I don’t know shit about Adversity.

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Adversity

What is adversity?

I thought I knew.

Getting crushed by an avalanche gained me a ticket into the Survivors Club. The snow broke my ribs, collapsed my lung, broke every bone in my face, including the ones I didn’t know existed behind my eyeballs, severed my ACL and left me spilling blood and gasping for air on the side of a mountain.

I thought I knew what adversity was because of the searing pain I experienced. It felt like someone was stabbing me in the back every time I hit a bump while being carried in the rescue sled down mountain.

I thought I knew about hard times because the ambulance ride took 3 ½ hours to get to the hospital. I was spitting blood all over the place, bitching, moaning, crying, and begging for random strangers to save my life.

I thought I knew about adversity because of waking up in the hospital on life support. I was unable to speak because I had a hole with a tube sticking down my throat and into my lung. My jaw was wired shut and I couldn’t scream out for help.

Three facial surgeries in seven days left eight titanium plates in my face.
Several months and several surgeries later I found myself battling depression, anger, and the worst of all—self pity.

All this led me to believe that I knew something about adversity. That I was something of an expert on the topic.

Now I don’t think I know shit about adversity.

I just got news that my friend (I’ll call him Jon) was admitted to Hospice care. Jon is transitioning to the next experience.

Jon has been battling brain cancer for 4 years. Jon knows about Adversity.

Jon is the most charismatic dude I’ve ever met. The guy had flair that came from a mixture of confidence, competence, and personality.

When I first met Jon he was a gourmet chef in Napa Valley. He was a showman. A food showman. I never gave a shit about food, but when Jon would talk, I found myself paying attention to every little detail about food that he rapped on about.

He had great showmanship with food, but one of the things that made him so interesting, is that he was also a great teacher. He made a subject I found boring, cooking, into something interesting. I loved hearing Jon talk about food (Use grapeseed oil, not olive oil! – when cooking steaks).

He taught a food and wine class every weekend.

I took my Mom to one of his classes for Mother’s Day one year. It was the best Mother’s Day gift I’ve ever gotten Mom. Maybe the best gift I ever got her. It was such a cool thing to see this guy so in his element.

I met Jon through work, we were employed at the same winery. Eventually Jon moved on to other employment. I expected to see him become a famous Chef, like the ones on the TV. I imagined he’d have his own restaurants and cookware and pots with his name on it.

Life had other plans.

Jon was diagnosed with brain cancer several months after my accident. One day my buddy showed me a picture on Facebook of this guy in a hospital bed with a horseshoe sized scar on top of his shaved head.

The guy in the picture looked lost. My buddy said, “That’s Jon.”

The look on Jon’s face reminded me of what I felt like when I was in the hospital. I visited him in the hospital the next day. He was surprised to see me. We hadn’t spoken since he left the winery. It had been two years.

I hung out with Jon and tried to listen as best I could. He was going through serious Adversity. The good news was, the doctors had caught the cancer early. They had successfully removed a golf ball sized tumor from his head. His future looked bright.

I attempted to impart some of the thoughts that had helped me during my struggle. I encouraged him to start writing. I dunno. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything and just shut up and listened. I couldn’t fathom the battle that Jon was in.

I visited him a few days later and this time I brought him a box of See’s chocolate candies. He seemed to like them. Jon was stronger than when I’d seen him before. I could see Jon’s charisma attempting to burst through the trauma of the surgery.

Unfortunately I never spoke with Jon again. I meant to but I didn’t.

Time passed. Jon left the hospital, then eventually returned to work part time. I kept up with him through a few texts and word on the grapevine. He worked when his health would permit him to.

I’m sure his work provided a welcomed distraction.  He loved cooking.  I doubt he ever thought of it as work.

But the news always returned that Jon was back in the hospital having another surgery or round of cancer treatment. It was brutal just to get the news of his struggle. I couldn’t imagine being the guy going through it.

Everyone was pulling for Jon. I remember there was a charity dinner held at the winery he worked at when he got diagnosed with cancer. The winery was raising money to help pay for Jon’s medical expenses.

I didn’t want to go to the dinner because it was on the weekend and it was wintertime. I wanted to go skiing.

I called up the phone number where the tickets to the dinner were being sold and I asked if I could just give them some money instead of buying a ticket. The woman on the phone was relieved that I just wanted to send money. She said the dinner was sold out but people kept trying to buy tickets.

I heard later that the charity dinner was so over sold that they were worried about getting shut down by the fire department. Apparently the fire department let them slide because they knew purpose of the event.

That’s the kind of impact Jon had on anyone that met him. There weren’t a shit ton of people at the event because Jon had cancer. There were a shit ton of people at the event because Jon had this magnetic personality that people couldn’t help but be attracted to.

Jon battled cancer. He didn’t give up.

He married his long time girlfriend, which I know made him immensely happy.

And, he taught people. There isn’t anyone that knows him, that can’t use him as motivation. If anyone that knows Jon is battling Adversity, they can pause for a moment, think of Jon, and realize that their situation isn’t as bad as they think it is, and they must persevere.

I often think of Jon when I’m bitching and moaning and life is difficult. I think of Jon and I think that I need to shut up and stop complaining. I think of Jon and I am reminded of how grateful I am to take a simple walk with my dog and enjoy the breeze.

