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Let me teach you the best of what I know when it comes to building a happy and productive career and lifestyle! My blog posts contain the best insights and lessons-learned from my years as a corporate strategist, product management leader in the high tech software industry and yoga teacher. I’m also drawing on my current insights as an Executive Coach for leaders at top-notch tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and numerous startups.

How To Overcome Procrastination Without Willpower (or two cups of coffee)

Procrastination is a first world problem. In ancient times there was no such thing. If you were a hungry bushman roaming the Kalahari, your options were to find food or starve. Raining? Quick, build a shelter. Cold? Better scrounge up some kindling and get that fire started. Procrastination only arises in a luxurious circumstance where immediate needs are met.

We can have a book brewing inside of us, lying dormant and waiting – endlessly waiting – for the perfect moment to spring forth onto paper. Health goals. Charity work. Asking for a more significant leadership role at work. All these things sit by the wayside, as the newest episode of America’s Got Talent or CNN’s endless political chatter takes precedence. We blame procrastination and our supposed lack of will, but this belies the truth.

I’m not saying we should all retreat to caves and give up our creature comforts. I am saying that it’s important to understand the nature of procrastination, and what we can do to deal with it in a world where more (not less) creature comforts are the norm. Our society is careening forward towards more prosperity and abundance. This is a good thing. However, it creates a problem…

We have too many options

Procrastination thrives in a world of plenty and choice.

When there is no choice, we move to action automatically. Procrastination also grows when you cast your thoughts into the future. It’s in the future that all the reasons why something isn’t needed (or how it will fail) manifest. It’s in the future that you see a plethora of options, obviating the need for completing the one meaningful project that should be the focus of your attention right now.

What can we possibly do about this?

The good news is, defeating procrastination has nothing to do with summoning courage or mustering the last crumbs of your precious willpower. It is precisely the opposite. You prevail by doing less not doing more. Relax into your work, don’t power through it. In this blog post I’ll explore a few ways that you can change your relationship to your work, and in doing so, break up the logjam of procrastination.

Showing up is way more than half the battle

“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

A while ago I had a new roof put on my home. The weather was windy and cold. Snow was in the air. I was worried the crew might not show. Lucky for me, they did.

Right on time, a few guys showed up, along with the contractor overseeing everything. They got straight to work. Steady and light on their feet, they worked all day, taking a few short breaks. With a job well done, they called it quits for the day. No doubt some of the crew didn’t feel like roofing that day. Did they give up? Not a chance. They still showed up and did the work.

What are you procrastinating about? Come on, there must be something? What if you had no option but to get to work? What if you approached your work with the same mindset as my roofing crew?

As my own boss, I know how important it is to do the work I know I need to do, regardless of my feelings about it. Perhaps this is what you need to do as well. Show up and get to work, irrespective of how you feel. In doing so, you will notice that Buddha was right, your thoughts and feelings can’t be trusted. Your worst fears or concerns never come to pass as it plays out in your mind. Put in the time, even if it means twirling your thumbs in front of a blank sheet of paper (or empty Word.docx).

Showing up is way more than half the battle. It’s more like 80% of it!

Your expectations are killing your progress

“My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”

– Stephen Hawking

Your expectations get in the way of starting in the first place.

Take, for example, this blog post. I started with a topic, “procrastination” that I was inspired to write about. It’s a common topic amongst my coaching clients. Even the most high performing tech leaders I work with suffer from it. It is an important topic to write about. I also have some interesting thoughts about it (at least they are interesting to me!).

The irony of this, however, was that up until a few minutes ago, I was procrastinating about writing about procrastination! I was hung up on the right talking points. After stewing on the outline for about ten minutes, I decided just to start writing and see what would happen. Within minutes, I began to get a more definite sense for what to say and how.

To overcome procrastination, I had to ignore my expectations about this blog post being high quality and ready for public consumption. Instead, I had to just get the words out of my mind and onto paper. I had to do the work, and eradicate any expectation of a desirable outcome. Once done, pressure dropped and my supposed writers block turned into a torrent of words.

The gift of thought

The capacity to think, plan and envision is a powerful gift. Potentially, a gift unique to humans (though we don’t know for sure). However, future thoughts aren’t real. They are an illusion. We have a special-effects factory in our mind more powerful than Marvel Studios. You can spend all day lost in the rapture of thought, just as you can spend all day watching TV. This isn’t inherently problematic until it becomes, well, a problem. If you are procrastinating, it’s definitely a problem!

It’s doubly problematic when you begin to understand that your mind has evolved to dwell on the negative more often than the positive. This is a feature not a bug. It’s kept you alive. It also explains why your expectations about how something is going to be received by the world gets in the way of anything happening at all. Chances are your expectations are biased to the negative.

If procrastination is an issue, remember that the present moment is where you have the most significant leverage over your predicament. It’s here and now that you can make a simple choice just to do the work. Your expectations and rumination don’t matter. They will only get you stuck. Even positive thinking is a trap. We can just as easily get caught in the warm glow of our happy expectations, and still avoid the work to be done.

Curiosity can cure your fidgety, procrastinating mind

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

– Albert Einstein

Boredom and procrastination are close cousins. The good news is that the world can be infinitely engaging and interesting if you would only give it a chance to captivate your attention.

Here’s a fun experiment: Have you ever eaten an apple (or any whole food) with your eye’s closed? It’s a fun way to explore the power of your senses. The simplest of foods burst with flavor and aliveness! The same is true with walking around blindfolded (don’t do this alone!) or spending a day in silence. Closing off any sense organ allows one to tap into the fuller potential of others.

Likewise, curiosity is an antidote to boredom (and procrastination). It throws you headfirst into the present moment. Think of anything that you have been really curious about. Notice how interested and engaged you were about that thing. Your level of interest and engagement tend to rise and fall together. More curiosity leads to more engagement. Next thing you know time has flown by. Working on your project isn’t a struggle, it just flows along.

Very young children don’t procrastinate because they have an insatiable curiosity that trumps their likes and dislikes. They try things without fear of judgment or getting too caught up with expectations (that is, until they develop an ego).

