Between The Ears

Below is a chapter release to my next book, Redwood. It is a part of my 2016 Writing Quest.

Redwood is a book on how we can optimize our environment and our habits to create remarkable lives. As John Steinbeck once wrote, from redwood trees come silence and awe. We have the power to create this same remarkability in our own lives.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

  1. Latitudes
  2. Between The Ears

 

BETWEEN THE EARS

“If you choose not to grow, you’re staying in a small box with a small mindset. 

People who win go outside of that box. It’s very simple when you look at it.”

~Kevin Hart

When The External Affects The Internal

Like we talked about in Latitudes, a city can provide positive, negative, or neutral energy into our daily lives, which affects our environment and our ability to grow. But the simplest way to sabotage or support our environment actually has nothing to do with the external and everything to do with our internal.

It’s our own mind.

Have you ever noticed how some days you wake up ready to take on the world, full of positive energy and feeling great? And then you fast forward to the next morning and you’re waking up sluggish, somewhat defeated, with very little desire to take on the day ahead of you? Oftentimes we can’t really pinpoint what the difference in these two mornings is. We feel like we’re being pushed and pulled by the current of life, and can’t figure out why some days we’re at the top of the mountain and other days we’re beat up and limping at the bottom. What happens is simpler than we might think. We’ve let our external world affect our internal mind.

I’ll give you a very basic example of my external affecting my internal. If I rewind the clock several years, I was living in Denver and loving everything about life. My city and environment was refreshing, motivating, and inspiring. One morning I was walking from my car to a cafe to grab some coffee, enjoying another perfectly sunny and beautiful Denver day. It was a Sunday during football season, so I was wearing my Chiefs shirt like I always do on game days. As I’m walking back to my car I pass a guy about my age on the sidewalk that I’ve never seen or met before. He looks at my t-shirt, then looks at me and says “Nice shirt douchebag” just as he passes me.

Internal joy, meet external asshole.

I wish I could tell you my mindset was so sound and aligned that I let it go in one ear and out the other without skipping a beat. Instead, the comment immediately made my blood boil and stayed with me the rest of the day. You could have been a fly on a wall inside my head eight hours later and I would have still been thinking about it. I should have hit the guy. I should have made him regret ever saying something to me. Little thoughts like this consuming my mind for the better part of my day. I had allowed my external world to disrupt my internal environment. We find ourselves falling prey to this constantly. This external disruption of the internal is draining to us, and most of the time it’s draining us subconsciously. Hence why some days we just don’t have the juice. We’ve expended it all on the mental energy required to fight our battles of the mind.

It has been estimated that we have between 20,000 and 80,000 thoughts per day. The citations are scarce when trying to find any sort of accurate number, but it’s not really the actual number that matters. The bottom line is that we have a massive amount of thoughts every single day, and most we aren’t even aware of. (Can you recall the 20,000+ thoughts you had yesterday? Good, neither can I.) This doesn’t bode well for us when we allow those thoughts to affect our energy. So how do we remove or reduce our mind’s ability to sabotage our environment? The next two sections will show us how our mindset can use every thought and circumstance in our lives to our own growth advantage.

A Growth Mindset And Giving Ourselves A Break

Carol Dweck, professor of Psychology at Stanford, popularized the idea of fixed mindsets and growth mindsets in her book appropriately titled “Mindset: A New Psychology of Success”. In her own words from an interview about the book,

“In a fixed mindset people believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset people understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

This definition of fixed mindsets and growth mindsets at surface level doesn’t seem to be correlated to my story above about letting some fleeting comment disrupt my joy. But let’s dig a little deeper. When I spent the day frustrated by my encounter I was never delusional about the fact that this was something silly to be upset about. I knew it was ridiculous, but that didn’t change the fact that it upset me. Like Dweck said in her definition about the fixed mindset, I didn’t want to look dumb, and at that moment I felt dumb. I had a fixed mindset about the situation, and believed in a nutshell the old adage of “I am who I am”. I was irritated, and that’s all there was to it. How would the situation have looked different if I was aware of the fixed mindset I had about the interaction? What would a different version of myself, a growth minded and improved version of myself done? In short, I would have recognized the anger in myself and used it as an opportunity to improve. My internal dialogue would have gone something like this.

“Adam, you’re pissed off right now. What an asshole that guy was. This could easily ruin my your day. But why? Use this as an opportunity to grow. If you simply let go of the anger right now you’re going to turn your day around for the better, instead of letting the anger simmer like it has so many times in the past.”