I think of Jon and I think about how I’ve got a lot of work to do to be a better human being.
I’m sad I won’t be able to visit Jon in Hospice. I moved away from Napa to the East Coast and cannot make the trip.

I love that dude. He’s an inspiration.

I will miss Jon. I know he is going to a good place.

Be well brother.

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Year End Book Review for my homies.

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Hello Wonderful People of the Internet!

How are you? Did you survive all the holiday treats? I did not. All I have been eating is cake and chocolate and sugar…

But I have also been working. Not much but a little. I promised you, my dear reader, that I’d publish my year end book review… ON TIME for once. And here it is…

The Serpent of Venice – Christopher Moore – fiction

Christopher Moore is a great literary re-cycler. He takes old stories, puts his comedic spin on it, and repackages it as a new story. Serpent is a blend of Othello and The Merchant of Venice and Moore mixes in some of his favorite characters from his fantastic book Fool. I enjoy Moore’s style. The dialogue in his books is always great.

Moore also has the rare talent of comedic writing. It’s hard to be funny in writing. It’s even more difficult to switch from comedy to drama, then back again. This is something Moore does well. I enjoyed this book.

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice – Bill Browder – non

I took an unexpected detour into the subject of modern Russia. This book by Bill Browder, tells the fascinating story of how a guy from the Midwest United States goes on to become the largest foreign investor in Russia.

With great risks come great rewards. At first, Browder’s Hermitage Fund made huge gains investing during the time that Russia’s economy took its first steps from communism to capitalism. Then Browder found himself on the wrong side of Putin’s graces. Going against Putin is not a fun endeavor. Browder had to shut down his fund. He was banned from Russia. Innocent people were killed.

Putin is a gangster and this is one of the many tales that illuminate the power of the man who controls Russia

Once Upon A Time In Russia – Ben Mezrich – non

Mezrich tells the story of the rise and fall of Boris Berezovsky, and a few of the other Russian Oligarchs. When Russia changed from communism to capitalism, the vast majority of the country’s wealth fell into the hands of a few people, the Oligarchs. Life was swell for Berezovsky during the Yeltsin years when he had the government on his side.

Once Putin came to power, Berezovsky, a former Kremlin insider, found himself on the outside looking in. Then he started publicly criticizing Putin. Needless to say, that’s not a smart move. Berezovsky quickly fell from power, fortune, and had to flee Russia.

This is another sad story that portrays the wildness following the Soviet Union’s collapse and another example of someone going against Putin—and losing.

Born To Run – Christopher McDougall – non

This book is fantastic. It read more like a novel than a non-fiction. McDougall tells the story of the Tarahumara of Northern Mexico, the world’s greatest endurance runners. The Tarahumara live in the Copper Canyons which are similar to the Grand Canyon. The terrain is rugged, vast, and unforgiving. The Tarahumara thrive there and run vast distances as a part of daily life.

McDougall also weaves in many stories of endurance running throughout the ages. He argues that humans were born to run. That is what makes us so unique. He convinced me.

My favorite line is “We don’t stop running because we get old. We get old because we stop running.”

This is a wonderful book.

The Martian – Andy Weir – fiction

The story of how The Martian was written is almost as interesting as the book itself. Weir went to great lengths to get the science of the book correct. You can listen to James Altucher’s podcast with Weir where they discuss this in more detail. In short, he’d post chapters of the book on his website and his readers would correct him if he messed up a particular physics problem… or whatever.

So, here’s the idea: Astronaut gets stranded on Mars through unfortunate events. He uses his smarts to stay alive. Then all of Earth bands together to try and save stranded astronaut.

Weir writing style is entertaining and informative. His main character uses comedy and sarcasm in between the drama of staying alive. This is a wonderful and original story.

Of A Happy Life – Seneca – non

This was my first time reading Seneca. I wouldn’t even call Of A Happy Life a book. It’s more of an essay. It had zero impact on me. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good. I can’t really remember much about it. I guess there is reason why, when people talk about Seneca, they usually mention his other works.

When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chodron – non

A friend of mine, a guy a greatly respect, sort of a mentor, recommended this book to me. At the time he was going through tremendous adversity. He’s a smart and determined guy. I knew he’d handle the adversity and be a better person for it.

My friend is also a good person to talk to about books. He’s the one that gave me one of my favorite books Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. When he mentions books he likes I pay attention.

I found When Things Fall Apart to be kinda slow and wishy washy. There were some good parts about making meditation accessible for the average person, which I liked. But in general I didn’t get much out of the book.

Sometimes the way a book impacts you depends a lot on where you are in your life, at the moment you read it. Maybe that’s why this book didn’t do much for me.

Fooled By Randomness – Nassim Taleb – non

I’ve been meaning to read some of Taleb’s work for a while. I’ve followed him on Twitter for a few years and I listened to the podcast he did with James Altucher.

Fooled By Randomness has some brilliant ideas. Some of which I couldn’t follow because I’m not smart enough. Some of them I got. It gave me a new way of looking at things. You can navigate life safely if you understand how to deal with probabilities. Most people don’t. It wasn’t the easiest to read. The writing doesn’t flow like a great novel. It’s more academic.

I liked the book and I recommend it. I’ll be reading more of Taleb’s work. If you’re interested in finance you need to read this book. If not, then it’s ok if you don’t, but you probably should.

