19
Nov 17

The Shittier Version of Yourself

Everybody’s got a voice in their head. It’s the voice you check with whenever you have to make a decision, reflect or form an opinion. Sometimes that voice is elevating. Other times it’s critical and cringe inducing. Most of the time it’s an echo chamber, confirming stuff you already believe. For most people, I assume the voice in their head is their contemporary, seeing and processing things in real-time. For me, the voice in my head is my own from two decades ago. It’s the person I would have turned-out to be had I listened to everything he had to say. I check with that voice every day because it fills me with enormous gratitude to know I ignored him during my formative years. That voice twenty years my junior is the voice that always encouraged me, ‘Not to bother’, or ‘It’s a waste of time’ or “Everything’s a scam.” It’s the sanctimonious “know-it-all” voice that would have kept me languishing in my parents’ basement well into adulthood without career or relationship in sight while my peers moved on with their lives. It’s the voice that would have permitted me to leave the house, gross and unkempt and to create grand narratives about how I am the only person who sees the world as it is while others are blind to society’s machinations. If I listened to the voice twenty years my junior, I’d be a loner with a lot of rationalizations about personal choice and whatnot, all the while yearning for human affection and anybody to look in my direction. Whenever I hesitate about doing something, I check with the voice, remind myself what I would have become had I listened to him, and just do what I want to do. As an adult, I don’t have heroes I want to emulate.  I just have people I don’t want to end up becoming.

Source: XKCD

Source: XKCD – Cringe inducingly familiar…

You don’t need permission from anybody to do anything, least of all, the shittier version of yourself.

We are, all of us, the result of our decisions. If there is one voice we should all ignore, it’s the one that says, “It’s not worth the effort. It won’t make a difference.” While that may serve a purpose if you reduce your life to analytics and cynical cost/benefit columns, it’s a disastrous guide to follow if you wish to be a well-rounded adult. Had I listened to that voice, I would not have had the career I had, met my wife or started my family. In short, if I believed the voice from two decades ago that constantly told me, “It’s not worth the effort. It won’t make a difference”, I might have never grown up and somehow rationalized it as personal brilliance.

The demons I fought were rooted in deep insecurities and they still are. As a young man, every positive impulse for improvement was countered with, “Who’s going to care?”, then rationalized with “It’s not worth the effort.” I’d hear that voice constantly because not doing was far more comfortable than doing. Not doing anything required far less effort than doing something. Sure, I could see others who placed a premium on their own improvement making positive gains. But I chose to focus on the ones who tried their best and failed and compared myself to them. “See. Far better to have not tried at all.”  The problem with this logic is the longer you persist, the more you believe it to be true. It’s like the saying, “Whether you believe you can or can’t, you’re right.” except in this case you’re rationalizing self-loathing; that you are not worth improving. That your work is not worth improving. It’s the ultimate in cynicism. If the only argument is “To what end?”, then there is no argument. All art stops. The person who says, “I can be happy with nothing” is one who has never truly experienced ‘nothing’ because he is living a life someone else who came before him, built.

So, what changed? Nothing. Even though this voice has been a constant in my head, my earliest memories of it being in my teens, I listen to it, ignored it, and did what I was going to do anyways. Often, the effort to improve led to something better. The voice that tells you “Not to bother.” or “It’s not worth the effort”, will ALWAYS give you permission to do less and it will ALWAYS sound astute and reasoned because it’s what you want to hear. I conditioned myself to engage the voice, and simply do the opposite and was rewarded. I made sure to choose peers that felt the same and by virtue, all those I chose were active in life, love and achievement.

It doesn’t take a philosopher to see what lack of effort could lead to. When I see what I could have been had I always chosen the path of no resistance, no effort and no reflection, and I look at the life that resulted from acting in the opposite, I’m grateful every day that I never took that voice seriously.

It’s as they say, people without their own parades love to rain on others’. Just make sure you are not your own worst tempest.


09
Aug 17

Brandon, nobody owes you anything.