My situation without a doubt would have improved because of a simple shift in mindset. Instead of approaching the anger with a fixed mindset that believed I was wronged, looked dumb, and I was who I was, I would have approached the anger as an opportunity to grow and improve. A simple awareness of our ability to do this is oftentimes all it takes to turn our mindset around. The growth mindset, in essence, allows us to give ourselves a break. If we’re frustrated, upset, angry, or simply drained, a growth mindset lets us view the emotion as an opportunity to grow instead of state we need to live in. Those days when we wake up drained and we don’t know why? There’s a good chance we’ve had a lot of mental chatter going on lately, and we haven’t given ourselves enough breaks, viewing each and every situation as an opportunity to grow.

This Sucks, But…

The growth mindset doesn’t just apply to our internal world. It can be just as valuable when we apply it to the external as well. Take setbacks, obstacles, and heartache for example. A fixed mindset would tell us that these things are negative and we simply must endure them. A car accident, a death in the family, a job loss – to the fixed mindset these are all unfortunate occurrences that we have to live with because well, that’s life. A growth mindset, in contrast, views everything as an opportunity to grow and improve, both internally and externally. The car accident becomes an opportunity to practice gratitude that everyone walked away uninjured. The death in the family becomes an opportunity to celebrate a life and appreciate each moment we have above ground even more. A job loss becomes an opportunity to improve our skillsets and seek out a more fulfilling role.

In his best-selling book “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage”, author Ryan Holiday summarizes this topic succinctly and elegantly when he says:

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”

The thing that is perceived as a setback by the fixed mindset becomes an opportunity and our new path through the growth mindset. It is our perception that changes, not the situation, and this perception has the utmost power to help us grow or hold us back. I’ve experienced the power of this truth time and time again in my own life.

In 2014, my wife and I were pregnant with our first child. Our baby boy was already stitching memories in both of our minds and we were ecstatic over what the future held. Life had different plans for us however, and those future memories would never actually come to fruition. Due to a genetic condition that we didn’t know our son had until he was born, his time on earth only lasted a couple of days. This little baby that held so much of our futures in his hands, was quickly rewriting the script for our lives. Just 36 hours into his tiny life, we held him in our arms as he took his last breath. Our world had its first permanent crack in it.

Oftentimes in a marriage, the death of a child can lead to the dismantling of the marriage. A couple’s world is forever changed, and many times they simply don’t know how to operate together in this new territory. After Cade, our son, passed away I became acutely aware that this could happen to my wife and I. This initial tragedy had the power to spiral downward into my own personal despair as well as our relationship’s despair. A fixed mindset would have surely triggered and supported this downward spiral.

At this point in my life I was aware enough of my mindset to approach our loss with intention. I viewed the pain, loss, and heartache as a chance to grow. It was an opportunity to express empathy of not knowing what others are going through. It was an opportunity to process my own emotions and come out better on the other side because of them. It was an opportunity to strengthen my wife and I’s bond. It was an opportunity to be there for other couples going through heartbreak. It was an opportunity to experience even greater joy and appreciation for our next child. It was an opportunity to use my writing as a positive outlet to impact others. In short, it was simply an opportunity to become a better version of myself, albeit through the most painful process possible. What could have led to destructive habits, divorce, and depression instead led to opportunity to impact the greater good of myself, my family, and the world around me. It’s worth noting how incredibly grateful I am that my wife also utilized a growth mindset through our loss, whether or not she was aware of it, and has since positively impacted countless women going through loss and infertility struggles. Had we not both used a growth mindset to process our pain, it’s tough to say where we’d be today.

Internal and External Harmony

Even when our external environment, the city and community we live in, fosters our creativity, positive energy, and growth, it can still ultimately be derailed by a fixed mindset. We can be as motivated and inspired as possible by the people and places around us, but if we still aren’t aware of, and recognize, each moment and situation as an opportunity for growth, then we will stay on the outside looking in. We’ll be watching the world around us improve while we sit idly by. However, when we can couple our positive, external environment with a growth mindset that views every circumstance and interaction as an opportunity to improve ourselves, we have a recipe and foundation for creating a remarkable life. The external environment creates the springboard for growth, and the internal harmony with that environment keeps us on the growth path. Perhaps that word, harmony, is the ultimate thing we’re seeking between our external and internal environments when it comes to growth. Harmony is by its very nature frictionless. Our city and community provide us the canvas on which to paint our remarkable life, and our mindset improves upon the painting as we go. But we cannot paint to our full potential without both. A poor canvas will limit the beauty of the final artwork, and a fixed mindset will never stretch our abilities. But when there is harmony between the two, with the canvas and mindset in alignment, our creation that we call our “life” has the opportunity to be more remarkable than we could have ever imagined.

