42 Things I Learned From 21 Books In 2016

Check out my lists from 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. Idea originally inspired by this list of Julien Smith’s. 

Another year, another bunch of books read. I try to read at least 20 every year and to make some of those fiction. I’m much better at doing the former than the latter.

And like I do every December, I like to skim through my notes and list out my favorite two passages or things I’ve learned from each book I read.

Text in quotes is taken straight from the author:


On Writing Well by William Zinsser

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1. “Still, plain talk will not be easily achieved in corporate America. Too much vanity is on the line. Managers at every level are prisoners of the notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind.

Actually a simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking; a muddled style reflects a muddled thinker or a person too arrogant, or too dumb, or too lazy to organize his thoughts.

Remember that what you write is often the only chance you’ll get to present yourself to someone whose business or money or good will you need. If what you write is ornate, or pompous, or fuzzy, that’s how you’ll be perceived. The reader has no other choice.”

2.Nowhere else in nonfiction [than in travel writing] do writers use such syrupy words and groaning platitudes.

Adjectives you would squirm to use in conversation–‘wondrous’, ‘dappled’, ‘roseate’, ‘fabled’, ‘scudding’–are common currency. Half the sights seen in a day’s sightseeing are quaint, especially windmills and covered bridges; they are certified for quaintness.

Towns situated in hills (or foothills) are nestled–I hardly ever read about an unnestled town in the hills–and the countryside is dotted with byways, preferably half forgotten. In Europe you awake to the clip-clop of horse-drawn wagons along a history-haunted river; you seem to hear the scratch of a quill pen…. [and] chimneytops sing their immemorial song of welcome.”


A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson

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3. “It is no accident that the first highways in America were called parkways.

That’s what they were envisioned to be: parks you could drive through.”

4. “I still quite often go for walks on the trail near my home, especially if I am stuck on something I am working on. Most of the time I am sunk in thought, but at some point on each walk there comes a moment when I look up and notice, with a kind of first-time astonishment, the amazing complex delicacy of the woods, the casual ease with which elemental things come together to form a composition that is—whatever the season, wherever I put my besotted gaze—perfect.

Not just very fine or splendid, but perfect, unimprovable. You don’t have to walk miles up mountains to achieve this, don’t have to plod through blizzards, slip sputtering in mud, wade chest-deep through water, hike day after day to the edge of your limits—but believe me, it helps.”


The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb

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5. “Being an executive does not require very developed frontal lobes, but rather a combination of charisma, a capacity to sustain boredom, and the ability to shallowly perform on harrying schedules.”
6. “[Philip] Tetlock studied the business of political and economic “experts.” He asked various specialists to judge the likelihood of a number of political, economic, and military events occurring within a specified time frame (about five years ahead). The outcomes represented a total number of around twenty-seven thousand predictions, involving close to three hundred specialists. Economists represented about a quarter of his sample.

The study revealed that experts’ error rates were clearly many times what they had estimated. His study exposed an expert problem: there was no difference in results whether one had a PhD or an undergraduate degree. Well-published professors had no advantage over journalists. The only regularity Tetlock found was the negative effect of reputation on prediction: those who had a big reputation were worse predictors than those who had none.”


How Soccer Explains The World by Franklin Foer

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7. “As everyone knows, Italian men are the most foppish representatives of their sex on the planet. They smear on substantial quantities of hair care products and expend considerable mental energies color-coordinating socks with belts.

Because of their dandyism, the world has Vespa, Prada, and Renzo Piano. With such theological devotion to aesthetic pleasure, it is truly perplexing that their national style of soccer should be so devoid of this quality.”

8. “As the Protestants celebrate a goal, they’re egged on by the team captain, a long-haired Italian called Lorenzo Amoruso, who has the look of a 1980s male model. Flailing his arms, he urges them to sing their anti-Catholic songs louder. The irony is obvious: Amoruso is a Catholic.

For that matter, so are most of the Rangers players. Since the late nineties, Rangers routinely field nearly as many Catholics as Celtic. Their players come from Georgia, Argentina, Germany, Sweden, Portugal and Holland, because money can buy no better ones. Championships mean more than religious purity.”