Being curious might just be the gateway to overcoming your procrastinating tendencies. What if you were incredibly curious about your work, regardless of the outcome? What would it take for you to 10x your curiosity?

Defeating procrastination

You don’t need to be the Incredible Hulk to smash procrastination.

Quite the opposite, overcoming the boredom and confusion that leads to procrastination is about doing less, not more. Let go of endless thought and planning about the future. Let go of expectations about how things will work out (or not work out!).

Allow curiosity to flow in naturally as your senses tune into the present moment. Then, do the work and see what happens.

There are countless best selling novels, thriving business ideas, and adventures waiting to be had in the hearts and minds of each of you. It’s about time you were unleashed to work on your dreams. With so much possibility ahead of you, how can procrastination possibly stand in your way?

Call for Comments

How do you overcome procrastination?

Let me know in the comments below!

One Key To Effortless Communication

The nature of communication is that we show up to experience, and respond to what happens. Sometimes, it appears as if a conversation isn’t going smoothly. Anxiety can crop up if a big boss is present. Concern can show up if HR is in the room. There are many not-so-helpful emotions that can arise in any situation where communication is happening.

At its core, what really is communication anyway? In a business context, it is the expression of a point of view. The point doesn’t need to be big or even very pointy. It can be a statement of fact. It can be an opinion. When communication feels awkward, before trying to fix anything, it’s first vital to identify where the awkwardness is coming from.

Awkward feelings never originate from circumstances.

They seem like they do. However, if you really look at what is going on, it can be observed that your experience can only emerge from the quality of your thoughts, stories, and impressions about a circumstance. Any circumstance by itself is benign. So the best place to start is to understand that this is how experience works. It always starts as an internal experience and then gets projected out onto the scenery.

To test this out, just notice a situation where you feel nervous communicating in front of an audience. Next see how, if this is a group setting, that not everyone else in the room is nervous, even if they are also speaking in front of the same crowd. You might not know how nervous they are for sure, but you can get a general sense. Taking this even further, do you think your bosses spouse is nervous communicating to them? Are their kids nervous speaking up around them? How about their close friends? How about their dog?

The source of nervousness.

With a bit of observation, you can see that the source of nervousness in communication always originates from the subject (the communicator), not the object (the audience). This is always the case. If it weren’t the case, everyone coming into the vicinity of the object of nervousness would get nervous! This never happens. Everyone has different reactions to the same circumstances. This makes sense since we all have divergent thinking at any point in time. Since we now know where the disturbance is coming from, what is there to do about it?

Most self-help teachers will offer a variety of techniques to cope with such a situation. At the grossest level, you might learn how to speak with clarity, poise, and confidence through speech coaching. A more nuanced trainer might go deeper, and help you work on your body posture and positioning, as some believe that however the body is positioned, the mind follows. Strong and confident body = a strong and confident mind.

Even more subtle, a mindset coach or psychologist would examine the inner workings of the mind in depth. What do you believe? What is true? What is false? Such an inquiry is predicated on destroying limiting beliefs. All these methods can be useful. However, they all seem to miss the most obvious, powerful and subtle understanding of them all. I already mentioned this understanding. Do you remember it? It’s so simple it’s easy to overlook and forget.

Since your experience is generated from yourself and projected onto the world, it’s no more worth being fearful of it than it is to run out of a movie theater when you see an explosion on the big screen.

What it means to truly know something.

To see this point is genuinely profound. It must soak in beyond a cognitive understanding to a true knowing. When something is known (not just mentally agreed with) everything changes without effort.

So if you are hesitant in communication, the first place to look is not for a solution to the problem, but to the source of the problem. Be willing to see the source in total, without judgment. The mind, when it deeply witnesses its folly, can’t help but laugh and relax. In a deeply relaxed and present state, without much weighing on your mind, you can’t help but be an effective communicator.

Ditch Your Goals. Say Yes To Life Instead.

I’m writing this on New Year’s Eve. As the ball drops tonight, people will be enjoying their final moments of revelry before committing, or recommitting, to whatever goal or wild ambition strikes their fancy. Of late, my goals are more anti-goal than goal. The only thing I’m concerned with is living life in as fully engaged a manner as possible. I’m more concerned with how I’m being in the world than what I’m doing. This approach has worked out well for me, and more to the point, I like that this way of meeting life fully is more objectively valid (more on this later) than chasing a desire that I may not even care about when (and if) I reach a made-up finish line.

So for those who wish to eschew the rest of our ambitious societal norms and not get suckered into goal setting one-upsmanship, what are we to do? After all, it’s been said that “Without a goal, people perish” (I think Jesus said that, or perhaps it was Tony Robbins? 🙂 ). If there is even a hint of a chance of perishing, I would have a hard time, ethically, wishing anyone to abandon their goals and resolutions.

On the other hand, if I saw that for the vast majority of people caught on the hedonic treadmill of modern society, that goals were an obstacle to realizing one’s full potential, it would be incumbent upon me to point out the folly of our ways and do my best to offer an alternative. This is indeed what I believe. So here it goes with an attempt to accomplish these two things: point out the folly and offer an alternative to the treadmill of achievement.

What I’m Up Against

There’s a big chance this topic is a form of career suicide. I’m a coach after all. I’ve written blogs about Goal Setting and even given public talks on the subject. People hire coaches because they want to do stuff, achieve things, be unstoppable, create the impossible, etc. I’m also very good at achieving things. If you give me a BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal), I’ll chase it down, wrestle it to the ground, and either claim victory or try again until I do.

The goal achievement at all cost mindset is reinforced by the billion-dollar personal development industry. What would happen if Tony Robbins told a stadium filled with thousands of salivating growth-seekers “the truth”:

“You really don’t need me to live a great life. Go home, go for a walk, eat a healthy meal, spend time with someone you care about and get a good nights sleep. Do that every day for the next week and see how good you feel. You will realize that you are all intrinsically OK, and that it’s your trying so hard that makes life difficult!”?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of self-help teaching is predicating on creating an intolerable level of pain and dissatisfaction with the present moment and lusting after the pleasures of an imagined future. Pain in the present and reward in the future are the two reagents in a powerful psycho-chemical reaction, sparking powerful motivation to change, pivot, jump, leap and scurry off into action.

