The Night the Drums Began to Play

“I wanna go to the park! I wanna go to the park! Why can’t we go to the park?”

Life as we knew it ended on March 15th of last year. At least it did here in Spain. It was the first day of forty that my two kids didn’t see a blade of grass. It’s hard to believe my youngest has lived close to half his life inside this mess.

I’ve been trying to think about what was going through my head that day. I’m guessing it wasn’t very good. Probably something about how I was gonna survive being locked inside a small apartment with two young kids. We played Uno. I remember that for sure. The times we lose are harder to forget.

“The world’s comin’ to an end!
We might as well play some cards!”

It was raining that first day. I remember that too. The days were getting longer. But it wasn’t quite Spring. I remember that because it was dark that night at 8 o’clock when the drums began to play.

It started with my neighbor. Banging his kit and blowing his whistle on his terrace just like he does with the band he leads during street festivals. Funny seeing him out there drummin’ hard into the steady rain. He was lit up for sure. Hand-rolled cigarette dangling out one side of his mouth. Shit-eating grin creeping outta the other. While people were busy hoarding toilet paper, I saw Migue over the weekend with a shopping cart in the elevator stacked with plastic bottles of rum and cases of the Bud Light of Spain. Quirky guy. But smart. As long as you have running water you can always keep your ass clean. But it’s tougher to make booze.

“The world’s comin’ to an end!
We might as well load up on double-ply!”

But I wasn’t thinking about that when the drums began to play. Because once Migue found his beat, the whole town joined in. We couldn’t make out many faces. But we knew they were there. Some were banging pots. Others hitting pans. Some even blew those damn annoying things you see at South American football matches that sound like a make-shift bomb just exploded. I remember that because as soon as the first one went off our youngest began to cry.

“The world’s comin’ to an end!
We might as well scare the shit outta people!”

But that didn’t last too long. It was my neighbor’s drum solo that moved everyone to stop. I don’t think he came up for air for a good four minutes. He was in a zone. Totally outta body. I think he must’ve blacked out. He doesn’t handle the 34 steps in our apartment building too well when the elevator’s out. But he sure has stamina when it comes to beatin’ a drum. The magical power of the Bud Light of Spain.

“The world’s comin’ to an end!
We might as well drink cheap!”

I don’t remember much from that first day. But I do remember those ten minutes. Or at least how I want to remember those ten minutes. It was supposed to be a thank you to the people working in hospitals. That first night, though, was for all of us. Catalans. Moroccans. Chinese. Americans. Poles. For a moment, we were all the same. Neighbors making art. The making of music once again bringin’ people together. We all cheered when Migue’s solo was done. Said goodnight to each other. Waved to each other when the sun came up. Smiled even. “Necesitas algo? Are you doing okay?”

“The world’s comin’ to an end!
We might as well see if we can help each other!”

The next few days the numbers got bigger. Over the next few weeks, we learned first-hand they’re not as scary as the small ones. It’s the small numbers that hurt. It’s the small numbers that we’ll remember. Nine is our number. Family friends. Parents of neighbors. Friends of friends. Burly men shaking uncontrollably in empty garages because they couldn’t say goodbye to their moms. How unnatural it felt to stop ourselves from giving them something as natural as a hug. We made a lot of phone calls those first days. I’m thinking about the people I first reached out to. Those that took the time to reach out to me. A dozen people. Family. Friends.

They’re the ones worth holding on to.

They’re the ones that matter.

I’m beginning to forget all the details of those first few days. But I still see flashes. Phone calls. Uno. Waving at neighbors. The Bud Light of Spain. Glasses of water. Blacked out drum solos.

“The world’s coming to an end!
We might as well look for moments of beauty inside the chaos!”


Thank you for reading.
My very best to you and yours.
Michael

The Clearest Path to Happiness Is Right in Front of You

“Marc! Marc! Por fin!”

I’d heard stories about Marc and we’d exchanged a few letters over the years, but we’d never met in person. While his youngest sister and I were falling in love in Barcelona, he was partaking in a three-year Buddhist retreat in the remote hills of central France.

Before I could turn my head to see where my mother-in-law was screaming to get my first glimpse of the man I’d heard so much about, my wife and her family made a mad dash towards him. Seconds later, Marc disappeared out of sight again. Only this time, instead of being lost in a stream of flowing maroon and gold robes, he was inside a Catalan sandwich stacked thick with hugs and tears.

“Hello!” I looked up and saw him standing over me moments later. “Sorry if my English is rusted,” he said with a wink. “It’s good to finally meet you.”

I followed Marc as he etched his way around the crowd to grab a coffee. “I don’t understand this,” he said. “I haven’t seen people in three years and our final ceremony rivals the crowd at Barcelona versus Madrid!”

My wife told me girls used to go crazy for him. I immediately understood why. He looked like every actor I can’t remember the name of. High cheekbones. Perfectly kept unkempt beard. Piercing eyes. But what I wasn’t expecting was his sense of humor. The guy was cool.

“I gotta know something,” I said after we found a seat. “I think I know where this is headed,” he shot back.

“For the last three years, you’ve been up here with 20 other guys, cut off from the rest of civilization, living in an area no larger than a basketball court. Laia told me why you decided to come here and I understand that. But what I don’t get is how you’ve been able to stay sane?”

