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

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

22 Lessons on Life, Love, and Choosing What Matters Most

“Most people spend the first half of their lives collecting and the second half choosing what to keep. Now that you’re closing in on the top of the hill, which lessons learned and pieces of advice do you plan to always carry with you?”

A friend asked me this question on my 38th birthday. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer.

Looking back, that played a big role in why I decided to write as realizing I was still lost after 13,879 days of walking didn’t feel good.

Six years have passed since that conversation — high school and half of college. During that time, I’ve published 300+ articles, many of which are rooted in weeding out what matters from what doesn’t.

It’s helped.

I’ve spent the majority of 2022 offline because my eyes began to hurt. But I’ve been listening and taking notes. Here are 22 lessons the world — and the good people I’m lucky to have along with me for the ride — have taught me that I plan to carry with me from this past year.

1. The importance of play increases with age

“You don’t burn out from working too much. You burn out from worrying too much.” My friend Jeanette said that. It hit me hard.

2022 rained stress from all major corners of my life. The days I felt good though, were when I got outside and kicked a ball, chased my kids, or got kicked by my kids while chasing a ball.

That was my daily homework — fight to find pockets of fun.

Like relationships, the importance of play increases with age.

2. Choose the kind of noise you want in your life

When visiting my family, my kids were jetlagged and made a raucous at my parent’s house before the roosters woke up. When I apologized, my mom and dad said something that made a lot of sense — “It’s great noise!”

The world is loud and shows little sign of quieting down.

You get to choose the soundtrack to your life.

Get clear on what you define as the right kind of noise.

3. Listen to the teaching, not the teacher

My friend Conor made a video about this idea. Like him, I tend to think advice needs to come from someone who’s walked the path I want to go down, knows me inside and out, or has spent years studying a topic.

But that holds us back from interesting takes from surprising places. Good ideas come from everywhere. If something speaks to you, thank the person for sharing it and take it with you.

4. You’re allowed to disappear

“Your writing is a reflection of your living. Throw yourself into something else. You’re allowed to disappear.”

A friend said this when we were talking about the reality of making a pro-longed living online. I followed his advice. I threw myself into a ton of new situations. I taught a bunch at universities. I went from not knowing how to write books to helping three people who are doing a lot of good in the world finish theirs. I was finally able to travel home to see people I care about who have health issues. I fulfilled a life-long dream of buying a fixer-upper on the Mediterranean to hopefully watch my kids grow up in.

The best writing, or art of any kind, creates human connections. And that becomes harder and harder to do if you don’t prioritize connecting with actual humans — and that includes time with yourself.

The online world isn’t going anywhere.

If you need to, opt-out.

You’re allowed to disappear.

5. If you want to change the world, care for five people

The best moments of my life happened when I chose to keep my world small. That, and when I didn’t have my phone.

Ask yourself who you’re grateful for. But don’t stop there. Take it one step further by asking yourself the exact people you want to say your name when they’re asked who they’re grateful for.

  • Close your eyes and zero in on the five people who matter most to you.
  • Breathe them in until you can see every line on each of their faces.

This simple flip will give you tremendous clarity on what you need to do to ensure the people you love, love you back. 

6. Strength is saying “I’m scared”

My youngest kid has never been a fan of sleeping. But instead of waking up having to pee or because he wants to play, recently, it’s been because he’s scared.

One groggy morning, I complained to my wife about this. “Don’t we want our kids to tell us when they’re scared?” she replied.

Like Charlie Maksey alluded to in his hit book, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse, “help” is the bravest word we can say.

7. The secret to a long life is found in differences

As you get older, the more the days begin to bleed into each other. To live a long life, you need to unlock new worlds. The fastest way to do this is by spending time with people who don’t look, think, or act like you.

Getting to know other people’s stories will always be the best way to better write our own.

8. Being unassuming is a superpower

“I wanted to speak up when clients thought one of the taller or more vocal members of my team was the owner of my company. But I learned early in my career just how powerful being unassuming can be. People speak freely with me. It builds trust. If you prioritize learning one skill, focus on suspending your ego.”

