Epic Dream Trip Snow Skiing In Chile – With Terrible Weather

I remember being a teenager and reading in ski magazines about how you can ski in South America in the summertime.  Well, it’s summertime where I live, in Durham, North Carolina, USA, but in South America, it’s winter.

The seasons are flipped.

In North America in August it’s the middle of summer, in South America, the middle of winter.

My birthday is in August and I always thought it would be cool to snow ski in August in South America.

Not only that, but once I moved to Lake Tahoe, in California, I caught the wine bug.  I’ve traveled the vineyards and worked in the wine business for 10 years.

So a exotic land with huge Andes mountain, the opposite seasons, and lots of vineyards in Chile and Argentina, that a powerful recipe for me.

My 40th Birthday

I’m very close with my Mom’s brother.  He’s always been the favorite Uncle.  Uncle Rob.  Uncle Rob was the first person to visit me when I moved to Lake Tahoe after college, when I didn’t know anyone east of the Mississippi.

Uncle Rob came out to ski and he brought his old friend and business partner Jim Allen, the founder and winemaker of Sequoia Grove vineyards in Rutherford, Napa Valley, California.  Uncle Rob and Jim Allen introduced me to Napa Cab, and I got hooked and that changed the entire trajectory of my life.

Anyway, Uncle Rob asked me what I was going to do for my 40th birthday.  He asked if I wanted to travel anywhere.  He said he’d buy me a plane ticket.

I told him how I always wanted to go to South America to go snow skiing.  I had dreams of skiing powder on my birthday, August 4th.

Uncle Rob offered to buy my plane ticket.

I thought, holy shit!  This might actually happen.  It’s hard to think something is really going to happen, when you’ve been thinking about it for 25 years or so, and not thinking it was very realistic.

That was sometime early in 2019 and even though I thought I had a chance to go down to South America, I put it in the back of my mind and just went about my business.

Then the summer came.

I started to think more about what I was going to do for my birthday.  Next thing I knew it was July.  I tried to reach my Uncle and ask if he was going to be able to buy my ticket.  If he wasn’t, I’d probably just go to the beach in North Carolina for a few days.

Problem was Uncle Robert was traveling to England.  He went to watch the Wimbledon tennis tournament.  I couldn’t get a hold of him while he was over there.  I finally spoke to Uncle Rob when he got back. My birthday was only a couple weeks away.

He said it’s amazing how much champagne the spectators drink at Wimbledon.  Apparently you can walk in with your own champagne bottles.  He said you can hear the spectators popping corks right there inside the stadium.  And he said he was going to buy the plane ticket to Santiago, Chile.

My plane ticket was for a departure to Santiago de Chile on August 22nd.

Holy shit, I thought, I’m actually going.

Then I flew out to the middle of nowhere to my sister’s house on the Fall River in south eastern Idaho and hung out with her family for a week.

While I was in Idaho, I needed to start planning my Chile trip.  I’d never been of the North American continent.  I’m not a savvy international traveler.  I don’t speak Spanish.  And I hadn’t done any research on Chile. And I was going solo.

I knew the Andes where there and they have a lot of vineyards.

One of the most interesting facts I learned is, even though Chile is on the west coast of South America, Santiago, and I’m guessing most if not all of the country, is in the same time zone as the East Coast of the US.  I live on the east coast in Durham, North Carolina.  So that meant no jet lag.

Growing up reading ski magazines, I’d hear about this ski resort in Chile called Portillo.  It’s the most famous ski resort in Chile and it has a large yellow hotel that is surrounded by tall mountains.

I figured I’d go there.  It turns out Portillo is expensive.  But they have these 2 lodges, next to the main hotel, that have shared rooms, that are much cheaper than getting a regular room in the main hotel.

I figured I’d stay in the cheap lodge.  I didn’t care about luxury bullshit.  I wanted to ski big mountains and steep terrain.

Portillo is also great in terms of logistics.  The hotel is only 1.5-2 hour bus ride out of Santiago.  They even have a bus that can pick you up at the airport.

So it seemed pretty easy.  Fly to Santiago, pick up the bus to the hotel.  Ski for the week, take hotel bus back to Santiago and fly home.

Just one problem.

Portillo didn’t have any snow.  It was mid-August, which as far as I can tell is equal to February in North America.  The Andes were experiencing a drought and Portillo had 2 runs open.

This is famous Portillo.  In August famous world class skiers come to Portillo and hold steep ski camps.  But this year they didn’t have snow and many of those skiers cancelled their trips.