The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley

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9. “Rainbows do not exist without an observer and there are as many rainbows created by as many people looking in the right conditions, each one subtly different. The reason for this is that rainbows are formed in an exact position relative to each observer and they have a precise shape.

Whenever our shadow is shorter than we are tall, we can say with certainty that the sun is higher than 45 degrees. Therefore if our shadow is shorter than we are tall, we will never see a rainbow.”

10. “The easiest method for finding the North Star is by finding the easy-to-identify group of seven stars known as the Big Dipper to Americans and the Saucepan to many others.

Next you find the “pointer” stars—these are the two stars that a liquid would run off if you tipped up your “saucepan” by its handle. The North Star will always be five times the distance between these two pointers in the direction that they point (up away from the pan). True north lies directly under this star.”


The Wander Society by Keri Smith

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11. “When we constantly fill up all our “empty” time with stimulation in the form of electronic devices, games, and distractions, our brains become disengaged and the thinking process is effectively halted.

We never get to hear our own inner voice—we don’t develop a relationship with ourselves and our minds. We don’t get to know who we are because we’re not listening.”

12. Per·e·gri·nate (verb): travel or wander around from place to place.

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson

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13. “The desire for more positive experience itself is a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”
14. “The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they’re obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all. It’s anti-entitlement.

People who become great at something become great because they understand that they’re not already great—they are mediocre, they are average—and that they could be so much better.”


Born For This By Chris Guillebeau

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15. “A few tips on figuring out which real world problems you can solve, and how:

1. Solving problems of daily life is usually the easiest and most successful approach

2. Solving specific, measurable problems is much better than attempting to create huge behavior change

3. To avoid getting off track, always ask, ‘Why should people care about this?'”

16. “In Alexandria, VA, a personal finance advisory company has an unconventional sabbatical practice of its own. The Motley Fool, which has around 300 employees, sends one of them on a “mandatory vacation” every month. In keeping with the company’s culture, it’s called a “Fool’s Errand”, and each month the lucky employee is chosen by lottery (with long-term workers receiving multiple entries based on their number of years service).

The winner gets two weeks off and $1,000 to spend however they like, but there’s one strict rule: the employee must leave immediately and have no contact with the office while gone. Winners are also encouraged to do something that contributes to the Motley Fool’s overall mission (“to help the world invest better”), but aside from not checking work email or phoning into conference calls, there’s no restriction on what people can do.”


The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

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17. “It is only in his work that an artist can find reality and satisfaction, for the actual world is less intense than the world of his invention and consequently his life, without recourse to violent disorder, does not seem very substantial.

The right condition for him is that in which his work is not only convenient but unavoidable.”

18. “I have been corrupted as much as anyone else by the vast number of menial services which our society has grown to expect and depend on. We should do for ourselves or let the machines do for us, the glorious technology that is supposed to be the new light of the world. We are like a man who has bought a great amount of equipment for a camping trip, who has the canoe and the tent and the fishing lines and the axe and the guns, the mackinaw and the blankets, but who now, when all the preparations and the provisions are piled expertly together, is suddenly too timid to set out on the journey but remains where he was yesterday and the day before and the day before that, looking suspiciously through the white lace curtains at the clear sky he distrusts.

Our great technology is a God-given chance for adventure and for progress which we are afraid to attempt. Our ideas and our ideals remain exactly what they were and where they were three centuries ago. No. I beg your pardon. It is no longer safe for a man to even declare them!”


Stand And Deliver by The Dale Carnegie Institute

standanddeliver

19. “For a speaker, sincerity is the wild card that trumps everything else. Deep, genuine sincerity is the first characteristic of all credible presenters. No audience can deny the truth of emotions that you feel at a deep level, nor would any audience care to deny them.

On the contrary, they want to feel what you’re sincerely feeling. They want to share the experiences of your life for the few moments that you’re standing before them.”

20. “Magic Formula (best for short, motivational talks):

1. Share a vivid, personal experience that’s relevant to the action you ultimately want your listeners to take. This should be a story that led to a positive change in your life. This will take the most time.

2. Call directly on the audience to take that single, well-defined action. Make it seem easy. This should take you only 2 minutes to explain.