My friend Kevin Ervin Kelley, AIA said that.

He’s a good guy.

The world needs more people who don’t lead with their titles or feel the need to tell people how important they are.

9. True freedom isn’t tied to money

True freedom is much simpler than that. True freedom is having the courage to be yourself — while working to develop the stones to continually bet on yourself.

Money comes and goes. That curly-haired money-hungry vegan in the Bahamas is a good example of that. Plus, it has a funny way of chaining people to the pursuit of more, more, more forgetting that golden handcuffs are still handcuffs.

Follow people who can teach you to be monetarily wealthy if that’s your thing. 

But don’t forget to also develop into the type of person who stays true to yourself if you lose it.

10. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast

My wife took things slow when we moved this past summer. I didn’t. A month later, she was chipping away in our new apartment with a smile on her face, while I was laid up in bed with a thrown-out back.

Being a military brat, I often heard the phrase, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” This summer while reading my friend Benjamin Sledge’s debut (incredible) book, “Where Cowards Go to Die,” I came across it again.

Then I looked at my wife.

And then I looked back at myself.

And then I thought, “Huh.”

11. The sole purpose of finding your power is to share that power with others

My friend Kim said that.

I wish more people thought like that.

I wish more people acted like that.

12. The words we read become the world we see

Environment affects behavior. This is not only true regarding our physical world, but also the online one. If you’re surrounding yourself with messages and attitudes that bring you down twenty-five hours a day, change your diet.

This is not the same as ignoring the problems in the world. 

It means you pick your battles. 

Use what pisses you off as fuel to right what you feel is wrong with the world. Just make a point not to drown yourself in it because the world has buckets of it. 

Activism demands focused action.

13. You can never tell someone how much they mean to you enough

This past year I taught a lot of shy and reserved people storytelling and public speaking skills. Months later, a few students told me that even though they have a lot of teachers, I was their teacher.

That one sentence — which took them a few seconds to say — keeps me going.

Pick up the phone.
Physically write a letter.
Go see people in person.

Silent gratitude is selfish.

If you appreciate someone, tell them.

14. The best decisions are those that create the most future options

I’ve had to navigate situations of late where there wasn’t a positive outcome. Choosing between two negatives sucks. But when it happens, train yourself to map out which one could potentially create the most future options.

Then remind yourself that decisions are defined by what you do after making them.

15. Being welcoming is a seriously attractive quality

Having recently moved, I was back to having to make new friends again. I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve lived in a dozen different places, but asking people I don’t know to hang out still terrifies me.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to make the first move as a few people at our kid’s school went out of their way to make my wife and me feel included.

We all feel like outsiders at some point in our lives. Few qualities are more attractive than going just a little out of your way to make other people feel comfortable.

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

Want clarity on who you want in your life? Imagine your life without them.

Sounds morbid, but give it a shot.

  • Who are the first people you reached out to when covid came on the scene?
  • Who are the handful of people you drop whatever you’re doing when they call?
  • Who are the people you never want to say goodbye to?

Hold these people tight.

We don’t always get to choose the last time we get to say goodbye, but in the meantime, we do get to choose how often we say hello.

17. Like the best stories, the best friendships are full of challenges

Some of my closest friends are people I have consistent fun with. But for the most part, my closest friends are the ones who’ve stuck with me when others would have bailed and vice versa.

Challenges tie people together. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that when things are going wrong, very few people do everything right. Cut people some slack. It’s in doing hard things and sticking by people during hard times that creates meaning.

If you felt like you weren’t there for a friend when they needed it in the past, apologize and don’t make the same mistake in the future.

Like most of these points, this one is just as much for me as it is for you.

18. Discover people for yourself

This past year I’ve gotten to know a few people who I was initially skeptical of because of something I read online. 

It turns out, some of these same people have been amazing at checking in on me and my family at times when I needed it and have been generous without asking for anything in return. 

I’m glad I suspended judgment long enough to get to know these people for myself. 

There are parts of all of our stories that don’t represent our entire story.