I confirmed this by searching on social media, and particularly Instagram, for photos of Portillo.  Yup they didn’t have snow.

And that’s a Pro Tip.  If you want to know current weather conditions for somewhere, do some searches on social media, and you’ll get a pretty good idea.

No Snow In The Andes

What the fuck?

I didn’t know what to do.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the mountains.  I understand droughts and low snow years.  Timing is huge and you just can’t plan perfect weather.

My main goal for traveling to South America and Chile in the summer was to go snow skiing.  I’m sure it would have been nice to tour Chile and do sightseeing, but that’s not the cool shit I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid.

I dream about adventure and skiing big mountains.

I reached out to my childhood friend Adam.  Adam lived in South America after college and has traveled the continent extensively.  Adam put me in touch with his friend, Ian who runs a snowboard tour company in Chile.

I got super lucky with Adam making that connection.  Ian turned out to be a great source of information.  When I told him my situation, he said to go south to Nevados de Chillan or El Coralco.

The southern Andes had snow.

That’s where I’d have to go, to the snow.  Problem was I didn’t know anything about how to operate on my own in Chile.

Planning Transportation in Chile

Nevados de Chillan is a 6 hour drive south of Santiago.  The mountain doesn’t have it’s own convenient bus that will pick me up at the airport in Santiago.

So I started research how to get down there.  It wasn’t easy because most of the websites for things like buses and trains and hotels were in Spanish, and I don’t speak Spanish.

My family was a bit concerned about me going on a solo ski trip to Chile because I didn’t do any planning, I hadn’t traveled much internationally, I was going solo, I didn’t speak Spanish, and I was going skiing.

The skiing part was hard on my Mom and my sister due to my previous experience dying in an avalanche in the Sierra Nevada.  I’m a very conservative guy when I’m traveling in the mountains, and that avalanche was a rare occurrence, but it did happen, so I can understand that my Mom and sister would be unreasonably worried about this.

I decided that I’d go to the ski resort Nevados de Chillan.  It had snow and it looked big.

Now that I’d made that decision, I had to figure out how to get down there.

There were 3 options to get to the mountain from Santiago, which was 6-8 hours of travel away.  I could fly into Concepcion and take a private transport to the mountain, which was 2.5 hour drive from Concepcion.  Or I could take a bus to Chillan, and then another hour long bus ride to the mountain.  Or I could take a train to Chillan, and then another hour long bus ride to the mountain.

The plane was out because I wouldn’t see Chile, it was super expensive, and it seemed like it would not save any time.  So what was the point?  No plane.

I wanted to take the train because I thought I’d see the country and I like trains.  The problem with the train was, it only had 2 trips to Chillan the day I was arriving. One in the morning, which I wasn’t going to make in time, another at 5:30 pm, which required me to wait around Santiago all day.

So I went with the bus option.  Chile has a bus culture.  Chile is the longest nation in the world and to move folks around in a reasonably priced manner, a bus industry developed.  Once I landed at the airport in Santiago, I’d need to get myself to the Terminal Alameda Santiago.  At the bus terminal there are many different bus companies and lots of routes, every day, down to Chillan.

There were so many options, that I didn’t even try to buy a ticket ahead of time.  I’d just arrive at the terminal and pick the bus that was leaving the soonest.

Once I got to Chillan, there was another bus that would take me to the ski mountain.

I’d also decided to stay at the Hotel Nevados, which is at the bottom of the ski resort.  The stay included the room, 3 meals a day, and lift tickets.  It was the expensive option, but the easiest one considering I wasn’t renting a car and had limited options due to mobility.

Catching a Plane to Santiago

I got confirmation of the hotel stay a few hours before I was headed to the Raleigh Durham airport.

I was at the airport with 3 pieces of luggage.  My ski bag, my ski boots, and my large red ski/climbing backpack.

Ski gear for Chile

I would learn very quickly, that traveling with my large 195 centimeter long ski bag, in a country where I didn’t have a car and didn’t speak the language, would be a huge pain in the ass.

I was surprised that American Airlines didn’t charge me for checking my ski bag.  I thought it was a mistake, because when I fly in the states, I always have to pay for checking my luggage.

The airlines make a lot of money charging for this.

I later found out, on international flights to many South American countries on American Airlines, you get to check 2 bags for free.  I recommend checking with the airline before you fly to see what the checked bag policy is.

I didn’t check my ski boot bag because you never check your ski boots going to a ski destination.  If you ski boots get lost, you are screwed.  Boots are the most important part of your gear.  You can rent skis, but you can’t rent custom fitted ski boots. Never check them on the way to your destination.