Latitudes

 

Below is a chapter release to my next book, Redwood.

Redwood is a book on how we can optimize our environment and our habits to create remarkable lives. As John Steinbeck once wrote, from redwood trees come silence and awe. We have the power to create this same remarkability in our own lives.

Want to receive each chapter for free? Sign up below as I release new chapters each week!


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction


 

CHAPTER 1 – LATITUDES

The Wrong Latitude

With a doctor standing over me and an EKG report in his hand, I exhaled a sigh of relief knowing that I in fact was not having a heart attack. I was only 23 years old at the time, and I was convinced that the roller coaster ride that was my last year of life had led to my early demise. It turned out to just be stress induced heart palpitations, albeit of the extreme varietal, and at that moment I knew my environment had to change. I was living in Dallas at the time, and although I had plenty to be grateful for, including an amazing girlfriend and some of the best friends in the world, I felt constrained in my life. “Trapped” is most apt summation of my daily existence at the time. Fast forward one year later and I found myself breathing in fresh Rocky Mountain air with a new lease on life. My stress and anxiety had melted away virtually overnight, and it stayed that way for the entirety of my next six years of living in Colorado. Sure, the beautiful mountains and nearly unlimited supply of sunshine played a big part. But it was more than that. It was the energy of the people, congregating from all walks of life and all parts of the country in this one city at the gateway to the west. It was the entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit that made you feel as if anything was possible. It was the nonconformity of the city and its’ people that was just the right amount of weird. This was a place that I could thrive, an environment that would not just allow growth, but encourage it. “Trapped” had no place in my existence here.

Choosing the city we live in is the low hanging fruit of optimizing our environment. It is a big impact decision that can completely change the course of our life, for better or for worse. The tough thing about this is that there’s no book or website that will tell us where our ideal place is. It’s an entirely personal decision that’s based on our personalities, our ambitions, and our triggers. The energy of New York City can be fuel to one person and kryptonite to another. The waves of Santa Monica can be an artistic spark to one person and idle dullness to another. The place does not make the person. The person does not make the place. But the person plus the place together makes something entirely different. The only way I know how to gauge what the right place is for myself is by the energy it brings me. It either lifts me up, deflates me, or keeps me in the middle. I don’t want anything to do with the last two options, as I know they’re not enabling me to be the best version of myself possible. If you’ve ever felt the itch to move, or had that internal nudge that tells you there just might be more out there, that’s your cue to give your location some critical thought. You’re craving an injection of new energy into your life, and oftentimes a new city can provide that.

Freedom From the Expectation of Others

If there’s one thing you take from this chapter, it’s this reality. When we live in a place where we have a history, whether that’s our hometown or elsewhere, we have existing and limiting expectations of the person we’re supposed to be. And these expectations are very, very difficult to overcome.

Take myself for example. I have some particularly fond memories with my fraternity brothers from college. We spent some of the best years and times of our lives together, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. For better or for worse most of those memories have the common thread of partying woven through them. In short, we knew how to have a good time. Fast forward my life ten years to right now, and that version of myself is still how that most of that group of people know me best. They don’t know the Adam that has been through immense amounts of pain. They don’t know the Adam that has been through equal and opposite amounts of joy. They don’t know the Adam that strives each day to be better than yesterday. In short, they don’t know this Adam, the Adam of today. If I would have tried to create my current reality while surrounded by people that have expectations of a different version of me, it would have been very difficult to overcome. This isn’t just my story either. They are all different, and improved, versions of the people they were in college. And just like they’d have expectations of myself relative to the “me” they knew, I have the same for them. I fully expect our time catching up to be over a dip of Skoal and a Natural Light, even if that’s not who either of us are anymore. Those memories and expectations of who we’re supposed to be are imprinted on our brains, and displaying a new imprint creates friction where we crave continuity.

It is much easier to paint on a blank canvas than it is to redo an existing painting.

Freedom from expectations allows us the freedom to create ourselves. We can always take these new and improved versions of ourselves back to our former lives, but only after we’ve made them. It is the creation that is the difficult part. And separation from pre-existing barriers, boundaries, and beliefs is what provides us that freedom to create. We are all the artists of our lives, and our city is one of the best supplies we have at our disposal.