“It’s not that bad,” he replied with a laugh. “But don’t get me wrong, I seriously questioned my decision in the first few months. But around the 90-day mark, I experienced a shift. I stopped worrying so much about myself and what I wanted to do and I started to think about how I could connect with the people around me and make a contribution to better this community.”

After a long pause that I’m glad I didn’t interrupt, he concluded by saying, “My life used to be complicated. But now it’s pretty simple. Happiness is found in doing what you can to make the lives of the people around you a little bit better. At least, that’s my take.”

I was once told that it’s not what we collect that matters, but rather what we choose to keep. The conversation above — passed down over a lousy cup of coffee on a drizzly day in France — is one of the lessons I plan to carry with me.

Most people wake up each day and think about what they need to do. Deadlines. To-do lists. And a bunch of other stress-inducing things in our endless pursuit of crushing our goals.

People like Marc, however, serve as a reminder that waking up each day and asking yourself how you can best help the people around us is potentially an easier option. A more effective one.

Think about the happy people around you. Who’s truly smiling? Who’s really laughing? Who actually sleeps well at night?

Sure, some may take a magic pill while others spend their Sundays rolling around on top of their invisible bitcoin stash. I’d be willing to bet, however, that 9 out of the 10 happy people you know, lead pretty normal lives — dare I say it, even average ones.

The big secret that these people share isn’t a secret at all — they’ve just realized there’s more to life than themselves.

The person to the right of you. The one on the left. Forwards. And behind. When people are old and grey, when asked what matters most, it’s not a coincidence the names of the people in their lives is the first thing they say.

Chase after your goals. Button your to-do list up nice and tight. Just don’t forget to also lift up your head and identify ways to make the lives of the people around you a little better.

Words of encouragement.

Looking after your neighbor.

Asking if you can lend a hand.

We all have different definitions for the word “success.” But no matter how you define it, it loses serious power if you aren’t doing what you can to make sure the people you love, love you back.

“If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.

If you want happiness for a day — go fishing.

If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.

If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.”

— Chinese proverb

Marc’s no longer a monk. The same day I met him he locked eyes with a woman who was leaving her own retreat. Months later, they started sending each other postcards.

They don’t make much money. They share a beat-up car. Their rented house is small. He tends to the finances of the monastery when needed while they both do odd jobs around town with people they like who like them.

Marc’s initial reason for going to the retreat was to find inner-contentment. He found what he was looking for but not in the way he imagined. He won the inner-game by looking at how he could help his immediate world.

Rumor has it he gives his girlfriend a massage every single night. Each morning, he sends us photos of the sunrise over the French countryside. He makes simple yet seriously delicious soups for his friends.

Some people would call this a mediocre existence. The older I get, the more I think it’s extraordinary.

While everyone’s running towards every ding and piece of bling, Marc’s walking slowly in the direction where he’s needed — which has made him not only the coolest person I know, but also the happiest.

Every ‘Rule for Life’ Is Worthless If You Don’t Master This One

“We gotta get moving!”

I woke up to find my dad standing over me. My bedroom was dark. 6 AM. My groggy eyes could only make out his silhouette. But it was clear he was ready to go. His backpack leaning against the door.

“Give me five minutes,” I grumbled before slowly making my way to the shower. “Can you heat up a coffee?”

A decade has passed since that encounter.

Despite my bad memory, I can see every detail of our subsequent steps.

This is because what I witnessed that morning forever changed my life and my definition of how to live a good one.

From “work” at least. Being that he spent thirty years traversing the globe in the Air Force and another twenty years teaching military strategy, rather than kick-back in a Lazy-Boy and enjoy his spoils, he wanted to spend his third act much like his second act — emersed in adventure.

For two years leading up to his retirement, he became a hiking machine. Every day before work, he’d kick the dirt in Central Pennsylvania logging a dozen miles before breakfast.

His goal: the moment his retirement was made official, he’d hop on a plane to visit me and my wife in Barcelona and then head North to spend a month on his own walking the “Camino de Santiago.”

I love hearing the stories he collected on his adventure.

Asking police officers where to find his hostel after one too many glasses of wine only for them to point to the sign above their heads that read “Hostel.” Getting lost and then found by an ex-bullfighter a few miles outside of Leon who treated him like royalty. The pictures he’d send once a week when he could find an internet cafe of him camping alone in the rain. The food he ate. The people he met. Especially a Scandanavian couple who has one of the greatest love stories ever known.

But out of all the tales he told once his walk was done, the one that hit me the hardest took place before his adventure had truly begun.

Intense. I could tell he was nervous as we made our way to catch his first train of many towards Saint Jean Pied de Port, a town in France that many say marks the true beginning of the Camino. Unlike me who babbles in the face of uncertainty, my dad does the opposite. Soldier mode. He holds it in.

“You alright?” I asked, sensing his nerves.

“Yup,” he nodded.

The time had arrived. The train was coming. And as soon as it stopped and the doors opened, my dad grabbed my shoulder, looked me dead in the eyes, and said—“This is the most scared I’ve ever been” — and then without hesitation, he got on the train.

I stood there paralyzed as early morning commuters rushed past me.

“The most scared I’ve ever been?” I said to myself.

“How could this be?”

My dad’s the kind of guy who’s six-foot-five when you close your eyes but five-eleven when you open them. Vietnam. Pakistan. Eastern Europe during the Cold War. Throughout his career, he learned how to make brave his baseline. Navigating hot zones during some of the world’s most trying times.