I did check the boots on the way back home, which was nice.

My Uncle Was Sick

While I was waiting to board the plain in RDU, I called my Uncle to say Thanks for the plane ticket again.  He didn’t answer so I left a voice message.

My Aunt called me shortly after.  Aunt Carmen said that Uncle Rob had just had open heart surgery the week before and he was in the hospital recovering.  He didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to cancel my trip.

He didn’t tell anyone about his surgery and he wouldn’t let anyone see him, except my Aunt, in the hospital.  He’s a very private guy.

My Aunt told me not to worry and that my Uncle wanted me to have fun.

I started getting nervous.

It was a short flight from RDU to Miami.

Once in Miami, I found out that the flight was delayed.  It was supposed to leave at 10:30 pm, instead it would leave at 11:30pm.

I tried to get a little bit of work done on the computer while I waited.

Finally the plane arrived and we got boarded.  I am impressed with these big ass planes that do the longer flights.  This thing was huge and decently comfortable.  I didn’t have one of the nice seats, just one in the main cabin, but I was comfortable enough.

The flight took 7 hours to Santiago.

I was sitting next to this nice woman from the States that spoke English and Spanish.  Since the flight was a redeye flight, after they served dinner all the lights went out.

The woman I was sitting next to offered me a melatonin pill to help me sleep.  I usually don’t like to take any pills, especially to help sleep.  But melatonin is pretty benign.  Your body naturally makes melatonin to help you sleep.  It’s not a hard core drug like Ambien.

So I took her up on the offer.  The melatonin started working quickly.  And it worked.  I passed out for 4-5 hours of the flight.

I actually liked it.  I recommend trying a melatonin if you are on a redeye flight.  It worked so well that I decided to take a melatonin on the flight back home to the states.

When we landed in Santiago, I thought, “Oh shit, here we go.”

I got of the plane and saw a bathroom.  I went in and washed off a bit.

Then I looked around and couldn’t figure out where the customs office to check my passport was.

It sucks not being able to read or speak Spanish, in a Spanish speaking country.

The End…..

Definitely not the end of the story, but 2,300 words, this is long for a blog post.  So I’ll break this up into 2 parts.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Long Nautical and Historical Adventure in Reading

It started almost two years ago.  I was staying at my sisters place in Gulf Breeze, Florida. The house is right on the water, on the Pensacola Bay side, not on the Gulf of Mexico side.

I needed something to read.  I found this book:

Empire of Blue Water

by Stephan Talty.

empire-of-blue-water

Since I was in Florida, on the water (as you should be), and the book was about the famous pirate Capt. Henry Morgan, I decided to give it a read.  And the cover had a sword on it, and that’s cool.

Well, turns out I knew nothing of Capt. Morgan.  He wasn’t a pirate.  He was a privateer.  I had no idea what a privateer was.  A privateer does basically the same thing as a pirate, but they have the blessings, or a license, I think the technical term is a “charter”, from a government.  In Capt. Morgan’s case, he had a charter from England.

This true story takes place around the 1650’s, during a 70 or so years of the height of piracy in the Caribbean.

This was during the height of Spain’s domination of the New World.  England had little to no influence in the valuable New World.  England turned to the privateers to “slow down” Spain’s economic engine.  By “slow down” I mean England used privateers like Morgan to steal ships, valuables, and to ransack cities and forts, important to the Spanish Crown.

Capt. Morgan is the most famous privateer (and pirate) of all time.  This book goes in depth in his adventures.  It’s gruesome and fascinating.

The major hub for all this privateer activity back then was Port Royal, Jamaica.  Port Royal was the richest city in the world.  It was home all the pirates and they’d blow all their loot on whores, drinking, and gambling.  It was a crazy place.

Then, not long after Capt. Morgan passed away, and the English had a treaty with Spain, and banned privateering, the city experience an epic earthquake and sunk into the sea.

I’m not exaggerating.  This really happened.  It’s a crazy story.  You should read this book.

Over The Edge of The World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

by Laurence Bergreen

over the edge of the world

After the book about pirates, I read this book about Magellan.  Holy shit this is a crazy story.

This book is where I learned that the Pope in Italy decided to split the world between Portugal and Spain.  This jackass thought that he had the power to do this.  The crazy thing is, most of the world (the Western world) believed him.  There was some treaty declaring this to be so, so that Spain and Portugal wouldn’t keep warring with each other.