3. Clearly and convincingly describe the benefit that listeners will get by taking the action. This will take the least time; as little as one second.”


Olympic Weightlifting by Greg Everett

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21. “Proper [squat] depth is full depth; full depth means full depth. That is, full depth is not breaking parallel, nor is it breaking parallel—it is squatting to the lowest possible position without surgical alteration of body parts while maintaining correct posture.

To simplify, we want to close the knee joint maximally while maintaining upright posture and a correctly arched back.”

22. “Part of the myth that weightlifting stunts growth can be attributed to flawed logic, similar to that which persists with regard to gymnastics. Because elite gymnastics and weightlifters in lighter weight classes tend to be smaller in stature, many people assume that their training has limited their growth.

This is a classic logical fallacy—post hoc, ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). In other words, because following sport training these athletes remain short, it is assumed that this training was causative of the athletes’ stature. This chronology however, in no way demonstrates causation.”


God’s Debris by Scott Adams

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23. “If the penny’s consciousness were like human consciousness, it would analyze the situation and conclude that it had free will.

When it wanted to come up heads, and heads was the result, the penny would confirm its belief in its power to choose. When it came up tails instead, it would blame its own lack of commitment, or assume God had a hand in it.”

24. “Conversation is more than the sum of the words. It is also a way of signaling the importance of another person by showing your willingness to give that person your rarest resource: time. It is a way of conveying respect.

Conversation reminds us that we are part of a greater whole, connected in some way that transcends duty or bloodline or commerce. Conversation can be many things, but it can never be useless.”


The Martian by Andy Weir

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25. Despite the fact that we haven’t been there (on foot), most of Mars’ major topographical features have already been named, and many as long ago as the late 1800s.
26. ASCII can be used to communicate in a pinch when space and time are at a premium.

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

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27. “By using this principle you can make contents looks far more exciting:

Hang heavy items on the left side of the closet and light items on the right. Heavy items include those with length, those made from heavier material, and those that are dark in color. As you move toward the right side of the closet, the length of the clothing grows shorter, the material thinner and the color lighter.”

28. “Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only govern the way you select the things you own but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job.”

The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday

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29. “Certain things in life will cut you open like a knife. When that happens—at that exposing moment—the world gets a glimpse of what’s truly inside you. So what will be revealed when you’re sliced open by tension and pressure? Iron? Or air? Or bullshit?”
30. “There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”

The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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31. Dentuso is Spanish slang for something with big, ugly teeth (like a shark).
32. “But he liked to think about all things that he was involved in and since there was nothing to read and he did not have a radio, he thought much and he kept on thinking about sin. You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?”

Take Your Eye Off The Puck by Greg Wyshynski

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33. “At the 2013 Sloan Sports Conference, authors Eric Tulsky, Geoffrey Detweiler, Robert Spencer, and Corey Sznajder presented evidence that showed carrying the puck over the blue line generated roughly twice as many scoring chances as dumping and chasing it.”
34. “Buffalo Sabres general manager George “Punch” Imlach was ticked off about how tedious the [draft] process was, so he decided to cast one of most hilarious protest votes in pro sports history. In the 11th round, with the 183rd pick, Imlach selected Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas in the “Japanese league”.

Technology being what it was in 1974, there weren’t many ways for the NHL to check the credential on this “star center”, according to Imlach. The league rubber-stamped it; rival NHL general managers immediately wondered who this mysterious rookie was.

Weeks later, Imlach came clean. There were no Tokyo Katanas–“Katana” being Japanese for “sabre”–and there was no Taro Tsujimoto. Imlach was exasperated by the length of the draft and decided to have a laugh at the its expense. So he made up the pick and submitted it.”


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

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35. Puss in Boots was a European fairy tale character around long before Shrek 2.
36. [Wikipedia]: “The Great Stink was an event in central London in July and August 1858 during which the hot weather exacerbated the smell of untreated human waste and industrial effluent that was present on the banks of the River Thames.

By June the stench from the river had become so bad that business in Parliament was affected, and the curtains on the river side of the building were soaked in lime chloride to overcome the smell. The measure was not successful, and discussions were held about possibly moving the business of government to Oxford or St Albans.”


