same. There is no off switch.

I don’t believe in the off switch. There’s no difference between you and your “personal brand.” You are who you want the world to believe you are, and you can’t achieve that unless you’re consistent about it.

Do You Want To Play The Game?

Do You Want To Play The Game?

I don’t believe in the whole work-life balance thing. I know. That’s not the most popular position. Everyone these days wants to tell you that you can have it all. Me? I almost died not long after I turned 30. One minute I was in Wales with a whole bunch of strangers wishing me happy birthday, and then the next I fell ill, and that was (almost) that.

So I have a different outlook on things.

My attitude is this: Life is short. You’re going to die. So, if you want something bad enough, you have to spend every minute you can trying to get it.

That doesn’t mean to be a neglectful asshole. If you have other obligations, you should live up to them. But in the time that you have that’s not otherwise committed, you should be working toward the thing that you want.

Because you either want it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you’re wasting everyone’s time. Yours included.

This all sounds easier said than done, but you would not believe the number of people I’ve encountered over the years where you ask them what they want, and they don’t have an answer. Small businesses. Individuals. Not-for-profits. The heads of large corporations. More often than not, they don’t have an answer to that question. And because they don’t, nothing gets done. Employees are unhappy. Projects fail. Shareholders revolt. Nobody donates. The media rips you up.

I’m not saying you need to have an answer right now, but you should soon. And then you need to decide if that’s the thing you want to go after or not. Because if it’s not, you have to get out of the way. Other people are trying to get through.

And then if you do decide you want that thing, you have to ask yourself whether or not you want to play the game to get to it.

Because that’s all marketing is. It’s a game.

There’s no trick or secret to marketing, PR, advertising, or any of these industries where you have to promote something (yourself included). There’s a specific, repeatable formula that you follow.

It’s a game. You guide your character by following the formula, and you do your best to get to the end. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes obstacles get in the way, and sometimes other players have ways they can cheat to get ahead.

But here’s the catch: I’m convinced that once you start playing, you can’t stop. Or only play it half-way. You have this thing that you want, you commit yourself to getting it, and part of that commitment comes in the form of spending every free second you have playing the game and getting better at it.

You can take a break when it’s over. Ideally, after you’ve obtained the thing you’re after, but there’s no shame in quitting or stopping, as long as you know that’s what you want to do.

For me, this is an important framework for a lot of what I talk to people about. If you’re committed to playing the game, then I know you’ll follow each step of the process to promote something successfully and give it your best shot. If you’re not committed, that’s where bullshit happens.

And you all know how I feel about that.

So ask yourself this:

  1. What do I want?
  2. Do I want it bad enough to spend every waking moment trying to obtain it?

If the answer is no to the second question, then you’re wasting your time. If the answer is yes, then you have to learn how to play the game.

Fun with OCD

Fun with OCD

You wouldn’t know it unless I told you, but I’ve written over five thousand words today and deleted all of it. I’d like to think that makes me a great writer. Like Ernest Hemingway who once said, “I write one page of masterpiece to 91 pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.” But that’s not the case with me. I take the shit, and the masterpiece, to the nearest incinerator and watch it burn. You see, I have OCD.

And because I have this wonderfully annoying condition, I have a lot of anxiety and the kind of crippling self-doubt I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So I delete what I’m working on and try again. And again. And again. And maybe, I produce something worth sharing. But more often than not I don’t think so, and the cycle repeats until I lose interest and go and do something else.

If you’re wondering why it’s taking me so long to write another book, now you know.

Well, technically, I DID write another book, but it was a ghostwritten thing, so it doesn’t count. It’s good. You should read it. I’m convinced you’ll hear about it in the not too distant future if the release isn’t botched, but that’s not in my hands.

Anyway, for years I’ve joked about having OCD, but it was never officially diagnosed, and I didn’t want to do anything to treat it out of fear it’d keep me from being funny. Because make no mistake, there’s no secret to writing jokes. You just keep sharpening the idea that you have until it’s just right and then you go test it out, tweaking what you need to until it’s gold. OCD is handy there.

But OCD isn’t handy for much else, and my personal life has been a mess for an extraordinarily long time. Definitely since 2012 when I got divorced and used traveling around the world and living out of hotel rooms as an excuse to not deal with my shit, but if I’m honest, my personal life has been a disaster since forever.

Put me in a professional setting, whether it’s onstage talking to thousands of people or in a conference room with one, and I’m awesome. Put me out on a date, or with someone that I don’t need to sell anything to? Forget it. Can’t do it. I’m completely withdrawn.

This year (March 2016 to now) has not been good. Some of it is my fault, some of it is not, but in life one of the things you figure out real fast is that you can’t waste time thinking about things beyond your control. You can work to mitigate potential problems or engineer things to increase the odds of your success, but after a certain point, you can only do so much, and it’s up to other people. And other people can be dumb and irrational.

So, I’ve decided to work on the things I can control.

I’ve been using Talkspace for almost six months now. It’s an app that lets you text a therapist and even do a weekly video chat with them depending on what plan you have. The video chat feature is nice, except it immediately cuts you and your therapist off at 30 minutes, even if something important is going on. So that can be deeply frustrating because you’re spending as much time talking and listening as you are watching the clock and hoping it won’t cut you off. A good therapist won’t do that to you in person. They’ll know when to stop the session, but they’ll at least finish the thought or discussion before closing things down. The Talkspace app doesn’t do that because it was built by “tech people” and tech people don’t care about how we interact with each other as humans. They only care about scale and efficiency.

Despite that technical annoyance, I like the therapist I have, and honestly, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to have health insurance, so TalkSpace is a pretty good solution for me at the moment. Even if I think I need to see someone in person regularly (and I think I do. So does the therapist.)

So at the therapist’s urging, I finally did make an in-person appointment with a psychiatrist just recently. She confirmed that I do in fact have OCD, so it’s no longer just a running joke. She also recommended I take something for it, which I’ve been doing. It’s been a week, and I know it takes like a month to see a difference, so I’m optimistic. I’m not so thrilled about the side effects, but given that dating is off the table while I’m stranded in upstate New York, that’s fine. I’m not going to sweat it.

Why am I telling you all this?

I believe that talking about depression and mental health is important. The odds are good that someone you know is affected by it in some way.

But I also think this has been a huge problem for me over the years. This condition has harmed my writing and ability to produce a much-demanded follow-up to “Social Media is Bullshit,” and my relationships with a lot of people. So, you should know what the deal is.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was at a Barnes & Noble in Union Square on Thursday, and I saw multiple books from people who had released their first book after mine came out in 2012. This was deeply frustrating. I’d like to write more, but I’ve got this problem I’m trying to solve.

I also had wanted to write about depression and startups here on this blog, but I’m honestly not feeling so hot about startups and tech people these days. It’s going to take an extreme amount of convincing to get me even to consider working with another tech company again.

That means if I want to talk about depression and OCD, talking from the perspective of startups or a startup founder isn’t something that appeals to me anymore.

But talking about it from the viewpoint of someone whose new book leans hard into self-help / self-guidance while giving marketing advice, then it does make sense to share all this here with you. Because we’re now at the point where I’m going to (attempt) to write and post ideas and concepts found in the new book so I can test them out and see what sticks.

I also believe that posting about this stuff could be helpful to you, because if I can, with help, get past whatever obstacles I’m facing and put out the second book, given the complete and total lack of resources that I have at my disposal presently, then there’s no excuse for you, you know? You can do the same.

So, let’s do it together.