Between this and living through cancer at an early age and all the twists and turns life has brought his way, I struggled to make sense of what was so scary about Spain.

But the longer I stood on the platform, the more I began to get it.

Retiring on its own has to be terrifying. Some people look forward to it. People like my dad though, have zero interest in moving to Florida.

He was starting a new chapter.

No friends were waiting. He didn’t speak the language. Nor did he have any reservations. A 73-year-old American making his way through two foreign countries with a backpack and a tent.

I love the idea that to confidently take his next life steps, he chose to get lost.

I love the idea that no matter how scared he was he never once doubted his decision.

I love the fact that choosing to come to Spain and get on that train was his quiet way of saying — “I’m just getting started.”

While it’s long for others.

To buck the former and be a latter, save your words and speak with your actions.

At that moment, my dad taught me that it’s up to us to make our own green lights in life no matter how scared we are.

His time on the Camino was far from perfect. It rained for days on end. He twisted his ankle alone while climbing a mountain. He made wrong turns that led to places that didn’t show up on the map.

All of those imperfections he experienced though are his favorite stories today.

That’s what happens when you develop the “get on the damn train” mindset.

You learn to smile at trouble.

And you also learn that the best way to laugh tomorrow is by facing your fears today.

Be bold in the moments that matter.

All the other ‘rules for life,’ are worthless without it.

As my dad would say, “Our lives are defined by the times we put our fears aside and get on the damn train anyway!”


Thanks for reading.
— Michael

If You Aren’t Screwing Up, You’re Aiming Too Low

“Thank you, I really appreciate the opportunity.”

And with that, I said goodbye, hung up the phone, patted myself on the back for being the most talented person in my empty room, and then proceeded to dive head-first into self-destructive mode imagining all the different ways I could screw up an opportunity that was a month away.

Over the last two decades, I’ve worked across three continents in half a dozen different sectors. The circumstances changed. So did the titles. But no matter the stakes, from starting my own company to publishing a simple article, my baseline is terrified.

For whatever reason, I thought life would get easier the longer I lived it.

Like most people, I’ve had some hard falls. I’ve been laughed at. I know what it’s like to lose a boatload of money. Despite the bumps, bruises, and times I’ve felt like I was bleeding out, over the last twenty years my overall confidence has consistently been trending up.

I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.

I’m proud that I’ve moved from a shy, stuttering kid to a shy, and at times, still stuttering mostly functional member of society who makes a living in the world of sales, entrepreneurship, and coaching.

I’m proud of the fact I’ve made my obstacle my way.

I know I should change my framing from nervous to excited like all those professional athletes do during interviews. I’ve tried. It sticks sometimes. Other times, not so much.

I’m not a professional athlete. No matter the accolades or recognition, at times, I still don’t feel very professional at all.

Recently, however, I’ve begun to give myself a bit of a break. I’ve realized I don’t ever want to not feel scared, or nervous, or terrified when starting something new.

It would mean I’m aiming too low.

It would mean I’m not putting myself in a position to grow.

It would mean I don’t care as much as I used to.

I don’t know much. But one of the few things I know for certain is I don’t ever want to do something that makes me “care” less.

Caring is king.

Not content like some copywriters say and not community as some community builders imply. If you look under the hood, caring has always worn the crown and reigned supreme.

Hopefully, it always will.

It’s the source of all good art.

It’s the foundation of all great communities.

And if nerves and self-doubt are a part of it, so be it as it’s all part of the journey.

Everything I love today hurt in the beginning. Nothing worth having comes cheap.

The day I met my wife, it wasn’t my top-notch or alpha delivery of a presentation seminar I gave at her office that sparked the attraction. A decade ago, I had no idea what I was doing.

I’d just moved to Barcelona and I was struggling to make ends meet. She thought my story was interesting. I made a load of what I considered mistakes. She liked the fact that I was willing to put myself out into the world.

A very solid argument can be made that bold yet vulnerable is the ultimate combination.

I wasn’t good at sales when starting out. Some people didn’t accept me. A lot of people rejected me. Despite this, I kept at it. Over time, the right people began to notice.

But this wasn’t because they could see my potential of one day being the smartest, fastest, or most talented or charismatic person in the room.

It was because — cliché or not — they could see that I cared deeply about growing.

Think about your accomplishments.

Think about how far you’ve already come.

Think about the times you’ve learned the most.

Sure, some of these experiences may have gone off without a hitch. But I’d be willing to bet a high majority were hard. You had daily spills. You cleaned yourself up. You took what you learned while lying on the ground and got to work again.

Contrary to popular opinion or viral tweets, success isn’t standing up after massive failures. For the massive failures, more times than not, the biggest lesson we learn is not to do that again.

Success simply comes from those who have the guts to collect and learn from their daily mistakes.

It may not be in the descriptions, but our primary job is to be cool with falling down as it’s the fastest way to level up. And the best part about this is most people don’t even care if you make a mistake. They’re too busy worrying about their own problems and nerves. If they do laugh, good, it’s a solid way to weed the wrong people out.

The past few months I’ve been asked to get involved with various projects that I initially deemed as over my head.

The people in all of these situations are smart. I’m terrified of this. They’ve done big things.

But it’s because of this fear — not despite it— that I know I’ll be fine.

Go out into the world.