19. There’s a lot of value in imagining a beautiful future

My wife said that. It came up when discussing how most films of the future are dystopian in nature — the world is burning, everything is on fire, and everyone is against each other.

Take the time to imagine a bright future. 

And I’m not talking about envisioning your ideal future self — but your ideal future society.

A future with hope.
A future where people think of others.
A future rooted in community.

It’s hard to build the future we want to see if we don’t know what that looks like.

20. Enjoy the benefits of age(s)

I’ve never been someone who’s looked forward to getting older. But this past year, I felt a shift and I began to embrace middle age. And the primary reason for this is I’m surrounded by age groups that define the entire human experience.

  • My kids teach me the value of patience and how to find a reason to laugh after crying. 
  • My thirty-year-olds friends teach me about how to navigate the new world we live in. 
  • My sixty-year-olds friends teach me about the parts of the old world that are worth keeping. 
  • My eighty-year-old parents and friends teach me about what really matters. 

No matter your age, spend time with people younger and older than you.

They’ll teach you how to better see the world. 

21. Lead through storytelling

Halfway through a project I was working on this past year, the 88-year-old founder of the company I was doing work for, passed away. I never got a chance to meet the man, but the design firm that contracted me told me loads about him. The one that stuck with me the most though was his ability to lead through storytelling. 

Whether you’re a corporate leader, start-up founder, parent, teacher, or any other kind of leader, steal this philosophy. 

When someone screws up, set your baseline to talk about a time you did too. 

When times are tough, set your baseline to talk about other challenges you or other people have been through. 

When times are good, share the stories of those who made that happen.

Stories are the world’s strongest bridge. Collect yours. But don’t only do it for yourself, do it to let others know they aren’t alone.

22. Never leave a bedtime story unfinished

Speaking of stories, my proudest accomplishment this year is even if my kids fell asleep before I was finished reading their bedtime story, no matter how tired or stressed I was, I read every word anyway.

My kids go to bed with a belly full of stories. And I go to bed knowing I’m the type of person who doesn’t cut corners on the things that matter most.

Choose one thing you have total control over and do it exceedingly well.

Actually, screw that. 

Just choose a life of stories. 

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

How to Never Grow Old

“I just paid $3,000 to miss my kid’s first birthday!”

The day was October 6th, 2015. The place was a random hotel lobby in Costa Rica. I’d flown there from Spain expecting to attend a hearing in my feeble attempt to get back the $250,000 my business partner’s dad had stolen from me half a decade prior. It was my fourth trip in as many years. I couldn’t believe my attorney was now telling me I’d need to make it a fifth as the hearing had been canceled an hour before I was set to take the stand.

“How’s this so complicated?” I snapped. “The dude changed the deed of my property with an eraser and pencil and sold it out from under me. I’ve got a football team of witnesses ready to go. He’s tried to bribe judges in front of other judges to drop the case!”

“You knew this would be a mess,” my dad who’d traveled from the US to meet me said in a surprisingly soft tone. He then shook my attorney’s hand, thanked him for his time, and turned to me and said, “Let’s go. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

All the time and money I’d lost traveling to get here.
Having to watch my son blow out his first candle on video.
The hard reminder that I’d never see those $250,000.

Frustrated wasn’t the word. Livid didn’t do it justice. The thoughts pounded my head. Again. And again. And again. Just as my blood was beginning to compete with the unrelenting Central American mid-morning heat, my dad grabbed me by the shoulder as we waited for the elevator, looked me dead in the eye, and said something that turned me immediately to ice.

“I wasn’t going to come down here with you,” he began. “But your mother asked me to tell you something in person. I don’t know how to say this so I’m just going to say it — your mother is sick.”

I don’t remember how many times the elevator door opened and closed as I stood there completely and utterly stoned. Nor do I remember how I managed to get to our room once I figured out how to use my legs again. I blacked out. I lost at least an hour. But one thing I do remember — and something I hope I never forget — is the conversations my dad and I shared thanks to my mom reminding me that afternoon to find and focus on the good.