The Ultimate Sales Letter – Dan Kennedy – non

I think it’s important for everyone to have some level of sales skills. We all need to be our own mini-brands. It makes sense doesn’t it? Of course it does. Corporations are downsizing and no should work for the government. So we all need to learn how to work for ourselves—in whatever capacity we can find.

And to work for yourself you need to learn to sell. Dan Kennedy will teach you how. Listen to what this guy has to say. He is one of the smartest marketers around. Kennedy breaks it down in an easy to understand language. He spent his entire career educating people on marketing and sales.

You’ll learn a lot from reading this book. But, you’ll learn a lot from reading any of Kennedy’s books. So pick up the first one you can find.

Market Wizards – Jack Schwager – non

If you study finance for more than three days, you will here at least five people suggest that you read Market Wizards. Market Wizards is a series of interviews Schwager conducts with the top financial traders of the day. Which is sometime in the late 1980’s.

Some of the interviews are dry and kinda boring. But if you like investing and finance you’ll love ‘em. A few of the interviews are deep and insightful. The ideas in these few interviews are applicable to many areas of life outside of finance.

It’s a thick book, but I blew threw it faster than I thought I would. I also read it just after I read Fooled By Randomness and I began to think that maybe, many of these successful traders were simply lucky.

The Ultimate Marketing Plan – Dan Kennedy – non

Remember how I told you a little higher on the page how you can learn a lot from Dan Kennedy? Yes? Good.

Well, I learned a lot from reading The Ultimate Sales Letter so I decided to read some more Kennedy. This book is also jam-packed with useful information. I recommend reading books like this over going to business school.

You’ll get a better education and a real ROI for Kennedy’s ideas. I got the book, when I signed up for his offer at the end of The Ultimate Sales Letter. It only cost $20 and I got a ton of useful information and this book. I recommend it if you ever have aspirations of working for yourself.

And so…

That wraps up my Reading List for 2015. I think I read about 25 books or so. I hope to do better next year.

I attempted to read The Essays of Montaigne. I’m still working on it. It’s slow going. I’ll let you know if I finish it.

And naturally, I want to know what you think. Have you read any of the books on my Reading List? If so what did you think? Did you read a book that rocked your world? If so, what was it?

I’m always looking for that book that will make me shake when I read it.

Have a Happy New Year. And thanks for reading my blog!

A Massive Amount of Free Learning

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Hello Beautiful Peoples of the Internet!

It is I, the lazy blogger.

No I was not dead, only lazy. And I’ve neglected this blog and my 2 or 3 readers for too long.

I’m sorry!

I want to make it up to you. So I’m gonna give you some important stuff for FREE. And because it is free, you won’t value or use it. Because no one values free stuff.

Now, let’s go on.

What could I give you that is valuable and free? Knowledge and learning. In this case it will be a shit-ton of stuff to learn.

You’ve heard me say this before. The internet has brought a world of learning to the masses. College is obsolete. You can learn way more by reading and doing.

Onward.

Better Than University

I’ve learned a lot by reading the internet and I thought I’d give you a list of great resources to learn from. So here it is:

MIT OpenCourseWare. Don’t pay to go to college. Go to MIT for free online.

Seriously.

The chances of your college curriculum being better than MIT’s is low. Check this out. The chance of it being a better value than MIT OpenCourseWare is exactly zero.

If that isn’t good enough for you then here, go to Duke’s free online learning.

When I was researching Duke’s free learning I came across Cousera.  It includes Duke and a bunch of other stuff, so it has to be even better right?

Hot Damn!  Is that a good start or what?

I hope you’re not still mad at me for neglecting you, my dear reader, for over 2 months.  I feel bad about it.

I really do.

Okay, so now that you have some knowledge about how the world works… what do you need to do? You need to put it to work.

How do you do that?  Well my friend, you need to learn how to sell.

And the internet is one of the best places to learn how to sell.

Learn How To Earn A Buck

I highly recommend reading The Boron Letters. Actually, you need to print them out first, then read them. Gary Halbert, maybe the greatest copywriter ever, went to prison.  These are letters he wrote to his son from behind bars.

They’re entertaining and informative.

Next you need to read both of Claude Hopkins’ books Scientific Advertising and My Life in Advertising.

Now that you’ve got the foundation of sales in writing, you need to learn how it is applied online. There are many great places to learn copywriting. Here are just a few of the better ones in no particular order:

Kopywriting Kourse: Sign up for Neville’s emails. You’ll learn a ton and they’re funny.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich: Ramit Sethi is a master copywriter. He also has a ton of high quality free content. Sign up for his emails.

Stansberry Reseach: Pay attention to these emails, they sell, sell, sell. Then they sell some more. Analyze how they push the psychological buttons of the prospect. If you can write even a fraction as good as these guys, you will do well.

Well, now that you learned a bunch of stuff, then you learn how to sell it, you’ve made a bunch of money and now you want to relax. What do you want to do when you relax? Obviously you want to read some more, right?

Right??

A World of Reading

Well Project Gutenburg.org is a great place to go. This site has a tremendous catalog of public domain books you can download. I recommend starting with The Count of Monte Cristo if you haven’t read it yet. And if you like Project Gutenburg, why don’t you send them a small donation so they can keep the lights on?