Beginning Songwriting by Andrea Stolpe

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37. “There is one chord in a major key that doesn’t sound particularly happy or sad, but more suspicious, confusing, or even simply ‘wrong’.

This is the diminished triad that results by playing a triad starting on the 7 of the C major scale, the B. When we stack the B, D, and F, we call it a B diminished chord, or Bdim for short.”

38. “Crumpled Paper Songwriting Activity: Have each songwriter take out a piece of paper. On the paper, everyone writes something they deeply want to tell someone, but are afraid to. Crumple up the paper, and throw it in the middle of the room.

After everyone has contributed a paper ball, have the songwriters each choose a crumpled paper and unfold it. Each songwriter will write a song based on the idea they chose, perhaps even using the language on the paper as the actual chorus section of the song. Have everyone perform their songs next time the group meets.”


Antarctica by Claire Keegan

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39. Fred and Rosemary West were English serial killers that buried at least 12 victims in their garden and cellar in the 1980s and 1990s without their neighbors knowing.
40. “The air spiked her lungs. Clouds smashed into each other in the sky. She hung her head back to look at them. She wished the world could turn into a fabulous, outrageous red to match her mood.”

Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett

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41. No matter what version of this story I read, I will always picture Scrooge as Michael Caine and every one else as Muppets. 
42. “Was he not enjoying the solitude he had sought his entire life? He was, and that was the bitter realization. For he was so competent, so driven, so independent that, in a temporal sense, he had never really needed anyone. This ability was now his cruse, for he craved a friend in his final hours.

His earthly assets, all of them, were down in the street in the counting-house, measured in ounces and pounds, and by morning, he would have lost his grasp on them. He did not even have a will, having been dissatisfied with simply giving his hard-earned estate to one who had not worked for it. He yearned for someone to tell him his life had been successful, to affirm that the single turn he had gotten upon earth had been well spent.”


What was your favorite passage from a book you read in 2016?

3 Bits of Advice for New Freelancers

The fine folks over at Invoice2go (a professional invoice app)* asked me, and many other freelancers, to offer up three nuggets of advice for those new to self-employment. While I still consider myself new to the game, I was happy to contribute the below, part of which made it into a sleek infographic (also below). 

In just over two years, freelancing has taken me places and taught me things I never could have predicted.

For context, I did my first paid freelance gig in April 2014, charging a modest $6.24 to write a sales page for a friend. Fast-forward to August 2015, and I was making enough money writing and editing on the side that I could quit my 9-to-5 job and start freelancing full-time.

I’m finally living the dream I had for several years, but the journey hasn’t been without its fair share of tough lessons, and the days in which I wonder what the hell I am doing outnumber those in which I don’t. I think some of this is inevitable with starting anything new, however those feelings may have been mitigated if I had known these three things earlier on:

It’s Ok To Pay For Help

As soon as you start bringing in more than just beer money, meet with an accountant. Not only will they tell you how you can best protect your business and its assets in the face of legal action (by forming an LLC, S-Corp, or otherwise), they’ll be able to estimate how much you should be setting aside for next tax season.

Stupidly, I didn’t realize being a business owner meant I had to pay two sets of taxes (personal and business), and I went from Scrooge McDucking into a room full of coins one week to wondering where it all went the next.

You Can Probably Charge More

If you have “formal” experience working in your field and are new to freelancing, I guarantee you are undercharging what you actually could be. When I was charging just $10 per project starting out, a large part of me still felt like a fraud even though I had been working in PR and writing professional copy for three years. I was convinced an unhappy client was going to call me out and spread rumors across the internet that I was what I felt like: an impostor.

Eventually I realized that potential clients saw me as an expert and were coming to me for a reason: because I had work experiences and skills that they found valuable. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have contacted me in the first place.

Be It Til You Make It

Pay for a logo, nice business cards, and a website. Be someone that you would want to hire. Even if your freelancing work is only a side-gig at the moment, when you get asked “so what do you do?” always include in your answer (preferably first) that you do writing/photography/art/etc.

If the person is interested or a potential client, they will ask about that over your “other” job. If you take yourself seriously, other people will, too.