My dad and I hadn’t seen each other in a few years. It’d been at least a decade since it was just the two of us alone together. We talked about everything. We talked about nothing. Some of the time we didn’t talk at all. But mainly, given my mom’s condition, the conversation kept making its way back to life and what it means to live a good one.

I hated the circumstances. But my dad said some really smart things that day. This is particularly true when he began talking about the realities of getting older and he said the following words that hit me equally hard in both my head and heart —

“The saddest part about getting older for me is seeing how intellectually dead some of my friends have chosen to become.”

“Intellectually dead!”

I’m yet to come across a more impactful warning.

He then went on to tell me that it’s as if the day Cal Ripken retired from baseball, some of his friends had chosen to retire from life. They barely leave their house. They talk to fewer and fewer people. They never pick up a book. As a result, instead of chasing the day, both their bodies and minds have begun to wither away.

My dad and I don’t always see eye to eye. But at the moment, while he stared off into space and my eyes were locked on him, despite sitting on opposite sides of the bed, I’d never felt closer to him.

It was only one sentence. A throw-away line at the end of a conversation. But sometimes that’s all it takes.

I finally understood why he got so angry when I chose the sofa over the front door.

I finally understood why he got so frustrated when I prioritized my excuses over my possibilities.

I finally understood why he got so impatient when I gave more power to the words of others over following my own internal signal.

Life isn’t about being the smartest, strongest, or most popular person in the room. Nor is it about collecting fancy titles and accumulating enough money to fly to the moon.

Life’s about learning a new something, meeting a new someone, and seeing a new somewhere.

It’s about putting yourself out into the world and fighting for what you love while getting excited about what you don’t yet know.

Choosing to be intellectually alive has become my only marching order. It’s my primarly job. Everything I do revolves around it. Everything else is meaningless without it.

It serves as a reminder to listen as hard as I can.It serves as a reminder to learn as hard as I can.It serves as a reminder to care as hard as I can.

Close to six years have passed since the day my dad and I had that conversation. My life is different today than it was back then. My artistic side began to rise while my business ambitions began to die.

I followed that scent.

I write words for a living now. I help other people to do the same.

I have nothing against business. I’m just happier this way. I love that art’s the great connector and there’s nothing I’d rather do each day than figure out how to build a better bridge.

Pick up a book. Pick up the phone. Pick up a new hobby. Never stop learning about the world and the people around you.

My now cancer-free mom said it best shortly after receiving her diagnosis —

“Curiosity is a word that was meant to be followed. It keeps us interested. It keeps us interesting. Most of all, no matter your age, it’ll keep you young!”


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

How to Wake Up Smiling: The 9 Decisions That Led to a Life I Love

When reading “The Warren Buffett Way” I came across a line that has been running around in my head ever since — “You only have to get things right a few times. 12 investment decisions in my career have made all the difference.”

Having recently turned 40, it seemed like a fitting exercise to follow Warren’s lead and get down on paper what my personal best decisions have been that have led me to a place where most days I wake up smiling.

Last year, when talking to my dad about the realities of getting older, he hit me with the following words —“The saddest part about getting older is seeing how intellectually dead some of my friends have chosen to become.”

Few sentences have frozen me more.

And after I let them sink in, I made the decision then and there to make curious my baseline and as a result the idea that “anything is possible” has actually become possible.

Life is not about being the smartest person in the room, or the strongest or the fastest.

Life is about walking through as many doors as you can and learning a new something, seeing a new somewhere and meeting a new someone.

Life is about staying intellectually alive — and I cannot thank my dad enough for smacking me in the face with that reality.

“I have no special talent. I am passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein

2. I finally decided to get my ass into shape

Ten years ago I welcomed in my third decade in the backroom of a dive bar in Central America with copious amounts of alcohol, cigarettes, and enough “extracurriculars” to wake up a dead horse. I weighed in at a cool 220 pounds (I am 5’9) and had serious bouts with anxiety and depression, despite leading a life that looked great on paper.