That’d be nice of you.

Ok, here’s a crazy idea. This resource will give you access to a ton of books for free. And, not just old public domain books. This resource has old and new, and I’ve heard they even have digital books although I’ve never tried this.

And here it is: Your Local Public Library.

Stunning reveal, right?

Well it gets better.

These days you can go to your local library’s website and search through their inventory and request books. They pull the books and have them waiting for you to pick up.

Which is great because you don’t have to waste your time walking around a dusty old library, searching and trying to figure out what the heck the Dewey Decimal System is.

You can also tell the website where to send the book. If you have a library branch close to your house you can have it sent there. If it’s easier to pick up the branch that is on your way to work you can pick it up there.

The local library system gets even better if it’s connected with other local systems.

When I lived in Napa, CA, I’d never go to the Napa County Library website, I’d go to the SNAP website. SNAP is Solano Napa Area Partners. It was 3 or 4 neighboring counties that all shared books. This system had way more books than just the Napa County system.

And I’d get all the books for free.

Unfortunately not all county libraries are hooked up with their neighbors. Right now I live in Durham, North Carolina. Durham County Library isn’t hooked up with any of the surrounding county libraries. And the Durham County Library inventory of books is shockingly bad. Boohoo.

I miss the days of SNAP.

YouTube

Sometimes it’s better to see a demonstration than to read about it. A great place to learn by watching others is YouTube. You can learn all types of stuff on YouTube.

I needed to change the headlight in my car one day. The dealership said they would gladly do it for $100. I said, “Oh hell no.”

I needed to learn how to change the lightbulb in the headlamp of my Subaru so I watched this video. And BAM! I was able to change my lightbulb. I changed both headlights. Cost? $12 for 2 headlights. And some bruised knuckles and a bit of aggravation. It was worth it.

Audio

I’ve mentioned this before. Podcasts are a great way to learn. I often listen to podcasts when I’m cooking food. I can’t read because I’m busy choppin’ and stirrin’… but I can listen and still learn. And podcasts are also free.

Twitter

How can you learn stuff on Twitter? Well, what are you interested in? Pick the top 10 or 15 people in that field and follow them on Twitter. You are bound to learn something from those top performers.

Whew!

That is a lot of learning. If you learned all that stuff you are a genius. I would like to meet you and say hello. I’m impressed with your work ethic.

You know, that was a lot. You should be good to go for a while now. But if you think that is not enough and you still need free learning, well—go find it yourself.

Sheesh. That’s the best I can do for now.

What more do you want? Heck, you even read this blog post for free.

And, as always, thanks for reading.
P.S. I should be getting out my Semi-Annual Book Report out on time this year. Look for it at the end of the year.

Elevate Coffee to another level. By taking it down a notch.

This stuff elevates the coffee experience.

This stuff elevates the coffee experience.

I start every day with two large cups of black coffee. Therefore, I start everyday with a smile due to the hot brew.

I think that coffee taken black and in moderation is good for you. It seems there is a new article every day stating some health benefit of drinking coffee. I like to think that coffee is part of my healthy lifestyle.

Naturally, as a health nut, I’m always looking for some little trick or tweak that I can incorporate into my day, to be healthier. When I started to hear of a way to make coffee healthier, I paid attention.

I started hearing about putting MCT oil in coffee. Then I heard about adding grass-fed butter to your coffee. Then maybe you were supposed to blend the two together and put it in the coffee. I dunno. I heard these recommendations while listening to the Joe Rogan podcast.

I was confused. Then I found out that MCT oil, which stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides, is simply coconut oil. I’d never used coconut oil before but I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to find.

And you know what? It wasn’t. I found some in my local grocery store. I bought a jar, brought it home and decided to give it a shot.

It’s super easy to make your coffee with coconut oil. Just make your coffee the exact same way you always have except put a spoonful of coconut oil into your cup before you pour in the hot coffee.

And Presto! That’s it, you just took your coffee up a notch.

You might be thinking, “Eww. Why would I want my coffee to taste like coconuts?” That’s a fair question and that’s what I thought at first too. It turns out that coconut oil is tasteless.

It’s weird but true.

The coffee tastes the same, it just looks like there is an oil slick in the coffee.

When I tried coffee like this the first time I thought, “What’s the big deal?”

After drinking coffee with coconut oil for a week I think I figured it out. The coconut oil makes the caffeine come on slower. Instead of the caffeine hitting you like a train… or a punch in the face, it slowly, gently comes on. I guess the coconut oil slows down the absorption of caffeine.

As you know, I’m not a scientist, but this is what it feels like to me.

The “coffee feeling” comes on slower and seems to last longer. I also feel “coffee satisfied” much longer than without using the coconut oil. After drinking coffee like this for a week the strangest thing happened.

I was no longer reaching for that second cup of coffee.

I’ve always drank two large cups of coffee throughout the morning. Using the coconut oil, I found that that second cup was too much. Now I just drink one large cup of coffee in the morning.

Adding coconut oil to your coffee makes a subtle but profound difference. The coconut oil optimizes the coffee experience by moderating the rate of caffeine absorption.

Adding coconut oil doesn’t make your coffee taste different, it makes your coffee feel different. And the texture is a little oily as well.

You should try adding some coconut oil to your coffee.