The question is, is this fury of activity really necessary, and what is the cost it takes on people (and their families, businesses, etc.)? Even more interesting to ponder, is there a better way to get what we really want and not just gratify the ego?

Goals Gone Wild

Two years ago I created a big goal to double my business. It seemed doable, yet challenging, and very SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and timely). I created a spreadsheet with targets for income and various other success metrics that would serve as beacons out in the future, calling me forward towards continuous and never-ending improvement (CANI as Tony is fond of saying). It all seemed so buttoned up, so clear-cut. It was very motivating. Until it wasn’t.

After two months, I started to feel that something was wrong. I was spending a lot of time having conversations with prospects and trying hard to enroll people who were interested in working with me. I was working more hours than I would have liked, and spending far too much time on video calls. I saw that this path was heading towards a life I didn’t want. I also felt like my business was just fine as it was. I didn’t really need to grow it. I was totally happy and earning enough income to live comfortably. Why strive and be miserable? However, my goal was set. With such a die cast, what was I to do?

In a conversation with my coach, he simply pointed out that pursuing habits and goals can be motivating, but also handcuffs, chaining us to a life that was appropriate at one time, but woefully inadequate later on. I sat with this idea: were my goals serving me or was I serving my goals?

Then it hit me: Were my goals ever serving me?

I knew that I was not alone. Having coached over a hundred leaders and high performers over the past several years, I have seen how inconsequential the achievement (or not) of goals can be when it comes to living a great life and doing remarkably well at work. The marks of distinction in a career often come about through unplanned achievement and capitalization on opportunities. The happiness paradox is also well known, that we don’t know what makes us happy, and trying to pursue satisfaction only pushes it away.

Early in my coaching work, I learned that the greatest moments of achievement for my clients were often things unrelated to their singular goal and purpose for hiring me. The goal was simply a catalyst, a reagent that got them playing fully in life. Sometimes the goal was achieved and was as fulfilling as hoped, more commonly, the truly profound outcome of the coaching was something different altogether.

I’ve had people hire me to find a better job and end up quitting their job at going on sabbatical (and being super happy about it!). I’ve had people hire me to get a promotion and they ended up not getting promoted, but losing a bunch of weight (and feeling amazing) while the promotion lay out of reach (and being very happy about it!). I’ve even had people achieve their goal (say, a promotion to management or a wonderful new job) but feel unfulfilled. This last type of outcome is what I’m least proud of.

Yes, there are plenty of cases where people hire me to achieve goals, do so, and are happy and satisfied about the outcome. However, when you see how the sausage is made, it’s hard to see it any other way: When you know that true satisfaction and happiness are what people ultimately are after, and that these elements are not predicated on achievement of a goal, it completely shifts the nature of how you operate as a coach. After all, the role of a coach is to support people in living a fully satisfied and successful life. Goals can help, but they are more often used as a crutch, avoidance mechanism or distraction.

The real power behind your life’s work isn’t your pursuit of a manufactured goal. It’s something altogether different. I’ll go into that next.

The Antidote

There is something you can do, beyond setting loftier goals and willing yourself to rise to the occasion. It doesn’t take any leaps of faith to adopt this new approach, because like it or not, it’s how your life has been working anyway. After all, how many of the grandest moments and poignant achievements of your life were the product of a well-executed strategy – all laid out and conquered in 6, 17 or N-steps?

Instead, I’d like to offer a counter-punch to the goal-seeking and habit-building hobgoblins. Three counter-punches in fact!

1. Saying YES to life

The opposite of goal seeking is to fully embrace the present state of life. This is a simple thing to do, as there is never nothing going on. There is always something to say “yes” to. By “yes” I mean a metaphorical yes, though in some cases it might be warranted for the words to spill from your mouth (e.g. if someone asks for your help).

The wonderful thing about saying yes to life; you save a tremendous amount of energy without having to fabricate a goal, muster willpower and figure out what to do about it. Instead, you simply connect to what seems like the most appropriate thing to do right now, as life is unfolding, and say yes to that – as emphatically and joyfully as you can.

Saying yes to life implies the surrender of the personal ego – full of its likes, dislikes, attractions, aversions, and whims. Does your boss need you to get that report done today instead of tomorrow? Just do it. A friend asks to borrow your lawnmower? Sure no problem. Feel inspired to run a marathon in 6-months? Great, you can do that too. Just start with whatever needs to happen now to make that happen. Feel exhausted and need to take a nap at 2 in the afternoon? That’s cool, go for it.

Note that saying yes to life doesn’t mean you always say yes…it means you say yes to what the deepest part of yourself is saying at the moment. It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of what to say yes to, but if you just start along the path, you can’t help but figure it out. Your mind thrives on the direct feedback life is designed to provide.

Perhaps the greatest example of what life can be like when surrendered fully is accounted for by Michael Singer in his wonderful book, The Surrender Experiment. Even better, try it out for yourself for a weekend (or a week) and see what happens.

2. Be fully engaged

Who is better off, someone who is haphazardly pursuing a stretch goal or someone with no goal but is fully engaged in whatever life (and work and family and etc.) is showing up with? That’s an easy comparison, so let’s make it trickier. Who is better off, someone who is completely engaged in pursuing a stretch goal or someone who is fully engaged in life as it is (with no explicit goal)?

I’m convinced that the latter approach is superior. In fact, the more audacious the goal is, the less likely it is that someone pursuing it with gusto will actually achieve it and be pleased with the outcome. There is a simple explanation for this, that the best things in life cannot be planned, for they are more due to luck, serendipity and randomness than they are the outcome of any brute force work ethic toward a singular aim. This is a rabbit hole worth exploring, and I’ll be writing more about it in future blog posts.