When Home Isn’t Where the Heart Is

Home can be the toughest place of all to leave, if you are in fact drawn to live, grow, and thrive elsewhere. Home is safe. Home is familiar. Home is where we know the names, the faces, the streets, the restaurants, and what to expect from our time there. In a word, home is comfortable. We can be ourselves there, the way we’ve always been. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with never leaving our hometowns. If that is the place that gives us the energy to create, explore, and improve, home can be the perfect place for us. But for many of us that’s not the case. What if we’re not happy with the person that we’ve always been there? What if we feel that internal nudge to explore and remake ourselves, but the comfort of home outweighs the fear of the unknown? We feel like there is a new version of ourselves out there waiting to be created, but it’s a daunting task to think about leaving the old life behind. If you fall into this camp, my encouragement to you is that nothing is permanent. Home will always be there waiting with open arms if and when the time comes to return. If you allow that fear of the unknown to hold you back from ever exploring what could have been, you will never reveal parts of yourself that can only be discovered in uncharted territory. The simple act of having to meet new friends, learn new roads, and create new routines helps us to learn things about ourselves we wouldn’t have known otherwise. The vulnerability of being in a new place can be incredibly powerful to our own personal development. But the only way to access it is to go.

At the risk of losing readers to a terribly cheesy song reference, Jimmy Buffett was onto something when he sang “These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, nothing remains quite the same.” Changes in latitudes, without a doubt, do lead to changes in attitudes. And nothing remaining quite the same can be a very good thing. We should never feel stuck in the place we are, because the power to change our situation is in our own hands. Much like a redwood could still survive if planted in a suboptimal environment, the same goes for us. We can survive in a city we’re not excited about living in. But why simply survive when we can thrive elsewhere? Our location can be a springboard for our own development, and if we recognize that our current latitude isn’t serving us, it’s on us to change it. If we get the city right, building the rest of our optimal environment becomes easier. But it starts with a map, a pin, and a person. Where to?

Integrating Into A New Latitude (or An Existing One)

A city, in and of itself, is not intrinsically wired to help us grow. Even if we feel the positive energy of a city reverberating from every street corner, we still have to proactively capture that energy. Like a book holding powerful information and knowledge on its pages, we have to open the front cover to access it.

The first month of my new lease on life in Denver was spent in the mountains. I set up shop in a family friend’s vacation home in Evergreen, Colorado. It was, and still is, one of my favorite spots in the world. With no cell phone service, an unbeatable view of Mount Evans, and elk as my neighbors I couldn’t have asked for a better mountain setting. Just 30 minutes outside of Denver I thought it was the perfect parlay into my new world.

But what started out as idyllic quickly settled into isolated. I found myself driving to Denver coffee shops every day just to meet new people and plant some roots in my new home. I was in a new place but not really “in” that place. A month into my time in Denver, I finally settled into a house with my wife just a week after getting married. We had moved to the Washington Park neighborhood, surrounded by 20 and 30-somethings living and loving life in the Mile High city. As soon as I moved down from the foothills and into the city, everything changed for the better. My wife and I joined a gym, joined a volleyball league, got involved in the tech startup community, and starting truly planting roots in our new city little by little. That gym became our second home for the next six years and produced some of our closest friends to this day. That volleyball league evolved into endless hours spent in recreation at Wash Park. That tech startup community led to shaping both of our careers, producing nothing but positive outcomes along the way. We did not just move to Denver. We became a part of Denver. And there is a massive difference. No book can tell you what the best way to get involved in a new place is. That has to come from you. What are your favorite things to do? What are your hobbies? Who do you want to be? Here’s a good mental exercise to help you think through your own city.

Imagine your perfect life five years from now. You have your dream job or own your dream company. You do the things you want to do. You make the money you want to make. You spend your days exactly how you want to spend your days. Where would this version of you spend your time? What hobbies would you have? What company would you keep? Now go spend time in those places and do those things. It’s as simple as that. The easiest way to become a new version of yourself is to simply start being a new version of yourself. If old you spent Tuesday nights at the bar, but new you wants to race a triathlon, spend your Tuesday nights on a bike as the new you! There’s not a soul around to expect anything otherwise. Life in a new city, or gaining a new lease on life in your existing city, is the perfect opportunity to make quantum leaps toward the person you want to become. And it starts with the ways in which you interact with that city.

The latitudes don’t initiate momentum one way or another for us. But they do support or suppress that momentum once we get moving. If your current latitude is suppressing the ultimate version of yourself, by all means find a new latitude. If your current latitude has the power to support the ultimate version of yourself, it’s on you to initiate it. The soil is fertile. We just have to plant the tree.