Be scared.

Nerves are a sign you care.

Lean into that.

It’s hard to grow if you don’t put yourself in situations that make you question your confidence.

You need to aim high enough that your legs shake a little.

Good things come to those who are willing to open themselves up to being bad to one day get better.


Thank you for reading.
My best to you and yours.
— Michael

How to Get on the Radar of People You Admire

I’ve never found a “hack” for success more effective than this one, a piece of advice I used to hear all the time from my dad: The best way to get what you want is by getting to know the people who already have it.

It’s advice I’ve relied on throughout my career. Over the years, I’ve reached out to well over 200 people doing things I thought were cool, requesting a chance to speak with them. Only three people have declined my invitation to talk. (Well, technically four — Oprah never got back to me.) This practice of cold-emailing has helped me build a professional tribe that has become a place for support, connection, and more opportunities than I ever thought possible.

At a time when everyone is dealing with a lot, the ability to craft an email that not only gets read, but gets a positive response, is an increasingly valuable skill. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to do it well.

If I learned anything from my experience of reaching out to strangers, it’s that the world is full of incredibly talented people who can help you grow. You don’t need Oprah, Bill Gates, Tim Ferriss or any other high-profile figure who will definitely never see your request to “put some time on their calendar.” Start smart by identifying friends of friends who are doing cool things.

Don’t limit your list to people who are in your exact field, either. Breakthroughs often come when you surround yourself with people who view things through a different lens.

After you’ve made a list of people to reach out to, it’s time to craft your email. The subject line “Friend of [mutual friend’s name]” is a solid option, but it’s not the only one. In one experiment, the entrepreneur and author Shane Snow found that simple subject lines like “Quick question” net strong results when you’re reaching out to new people. (Marketers, however, are starting to use this subject line more often, so its effectiveness may be waning.)

When I first started becoming more serious about my writing, the speaker and entrepreneur Conor Neill gave me this advice: When drafting an article, write at the top of the page: “After reading this, I want the reader to ________?” He told me to use this question as my North Star to guide my writing.

You can apply this same strategy to writing your email. Have one clear agenda, even if it’s simply to try to get them on a call so you can learn more about them. Make sure your goal is clear so the message you send supports exactly what you are looking to accomplish.

One of the oldest principles in marketing is the Rule of 7, which states that a prospective customer needs to be exposed to an advertiser’s message seven times before they will take action. This doesn’t mean that if you send an email and don’t get a response, you should follow up six more times (please don’t do that). But it does mean that a person will be more open to an email from you if they’re somewhat familiar with your name.

Play with ways to get your name in front of them before making that initial direct contact. Sharing their work on social media is one way to do this. If you have a blog, you can write a post that mentions how their work has positively affected you and then tag them on Twitter, thanking them for the inspiration. Get creative. Just don’t do too many things at once, too close together, or you risk turning them off.

Successful people get a lot of fan mail and requests to chat. To help your email stand out, make it clear that you’ve been following their work for a while (instead of just gushing over the latest thing that went viral) and that it has impacted you in a specific way. You can use the formula: “Thanks to your work doing X, I’ve been able to accomplish Y.”

I like to pull out a small detail from their work that has made my life easier. For instance, I’ve always admired the energy and sense of humor that Noah Kagan, the founder of AppSumo, brings to his work. But instead of giving him this generic message, I recently let him know I was writing an article about something he had mentioned in passing on a podcast — his “Holy Shit Jar” — and asked him how I could best link to his work. We didn’t automatically become best friends after that, but we do have plans to talk.

To really forge a connection, it’s important to let the person know that building a relationship with you would be mutually beneficial. Maybe that person is writing a book and you can be a part of their launch team. Or perhaps they’re starting a business and your work as a designer can help them to create a more persuasive website. One of the best habits you can form is to ask yourself every day how you can make the lives of the people around you better.

This advice isn’t foolproof — some people are busy, while others may not be prioritizing meeting new people at the moment. But keep at it. When you grow your network, you expand your world.


Thank you for reading.
— Michael

The 7 Emails You Should Send Every Week to Get Ahead in Your Career

Most people see email as a strictly transactional tool, using it only when they need something or owe someone something. That’s exactly why you should use it to stand out.

Taking a moment to send these seven emails every week can help you strengthen your connections, stay top of mind as opportunities come up, and learn about industry trends. (Slack messages and texts also work, but I’m into email because most people have their inboxes open all day anyway.) None of these messages should take more than five minutes to write, but each of them will go a long way in helping to advance your career.

Imagine opening your inbox after lunch and seeing, sandwiched between a coupon from the local pizza place and a message from an acquaintance asking if you could tweet their new article/contest/course, an email with the simple subject line: “Thank you.” Now imagine how much those two words could improve your day.

People love to feel appreciated. Instead of worrying about all the things you need to do in the morning, take a moment to thank someone for what they do for you. “Thanks for all your support during that last big project” or “I’m so glad we get to work together. Thanks for being my sounding board” is all you need to say to make an impact.

The fastest way to get what you want is to get to know the people who already have it. Send a message to someone a step or two further ahead in their career and let them know how their work has impacted you. I like to use the formula: “Thanks to your work doing X, I’ve been able to accomplish Y.”

I’ve been sending cold emails every week for the past three years, and many of those messages have led to great phone calls, which in turn have led to close relationships and interesting opportunities. Amazing things happen when people we admire turn into friends.