And here’s why.

It’s one of those low-downside to potentially large upside situations. The jar of coconut oil only costs a couple of bucks. If you don’t like the new coffee after trying it, quit. If you do like it, you have set yourself up for a lifetime of healthiness and coffeed happiness.

P.S. I’d love to hear from someone that has tried coconut oil in coffee or grass fed butter in coffee—or both. What do you think? Has it changed the way you drink coffee or did you switch back to your old way? Let me know.  I’m trying to learn more about this.

Adult Braces are… Awesome??

I had braces with rubber bands as an adult.  One time the girls talked me into wearing the pink, blue, and green rubber bands.

I had braces with rubber bands as an adult. One time the girls talked me into wearing the pink, blue, and green rubber bands.

Braces are painful. The metal rubs into your mouth causing sores.

Food gets caught up in the braces. Your tongue gets sore trying to get the bits and pieces out. Brushing your teeth is difficult. And flossing? Flossing your teeth with braces is like knitting with a slobbery wet needle and thread and slobbery knitting fingers.

Now for the fun part: you’re supposed to engage in this pleasant experience every night before you go to bed. It is important to do this.

Every kid that gets braces at least has several friends going through the same experience. Misery loves company. You have to do what your parents say. Getting braces as a kid ain’t so bad, except that every kid that has to get braces thinks it’s the end of the world.

You know what I’m talking about, eh? You had them when you were a kid and remember the pain and embarrassment? How you’re lips would stick out to cover the metal and you wouldn’t smile because it hurt too much?  Oh, the good ‘ol days.

Well, getting braces as an adult is different animal. Especially if you had braces as a kid and you know already know what you’re getting into.

As an adult you know most of the things about braces that kids do, plus you have a few more things to worry about.

Adults know how expensive (!) braces are. That new car or fancy vacation you were thinking about? That’s going to have to wait. Then there’s the added discomfort of “everybody’s gonna stare at you” because you’re not a kid and all your friends aren’t getting braces as well.

No, you are the only adult you know that is getting braces. If you’re a dude, women aren’t going to want to touch you. If you’re a woman, dudes will think at least once or maybe even twice, but they will still touch you.

It’s easy to decide not to get braces as an adult. It’s always easier to do nothing. Adults get stuck in their ways.

They say something like, “I’m already in my X’s (X = 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, etc.). I’ve looked this way my whole life.” Plus they’re expensive. And all the other reasons. Blah.

It’s easy to not get braces.

If braces suck so bad why would you get them if you’re an adult (if you’re a kid you get them because Mom and Dad said so)? You get braces as an adult because having straight teeth is awesome.

I respect the heck out of adults that take the plunge and sign up for the misery of getting braces.

When you grow up with crooked teeth you can’t imagine what it’s like to have straight teeth. Smiling tends to be something you do only if your Mom forces you to.Once braces align your crooked teeth, you know how much better your bite feels with your new alignment.

You gain a bit of confidence or–you lose a bit of self consciousness. Thumbs up either way.

It’s easier to smile. Smiling is awesome. Smiling makes you feel better. Braces, once you go through a year or two of pain, will make you feel better.

I’ve never met someone that got braces as an adult that said, “I did the wrong thing. I shouldn’t have gotten braces.” Adults love having straight teeth. We all complain about the process, but we all love the end result.

After the avalanche I was curious to see what my teeth looked like. I’d smashed my jaw in several places. When I woke up in the hospital my jaw was wired shut. Because of the wires holding my jaw shut I couldn’t see my teeth.

The good news was that I still had teeth.

Once the wires were removed it was easy to see that my teeth had moved around. My jaw didn’t close like normal. I knew I needed braces.

I hated braces as a kid. The trauma from the avalanche had tempered my anger and frustrations. After recovering from those injuries, something like braces is no big deal.

I still wasn’t stoked to get braces. I decided to view it as another surgery or rehabilitation I had to do to recover. I signed up and got some metal on my teeth.

I didn’t smile much before I got braces for the second time. After my braces were removed I try to smile as much as possible. I’m not good at it and sometimes I think I come off as creepy. Sometimes I try too hard to smile.

Deciding to get braces as an adult was not a fun experience. As an adult it’s easy to decide against getting braces. The good thing is that as an adult you can understand the benefits of straight teeth and an easy smile better than you can as a child.

You will look back on this decision and realize it’s was one of the best you ever made.

P.S. I got my adult braces from Dr. Cooke in Napa, CA. I can’t recommend her and her staff enough.

PPS. If you got braces as an adult let me know how it made you feel in the Comments section below. I bet once they were taken off you loved the way you looked, right?  It was totally worth all the pain, misery, and expense, no?

Stumbling through life? Try this useful trick.

This was once the most powerful man in the world. He taught me this useful trick.

This was once the most powerful man in the world. He taught me this useful trick.

One of the most useful things that happened to me after the avalanche was the introspection.

I had to focus on my feelings and how I did or did not control them. I learned from Epictetus that I can control very little in life. These things I cannot control are the “externals”. Epictetus said what you can control is your thoughts, actions, and feelings, the “internals”.

Since getting crushed by a wall of snow I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the “internals”.

I currently work in a smoky casino as a bartender.