Being fully engaged simply means asking yourself the question: “Was I fully engaged in my life today?” and being willing to honestly sit with the answer that arises.

3. Explore, don’t achieve

Let’s contrast two humans, identical twins with similar life experience. Both are currently managers at a fast-moving tech firm. Let’s call them Emma the Explorer and Arun the Achiever. Both really want to be outstanding in their careers. Arun is hell-bent on being a VP of Engineering and hacking his mind to be in a peak state all the time. He recently took a Strengthsfinder survey is going to unleash his strengths on his company to achieve his goal 🙂 (can you tell I’m not a fan of these cookie-cutter assessments?).

Emma, however, just wants to try things, learn a lot and make progress by being her best on a day to day basis. Emma has no specific method or technique for achieving her goal.

Who will get further in their career in 5 years?

I’ll put my money on Emma, all of it.

In their little known but groundbreaking book, “Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned,” the authors share insights from their work as Artificial Intelligence research scientists. Their ideas, born from computer simulations and drawing support from close examination of great outcomes in various fields, have a startling implication to those looking to achieve anything truly great. The stepping stones to success are never clear at the outset. Therefore, the best strategies are always those that (1) take on the mindset of an explorer who is willing to try novel solutions and (2) is focused on the next logical step as opposed to a fixation on achieving a distant goal.

It’s an idea worth exploring!

What It’s Like To Be Goal-Less

The highest states of performance are a byproduct of serving the present moment to the utmost. Flow states are often characterized by this condition: heightened awareness and full engagement with, the now. Focusing on a goal takes away energy when the point is to be engaged in the now, doing something that matters now even if the thing that matters now is a preparatory step for something being planned in the future. Yes, even planning can be done in the now. However, the more you get the drift of doing what is needed now, the less planning seems to be required.

Following the stepping stones of life, those next steps (often it is only one) that are visible from your current perch, is a much more effortless journey than trying to force a path through the untamed wilds of your expectations, en route to a made-up future. The question then becomes, what will happen if you follow the signals life is offering, as opposed to your own plans?

There are all kinds of sayings that might give you pause before you give up your goals. You know, the whole “without a vision, people perish” thing I mentioned earlier. There’s also this quote you may have heard – that I’m butchering – “if you aren’t following your own plan, you’ll become part of someone else’s.”

The problem is, neither appears true. Quite the opposite, the most outstanding things I’ve achieved in life only make sense in hindsight. Setting and working hard to achieve a pre-defined goal only served in getting me moving and engaged in the world, whereas my shining accomplishments always would come about through uncertain means. To know that I don’t need a Sword of Damocles – masquerading as a goal – hanging over my head to achieve greatness in life is a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. Even better, to see that even in spite of myself, I can achieve wonderful things adds humor to the mix.


If you’ve read this far you probably fit into one of two camps:


You are feeling some relief at the idea of not having to get on yet another hamster-wheel as you start the new year. Instead, you can do a gut-check for what feels really great to pursue right now. Be present, do what occurs to you to do and let the future take care of itself.


Or, if you haven’t abandoned this article by now, are shaking your heads in disbelief tinged with confusion. If my life is not working the way I want it to work, how can I change it without setting goals? What should I do now? Where will this kind of life lead me?

Let me suggest that your life will carry on just fine, and without the mental noise of feeling the need to be somewhere you aren’t, a deeper and more truer signal will inevitably shine forth. You might even be inspired to follow a calling (in your career) or have a profound vision for the future (for your business) or feel truly inspired to create a shift in your home-life. In all these cases, the next step is always the same, engage at the moment, with whatever action is relevant now.

Time spent dreaming of a far-off goal is time not spent engaging with the reality of the present, connecting with the people currently in your life who warrant your attention, and actively sowing the seeds for the future (whatever that future will be) through your present-moment focused action.

Now I am off to the gym. I have no goal to pursue, but I am inspired to try a few new exercises and lift some heavy objects off the floor.

What do you think? Are goals helpful or harmful (or a bit of both)? Please let me know in the comments below!

Embracing Uncertainty When Every Part Of You Wants Certitude

“Freedom from the known is the essence of intelligence.”

– J. Krishnamurti

How much of your life is a quest for certainty?

Most people are driven by a deep-rooted striving for the reliable, predictable and certain. What if, instead, life was all about expanding your capacity to embrace uncertainty instead of striving for predictability?

This seems like a much better way of living. Life is inherently uncertain. Don’t believe me? Try to predict what you will be thinking in the next 10 minutes or what you will be doing at this time next week!

So much of what happens only makes sense in the rear view mirror.

    • Sitting at the computer terminal at the Lakeside School, how much did Paul and Bill really know about where their hobby would lead
    • Following a chance encounter at Stanford, what did Sergey and Larry expect about their futures? Did they have a SMART Goal??? 🙂
    • Dropping out of college to explore the nature of conscious (i.e., to travel, meditate and take a lot of psychedelics…), did Sam ever imagine the possibility of packing auditoriums around the world, becoming an intellectual rock-star of sorts?

As you look at the current state of your career and life, how much could you have predicted, even just a few years ago? Probably not much.

Why then, are we (and most humans I know) so fixated on being precise about outcomes?

Expectations vs reality

I’m continually amazed and sometimes startled, at the gap between expectations and reality. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, sometimes different and occasionally the same (rarely, but occasionally) – fixation on outcomes, goals, and future-states is a curious natural mode of the mind.

I say ”curious” because we strive for certainty in the future (“certainty” is a cornerstone of human needs psychology), but the world is inherently uncertain. We all can dream and envision. Yet, we all know that our vision is nothing compared to reality.

The same idea applies to work and life. I spent my entire career building visions and plans for new technology products. Yet, even in the midst of helping large teams of engineers rally around a common goal, I knew that the real purpose of any vision or plan was as much to get people working and collaborating together from a common intent, as it was actually to deliver every feature included in the plan.

It’s not that the plans didn’t matter, it’s that the purpose of planning was different than most people thought!