Redwood – Introduction

This chapter release is part of my quest to write and publish 4 books in 2016. Want to be a part of my quest?

Click here to learn more!


 

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe.”

~John Steinbeck

Redwood trees are the largest trees on the planet. They can live for thousands of years, and their sheer size cannot be grasped in a photo or written word. Having visited a redwood tree forest myself, any description I put here can never replace the in-person experience of having one tower over you, another jaw dropped in awe at the sheer power of a single tree. Redwood forests have been a destination for people from all over the world, with the experience being equal parts selfish joy and selfless wonder. Something so big and ancient that makes us feel so small and infantile. It is a similar feeling to that of being surrounded by endless ocean or towering mountains, and having a moment of clarity and realization of just how truly miniscule we are. The power of the redwood to either move us to silence, or as I’m doing, move us to words, is by definition remarkable.  

Like every tree, redwoods need a specific environment in order to thrive. They need abundant rain for most of the year. They need temperatures that are neither too hot nor too cold. And they need fog to protect them from the summer heat. One of the most fascinating things about a redwood’s environment is their root system. Redwood roots don’t grow very deep, which you’d think they’d need in order to stabilize their sheer height. Instead they have shallow root systems that stretch for one hundred or more feet from the trunk, growing close to other redwoods, and allowing their roots to intertwine. This shallow and intertwined root system strengthens and stabilizes the entire group. What is lost in depth is gained in spades by their own community of redwoods – one of the many nuanced factors that help a redwood become what it is capable of becoming.  

But what would happen if you grew a redwood alone in a pot?

For the first year or two it would be just fine, growing a few feet per year. But after that the tree would naturally outgrow its’ potted surroundings and would have to be planted in the ground. If it stayed in the pot the redwood’s growth would stunt and eventually it wouldn’t survive. With a simple change in where it’s planted the redwood would go from one of the most powerful, awe-inspiring sights on the planet to something much less remarkable.

Humans are much the same way. Our growth as individuals is dependent upon where we plant ourselves, and the environment we provide ourselves for growth. Thankfully for us, we get to choose these conditions. As Elon Musk puts it,

If you want to grow a giant redwood, you need to make sure the seeds are ok, nurture the sapling, and work out what might potentially stop it from growing all the way along. Anything that breaks it at any point stops that growth.”

This book explores the idea of our own human potential, and is broken down into three sections: Environment, Growth, and Remarkability.

The Environment section explores the external factors in our lives that have internal implications. Everything from the city we live in, to the friends we keep, to the media we consume shapes our mindset and therefore shapes our reality. It is easy for us to think that our growth is purely dependent upon the willpower we force upon it. That we can use work ethic and sheer determination to overcome our surroundings. But this thought is inaccurate, or at best incomplete. Much like a redwood’s growth will stagnate outside of its optimal environment, so will ours. Surviving isn’t the same as thriving, and environment is how we move from the former to the latter.

The Growth section goes one step beyond environment, and into the habits, resources, and tools we have at our disposal to go from leading a small life to leading a big life. Environment can be considered the foundation of a life well lived, and growth is how we amplify and accelerate that foundation into the best possible version of ourselves. We live in a time when virtually any information we could ever dream of is at our fingertips. And that information is power. Power to transform, power to grow, power to become. When you combine a positive, energizing environment with intentional pressure applied to growth, the possibilities for what our lives can become increases exponentially.

You may have read those first two section titles without pause, and been caught off guard slightly by the last – Remarkability. Redwoods aren’t the only trees in the world that need a specific environment and conditions to grow. In fact that’s pretty much every tree. But what makes redwoods what they are, after their environment has fostered their growth, is the sheer remarkability of them. As Steinbeck put it, “from them comes silence and awe”. This is not just the insignia of a remarkable tree, but also the insignia of a remarkable life. We’ve all encountered people in our lives who leave us wondering what it is this person possesses that others don’t. They leave you intrigued long after the fact, and their life stands as something to emulate or strive for. Most of these people that touch our lives and leave us with this positive state of awe are not the people we might think, like athletes, celebrities, and anyone else in the spotlight (although they certainly can be). Instead most of these people are like you and me, who at first glance appear to be leading a mostly unremarkable life, but when the layers are peeled back the sheer enormity and power of their life leaves us with jaw slightly open, wondering how they got to where they are, and inspired to become that better version of ourselves. These are the traits of the remarkable.