I make drinks for gamblers that come up to the bar and cocktail waitresses that take the drinks I make from the bar to the gamblers on the casino floor. The cocktail waitresses and I spend our days surrounded by drunks, degenerates, liars, addicts, obese people, cigarette smokers… and other health enthusiasts.

We work for tips. Our income depends on these questionable characters to pay us for making or bringing them a drink. The job of a bartender and cocktail waitress will always involve getting stiffed. It is up to these customers of questionable character to make the decision to pay us for our services.

We get stiffed a lot.

The waitresses will get upset when they get stiffed over and over. They get pissed off. This anger is understandable, we work hard, but it’s not useful. Getting angry never made a customer decide to start tipping.

I try to help the cocktail waitresses using what I learned. I tell them about a quote from Marcus Aurelius’ The Meditations that I refer to often:

So other people hurt me? That’s their problem. Their character and actions are not mine.

So often we let other people’s behavior dictate our own.

If a customer is shitty and doesn’t tip for service, then the waitresses get pissed off and unhappy. They are letting the customer’s character and actions dictate their own.
This is not a good way to be. Much better to focus on your own actions and character. Focus on the “internals”.

This is much easier said than done. Even though I know this lesson better than anyone, I still find myself falling into the trap of letting other people’s crappy actions dictate my own.

As a bartender at a casino, I have to split tips with other bartenders. It gets confusing.

Everyday you have to keep track of who owes you money and who you owe money to. It’s easy to cheat the system. Some bartenders will be less honest splitting the tips.

One bartender I work with reliably stiffs me or gives me a small percentage of the amount I’m due.

This guy has problems. He will get off work, sit at the bar gambling and drinking for hours, then tell me that he doesn’t have the money he owes me. Or he will ask to borrow some money from me. He will say this with a straight face when he knows I saw him drinking at the bar we work at, and losing money in the slot machines.

It is not a fun situation.

The other day I had money from the night before that I was supposed to split with this degenerate bartender. He owed me money. I figured I wouldn’t give him his cut until he paid me the money he owed me. If he didn’t pay me, then I’d just keep his cut, since he already owed me money.

On the drive into work I was thinking about the situation and became disappointed in my thought process.

I was being weak.

I screwed up on the “internals”. I was letting the degenerate bartender’s character and actions dictate my own. I was ashamed of myself. Because of all the crap I’ve been through, I should have known better.

Marcus’ quote popped in my head:

So other people hurt me? That’s their problem. Their character and actions are not mine.

I cannot let other human’s bad actions dictate mine. That is the weakness that I must watch out for. I need to control the “internals”.

I walked into work and gave the guy his cut of the money. And it felt great because I realized my mistake and had the chance to change my actions.

I try to relate this idea to the cocktail waitresses when they get upset with customers. “So what?”, I tell them. Don’t let their shitty character affect your own.

They all agree with the idea in theory, but it is hard to implement in their actions.

This trick of controlling your “internals” has helped me greatly as I stumble through life. It has been like a handrail on a staircase steadying my travel.

You might want to try this trick yourself.

This trick might just save your life.

Practical Philosophy: How To Deal With The Angry Driver

What is the benefit of screaming at people in cars?

What is the benefit of screaming at people in cars?

The car horn loudly announces his displeasure.

I look at the man in my rearview mirror again. I’m no lip reader but I’ve watched a lot of TV. I’m pretty sure he was screaming “FUCK YOU!” and “ASSHOLE!” at me. I’m 100% sure that’s what he was screaming.

The sin, the crime against humanity that set off this man’s meltdown was this: I put on my turn signal and crossed into the left hand lane of the road. The guy behind me, in a large Dodge pickup truck, was accelerating. There was plenty of room in the lane I changed into but I was traveling slightly slower than the Angry Guy in the Dodge pickup. My actions caused this man to either gently depress the brake pedal or to lift his foot off the gas.

Obviously I was a terrible person.

Angry Guy reacted to my lane change with such venom, you would have thought I insulted his wife or his mother or both. The guy drove aggressively, getting dangerously close to my rear bumper, having to slam on his brakes at the slightest decrease in speed to keep from crashing into my car.

I felt that heat around my neck that rises when you are in a confrontation.

I saw the truth of the situation.

The Angry Guy has a shitty life. He made the decisions that he made and his life sucks. He probably gets mad at every little thing. He is unhealthy. Like most Americans he probably doesn’t exercise and sweat, which releases pent up energy and toxins. He probably doesn’t read to learn new things about this fascinating Universe we live in. He probably doesn’t sit and wonder at the beauty of life.

Angry Guy probably spends a lot of time sitting on a couch watching TV, complaining, and drinking and eating too much, and blaming everyone else except himself for his problems.

Angry Guy in Dodge pickup truck probably loses his cool every time he operates his vehicle. Angry Guy is a sad sad man.

“Fuck this guy” I thought. I could not let his obnoxious behavior influence my behavior. If I had screamed obscenities back at Angry Guy, then Angry Guy would have won. Angry Guy would have brought me down to his level. I refused.

Often I recite in my head Marcus Aurelius’ quote from his book The Meditations:

“So other people hurt me? That’s their problem. Their character and actions are not mine.”

It’s such as simple, useful, and powerful idea yet it is very unpopular. It’s in our instinct to react to aggression with aggression. Often that reaction is just giving into weakness. If I had reacted to Angry Guy by driving aggressively and screaming obscenities, then that guy’s problem and character becomes mine. I refused.