My man! Eleven is a big number and you’re maturing into an awesome young man. One of the best things about us is I’ve never had to treat you like a kid even though you still are one. You’ve got a chill head on your shoulders and you’ve had it easy thus far. But you know that’s going to come to an end at some point, right? I assure you, you’re not going to be hanging around the house playing video games until you’re a grown man unless it’s your own house. So here are a few things you need to build into your expectations of adulthood right about now.

That's how it was for all most of us kid.

That’s how it was for most of us kid.

Nobody owes you a career when you are finished school.

You are not owed a fulfilling career just because you studied something you thought was going to be in demand. Your education is only as valuable as you are relatable and likable. Whatever you’re good at, you’re going to need someone to give you a chance to do it, whether it be an employer or a customer. Don’t begrudge anybody who knows how to work a network or sell themselves. That’s talent in and of itself. I’ve always stressed it’s much easier to find a customer than it is to find an employer. If you are as good as you think you are, create a business and find some customers. Learn to leverage the intellect and efforts of others to create the work life you want. Stop thinking about what job you are going to find for yourself. Think about the job you are going to create for others. Don’t bitch about the economy, the government or anything else outside of your control. You need to be adaptable and look for inefficiencies around you. Nobody owes you a job no matter how impressive your degree might be.

Nobody owes you recognition.

You know those kids who win athletic or academic awards when you didn’t? It’s because they’re better than you at those things. They likely became better than you because they worked at it more than you did. Sure, nature plays a part but it’s probably because they cared more. Don’t begrudge others for kicking your ass because they probably kicked their own ass first. Don’t be one of those losers who gripe when others do well. You don’t see the hard work they put in. Nobody owes you a moment in the spotlight. It’s earned.

Nobody owes you good health.

Everybody knows what is required to live a healthy life. Don’t eat so much. Don’t smoke anything. Exercise a lot and practice moderation in everything you do. Beyond the basics, all else is pretty much up to statistics whether you get sick or hurt. We like to celebrate people who’ve pulled themselves out of dark places when it comes to their health or well-being. But it’s far easier to make the right choices to begin with. If you make shitty choices with your health and body, expect shitty outcomes. If somebody tells you self-improvement won’t make a difference, ignore them because they are probably at a place you don’t want to be. Nobody owes you your well-being. Most of it is entirely your choice.

Nobody owes you companionship.

Life isn’t a movie where you are guaranteed love, friendship and reverence because you did a thing. If you’re a slob who doesn’t give a damn about how you present yourself to the world, you’re going to miss out on a ton of stuff. If you take your friends for granted and don’t positively contribute, you’re not going to have a lot friends. If your only value is that you’re just a nice guy but don’t have anything else to offer, it’s going to be a lonely road. Be useful and be a person who contributes value in real terms. Be reliable. Be someone people want to hang with because you’re interested in their well-being. Be kind to people and help people help themselves. But don’t just be a nice guy who does pointless favours for everybody and hope that it leads anywhere. Nobody owes a nice guy anything, least of all companionship.

Nobody owes you happiness. 

Happy is something you decide to be at any given moment. You can choose how you feel about a certain thing. If you want to make every inconvenience seem like the end of the world, then it’ll be that. You’ll just look like an asshole and feel foolish afterwards. Choose what you give your attention to. You’ll come to learn that happiness is when you get rid of things, not when you accumulate them. Know what matters to you and be flexible. You know those people who need everything to be perfect or they’ll lose their shit? You know how you feel about them? Yeah, that’s what people will think about you if you’re like that. Don’t let everything piss you off. Get used to discomfort. Words have emotional value only to the extent you grant them. Victims of oppression are not everywhere despite the media saying so. Stop needing things to be fair. Expect things to be difficult. Just get better and create the reality you want. You decide what makes you happy and how quickly you allow yourself to be utterly indifferent to things that don’t. The easiest path to happiness is to keep the number of _____ you give to a bare minimum. Nobody owes you peace of mind.

Nobody owes you the right answers.