The only thing I could predict about my planning efforts was that things would not go as planned! I also knew that if smart people were working well together, great things would happen.

As a Professional Coach, I now see how fixation on outcomes (without understanding the uncertain nature of the world) is a significant source of stress and can cause us to overlook the innate creative capacity of the mind.

So much cool stuff comes from the “unknown.” As any leader in a growth company will tell you, innovation is the most valuable thing a company does. Innovation is born from uncertainty. A great book, The Click Moment, goes into this theme in detail from a business and innovation standpoint.

Why fight it the uncertain nature of the world? To me, it seems much better to move along with how life actually works than to pretend we can be its master and commander. More importantly, how can we be more comfortable with uncertainty?

The method-less way

To explore this question I recently turned to an interesting book, one of J. Krishnamurti’s works (transcribed from his talks by an editor), Freedom from the Known. Reading J.K. is both frustrating and enlightening. He shoots straight to the heart of what causes psychological suffering – painting a picture of the issues and a promise of how life can be different (and dare I say “better”) with a richer understanding of how the mind (and our reality) works.

Yet, Krishnamurti offers no tools, techniques or methods; emphasizing the utter futility of trying to pierce the veil of thought with more illusory thinking. Not unlike the challenge of understanding the mind as illustrated by Alan Watts (here’s me paraphrasing): “..we are faced with the predicament of trying to pull ourselves up with our own bootstraps. In doing so, we are more likely to end up on our fanny than anything else…”

For someone, such as myself, so interested in understanding the mind and how to cultivate a more productive relationship with it, this is both frustrating, but also fascinating. Not unlike a movie with a cliff-hanger, it creates a sense of interest and curiosity that wouldn’t be present without such an instruction-less finality.

Just like a child tossed into a pool without a life jacket will be more likely to learn how to stay afloat and swim properly….

Without a clear how-to guide for controlling and transcending the mind, we are left with the only thing we ever really have, the results of direct and personal experience at the moment. Without a tool to apply or new habit to build, the mind naturally turns inward, looking and searching for a deeper insight or truth.

I see the incredible value of such an open exploration.

What can we do about it?

However, there are a couple things we can “do.”

First, we can make a choice. We can decide that understanding the truth about how the mind works is of crucial importance no matter what the goal – be that living a great life or being outstanding at work.

Second, we can allow the process to happen naturally and organically. A starting point is to turn our attention away from external life hacks, how-to-guides and trademarked methods for self-discovery; and turn our attention inward, to what we see about the nature of the mind, and what lurks beyond it.

We can start looking for what is really true and what is not. We can yearn more for what we learn from our experience than what a pundit has to say about his or her own experience.

Through experience, we can start to understand that we all live in a world of our thoughts, not the world as it is. We can know this to be a fact, and with this deep understanding, start playing in the world (creating, building, enjoying…and yes – even setting goals!) with a sense of freedom and “okay-ness” that isn’t possible when we approach life from a “goal-achievement-at-all-costs” mindset or in following someone else’s strategy for living and working.


So many of the amazing things I’ve experienced in life were only predictable in hindsight. I’m glad life seems to work well that way, and that something is calling the shots beyond my own thoughts, plans, and schemes.

Heck, I never would have predictive I’d be a Coach, even a few years ago!

As a Coach for leaders and professionals in the Tech Industry, I also see the tremendous value in having a thought partner to work with on this journey into the unknown. Specifically, working with a coach who is willing to allow the time and space for a client to sit with the “unknown” and allow the mind to generate insights naturally about how to live well and do great work.

If you are interested in exploring how coaching can help you in your journey forward, click here to learn more.

Here’s An Easier Way To Solve Your Business And Career Problems

The nature of imagination and the creative insights that smuggle within its flow; is a mystery. Ideas seem to pop up out of the ether. Almost always, thoughts are utter nonsense. Sometimes, that needle pops out of the haystack, and an innocent idea has an “oh my God” quality to it. Lots of noise. Little signal. The good news is, we only need a tiny bit of signal to create breakthroughs and solve world-class problems, so long as we are paying attention.

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How To Climb Learning Curves Quickly With Deliberate Learning

“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”

~ John Dewey, Education Reformer and Psychologist

It’s never been easier to learn. There are MOOCs, meetups, professional organizations and thousands of non-fiction books per month being published. Not to mention all the blogs and podcasts and YouTube videos coming online every day.

We are awash in information, and yet, it seems like we are getting further and further from understanding the things that really matter and digesting the content we are eating. We are sitting at an endless buffet of knowledge and getting heartburn in the process. If only they made Tums for knowledge overload! As a way to cope with the onslaught of new material, a common reaction is to stop consuming so much information, and instead, to move into action mode. Start doing stuff instead of just learning about stuff.

“Don’t consume, create! Don’t think, do!”

This makes common sense. If I want to get better at hammering a nail, I should hammer lots of nails. If I want to get better at writing, I should write a lot. If I want to be a better coach, I should get more coaching hours under my belt. If I want to improve my running ability, I should log those miles.

At work, learning by doing implies that the best way to learn is by identifying something you want to perform better at and selecting projects that employ the use of those skills. It all makes common sense. I do learn better when I am engaged in work, as opposed to just thinking about what is to be done.

The Missing Link

However, learning by doing overlooks a critical aspect of how we are built to learn. And yes, we are built to learn. We wouldn’t have gone from living in caves to flying around in metal tubes in the sky if we weren’t.

We learn reasonably well by doing something time and time again. We don’t, however, become excellent at a task through brute force repetition alone. If I hammer a thousand nails, I might get good at hammering, but I also might get good at shanking the metal and dinging the wood. If I run a thousand miles training for a marathon, I might improve my endurance, but I might just as well engrain an atrocious running form into my body.

Repetition, without reflection, will end badly.