Earlier in my career, Conor Neill, a leadership expert and the person I admire most in the business world, would send me short messages telling me that he was following my work and that I was progressing. The fact that he’d take the time to do that meant the world to me.

There’s something magical about someone you don’t know very well showing interest in you. Often, it’s even more validating than when a friend encourages you, because they really don’t have to do it. One sentence can impact someone for a lifetime. Neill taught me to always lift as you climb.

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes that when it comes to learning about new opportunities, “weak ties” trump “strong ties.” This is because people who run in different circles than you are exposed to different ideas, whereas people we see on a regular basis tend to have similar conversations.

Reach out to someone you recently met during a training session or through a mutual friend. See if they’re up for a chat. We all need more eyes looking out for us.

Starting a weekly boring email chain with a few of my buddies from high school has vastly improved my quarantine experience — I realized the easiest way to have friends right now is to keep up with my old ones. The same is true for maintaining a professional network.

It’s harder to network with new people, so why not use your energy to check in on the people you used to work with? It’s a good way to learn about what’s going on in your industry.

Save your boss from having to make rounds before the weekend. Tell them what you’ve got going on: “Here’s where we stand regarding W, X, Y so far this week. I’m focusing on Z tomorrow. But if there’s something that needs to be pushed, let me know.” It will help you understand your priorities and show that you’re organized.

When I talked to Melody Wilding, LMSW, the author of Trust Yourself, she suggested I send myself a Friday afternoon message with a run-down of the week. Try it: Write down your wins, a few things you learned, and any idea that made your week a successful one. It’s a simple exercise, but it really helps you transition out of work mode and realize that what you’ve done is enough.


Thank you for reading.
My best to you and yours.
Michael

How to Quietly Get People’s Attention in a Noisy World

“I’ve arrived!” the young Hungarian announced to an audience of none. The year was 1921. The place was San Francisco. He’d been traveling for days, but instead of looking for a place to rest, the man had one last thing to do.

“Excuse me ma’am!” he politely said to an elderly woman. “Would you be so kind as to tell me which building houses the city press?”

“You can’t miss it!” the woman replied while pointing straight ahead. “It’s that building right there with all the flags hanging from it.”

After giving the woman a hat tip to show his appreciation, the young man made the short walk down the street. Then, he checked into the hotel directly in front of the building that housed the press, lugged his bags up seven flights of stairs, traded in his dusty clothes for a tattered straitjacket, and promptly threw himself out his hotel window.

As you can well imagine, the man’s antics sent shockwaves throughout the city. The next night, thanks to neighbors talking to neighbors and a building full of journalists reporting their first-hand account of how the man had officially arrived, the young traveler performed more magic tricks. But this time to a sold-out crowd.

One hundred years ago, Harry Houdini had to jump out of windows to get people’s attention. If that’s not your style and you’re more like me and prefer drawing attention to yourself without drawing attention to yourself, give the six ways below a shot.

“Want to stand out on Linkedin? Don’t talk about work!”

My buddy’s advice was a real lightbulb moment for me. As a result, instead of having “founder” or “content creator” splashed all over my social media profiles like every other Tom, Dick, and Veronica, I have the words — “Co-creator of two cool little boys with an equally cool woman.”

I’ve written over 250 1,000+ word articles online. Some of which have done pretty well. Even still, those simple eleven words have led to more coaching clients and comments than all of those articles put together except for one — which also happened to not mention I was a coach.

Play with your messaging. Look for a small way to differentiate yourself. If you don’t think you’re very good at it, contract someone to teach you the ropes.

This may have been a horrible fourteen months and the online world has indeed become a massive blur.

But we still live in an amazing time.

One simple, well-placed sentence has the potential to attract thousands.

Keynote business speaker Peter Shankman recently sent out an email that housed a wonderful piece of advice.

A few days prior, he’d been invited to join a tight-knit community. But there was one glaring problem: the invitation was for an all-women’s group. And Peter, as his name implies, is not a woman.

“Be brilliant at the basics.” Peter went on to write in his message. “Get the little things right, and win at the big things. It’s that simple!”

I couldn’t agree more with this. At least once a week I get an email from someone in South Florida asking me if I’m interested in writing about the booming real estate market. I’ve never written about real estate. Except for the time I shared a story about losing my house so I may not be the best person to listen to when it comes to that type of investing. Throw in the fact that a surprising number of these people refer to me as Matt instead of Michael and color me turned off.

Everyone today is moving fast. “I’m gonna get mine!” they shout. If you wanna stand out, do the opposite by moving slowly to ensure each step you take is the right one.

This is particularly true when other people are involved.

Building a reputation for not wasting other people’s time is a seriously underrated quality.

Author and mega-popular podcast host, Tim Ferriss, has shared some pretty solid thoughts and ideas during his career. But none are more important than the following — “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

A lot of people have a tendency to shy away from hard conversations. If you want your work to stand out, a solid piece of advice is to not do what a lot of people do.

Be proactive in getting in front of critiques. Surround yourself with people who will give it to you straight. Position yourself as someone who does the same for others.

Sure, it may sting a bit as growth doesn’t come cheap. But over time, you’ll not only improve faster than the people around you, but the right people will also begin to notice.

Good things come to those who care more about getting things right than always being right.