Most importantly, even when none of your friends can relate to what you are trying to do and you feel completely lost, remember that you are far from the only person to choose this path. If you make yourself do just one thing for your business each day, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your career trajectory can change and you’ll discover there are countless others like you. You may even be asked for advice by aspiring freelancers someday. 

Here’s what others had to offer:

Invoice2Go-Freelancers Graphic*I don’t personally use the product (Excel and Word are just fine for my current invoicing needs) but I know other freelancers that rave about its ease-of-use. I was not compensated for this post.  

Why I’m Grateful I Was A Message Board Nerd For 10+ Years

July 3, 2000.

Although I was only 12 years old, I can recall this day with more detail than most from my childhood.

And not because I knew it was important at the time, but rather it signified the beginning of a big part of my life that not many people know about, save for one or two of my oldest friends.

Like most of my summer mornings at that age, I was left to my own devices to play in the backyard, ride my bike, read, watch Sportscenter on repeat, or play video games. This particular morning I remember being engrossed in one of the latter, specifically one set in the Mario universe.

After what was probably a multi-hour session of Mario Partying with myself (actually not a euphemism), I ventured upstairs for my ritualistic afternoon session on AOL, exploring whatever it was that had a grip on my pre-pubescent mind at the time (not porn just yet). This day, I can remember wanting to know more about the universe I was just exploring: that of Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom.

And probably after delving into the Yahoo! Directory (how I miss thee), I ended up on a message board called Nintendoland, part of a larger gaming message board site simply called the Video Game Forums (VGF).

And I basically didn’t leave for the rest of the decade.

Prior to this, my only “social” experience online was AOL’s chat rooms, which mostly consisted of me talking out of my ass about sports or people asking me “ASL”, to which “12/M/OH” never seemed to generate any follow up responses for some reason.

So when I encountered Nintendoland’s culture (really, typical of any message board of the time), I was hooked. Inside jokes and jargon, respected “veterans” and “noobs” of the community, total post counts that earned you different color stars and “ranks” under your username, registration day “birthdays” (which is why I remember 7/3/00)…it was gamification and social networking combined before either of those were household words.

I donned the username ShyGuy727, ironically not because of the social disposition I now hope to make a living writing about, but after one of my favorite Mario characters:

That day I made my first few posts, lord knows about what (VGF only lets me look back as far as 2008). While seeing fireworks with my parents the following night, I was already distracted by thinking back to my new online community, wondering what insightful thing or witty remark users like Tub-O-Troopa, KirbyKing, or VGF’s godfather, Shane, had to say.

Later that month we went on vacation, and I can vividly remember bragging to my cousin about my green stars (“given” only to those members that had made 100 or more posts) and trying to get him to join. Soon, the autumn arrived and so did school, and hopping on VGF from 3-4, Hot Pocket in hand, became part of my daily routine.

But the boards quickly became a place to talk about more than just the politics of the Mushroom Kingdom or a place to participate in “make a Kirby-related story, three words at a time” threads. A large number of non-video game-related forums served as both outlets and support systems for our adolescent strife.

Often, these issues were, yes, teenage in nature (“how do I ask a girl to prom?”). Other times they were the first exposure I had to real tragedy in my privileged yet sheltered suburban life:

Pre-any sort of site where I could read reaction at a 13-year old level, VGF was where I was able to make some sense of the weight of 9/11. A post that same afternoon from a forum member (that I interacted with daily) explaining he just found out his father was in the South Tower when it collapsed gave me much more perspective about the tragedies than any explanation from my parents or teachers ever could.

Another longtime member that I engaged with frequently passed away at 16 due to a chronic bone marrow disorder. Almost 10 years later, “Knux” is still memorialized on the site in his own dedicated forum, favorite memory threads as well as his obituary archived forever in a kind of digital monument.

We all learn that the world can be a cruel and nonsensical place at different times and in different ways, and for me it came through the stories of my digital friends.

These incidents only strengthened my bond with the board, and over the next 7-8 years I accrued over 10,000 posts on VGF, good enough (then) to put me top 30 all-time. Even though my actual video game playing waned heavily toward the end of this period, I became one of the forum’s most loyal and recognizable members.