Case Study: Wipro’s Experiment

I stumbled upon a research paper, “Making Experience Count: The Role of Reflection In Individual Learning” while plunging down a rabbit hole on the Internet. I was trying to understand how we learn most effectively. This paper illustrates just how vital reflection is to the learning process. It struck a chord, in part, because it hits on something so simple, but often overlooked, when it comes to how we learn at work (or in any other aspect of life for that matter). The authors contrast the effectiveness of Experiential Learning (learning by doing) with Deliberate Learning (learning by doing with built-in time for thinking and reflection on what’s being done).

One of the experiments cited by the authors was a field study at Wipro, a large business-process outsourcing company. In the study, a group of customer support agents-in-training were assigned to one of two groups: (1) reflection or (2) practice. Both groups went through the same training program, with one key difference. The reflection cohort was instructed to spend the last 15 minutes of their days articulating the main lessons they learned during the day. The practice cohort didn’t reflect, and instead spent the final 15 minutes of their day continuing with other training activities.

At the conclusion of the training period, all trainees were given a knowledge assessment. The cohort that was given 15-minutes to reflect on their lessons learned each day scored 23% higher than the control group. Even more interesting, after graduating from the training program and put into customer service roles, the reflection cohort was found to demonstrate a 19% higher likelihood of getting a “top-rating” by customers.

I can’t think of an easier way to boost performance by a large margin!


One study doesn’t make a rule of law. However, this idea seems to have legs in other domains. As a coach, it is common knowledge that a powerful question to ask clients in concluding a coaching session is one that prompts reflection on insights gleaned and lessons learned.

Personally, I use journaling as a way to reflect on learning from day-to-day. My typical journal entry will include a brain-dump of (1) What happened today? (2) What did I learn? (3) What’s next (based on the lessons learned)?

Most of us work in fields where learning is vital to our relevance on the job. How can we maximize our potential and learning aptitude? It’s clear that learning by doing is only part of the picture. The consolidation and integration of whatever we learn is a vital part of the process. It doesn’t have to take a bunch of effort. 15-minutes seems to do the trick.

The aforementioned study sums things up well:

“Together, our results reveal deliberation to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey” “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”

The Truth About Getting More Out Of Less

What does it take to achieve more? For most of my life, I’ve lived with an underlying assumption that to produce more, I must do more. If I wish to make more money, I must work more. If I want to be better at a sport, I must practice more. If I want to improve the quality of my life, I must try more new things.

Turns out, I was wrong.

The confusing thing is that doing more of something does often produce more significant results. If I’m looking for a new job and speak with ten people I know, and learn about one new opportunity, I might get more opportunities by talking with another 10 or more people. If I lose a few pounds each month by walking 10,000 steps a day, I will probably increase my weight loss by walking 20,000 steps a day…for a while at least.

This fact, that effort tends to yield results – so more effort will lead to even more results – kept me from seeing an even more powerful way to get better results from less. We can take this notion further, and make a bolder claim – that doing less can yield even more results than doing more ever could.

Let me emphasize this again. You can not only achieve the same results with less effort, but you can also produce dramatically more than usual from less output. This seems to be the way the world works, not only in business but in all aspects of life – relationships, finances, health, careers and more.

It’s counter-intuitive but true. Nature agrees. Try micro-managing a potted plant and see how it dies right before your eyes. I’m speaking from experience! Little bits of a few key ingredients are all nature needs to thrive.

Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian polymath, did the groundbreaking research that led to what is now called, the Pareto Principle, and further popularized by the series of best-selling “80 / 20” books by Richard Koch – management consultant turned champion of the “getting more from less” movement.

The 80 / 20 principle states that 80% of the results are a function of 20% of the causes. Conversely, 20% of the results are a function of 80% of the causes. In other words, the highest value causes are 400% as effective as all the other stuff being done. This principle (or more extreme versions of it, like 90 / 10 or 99 /1) show up in almost every part of our world. A vast majority of outputs are a result of a few inputs.

If all you (or your team, your business, your family, etc.) did were focus on the 20% (or less) of high-value causes, you would have the lions share of the results with 80% (or more) of effort and time freed up. Further, if you decided to only “halve” the amount of time and effort spent in total, but focused on the high-value activities, you would more than double your results – with plenty of free time and energy to do other things….or just relax!

It gets even better – the free time and energy aren’t lost opportunities. We all know that creative thinking and problem-solving improve when we aren’t pushing our nose-to-the-grindstone. Insights are inevitable when you have more space and calm time in your days.

Where will those fresh insights and ideas lead you? It’s worth finding out.

1. Which areas of focus – your work, business or lifestyle – would you love to get more results from less effort?
2. For a specific area of focus in your life, what few causes are creating the majority of your results?
3. What are you willing to do less of, for the sake of allowing more space for high-value activities to flourish?

Intuition Is The Military’s Secret Weapon. Shouldn’t It Be Yours?

Mark stopped abruptly. An innate warning commanded him to STOP. Moments later a bullet flew past his skull, so close, he felt the wind brush his hair. This commanding voice, of inner nature, had saved his life.

Mark is no ordinary man. He is Mark Divine, a 20-year veteran and former trainer of the Navy SEALs. His story of life-saving intuition is recounted in his Unbeatable Mind podcast. I was surprised to hear Mark’s sharing of the role intuitive and extrasensory training has had in the shaping of elite fighting forces.

I picture Navy SEALs and commandos as being driven by rationality, logic and strategic planning. The last thing I would expect to learn is that listening to gut feelings and intuition would have any meaningful role in their training. Mark shatters this assumption through his focus on awareness and intuition one of the “five mountains” of his SEALFit training method and in recounting how he was trained as a SEAL.

The military’s secret weapon

Mark Divine is not alone, Navy SEAL Mike Jaco has written a book on the topic called “Intuitive Warrior.” Jaco states, “By fine-tuning my intuition as a Navy SEAL, I was able to predict and avoid attacks to protect myself and my fellow soldiers.

These are not two isolated cases. In 2011, the Navy funded a $4 million and 4-year long study into intuition, and it’s military application, slyly referred to as a study in “sensemaking”. In a job where one wrong step could mean life or death, I can see how greater sense perception can be worth its weight in gold. More than $4 million worth of gold for sure.