I hate the advice of putting on our own oxygen mask first. I don’t know about you, but when life gets ugly, I want to be surrounded by those who prioritize the people around them and I’d be willing to bet you do too.

Whenever you get bad news, instead of going into self-protection mode or flipping out like a lot of people do, take a moment to ask each person involved if they’re doing okay. Then train yourself to ask this extremely valuable question — “What’s the first right step we can take?”

You can still go outside and scream afterward if you need to. But do those two things first.

A lot of people prioritize charisma.

A lot of people are also drawn to those who have the self-discipline to be a calming influence and forward thinker when other people are in hysterics.

“Being honest about the existence of a small blemish can enhance your offerings true beauty.” I love this thought from Daniel Pink, the author of “To Sell Is Human.”

Except the rule doesn’t only apply to sales. It also applies to us as human beings.

I stutter. I’m also a communication coach. Some people immediately write me off because of this. That’s fine by me as I’m not trying to attract some people — I’m trying to attract the right people. Those who understand the person who came in sixth but looks like he doesn’t belong in the same pool as Michael Phelps can probably teach you a great deal.

We all have shortcomings. Lean into yours. Don’t hide. Never apologize.

People are seriously drawn to those who chose to make their obstacles their way.

I was once told that the moment you step into a leadership position your personal career dies as your only job is to make sure the people around you rise.

I work with a lot of young people who are moving fast. Without a doubt, the number one reason some of them begin to slow down is once they get a taste of success, instead of being helpful — the very quality that led to their career speed — they treat their own agenda as their only agenda.

If you want to get people’s attention, be persistently generous. Make out on-a-limb recommendations to people who show promise. Keep your eye on how people are improving. Don’t be stingy with your compliments and give credit where credit is due. Keep a to-do list of what other people are doing if it helps you to stick to the habit.

The older you get, the more you’ll begin to realize caring is the defining trait of the truly cool.

How to Make Friends as an Adult

The two men waiting outside my apartment were an unlikely duo. Ishmael, the leader of the two, was a former cop, while his side-kick, Ventura, had the look and laugh of a seasoned criminal.

“Come on up,” I yelled through the intercom. “The front door’s open.” Then, as if I was preparing for a first date, I gave myself one last look in the mirror before making sure the coffee I’d made and the chocolate croissants I’d bought were arranged perfectly on my kitchen table.

Normally, I wouldn’t have gone to such extremes to accommodate a couple of guys I’d contracted to renovate the bathrooms in the apartment my wife and I had bought a few months prior. Being that we’d just moved to a new town in Spain though — and I was working from home and hadn’t yet met many new people—their non-stop banter over the preceding weeks had become a welcome reprieve from my normally lonely workdays.

But the moment Ishmael handed me the invoice and we said our goodbyes, a deep sadness washed over me. “Is this what it’s come down to?” I wondered to myself. “Is this what happens when you decide to work fully remote? You get excited about paying two handymen to install a new toilet in order to get a dose of human connection?”

At that very moment, I knew something needed to change.

If I was going to make my new town feel like home, I’d have to get off my ass and make some new friends — or at least a few that didn’t charge me for their time.

Fortunately, this wasn’t the first instance where I’ve had this revelation. As a constant-mover who’s lived across three continents and in nine different cities or towns over the last two decades, I’ve become pretty good at quickly making friends in new places.

In fact, despite growing up painfully shy with a debilitating stutter, making connections both online and off is a big part of my job—to the tune where I just wrapped up a manuscript on this very topic for my book publisher.

If you’re like me and believe life is best when shared, here are some tips and tactics I’ve picked up on my journey that may help you on your own.

I recently read an article about someone challenging themselves to talk to one stranger a day for a month. I’ve got nothing against doing this as it has done wonders for some of my friends. But it’s not for me. Instead of potentially pushing myself onto someone, I prefer to put myself in a position that pulls people into my world.

For example, rather than going directly to other parents at my kid’s school to strike up a conversation, shortly after moving to my new town, I began playing daily football (soccer) games with my two boys and their classmates in our local park. In the span of a month, despite all the other parents initially sitting on park benches staring at their phones, two dads joined in.

A year later, one of those guys is my closest friend here, while the other is my bi-weekly running partner. On top of this, countless parents have come up to me after the games to say hi. Each morning after dropping my kids off at school, I make a point to continue the conversation with a few of them — a handful of whom have moved past mere acquaintances to become my weekly hiking partners.

Maybe you don’t have kids. Or maybe you don’t like football. But think about ways to get yourself in front of people on your own terms while doing something you enjoy.

This one simple act of getting on the field instead of sitting on the sidelines has done more for my social life than just about any other thing I’ve done.

When my wife moved from her hometown at the base of the Pyrenees to Barcelona, she took an introduction to belly-dancing class as a way to meet people. Even though she initially felt ridiculous, she quickly learned she wasn’t alone. After each class, she and the other women bonded over how uncomfortable they felt over drinks at the bar next store to the academy.

When we try new things, we often feel out of place — like we’re the only ones who are experiencing feelings of self-doubt or flat-out embarrassment.

But this is rarely the case.

This is for the simple fact that other people are also trying something new and are most likely filled with these same feelings.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to do or learn more about but haven’t made it a priority? Maybe it’s taking up yoga? Or learning a new language?