That day I’d taken a jog around the lake next to my apartment. I had read pages of a fascinating book (The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin, 700 pages!). I had made my body and mind sweat and I got to experience beauty.

I doubt Angry Guy’s day was anything like mine. His character and actions were not mine.
I chose to react to weakness with strength. I chose to ignore Angry Guy in big Dodge pickup truck. I acted like he didn’t exist.

That may have made Angry Guy even angrier because misery loves company and I left him all alone. All I know is Angry Guy stayed very angry.

Angry Guy got in the right hand lane and passed me. As he was making the pass he rolled down his window, threw his left hand in the air with the middle finger extended, looked at me and screamed “FUCK YOU!” a few more times.

About a half mile down the road Angry Guy turned back into the left lane then maneuvered left again into the left turn lane. All that anger and effort was to get to the grocery store one or two seconds faster. As I passed Angry Guy, who was stopped in the turn lane to the grocery store, the driver of the SUV in front of me honked his horn, raised his left hand with middle finger extended, and yelled “Fuck You!” to Angry Guy as he passed him in the turn lane. The SUV was the vehicle in front of Angry Guy when I turned into the left lane to become the vehicle in front of Angry Guy.

I just shook my head. Anger is contagious. People that get super pissed off at minor driving headaches, like gently applying the brakes so you don’t run into the vehicle in front of you, are missing out on the good life.

I used to be right there with Angry Guy. I used to let minor inconveniences upset me. I always met aggression with more aggression. I made a lot of mistakes.  I could have been Angry Guy if only I had made different decisions.

Being able to remain calm under stress is a valuable skill. I was not able to obtain this measure of patience and calm simply by reading Marcus Aurelius’ The Meditations.

It was not that easy. First I had to wallow in depths of despair and self pity. I knew I wanted to live a better life but I didn’t know how. I started reading. I read hundreds of books.

Then the avalanche crushed me and annihilated my ego. Then I cried a lot and depended on doctors, friends, and family to survive.

Then I read a hundred or so more books.

It is only through the Adversity that I’ve faced that I’ve learned to “not sweat the small stuff.”

The knowledge was gained through experience.

How to apply practical philosophy in your life:

One definition of philosophy is: calmness of temper and judgment.

So how do you achieve calmness of temper and judgment so you don’t end up like Angry Guy?

It’s a process. You’ll need to start by trying to live a healthy and balanced life. You’ll need to work on your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical bodies. This is James Altucher’s idea of the Daily Practice.

You have to work to achieve calm. It will come but first you have to put in work. Reading the works of Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Charlie Munger will help on your journey.

But the most important development comes from the entire process and your self-examination.

Laugh and Learn. 11 Podcasts worth your time.

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I had just become interested in investing in stocks. A friend recommended I check out this radio show on the internet about investing. I was skeptical at first. Then I was hooked. I started listening to the every episode of the show. I was learning a lot from listening to these seasoned investors.

It snowballed. I started looking for other podcasts on investing. I found some I liked and some I didn’t. Then I realized that there were a shit-ton of podcasts out there. Every topic imaginable from investing, to sports, comedy, authors, cooking, cars, gardening, and stuff I can’t even think of.

Podcasts are just a form of talk radio you can find on the internet. They’re cheap to produce. The number of podcasts exploded after 2011. I never listened to talk radio before podcasts and I still can’t listen to an audio book. But I’ve become addicted to podcasts.

I don’t have a TV. I threw it out in 2010. I read a lot of books. I have a fairly boring life. Most days I come home after work I start cooking food. This is prime time to listen to podcasts. Cooking, eating, cleaning up the mess… while listening to podcasts.

I figured I’d give you a list of my Top 11 Favorite Podcasts. In no particular order, here they are:

Wall Street Unplugged with Frank Cuzio – Frank’s a financial newsletter writer. He’s honest, sincere, and smart. I’ve learned about investing and also about life from listening to Frank.

Masters in Business with Barry Rithotz – Forget going to college to learn about business. Go into business… and listen to Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz. Ritholtz is a great interviewer and a reasonable, data driven guy.

The Joe Rogan Experience – Philosopher/Comedian/and a whole bunch of other stuff. I’ve laughed and a learned listening to JRE. This is a long form podcast with the average episode running 2-3 hours. One of the few video podcasts.

The James Altucher Show – I first found out about Altucher from listening to Stansberry Radio. Then I read his excellent book Choose Yourself. Then he started a podcast. It’s good stuff—lots of authors, entrepreneurs. Informative and entertaining.

The Duncan Trussell Family Hour – It took me a while to get used to Duncan Trussell. Now I think he’s awesome. His long rambling rants for his advertisers are hilarious. A comedian that’s goes deep into spirituality.

Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn – Lots of entrepreneurs, and other ideas to help start and grow a business or side income stream. An honest dude that tells you how he did it.

Freakonomics – This is the most polished, radio like podcast I listen to. Some real editing/producing work goes into these shows. Author Stephen Dubner and economist Steven Levitt look at the numbers behind everything and come to interesting, sometimes contrarian conclusions. I liked the episode on wine.