This decision has a dramatic impact on history and the world.  This decision left a huge mark on places as far away as China and Japan, and would impact the world in odd ways for hundreds of years.

Magellan’s whole life was caught up in this nonsense.  He was Portuguese sailor and wanted to sail around the world, I think it was specifically to find a quicker route to the Spice Islands.  He wanted to do this for his home, Portugal, but the king got pissed off at Magellan for some reason and he fled the country.

Magellan fled to the hated rival Spain.  He eventually convinced the Spanish King to let him sail for the Spice Islands.  This is kind of amazing because the whole time they didn’t trust him and thought he was a spy for Portugal.

Because Spain backed Magellan against all odds, Magellan was super grateful and fiercely loyal to the Spanish Crown.  Of course this would come back to bite him, because Spain thought he was a traitor.

Magellan sailed into unknown waters and eventually stumbled into South America.  They were lost.  It was 1519 and technology sucked.  The sailors were getting scurvy and dying and scared.  Most of the crew were Spanish, and they mutinied on the Portuguese enemy, who was the leader of the expedition.

These pussies that mutinied fled back to Spain and talked shit about Magellan, said he was a Portuguese spy, and hated God, etc.  They made up a bunch of bullshit, and of course the Spanish Crown believed these losers.  Then the Spanish Crown went after Magellan’s family.

The whole time Magellan is far away and insanely loyal to the Spanish Crown.  Then the expedition crosses through South America and into the great unknown, the Pacific Ocean.

This is where they are really fucked.

It turns out scurvy was real problem at sea back in the day.  No one knew why you got.  And it was weird cause some people on the boat didn’t get it.  Survey is a nutrition problem and can be dealt with by consuming fruit, which you don’t have on a sea voyage with no refrigeration.

Magellan didn’t get scurvy because he kept a jar of jam or jelly made of fruit.  He thought his immunity had something do with religion.

Anyway… the miraculous made it to some islands and were the first (known) Western explorers to sail across the Pacific.

Magellan went crazy and decided to convert all the islanders he found to Christianity.  It was during this process, on one of the islands that he got killed.  After going most of the way around the world.

A handful of the crew on just one of the boats made it back to Portugal and the rest is history.

It’s a crazy true story.  You should read this book.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship

by Robert Kurson

nautical adventure book

Do you see the trend here?  Another nautical sea adventure, and this time were back on the topic of pirates.

This adventure takes place in modern times.  This is a story of highly skilled divers that are searching for a pirate ship, which turns out to be one of the hardest artifacts to find.

In particular, these guys are looking for the pirate Bannister’s ship.  He was a legend.  He left England in charge of this beautiful ship, got to the Caribbean, and decided to turn pirate.  A very rare story.

And this book documents how hard it was to find something like this.

This book helped fill in the details to me, of what life was like hundreds of years ago, and at sea.

A book about treasure hunters, diving in the sea, to find long lost pirate ships.  It’s a fun read.

Shogun

by James Clavell

epic novel about japan

I have a Kindle.  My Kindle is connected to my brother-in-law’s (Keith) Amazon account where there are hundreds of books.  Keith is a smart dude that I respect, so when I see books that I know nothing about, but might be interesting, I’ll start reading them, because they are already “approved” as being good, because they’re in Keith’s library.

I was looking for a book to read and I saw the cover image above.  I saw the big sword and the word Shogun, so I opened the book and started reading.

Unlike the other books I’ve mention, Shogun is a novel.

I was confused at first because the book starts out in 1580 on an English ship that is lost sailing in the Pacific ocean.  It seemed more like the Magellan book than a novel about Shoguns.

And the main character was a white dude from England.  I was confused.

And everyone is getting scurvy again.  So it seemed legit.

The boat gets in a bad storm and luckily they get shipwrecked.  The shipwreck is great because at least the crew is finally on land.  Once the sun rises the next day, the story starts to make sense because the crew finds themselves in Japan and they can’t understand anyone, and the local’s think the Englishman are crazy.

Immediately heads start getting chopped off and folks start getting murdered.

The first head to get chopped off was a Japanese peasant, who didn’t act respectful enough to the local samurai.

For hundreds and maybe thousands of years Japan had a feudal system.  Where your birth placed you on that hierarchy controlled every aspect of your life and how you were to behave.

A samurai was a high class person and those below had to be respectful or the samurai had the right to kill the person.

There was lots of killing going on.

I could tell that the author of the book knew history.  And the author knew the history of the Japanese culture.  The book discusses the importance of how the world is divided up between Spain and Portugal, that I first learned about in the Magellan book.