Being brave enough to put yourself out into the world and having the stones to laugh at yourself and admit you don’t have all the right moves in these circumstances, has a funny way of attracting the right people to you.

The first day at my kid’s school I saw this guy bouncing around saying hello to just about every parent around. I assumed he was born and raised in the town, but to my surprise, he and his family had just moved here as well.

When the two of us eventually crossed paths one day at a cafe, I asked him how he learned to work crowds like Obama. “The first thing I did when I moved here was I volunteered to be a part of the parent’s association at school,” he replied. “In a matter of a few weeks, I’d met not only the other volunteers but also their partners.”

Since that encounter, a few days a week, after dropping off my kids and his eldest daughter at school, I walk with him and his youngest daughter to her pre-school. Most mornings though, we aren’t alone as being that the guy is a magnet, other parents have joined in making it easy for me to get to know them.

We often overestimate how hard it is to make friends while underestimating how impactful focusing on making one new friend can be.

Hitching yourself to a community insider can seriously help you to feel like less of an outsider.

One of my best childhood friends, Bart, may very well be the best friendship maker and retainer I’ve met. His go-to tactics? When spending time with his friends, he makes a point to schedule their next hang-out before parting ways to ensure they stay in regular contact, and most of all, he organizes recurring meetups.

This past summer, stealing a line from Bart, I invited a group of people I’d connected with throughout the year to get together every Tuesday evening throughout July and August at the same spot on the beach while encouraging them to bring their families and friends.

The first week I was nervous no one would show up, but to my relief, over a dozen people were there before I even arrived. The number one reason people told me they came? They too were looking for an excuse to be more sociable — and since the meetup was at the beach where people were coming and going — it made the ever-important 10 percent hurdle when doing something new easy to cross.

Why not organize a hike in your area for every other Saturday with the people you are meeting? Or a dinner party or game night with some of the people you are meeting if you enjoy those things?

If you know someone who will most likely say yes, you can team up with them beforehand so you aren’t going at it alone.

When I began my career in sales, after every call my manager would run over to me and say, “Is the person you just spoke with married? What’s their spouse’s name? Do they have kids? Tell me you heard a dog barking in the background. I love dogs! What’s his dog’s name? Come on Mike, you gotta know this stuff!”

I will never forget this lesson. But instead of just applying it to work, over the years, I’ve built the habit of taking notes about the people I come into contact with on the street as well.

It’s hard to not like someone who checks in on your elderly mother who’s struggling with health issues or any other challenges they’re facing. The same goes for remembering their kids’ names or any of the other details they’ve mentioned.

Just last month, I told my friend Agatha, a Polish woman, how much I loved perogies from the time I lived in Warsaw. Shortly thereafter, she made a batch for me and my family — which made all of us like her that much more.

Make the effort to jot down the “little things” people say in passing and put in the effort to follow up.

When it comes to making new friends, the details aren’t the details — the details are the thing.

A few years ago, during a particularly stressful time, I told my coach Justin how guilty I felt about prioritizing work over my family. His recommendation was so simple it’s genius. “On Sunday nights, before thinking about your work, get your non-negotiable family time on your calendar first.” He went on to add that maybe this looks like blocking off an hour or even thirty minutes each afternoon to play with my kids before dinner or choosing to make one of my weekend days tech-free.

When it comes to making new friends, the same rule applies — you have to make it a priority.

Block off just an hour a week to get involved in your community. Take a class on something you’ve always wanted to learn. Put yourself in positions to attract people who have similar interests. Maybe this bites into your work time, or if you’re self-employed, even your finances.

But you have to ask yourself, “What matters most?”

I’ve reached the stage of my life where no matter what country, city, or town I’m living in — it’s not the place that makes it feel like home — but the people.


Thank you for reading.
— Michael

To Know How You Feel About Something, Say Goodbye

My wife and I recently made a big life decision.

We traded in our relatively spacious apartment (by Spanish standards) at the base of the Pyrenees mountains and moved into a relatively small apartment (by anyone’s standards) near the Mediterranean Sea.

If it was just the two of us, downsizing wouldn’t have been a big deal as we try to live light. But with two growing kids who have a deep passion for all things toys, we’ve spent much of last summer in negotiation mode.

In the beginning, my wife and I were getting spanked.

Not gently.

It seemed like the dustier the toy, the more our kids put up a fight. Things really got heated when one of them burst into tears at the thought of donating his mini-sandbox despite us moving to the beach.

But the tides began to shift thanks to my wife doing something really smart.

“I’ve got an idea,” she said one afternoon. “Each night, until we move, we’re going to put five of the toys you haven’t played with in a while by the front door to donate, and in the morning, you get to keep the one you missed the most.”

I’m not going to pretend this solved all our problems.

Kids can be persuasive.

Some mornings, one toy turned into two.

But regardless, it was interesting to see that the very idea of saying goodbye to a bunch of toys gave our kids clarity on which ones were worth keeping.

My wife’s actions reminded me of the value of this thought. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. Rather than permanently cut something out of your life, test the waters first by temporarily saying goodbye to it.

Even though I didn’t have the words for it, I’ve done this numerous times in my life. From stepping back from certain people to get a gauge on how much they mean to me to getting clear on how much I liked what I was doing professionally.

I did this very thing over the last nine months with writing. It used to light me up. And don’t get me wrong, I still love it. But what I don’t enjoy at times is the online aspect as I wasn’t born with apps on my lap and I didn’t like the direction I was heading of spending more and more time online.