I read about and commented on current events, helped other message board nerds sort through their pubescent drama, and sharpened my fantasy/role-playing writing skills in the “Battlefield”. I learned how to write with humor, express empathy through language, and even some basic HTML. In a place where soft opinions went to die, my writing voice also solidified and strengthened. I also had my first exposure to internet shock sites and was once so disturbed/nauseated I had to skip a family dinner.

In high school, my VGF visitation tapered off and my attention shifted to the slightly more mature (read: high schoolers and college students instead of middle schoolers and high schoolers) GameFAQs message boards, particularly the Sports and Racing forums. Funny enough, one of my fellow interns in New York was actually a member of these same forums, and upon moving there we quickly formed a friendship over our mutual nerddom.

But eventually real life started to out-fulfill my online one, and unceremoniously I said goodbye to ShyGuy727 and message boards* altogether.

Despite the enjoyment I derived from these online communities (and I suppose some of the trouble they kept me out of), for several years I looked back on this period of my life with utter contempt. Somehow I was convinced that if I hadn’t spent that time crafting my online persona, my offline one would have developed faster.

And maybe it would have. But chances are I also would have just found another “mindless” pursuit to fulfill my time, one that didn’t involve any kind of interaction with others, digital or otherwise.

But now, with the benefit of hindsight, I view all that time “wasted” on message boards as one the best things to ever happen to me.

Before I knew that I wanted to devote my life to writing (2012 or so), the story I would tell myself was something along the lines of “writing and creating always came naturally to me”. While it’s true I was always creating, scribbling, and sketching in notebooks on car trips, I never realized that these things didn’t come naturally—in reality I was honing them daily for about a decade. On video game message boards.

Those 10,000+ posts? In a way, I had been practicing for what I wanted to do with the rest of my life without even knowing it. Before having any idea what 10,000 hours was significant of, I was accumulating mine.

The ‘find your passion’ crowd often cries something along the lines of “look back to what infatuated you as a child”, and in the extremely limited scope of my own life, I can’t disagree with this. I was allowed to run rampant online (within reason) and as an inadvertent result I developed perhaps my greatest professional asset. Moreover, the forums helped me figure out more than just that I liked to write. You don’t spend all that time sharing your teenage tribulations with strangers and without learning a thing or two about what makes you tick and who you are as a person. Despite how trivial my “problems” were then, the daily introspection in that afternoon window developed a habit that continues on today in the form of journaling and meditation.

Of course, absolutely none of this was apparent at the time, which further exemplifies the importance of letting oneself pursue that which is on their mind during all hours of the day, without pragmatic purpose. Like Christine Hassler says in The 20 Something Manifesto:

Following your passion is a journey, not a magic wand; success is not immediate, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come.

So while I may never be a video game reviewer, game script writer, online counselor, or the mayor of Toad Town, for my writing’s sake, I am extremely grateful my parents never told me to ‘just go play outside’.

*before their resurgence in mainstream popularity as “social news” sites, ala reddit.

For The Sake Of Posting

The lack of new content is merely a consequence of my own good fortune.

Freelancing has been going incredibly well—better than I could have anticipated even a year ago—but it’s left little time for personal writing projects. I consider this only a temporary circumstance, as it’s not for a lack of ideas, just time: my Evernote list of “Posts to Write” is quickly turning into a tome in itself.

A while ago I decided the blog was going to be nothing more than a form of self-amusement, a way to show potential clients that I know how to write a blog post, and hopefully as a means to entertain one or two people. One reason for this was limited personal bandwidth; another was that it takes me way too long to write, edit, and publish a single 1000-word post. However, due to the volume of freelance work I’ve been doing, I’m finding that I am now able to articulate clearer, quicker, and have become an overall more efficient writer—which makes me all the more excited to eventually get back into a posting groove again.

And since posting begets more posting, I thought I’d give some brief updates on some other things I’ve been up to:

1.Moody_BookCover_Final Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be the editor for my good friend Michael Moody’s new book, Redefine YourselfThe book is an easy-to-read guide for making small, yet powerful, alterations to your daily routine and thought patterns that can lead to dramatic life changes.