The Japanese are incredulous when they find out that some magician in a far away land (the Pope), decided that the Land of the Gods (Japan) was property of Spain or Portugal (I can’t remember which one).

The author, Clavell, goes in to detail on the customs of Japan during that time.  It’s easy to learn because the main character, the ship captain John Blackthorne, has to learn the Japanese ways or he and his crew will perish.

Clavell’s ability to tell a story is superb.  He makes you feel like you are really in the characters thoughts.  One of the main characters is a woman, and it seemed like Clavell really nailed the woman’s thoughts.

I’ve wondered how a man can get place himself in a woman’s head and articulate those thoughts and feelings in a way that is authentic, at least to me.  And the same is true with a female author being able to pull off the same feat with a male character.

I learned the most about the Japanese culture from the female lead character.  She was a samurai.  She was also very smart and tasked with teaching Blackthorne, to become more Japanese.

This book is long.  It is epic storytelling.  I could write thousands of words about my thoughts on this book.  But I won’t do that here.

What’s important is the awesomeness of this book.  It is the second best novel I’ve read after the Count of Monte Cristo.

While I recommend you read this book, it will help if you have knowledge of the history of that time period.  This is how I got lucky.  I read this book after I’d already read the 3 history books I mentioned.

I think, having that background knowledge, made for a much better experience once I got around to reading Shogun.

Gai-Jin

Gai-Jin book by James Clavell

After reading Shogun, I learned that James Clavell wrote a whole series of books called the Asian Saga.  It took him 31 years to write the series.

Gai-Jin was the last book in the series he wrote (1993), but it’s the third book in the internal chronology of the series.  It’s also as close as Clavell gets to a sequel to Shogun, so I read this book next.

Gai-Jin takes place 200 plus years after Shogun.  It takes place in 1800’s Japan, right at the beginning of Japan being opened up to the world for trade.

It still has all the Japanese mindset stuff, and sex and violence like Shogun.  Not quite as good as Shogun, but I still think it’s really good.

This is how crazy Gai-Jin is: I never figured out who the main character was.  Didn’t figure out who the main bad guy was either.  Never read a book quite like this.  Still loved it.

Now do I recommend you read Shogun first, then Gai-Jin?  Probably not.

I’d stick to the internal chronology of the series starting with Shogun, then Tai-Pan, then Gai-Jin.

Tai Pan

by James Clavell

tai-pan

The last book I’ve read was Tai-Pan.  It was excellent.  The Tai Pan is the name given to the top guy/owner of the top trading firm or “house”.

In this story the top trading firm is “The Noble House” and the owner/founder is named Dirk Straun who is The Tai-Pan.  This is a very honorable position and everyone wants it and everyone wants to take him down.

This story is about the founding of Hong Kong.  It continues the nautical theme, as all these books do, with the trading firm sailing all over the world trading goods in and out of China.

The main trading goods are tea and opium.

Again, reading the non-fiction books I mentioned earlier, especially the Magellan book, helped me to understand the times that this story takes place.

This is another epic story with a hell of an ending.

Each one of Clavell’s books has a crazy ending.  The build up in excitement he is able to create in the reader is incredible.  I usually have anxiety when I get to the end of his books.  He’s that good.

A theme I’ve noticed is there are so many story lines going on, that when you get to the end, they don’t all tie up.  The important ones do, but I’m left wondering about all the other smaller characters.

So that’s it.  Every book here had a nautical theme.  I learned a lot.  Before this I’d never heard of James Clavell or the Asian Saga.  Now I will read all the books (King Rat is next).

I didn’t know about Magallen, that is a crazy story and I’m glad I know that now.  The stories of Henry Morgan were fascinating and I didn’t know about that either.  And I didn’t know the difference between a privateer and a pirate (no much).

I recommend every book on this list and if you have any questions about them, just let me know.

Don’t Give Advice

Don’t give advice.  Just don’t do it.  I know you want to, but just stop it.

It took me a long time to figure this out.  Once I’d spent a great deal of time thinking about this, and deciding the best thing to do is to NOT give advice, I still found myself giving advice.

I find it difficult to NOT give advice.

After trying hard for 2 years now, I’m starting to NOT give advice.  But I’m still slipping up and offering advice.  This is a difficult habit to change.

Why You Should NOT Give Advice:

The main reason you should not give advice is because NO ONE ASKED YOU FOR ADVICE.