So when life got hectic — and since a big part of the “hectic” involved people I’ll never want to say goodbye to — my online life was the first to go.

To my surprise, after I got back into the rhythm of “full-time real-world,” even though writing online has been a big part of my life over the last five years, I considered saying goodbye for good.

But something interesting happened around the six-month mark as every time I had a few hours to myself, I’d get an itch to start digitally-scribbling.

And in those moments, I knew I was close to saying hello again.

The beauty of it is you don’t have to leave something for very long or even at all.

Simply take the time to imagine you had to say goodbye to something and really sit with the honest feelings that rise to the surface.

  • “Would I wake up feeling incomplete if this wasn’t in my life?”
  • “Is this holding me back from something that matters more at this stage of my life, right now?”
  • “Would I have more energy for this if I gave it some space?”

Responsibilities stack as we get older. Decisions on how we spend our time and who we spend our time with become more and more important — the adult equivalent of choosing one out of five toys.

I’ll write for the rest of my life.

But my kids won’t stay young forever and many of my loved ones won’t be around forever.

Saying goodbye helped bring what matters most in the entirety of my life into a better perspective. By doing so, it also created the much-needed space to better prioritize making more present memories.

Like most people, I want it all.

I don’t want to say goodbye to aspects of my life that I love.

But like a lot of creators I know, I also have an obsessive personality.

And sometimes, we need to take inventory to make sure we’re obsessing about the right things.

What’s temporary?

What aspects of your life do you want to be permanent?

I fell off track for a bit regarding the things that matter most.

Saying goodbye reminded me of the things I never want to stop saying hello to.

Make space to ensure you’re carrying the right things with you.

If you want to know how you feel about something, say goodbye.


Thank you for reading,
— Michael

To Know How You Feel About Something, Say Goodbye

My wife and I recently made a big life decision.

We traded in our relatively spacious apartment (by Spanish standards) at the base of the Pyrenees mountains and moved into a relatively small apartment (by anyone’s standards) near the Mediterranean Sea.

If it was just the two of us, downsizing wouldn’t have been a big deal as we try to live light. But with two growing kids who have a deep passion for all things toys, we’ve spent much of last summer in negotiation mode.

In the beginning, my wife and I were getting spanked.

Not gently.

It seemed like the dustier the toy, the more our kids put up a fight. Things really got heated when one of them burst into tears at the thought of donating his mini-sandbox despite us moving to the beach.

But the tides began to shift thanks to my wife doing something really smart.

“I’ve got an idea,” she said one afternoon. “Each night, until we move, we’re going to put five of the toys you haven’t played with in a while by the front door to donate, and in the morning, you get to keep the one you missed the most.”

I’m not going to pretend this solved all our problems.

Kids can be persuasive.

Some mornings, one toy turned into two.

But regardless, it was interesting to see that the very idea of saying goodbye to a bunch of toys gave our kids clarity on which ones were worth keeping.

If you want to know how you feel about something, say goodbye.

My wife’s actions reminded me of the value of this thought. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. Rather than permanently cut something out of your life, test the waters first by temporarily saying goodbye to it.

Even though I didn’t have the words for it, I’ve done this numerous times in my life. From stepping back from certain people to get a gauge on how much they mean to me to getting clear on how much I liked what I was doing professionally.

I did this very thing over the last nine months with writing. It used to light me up. And don’t get me wrong, I still love it. But what I don’t enjoy at times is the online aspect as I wasn’t born with apps on my lap and I didn’t like the direction I was heading of spending more and more time online.

So when life got hectic — and since a big part of the “hectic” involved people I’ll never want to say goodbye to — my online life was the first to go.

To my surprise, after I got back into the rhythm of “full-time real-world,” even though writing online has been a big part of my life over the last five years, I considered saying goodbye for good.

But something interesting happened around the six-month mark as every time I had a few hours to myself, I’d get an itch to start digitally-scribbling.

And in those moments, I knew I was close to saying hello again.

If you’re on the fence about something, give this exercise a shot.

The beauty of it is you don’t have to leave something for very long or even at all.

Simply take the time to imagine you had to say goodbye to something and really sit with the honest feelings that rise to the surface.

  • “Would I wake up feeling incomplete if this wasn’t in my life?”
  • “Is this holding me back from something that matters more at this stage of my life, right now?”
  • “Would I have more energy for this if I gave it some space?”

Responsibilities stack as we get older. Decisions on how we spend our time and who we spend our time with become more and more important — the adult equivalent of choosing one out of five toys.

I’ll write for the rest of my life.

But my kids won’t stay young forever and many of my loved ones won’t be around forever.

Saying goodbye helped bring what matters most in the entirety of my life into a better perspective. By doing so, it also created the much-needed space to better prioritize making more present memories.

Like most people, I want it all.

I don’t want to say goodbye to aspects of my life that I love.

But like a lot of creators I know, I also have an obsessive personality.

And sometimes, we need to take inventory to make sure we’re obsessing about the right things.

What’s temporary?

What aspects of your life do you want to be permanent?

I fell off track for a bit regarding the things that matter most.

Saying goodbye reminded me of the things I never want to stop saying hello to.

Make space to ensure you’re carrying the right things with you.

If you want to know how you feel about something, say goodbye.


Thank you for reading,
— Michael