Whether he knows it or not, I’ve always considered Michael a mentor of mine, so I was extremely honored when he asked me to take my red pen to his project. As someone who has read his fair share of self-development books, I can’t recommend this one enough for anyone wanting a straight-to-the-point guidebook for improving their quality of life—be sure to pick up your copy from Amazon today.

2. For the third year running, I will be doing another social experiment this June. Like last year though, it will involve people I both know and don’t know, so details won’t be revealed until after it’s over.

3. My site received a mention in the Envato Market blog as a great example of the ‘hero’ design trend. Thanks and props again to my great friend and digital designer-extraordinaire, Jacob-Fox,envato on the re-design.

4. I’m not sure what took me so long, but I’m now on Goodreads! Let’s be book buddies. You can keep tabs on my progress as I slog through Infinite Jest.

5. After reaching a new low point with caffeine (two full coffee mugs of espresso each morning on top of additional drip coffee at work), I finally have things under control again.

Funny enough, I now have way more energy and focus than I did before. Credit to Guayaki’s Yerba Mate line for helping me cut it off easy with Miss Brown Eyes.

6. Finally, I have a massive announcement coming late this summer. For a variety of reasons, I can’t say anything else about it, but much will be written when that time comes.

More soon.

How the Grinch Got His Shit Together

(image courtesy of DeviantArt user TheChairmanofAwesome)
Poem by Andrew Elsass and (mostly) Dr. Seuss

Every person down in Presentville liked their lives a lot…
But the Grinch, who lived north in High Horse, did not.
The Grinch hated the Presents, and found something to bitch about every season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one knows quite the reason.

It could be he always thought things would be better next year.
It could be perhaps, that his mind was just full of fear.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his consciousness was two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason for him always being snappy,
He sat there on social media, hating those who were happy.
Staring on from his screen with a sour, Grinchy frown,
He felt jealous of his ‘friends’ living ‘perfect’ lives out on the town.

For he knew that every person he followed,
Was living a more exciting life while he sat and wallowed.
“And they’re getting married and having kids!” he snarled with a sneer,
“It’s like we’ve reached adulthood! It’s practically here!”

Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to get this happiness to me forthcoming!”
It was an obsessive thought, this he knew,
But an easy life full of wealth he felt he was entitled to.

But then! Oh, the thoughts! Oh, the thoughts!
Thoughts! Thoughts! Thoughts!
That’s one thing he hated in his mind! All the THOUGHTS!
THOUGHTS! THOUGHTS! THOUGHTS!

Then the Presents, he would see, would post and hashtag!
And they’d hashtag! And they’d hashtag! And they’d HASHTAG!
HASHTAG! HASHTAG! HASHTAG!
They would hashtag about what they were grateful for, and hashtag about their dreams,
Which was something that made the Grinch want to scream!

And THEN they’d do something he liked least of all!
Every person down in Presentville, the tall and the small,
Would assemble at bars where the jukebox would be blaring,
They’d stand in circles, snapping pictures they’d start sharing!

They’d share on Facebook! And they’d share on Instragram! And they’d SHARE! SHARE! SHARE! SHARE!

And the more the Grinch saw of all this happy sharing,
The more the Grinch thought, “How is my life comparing?”
“Why, for 24 years I’ve put up with it now!”
“That’s it, I must finally arrive! But HOW?

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
THE GRINCH GOT A NARCISSTIC, AWFUL IDEA!
“I know just what I’ll do!” the Grinch laughed, creating a Tinder account,
Dreaming of the stories he’d have and his incoming match amounts.

And he chuckled and clucked, “What a great Grinchy trick!”
“With some fresh pictures of me, I’ll get all the hot chicks!”
“All I need is a name brand on myself…” The Grinch looked around,
But since he was still hourly, there were none to be found.

Did that stop the old Grinch? No! The Grinch simply said,
“If I can’t find any cash, I’ll put it on credit instead!”
Because no matter the angle he stood at in front of the mirror,
None of the filters could make his clothes fresher or his skin clearer.

So he put on the best outfit he had and hopped in his ride,
A 2003 Civic with fat rims on each side.
Then the Grinch said, “Swerve!” and his car started up,
Toward town shooting fat bass sounds from his sub.