This is all about cultivating a broader sense of awareness for what is really happening, both externally and internally, with regards to a human observer. When awareness is broad, more data is captured and bias is removed. With a broader and unbiased data set, intuition can flourish as it flows in the background of our consciousness, making sense of all the data and bubbling up insights and ideas to guide our way forward.

Intuition and sensemaking in daily life

If the armed forces see value in the cultivation of intuitive and sensemaking powers, what is the relevance for those of us who are business owners, students, athletes or merely looking to get along more effectively in life? Let’s explore this idea.

Business owners could benefit from the enhanced understanding of the viability of a deal or investment. Not to mention the massive improvements to the quality of overall decision making.

Students could benefit from a better sense of how to communicate ideas and cross-pollinate thoughts when writing papers, in exams or engaging in class.

Athletes could better tune into and engage with their bodies in motion, the environment and other players on the field.

Working professionals could benefit from massively improved communication, listening and collaboration skills. As leadership can be defined as one’s capacity to communicate and create an engaged following, there is perhaps no superior way to be a stronger leader than to strengthen one’s sensitivity to what’s going on around them.

Improving your intuitive capability

“Intuition is a skill I believe that can be developed. Every one of us has it to some degree, but a lot of times we ignore it, or we deny it,”

Mark Divine, Navy SEAL Veteran, SEALFit Founder.

Step 1: Improving intuitive capacity is no different from improving any other sense or skill. The first step is to become aware that we all can make sense of the world around us in a more profound way. Logic and reason are vital, but never paint the full picture of what is happening around us or within us.

Step 2: The next step is to broaden one’s awareness of surroundings. Mindfulness meditative practice is one way to do it. Mindfulness can be cultivated when moving as well as stationary. Tune into inner signals and outer surroundings. Start noticing smells, sights, sounds, and feelings as you move. Turn off your smartphone and tune into the real world.

Step 3: The last step is to “keep score” of your intuitive signals. That is to say, begin listening to the more profound intuitive sense you already have, and notice what it is telling you. Intuition communicates in ways that are often subtle and feeling oriented (though in the case of Mark Divine, when his life was on the line, his intuitive warning to STOP was clear and abrupt). Are you able to correctly interpret your intuitive signals? Where is it spot-on? Where does it leave you confused? Where is it dead wrong? Keeping a journal of the intuitive signs and insights noticed can help.


Logic and reason are powerful capacities. However, it’s also important to harness latent intuitive power for the sake of making better choices. Intuition is no longer limited to the realms of mystics and seekers. It’s equally relevant to all of us who are looking to make our way in the world with less struggle and more success.

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Think Less, Do Better: The Power Of A Clear Mind

Is an active mind a healthy mind? Most people or think so. However, it turns out that our mind, while powerful, mostly gets in the way of our struggles to live a fulfilled and satisfied life.

In this blog post I’ll discuss a different way of achieving big things in the world, a way predicated on thinking less (not more) and following an unconventional and less mentally taxing route to living up to your full potential.

The Full Potential Of Our Mind

A New York Times article by Dr. Moshe Bar, Professor of Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, cites a curious quality of the mind:

“Many psychologists assume that the mind, left to its own devices, is inclined to follow a well-worn path of familiar associations. But our findings suggest that innovative thinking, not routine ideation, is our default cognitive mode when our minds are clear.”

Note the final part of the statement: “…when our minds are clear.

The jury is out on how many thoughts we have per day. The number 70,000 is tossed about online. It’s undoubtedly well into the thousands if my own experience is correct! It makes sense to me that all this mental noise can cover up the precious signal of insight and wisdom lurking down below.

If our minds are naturally innovative and creative, as Dr. Bar asserts, it’s worth better understanding what keeps us functioning this way most of the time. The impediment seems to be all that mental chatter going on upstairs. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the problem with our thinking.

The Problem With Our Thinking

We live in the feeling of our thinking, not as the world really is. This is true for everyone, all the time. It’s not a bad thing either. Thoughts carry all sorts of ideas and insights in their midst, that help us make our way in the world.

I’m happy that I get to think. It’s how I get to write these words. It’s how I get to plan my trips. It’s how I get to come up with all kinds of exciting games to play and adventures to pursue. You probably feel the same way. Your thoughts aren’t all that bad. In fact, it can feel kind of good to think!

However, what happens when you are stuck in a bad feeling? Someone cuts you off in traffic. Your boss passes you over for a promotion. A competitor beats you. Your cake comes out of the oven looking a little flat. Mental chatter amplifies and with it, a bad feeling arises that seems to last forever.

None of these external circumstances carry an inherently negative quality. The person cutting you off might be a surgeon rushing to save a patient’s life. The competitor might be the better athlete and more deserving. The flat-looking cake might still taste amazing. Still, we feel buffeted about by our feelings about the changing winds of an external world. This doesn’t pose a problem, until, well, we feel that it does.

The brain has a knack for amplifying the negative; therefore, we tend to overemphasize the less-than-positive thoughts which are felt as crummy feelings. We take our perceptions too seriously, instead of seeing them as merely the product of our personal thinking, which varies depending on who is the thinker and which side of the bed they woke up on!

As described by spiritual teacher Sydney Banks, in The Enlightened Gardener:

“Take that rose bush, for example. We are all looking at the same plant, but our perception of it varies according to the way we each think and see. One person may see a vigorous rose, another may see a rose that could benefit from a little pruning, and a third may see a mess that no amount of attention would save. The rose bush isn’t changing; it’s the way we personally perceive it that differs, the way each of us thinks that colors our perception.”

The truth is that it’s not the circumstances that create what we feel, be they positive or negative feelings, it’s our thinking about the circumstances that cast a spell. Spell? You might say it is magic or a curse, depending on the feeling that goes along with the thinking.

I’m spending so much time discussing the nature of our thinking, and how it runs our experience of life since this understanding is fundamental to sorting out how to make our way in the world more fruitfully. If our thoughts get us into trouble more often than not, wouldn’t it be logical to see that thinking less is a promising solution to our predicament?