Nobody will care about you more than your mom and me, even if we are making it up as we go along. In terms of other folks, at best, some will tell you when you’re heading down the wrong path. At worst, some will point you there on purpose. But ultimately you own the decisions you make and the decisions you make are largely determined by your interpretation of your environment. You are the company you keep so keep good company. Your peers will have significantly more sway over your happiness, direction and success than we ever will. Have meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships and cut negative influences fast. The answers you receive are entirely dependent on the questions you ask and the people you ask. Good people will encourage you to ask good questions. Shitty people will just tell you to be happy with the answers they give. Nobody owes you the right answers because nobody knows what they are. Listen to everything, filter and make up your own mind.

Once you accept that nobody owes you anything and everything is mostly in your own hands, you’ll never be a victim. You’ll never not know what to do next. Life is amazing when you take complete ownership of things you can control and not stress over things you can’t. Eleven is not too young to know this. In fact, eleven is the perfect time to know this. You’ll experience massive changes in the next couple years; some good, some bad, but all mostly confusing. If you’re ever in a headspace where things don’t seem fair, or right or just, remember how you feel is a choice. How you react is a choice. Both constructive and destructive behaviour is a choice. Expect people to disappoint you and expect yourself to disappoint people. Nobody owes you a perfect world and by the same token, you don’t owe anybody to be perfect either.

Do stuff. Make mistakes. Be a bro. Laugh. Cry. And reset.

Love you,

Dad


31
May 16

Brandon! Welcome to double digits! Here’s why dad is harsh sometimes…

Life with me isn’t easy. It’s 97% happy-go-lucky, 3% WTF JUST HAPPENED?! I’m not going to pretend there’s method to my madness. Like all other parents, I’m just making shit up as I go along. But rest assured, the intention is good. I’ve always said to you, if I’m the toughest thing in your life, everything else will be a breeze. So far so good little buddy.

boy

How I’ll always see you… deal with it.

Why I push you hard in athletics.  It’s not because I think you’re going to make a dime in sports. It’s because sport gives you a safe environment to try your absolute best and still fail miserably. I like that you lose sometimes. I like that you don’t make the cut sometimes. But you know what I like best? That you keep you trying; that you’ve lost the embarrassment of failure. Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved without enduring failure. I’ve never protected you from disappointment and I never will. A kid who tries and fails is better than the kid who never tries. If you want to improve, find a kid that’s better than you and watch how they prepare. In most cases, they’re better than you because they’re better prepared than you.

Why I’m all over you about your grooming.  Appearances matter. Appearances have always mattered. We’re a visual species and you know the science (click here). Regardless of how brilliant, creative or able you are, you’re going to find that people tend not to give a damn if they’ve already written you off because you’re a slob. It’s not fair or right. It’s what is. It’s not about what you’re born with. It’s about the effort you put into yourself. It’s about taking pride in yourself and dignity in what you show to the world. You’ll come to realize that people who put little effort in themselves, put little effort in all other things.

Why I’m always barking at you to be active.  Horrible things can happen to anybody. Accidents and pathogens aside, there is growing evidence that indicate illnesses like cancer and heart disease can happen to anybody regardless of lifestyle. You can mitigate some risks by living well but someone has to be the 1 out of the 5000. You will get sick and you will get hurt. What’s unknown is where on the bell-curve you are. Far better to be of healthy weight and habit when it hits. Staying in shape and eating properly must be a way of life. Dealing will illness is tough. Dealing with illness with an extra 20 pounds roped to your gut is tougher. Eat sensibly and exercise. Forever.

Why we talk about everything in the news.  There’s a reason I encourage you to read and watch history and science programming with me. It gives you context about the day’s headlines. Nothing happens in a vacuum and you now appreciate that everything is relative. You need to know why the Middle-East is the way it is. You need to know why the LGBT movement is always in the news. You need to understand the origins of the religiously themed daily headlines. You need to know what’s going on in the world so you can identify those who don’t, simply by keeping your mouth shut and listening. You’ve seen how mob mentality can rally around a single talking point. It’s not your place to change opinions and beliefs. But it’s beneficial to know who holds them and why.