Everyone was talking at coffee shops and bars like noisy larks,
All the Present people were talking together, generating sparks.
No one discussed office drama or feeling overworked,
No one discussed Kim Kardashian’s ass or Miley Cyrus’ twerk.

“This is stop number one,” the young Grinch said,
And he walked into the store, full of swagger from his toes to his head.
Few people’s heads turned, but the cute barista was at the counter,
The Grinch thought, “I’ll finally get her number, and shut up all the doubters.”

He stalled a few times, for a minute or two,
Checking his phone for inspiration and to see what was new.
Then the moment had passed and she went off duty anyway,
“Just as well,” he thought, “she’s not skinny enough to be my bae!”

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most loathsome,
Collecting the right goods so he’d no longer be lonesome.
Boots! And watches! Raw denim! Peacoats!
Tweed pants! Wool socks! Wayfarers! Shoes for boats!

Then the Grinch and his new debt put on each item,
And began to snap some selfies, adding Sutro, Inkwell, Walden.
Then he uploaded them to see whose eyes he could catch,
Along with the perfect bio, “Hit me up, just looking for some snatch!”

But hours later his confidence came crashing down quick as a flash,
Why that Grinch actually thought all these clothes would get him some ass!
With only two matches from bots, he deleted everything faster than you’d believe,
“I really wish,” sighed the Grinch, “I would have kept the receipts!”

And the Grinch beat himself up, and started home disgraced,
When he bumped into someone, looked up, and a saw a familiar face.
She was 5’5″, had nice lips, and blue-green eyes!
Little Jamie Clark, an old classmate from whom he once borrowed school supplies.

The Grinch had always had a crush on this tiny Present girl,
But never had the guts to give it a whirl.
She smiled at the Grinch and said, “Hi! I remember you!”
“What are you up to these days, is anything new?”

Nothing was, but that Grinch thought he was so smart and so slick,
He thought up some lies, and he thought them up quick!
“Why, my old friend,” the Grinch tried to be debonair,
“Life has been amazing, it can’t really compare.”

“I make close to six-figures, I guess I’ll declare,”
“With vacation, full benefits, and even dental care.”
And his fib bored the girl, “That’s nice,” she said,
“It was good seeing you,” and as she left the Grinch felt misled.

While some of what he said was a lie,
It was still a fact that he was looking extra fly!
Defeated, all he wanted to do was go home and get high,
But he didn’t even know anyone to buy from, he had no guy.

Trying to do what they say and count his blessings in life,
His mind just kept looping back toward how to bag a wife.
Wanting answers, the Grinch stayed up all night,
Switching between looking at addiction and inspiration, between dark and light.

And when he finally tried to call it a night and lie down,
He received a text from his old pal named Sal! He was here, back in town!
He wanted to hang! And catch up! And go downtown!
7 o clock that next night! At the back bar of Fox and Hound!

Like was habit, when they met the Grinch began mindlessly gossiping,
Not noticing his friend’s disapproval and that he had been blossoming:
“I am glad you say you are doing well, but I can see it in your eyes,”
“You feel like something is missing, and covering it up with lies.”

“That’s bullshit,” scoffed the Grinch, “that I simply don’t need to hear!”
And with shifty eyes he anxiously sipped on his beer.
The conversation tempered and changed subjects, and then his friend had to go,
And then a sadness in the Grinch emerged—it started in small. Then it started to grow.

But this feeling wasn’t making sense! He did everything he was supposed to do!
Frustrated, he ordered another round of Bud Heavy, in fact, make it two!
Perhaps maybe he could have gotten a little more swole and a little more fit,
Or perhaps…maybe everything he thought he knew was complete bullshit.

And the Grinch, walking home with his Grinch-sneaks cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How the hell could his be so?”
“But I had the threads! I had all the swag!”
“I got my jeans to have just the right amount of sag!”

And he refreshed for three hours, til his refresher was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe happiness,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a kind of social score.”
“Maybe happiness…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

And what happened then? Well…in Presentville they say,
That the Grinch’s small consciousness grew three sizes that day!
And the minute he started appreciating what he had right then,
He started to the view the world through a whole new lens.

So he took back the clothes and ignored his accounts,
And he himself, the Grinch! Began to take on the world, scorning his self-doubt.