How To Think Less

Let’s conduct an experiment: Try not to think about a what you are going to eat for your next meal. Don’t think about how good the food will taste, where you will eat it, who you will eat it with or what you will have for dessert!

How successful are you at not thinking about it?

Not very.

What we push away grows stronger. Our thoughts are the same way. It’s not possible to force thinking to stop. I’ve never been able to do it, and I’ve wasted a lot of energy trying!

Instead of trying to eliminate your thinking, you can follow the path set forth by experienced meditators and spiritual seekers. This is a similar path that works wonders for top-performing Executives who are looking to improve their Emotional Intelligence and Elite Athletes who are looking for peak mental performance. It’s all about getting out of your own way. Noticing an obstacle makes it easier to contend with. The obstacle is your nonstop mental chatter.

Notice your thinking, and allow it to move through you. The less you hold on to your thinking, the less the thoughts weigh on you. No judgment. No story. Just let them go, each and every time. It’s a process of letting go vs. trying to do anything actively.

This is where a meditative practice can be invaluable. Dr. Barr, as mentioned earlier, calls meditation one of the few practical tools we have to cultivate a calm and clear mental state:

“It is clear to me that this ancient meditative practice helps free the mind to have richer experiences of the present. Except when you are flying an F–16 aircraft or experiencing extreme fear or having an orgasm, your life leaves too much room for your mind to wander.

As a result, only a small fraction of your mental capacity remains engaged in what is before it, and mind-wandering and ruminations become a tax on the quality of your life. Honing an ability to unburden the load on your mind, be it through meditation or some other practice, can bring with it a wonderfully magnified experience of the world — and, as our study suggests, of your own mind.”

Mindfulness and meditative practice is an art. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You can practice it while walking, eating, writing, working, playing or doing any other activity. While I personally enjoy going for a quiet walk or sitting for 10–20 minutes in silent meditation, you can cultivate whatever practice seems to work for you. I highlight three simple ways to meditate here.

The important thing, is to find a way to notice what is happening in the world, including in your thinking mind (your thoughts are part of the world too!). Allow your thinking to arise and flow through you without ruminating on them or buying into the stories you want to tell about them. Naturally and inevitably, your mind will settle and the benefits of a relaxed cognitive state will be revealed.

What benefits? Try it and see for yourself!


We do our best when we have less on our mind. We are more creative at work, superior athletes on the playing field and feel better overall. What gets in the way is over thinking and attachment to our thoughts.

Thoughts have a purpose, but when we engage in the world, we are best served by being present and connected to what is actually happening, not stuck gazing at the movie theater of our mind.

While we can’t stop our thoughts, we can notice them and remember to observe, but not grasp them. Meditation and mindfulness practices also work wonders. What is revealed through the settling down of the mind is a more creative, innovative and relaxed state that will undoubtedly lead to positive outcomes in many parts of life.

Modern scientific research, such as the work done by Doctors Bar, Goleman, Davidson and others; are starting to uncover these benefits. However, there really is no need to wait for scientific proof to catch up, you can experiment for yourself and experience the benefits if you are willing to try.

Olympic Thoughts on Low Pressure, High Performance

I love the Olympics. It’s inspiring to watch people who have worked their entire lives for a single moment on the world stage. When it comes to performance improvement, these athletes leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of excellence. The best training, coaching, nutrition and of course, mental preparation all have their place.

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How To Have All The Motivation You Need, Right Now

My gym is packed.

You would think there is a doorbuster sale. There isn’t. New Years Resolutions are in full effect. Too bad most will fail. 80% abandon their goals by March. 92% will give up before crossing their finish line.

Are these people insincere, lacking willpower or missing vital tools and techniques? I find that hard to believe. They all seem to care about their health. Why else would they be at a gym during a vacation? It’s a great gym. All the tools to sculpt and tone are readily available. Classes galore, from Barre to Spinning. Skilled trainers too.

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Three Powerful and Simple Ways to Meditate

I first started to meditate, reluctantly, as a little kid. I find that when I have a consistent meditation routine, life seems to be less stressful and more fun. Wondering how to start a meditation practice? In this blog post I will share three simple, yet powerful, meditation techniques.

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8 Things To Know Before Attending Tony Robbins Date With Destiny In 2019

tony robbins date with destiny

If you have seen Tony Robbins epic documentary “I Am Not Your Guru” on Netflix, you have witnessed the amazing transformations that can occur through Tony Robbins Date With Destiny program. This weeklong event is designed to compress decades of personal growth into days.

It delivers on that promise.

I’ve been fortunate to attend Date With Destiny, not once, but twice. The second time I brought my wife along. She didn’t know who Tony was when we signed up, and after spending a week with him, she was just as impressed as I was.

I don’t know what is drawing you to look into Date With Destiny, but whatever it is, all I can say is that the program delivers!

I also know some tips will help you to get the most out of your experience. That is what this post is going to explain. I’d like to share some things you would benefit from knowing if you are attending - or even considering attending - Date With Destiny. Nothing here is classified or confidential. They are just my helpful thoughts to support you in getting the most out of the experience.

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How To Make Effortless Decisions That Will Propel Your Career and Life

decision making analysis paralysis

What decisions have had the biggest impact on your life?

In my life, there are a few that stand out. Where to go to college. Taking a job in tech instead of consulting or banking. Moving to Seattle. Getting married. Quitting my job to travel the world. Starting my business. Moving to Colorado.

When you think about your major life decisions, what was it like making those choices?

Was it hard? Was it easy?

Did you weight the pros and cons or just go with your gut instinct?

Every day we are making choices. Some seem big, and some seem small. Decisions can be exciting, but also a drain on energy and source of stress.

In this post, we will get to the heart of what decision-making really is, and find a way to make them less stressful and more effortless. I’ll specifically focus on two big mistakes we make. These errors keep us stuck and limit our potential.

If our destiny is shaped by our choices, moving towards free-flowing decisions (and away from analysis paralysis) is a crucial step to take.

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