The Tim Ferriss Show – Is Tim Ferriss the most popular man on the internets? Maybe. He started a podcast that complements his popular blog. I’ve learned a lot about learning and health listening to this podcast.

Chase Jarvis Live – Found out about Chase Jarvis Live by listening to the The Tim Ferriss Show. Lots of entrepreneurship, creativity, and motivation stuff. Jarvis started out in photography as a ski bum, which of course I found fascinating. Also one of the few video podcasts.

Trend Following Radio – Found out about Michael Covel’s Trend following Radio when he was a guest on Stansberry Radio. Covel talks markets and interviews intelligent minds from finance, to psychology, academia, and anyone he finds interesting.

The Mating Grounds Podcast – Tucker Max and evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller talk dating and relationships. Tucker is a razor sharp guy. He breaks down why men act the way they do when they’re trying to attract women and gives plenty of useful information on ways to improve those interactions. It’s also funny.

You can learn a lot by listening to intelligent people. Because of the internet and smartphones, you can listen to podcasts anywhere at any time. You can be cooking dinner, driving to work, or out on a jog and learn and laugh.

If there is a fascinating podcast that I need to know about drop me a line at brucepaulson1@gmail.com.

Massage Your Brain – take an Art Museum Day

I think the thing I liked most about these floating coffee tables were the books underneath.

I think the thing I liked most about these floating coffee tables were the books underneath.

Since the weather isn’t cooperating with my snow skiing desires I decided to try something different. I went to the Nevada Museum of Art.

Your best thinking is what got you here. My “here” is not exactly where I want to be. I don’t know how to get to where I want to go. So I have to try new things.

The new thing I tried today was a visit to an art museum. I got the idea from James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. He recommends exposing yourself to new ideas and an art museum is a great place to get some exposure.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I wanted to show my brain some creativity hoping it was contagious and my creativity would light on fire.

My brain didn’t light on fire.

It did feel good to see some beautiful paintings, pictures, and artwork. I can’t explain the feeling.  It was stimulating.

A few years ago I went to the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The only reason I went is because my friends were going. I had no desire to look at paintings. My friends went because a Vincent van Gogh collection was on loan from a museum in France. I tagged along.

That van Gogh stuff will knock your socks off.

I don’t know the first thing about art but I was attracted to Starry Night. It was fascinating. The layers of oil built up on the canvas to produce a 3 dimensional painting. If you ever get the chance to see Starry Night in person—Go.

The oil paintings I was looking at in the Nevada Museum of Art didn’t have the thick layers of oil build up that Starry Night had, but they still made me feel good.

This picture:

Louis Aston Knight "Skyscrapers"

Louis Aston Knight “Skyscrapers”

made me feel happy.  Maybe it was because the industrial city looked bright instead of dark and shadowy.

The landscapes of Larry Mitchell were almost magical.

Larry Mitchell - The 1 Degree Centigrade project

Larry Mitchell – The 1 Degree Centigrade project

The landscape oil paintings were huge, maybe 7 feet wide. The ripples in the water spoke to some inner part of my brain I didn’t know existed. It was soothing looking at the ripples. Ahhh…

The darkness of Frank Stick’s Winter Hunter provided some weight to the museum trip that acted as a balance to some of the other art.

Winter Hunter

Winter Hunter

Pictures, paintings, art is great and all, but how does that help someone? How does that specifically massage one’s brain?

I have no idea, it just seems like a good thing to do.

I eat a lot of dark leafy veggies. I don’t immediately feel like Superman when I eat broccoli or kale. I think over the long run it’s a good idea to eat veggies.

I think over the long run it’s a good idea to immerse yourself in great surroundings. It’s good to be in the presence of great people, art, and I really like great mountains.

It’s therapeutic to experience new awesomeness.

Give your kids an UNFAIR advantage, and a world of opportunity… for FREE.

One of the American Myths.

One of the American Myths.

Without a big announcement–life has changed.  Technology has destroyed the gatekeepers.  Information and knowledge are cheaper and more accessible now than ever.
This change is leaving many behind and exposing a lot of American Myths.
Did you know “The American Dream” was coined by marketers after WWII to help Fannie Mae sell more mortgages?  How many folks feel they HAVE to own a house?  I wonder if they understand good marketing?
Another American Myth that is slowly fading away is the importance of college.  Most humans learn by doing, by experience.  Unless you’re trying to learn how to drink beer without throwing up, there are better uses for one’s time.
But learning is important! Yep, it sure is.  But it can also be done for a fraction of the cost in time and money that college demands.  For instance, you can get an MIT education for FREE online.
But you need to go to college to get a job!  Well… not really.  Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college… to go to work.  Google Cares Less About SAT Scores And GPA Because They Have Better Hiring Data .  They’re more concerned with employee’s creativity and ability to produce results.
So what are the options?  What do you do if you don’t go to college but you want learn and be productive?
First I recommend reading this free ebook from James Altucher “50 Alternatives To College“.
Then listen to this podcast (it’s about an hour long, and if you want you can do a search and download it on itunes) where Altucher and his co-host debate the pros and cons of college education.  This podcast is the most well thought out and reasoned discussion I’ve heard on the topic.
More and more smart people are realizing that college is unnecessary.  The good news is that there are plenty of great alternatives.
If you have any questions, let me know, brucepaulson1@gmail.com