I found that it’s not just me that wants to give advice to everyone, even though no one asks for it, it’s almost everyone I know that has this same problem.  People are always giving advice to other people, even though they weren’t asked to give advice in the first place.

The problem starts with, most of the time the person who is talking (giving the advice), doesn’t realize what they are doing.  They don’t realize that they are giving advice.  They are just giving their opinion of what someone else should do.

It seems like a built in human thing to do.  It’s natural.  I think it’s a weakness.  Giving (unwanted and un-asked for) advice is a natural weakness.

You see, no one ever asks you for your advice.  No one is asking for your opinion.  But we feel compelled to give it anyway.  We think we’re helping the person that we are giving advice to, but we’re probably just feeding our need to feel good about ourselves.

It is so freaking hard to keep my mouth shut.  It’s so easy for me to tell someone what to do.

And our fellow humans don’t make this any easier on us to not give advice, because sometimes people do ask for your opinion.  Sometimes people do ask for advice.

It’s rare, but this does happen.

And here’s why this just makes the problem harder.

The vast majority of the times that someone is asking for advice, they are not really asking for advice.  They’re really just asking you to tell them everything is ok.  They’re really asking you to help justify that they made the right decision.  Especially if they just made a bad decision.

I’m sure if you think about this, you’ll recall many conversations in your life where you’ve experienced this.

The best example of this that I can think of is with MONEY.  Let me explain.  Some of my friends know that I have an interest in finance, saving, and investing money.  I’ve gotten decent at investing my own savings.

One of my friends asked me what they should do with some of their money.  So what did I do?  I fucked up and gave advice.

You see, my friend wasn’t really asking for advice on how to save or invest money.  My friend wanted me to produce magic.

https://imgur.com/YsbKHg1

My friend wanted me to say a few words and magically the money that he had saved would magically turn into a lot more money.  I think specifically the question was about which stock is a good stock to buy.  This is a black hole question and one to always avoid.  Why?  The reason is because there is no right answer, only wrong answers.

Investing money is intensely personal.  Everyone is different and everyone has to learn this skill on their own.  There are 186 ways to make money investing and over 1,000,000 ways to lose it.  Most “investors” lose money.

My friend didn’t really want to know what stock to buy, he wanted me to do magic.  How would I know what stock will go up or down?  And how would I know what stock would go up or down in a specific period of time?  A stock can be up one day and down the next.

Investing is intensely personal.  2 people can buy the same stock at the same time and 1 person can make money and the other loose money.  It all depends on psychology.  If you don’t know what your doing, if you don’t have a plan before you ever buy a stock, then you’re screwed.

Now, if my friend really wanted to learn how to make money investing in stocks, he would have asked me, “How do I learn to make good decisions?” or “How do I learn about emotions and psychology?” or “How can I learn how to get better at learning?”

I could have recommended books like “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin or “What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars” by Jim Paul, or any of Warren Buffett’s Annual Letter to Shareholders.  Best to just go ahead and read all of Buffett’s Annual Letters.

What my friend really said was, “Hey, can you magically fix my savings?”

This doesn’t just happen with money.  This happens almost every time you are asked for your opinion or to give advice.  Big red flags are if someone asks you about health, weightlifting/building strength, building a business, dating, politics, earning more money, writing, and basically anything related to performing better at a skill.

You’ll recognize these questions with experience.

Here’s how you’ll know they are not really asking for your advice: Now matter what you tell them, they are not going to do it.

They weren’t asking for your advice or opinion.  They were asking you to make them feel better or justify they decision they already made.

It’s crazy but this is reality.

Now, there are a few times in your life where someone will genuinely ask for your advice.  Here’s how to tell.  Their actions will back up their words.

Here’s an example.  I’m good at snow skiing.  If I meet someone that is a beginner at skiing and they are trying to get better, I’ll pay attention to them.  If I see that they are consistently out there trying to improve, I will notice.  If this beginner skier asks me how they can improve their turns or how they can fall down less or move better on steep terrain, then I’ll try to help them out.

Here’s the catch, you can’t give them advice unless they ask for it first.  Also, and this is just as important, you need to see that they take action on your advice.  They have to apply your advice.  Even if it doesn’t work for them, they have to try to do what you recommended.

Actions are important.  Watch what people do.  That will show you what they’re really thinking.  Words are just noise.

Now I just fucked up because I just gave you, dear reader, advice.

I don’t know shit about Adversity.

phpSkvibEAM

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.

Year End Book Review for my homies.

images

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

phpK3SsPXPM

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.