Burn The Boats

​”If you want to take the island, burn the freaking boats!” ~ Tony Robbins

I heard this quote in a Tony Robbins’ video on YouTube, and I haven’t been able to shake it from my head since. It’s a single sentence that perfectly captures the reason for so many of our failed endeavors. We want to take the island, but we leave the boats in harbor just in case plan A doesn’t work out. The problem? We fight a much different battle on the island when we know the boats are waiting for us in harbor. A battle we’re much more likely to lose.

The obvious place this applies is in business. We start a project or company on the side that gains traction, but ultimately fails because we held onto our stable income job just in case. The difference in action in an entrepreneur that is receiving a paycheck and benefits each month and an entrepreneur that doesn’t know where the next rent check is coming from is stark. Very stark. Oftentimes in our journey to achieve a quest, it is the burning of the boats that spurs us into heights of action and creation that we would have otherwise never been able to achieve.

This doesn’t just apply to business however. We see this written all over our lives. I can’t tell you how many friends I have that will pursue a dating relationship with someone, yet keep in touch with their ex just in case. That’s a relationship destined for failure because it will never receive the nurturing necessary to succeed with only one foot in the water.

I see it in habit formation as well. Take quitting drinking, or taking a break from drinking, as an example. This becomes a goal for a lot of people at some point in their life. Yet they’ll leave certain clauses in their mental agreement that destine them for failure from day one. It could be something like “I’m allowed two drinks per weekend”, or “I’ll have a drink in social situations just to not make it awkward”. Clauses like these kill the goal before it has even gotten started. If you leave the boats in harbor, you will not take the island. If you really wanted to quit drinking you’d pour every ounce in your house down the drain and burn the damn boats.

This metaphor becomes an incredible tool for reviewing our own lives. We can reflect on our own goals, and ask ourselves if we’re really all in on them.

Have the boats been burned?

We can reflect on areas of our life that aren’t working out very well or need a lot of improvement.

Have the boats been burned?

We can reflect back on previous failures in an effort to learn from them.

Had the boats been burned?

Most importantly, the next time we come across that burning desire or nudge to create, the next time we meet that person that just might be the one, or the next time we set a goal to build or change a habit…

Burn the freaking boats. It’s the only way to take the island.

It Doesn’t Take Much

“I’m going to start a company.”

As I closed the pages of the book, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that my world was about to change forever. I uttered those words to myself as the final pages fell shut, and at the time I had zero clue what that meant or what it would look like. But something was different and I knew my path in the woods had diverged into two and I was about to take the one less traveled.

I had just finished a book that I still treasure today, The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau. I was working in a technology sales job that was neither here nor there. I had no horror stories or battle wounds from it, but at the same time I didn’t exactly wake up every day excited for what lay ahead. My life, for the most part, just was what it was. Neither exciting nor dull, good but not great, and fun but not on fire.

This epiphany, this moment of clarity, happened in the fall of 2012. If you fast-forward to today, a short three years later, my life looks much different than it did then. That seedling of an idea, planted by a great book with a simple message, grew into me starting a company that has since reached nearly 500,000 people across the globe, being featured on Inc.com, Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, and Under30CEO to name a few, and publishing my first book. In short, I went from leading a mostly uninspired and uninspiring life, to living out my passions and creativity for the world to see, in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

I write this not as a pat on the back, though I certainly need to give myself that from time to time, but more as a simple reminder. A reminder to myself and a reminder to you reading this. A reminder that…

it doesn’t take much. 

A book that resonates. A quote that won’t go away. A video you can’t stop rewinding in your head. (A post that you can’t stop re-reading…) These are the small things that become big things in retrospect. They’re that figurative snowflake that mushrooms into a snowball in the blink of an eye. The tipping point that takes people from standing on the outside looking in, to being on the inside along for the ride.

There’s a reason so many famous peoples’ stories begin with colloquial reflections not too different than mine. All it takes, in any of our lives, is that one small thing that resonates with us so deeply that we cannot pretend to be the same person after experiencing it. Call it a change in perspective. Call it a paradigm shift. Call it whatever you want. Just don’t call it the way it’s always been.

Life can be viewed as something to endure or something to experience. We endure when let life dictate the path we take. We experience when we take the path that looks the most fun, the most rewarding, or the most exciting. This year, as the resolutions come and they fade, as the excitement of a new year grows and then withers, simply be aware. Be aware that this moment could be right around the corner for you. Be aware that something beyond your comprehension might just be nudging you down that path of experiences. Be aware that saying “yes” to that little voice that won’t go away just might lead to things you could have never imagined. Be aware of the fact that it doesn’t take much.