Why I’m constantly bugging you about homework.  Because it’s your job man. I can rein it in on most other things but school is something I will not. I have no idea what you’re going to do for a career nor do I know if your university degree will have any value when we’re all working for our robot overlords. All I need from you is the mindset of work before play. Not work while you play. Just finish the #@$#^& thing first, than play. This is where I messed up in university. Life with lots of options because you achieved stellar marks is infinitely better than life with few options because you didn’t. But even more important than marks and grades is mindset and habit. You know that awesome feeling when you accidentally finish an assignment a week before it’s due? Yeah, that’s what life feels like when you make getting stuff done before it needs to be done, a habit.

Although we’re proud and will happily share your exploits with others, we’ve never made you feel that you were any more than the sum of your own hard work. Nothing came easy for you and to be honest, that’s not likely to change. So until I can see you setting your own standards without me, you’re still going to have to deal with me.

Oh, and one last thing…

It’s far more important to be useful than to be nice. The world is filled with nice guys with meager self esteem. Guys who put minimal effort into self-betterment and only recharge their esteem meter by doing unappreciated favours. What is given away for free is valued the same. It’s far better to be reliable and helpful when it really counts than simply being nice and available all the time. Don’t ever get stuck in the zone…

You’ll figure this out soon enough.


28
Oct 15

Why your children need to be good story tellers

My son and I chat about his future all the time. Like a lot of boys his age, he’s certain he wants to be a DARPA engineer. Yesterday he changed his tune.

“You know what Daddy? I think it’d be cooler to own a business like you do.”

I beamed, “Why the change man?”

“All you do is have coffees with people. You don’t actually do anything.”

“Brandon! You finally get it!” I crowed. “Study to be the best engineer you can be so you know what to look for when you’re hiring other engineers to do the work that you sell.”

Continue reading →


17
Dec 14

A note for my 8 year-old son Brandon

I started this collection of ramblings with A Message to my 5 year-old son Brandon. Now that my kid is halfway to nine and showing more insightfulness than I exhibited at the same age, it’s time to tighten the tone of these notes. In the past I wrote about being ridiculously happy and living fearlessly, but that’s stuff for a younger, goofier Brandon. Even though I feel more ignorant about the world than ever, I think I’ve still got a few things to tell my boy before he out-books me… also if I suddenly keel over of a heart attack, he’ll have a few words to remember me by.

Continue reading →


03
Nov 13

The best advice on raising children I ever received.

We had our first parent-teacher interview when our son was around two years old. During the interview, one of the teachers said something that has stuck with me since.

“Whatever you tell your children will be the absolute truth to them.”

Continue reading →


27
Oct 13

Brandon. 3 things I want you to be when you grow up.

It’s every parent’s hope that their kid turns out to be successful. For some, successful means the kid ends up with a sparkling job title, double gold in Olympic fencing and has the name Sanjay Gupta. For others, as long as their kids grows up to be productive adults who can pay their own way, is a job well done on the parenting front.

My requirements are even simpler than that.  Here are three things I want you to grow up to be.

Continue reading →


08
Jun 13

1000 phone calls. The real fear behind cold-calling.

I own a contract sales company so if there’s one thing I know, I know how to pick up the phone.  Social media, predictive analytics, email lead-nurturing and spiffy cloud-based CRMs; that’s all awesome.  But at the end of the day, somebody needs to pick up the phone and call a guy.  All the purchased leads, list builds, trade shows and million dollar ad-spends don’t mean jack if your sales guys are only pumping through 5 calls a day.

Continue reading →


28
May 13

Special: A note to my team

As I’m ending my term this Friday, I’d like to leave a brief note for my team.

Put your blinders on. Continue reading →


23
Apr 13

4 questions from a reader – Advice for Young Professionals

When folks start coming to you for ‘advice for young professionals‘, it’s time to concede that 37 is in fact ancient and it’s time to give up on your dreams of becoming a break-dance contestant on America’s Got Talent.

Here’s a recent chat I had with Jacqueline Cavalheiro (Student Awards) of Humber College in Toronto. Continue reading →