Today I weigh 155 pounds, can run for days, go toe to toe with my two little boys, and outwork most people half my age, and this is only because I decided to get brutally selfish in terms of my own health and wellbeing.

“When you make your health your #1 priority the rest becomes so much easier.” — Tim Ferriss

3. I decided to ask my wife to marry me

Last week I was talking to a 26-year-old creative and he complimented me on doing some pretty cool things recently, which I thought was nice. Then he kept talking, and when he did, the following words came out — “Man, can you imagine where you would be if you did not have a wife and kids to slow you down?”

Being that I am 40 means that I was once 26 also, so I did not give him the lashing out that I wanted to, but walking home that day I couldn’t help but think just how wrong that guy got it.

The secret to success is to keep good company.

And when it comes to good company, there’s no one better than my wife.

Full stop.

“The most important thing in the world is family and love.” — John Wooden

4. I decided to listen to understand people instead of only waiting for my turn to speak

I wrote in a recent post that because of my stutter I grew up a good listener, but that was a lie. Just like most people I was so caught up in what I was going to say, I never actually listened to anyone (even more so since I stuttered because I was so stressed out about having to actually talk).

I am not sure what the Myers-Briggs code is for a stutterer with ADHD who never really listened to anyone, but I am pretty sure it is D-I-C-K.

Fortunately for me, I had a great speech therapist who recognized this and taught me to prioritize listening to others in order to get over my stutter (smart huh?).

She forced me to make a habit out of writing down three things I learned after each conversation, and somewhere along the way I slowly began to stop worrying about what I was going to say, and I started to actually listen to what other people were saying — and instantly my relationship and career dominos started to fall.

“Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” — Larry King

5. I decided to get off the couch

This past month I have been to two kid birthday parties and I am very proud to say that I was the dirtiest and wettest person there.

I was the only adult to get in the pool. I was the only adult to fill, throw, and destroy water balloons over a bunch of three-year-old heads. I was the only adult not wearing any shoes.

You can either give your kid a bath or you can get in the bath. You can either sit in the park or you can play in the park. You can either eat dinner or you can learn how to cook.

This past decade I have chosen the latter and it has made a world of difference.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw

6. I decided to do what scared me the most instead of doing what I wanted to do the most

Everything I love today, I once feared.

Every. Single. Thing.

was petrified to take a sales job, but over time it led me to the work I love.

I was scared to death to leave a life I was not happy living behind, to start over in a new country where zero friends and zero work opportunities were waiting, but it led me to the love of my life.

I was absolutely terrified to start a family, but could not imagine a better life than the one I have with my wife and our two little ones.

Confidence does not only come from getting things right. Confidence comes from trying, and I am proud of the fact that at least I decided to become a “trier.”

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” — Henry Ford

7. I decided to stop keeping score

The beauty of getting older is that the longer you live the more patterns begin to emerge. I plan to go into more detail about this in the future, but one of the most glaring patterns is how the more good deeds you do today, the more good deeds will come back to you tomorrow, as long as you are just a little patient.

We can all think of a time when we did something nice for someone and it either went unnoticed or it was not repaid. But try not to get too frustrated with people and give lifetime — despite what people say, life is long.

“Keeping score is for games, not friendships.” — John Maxwell

8. I decided to stay away from complicated and embrace simplicity

A few years ago a friend recommended that I take a few minutes and write down everything I enjoy doing. After I was done he looked at me and he said, “What are you so worried about money for? Everything you love is either free or extremely cheap.”

This year I will earn a fraction of what I did a decade ago, but my smile is ten times bigger and this is because I finally took the time to identify what creates my smile and my answers were simple.

I love spending an obscene amount of time with my wife and kids. I love talking to old friends and making new ones. I love getting out into nature. I love reading and I love writing. I can do all of these things every day and I would be willing to bet so can you.

“Hack away at the unessential. Simplicity is the key to brilliance.” — Bruce Lee

9. I decided to proactively thank and compliment people

Like a lot of us, I have a tendency to get so caught up in what I am doing, and what I want to accomplish, that I forget that the people around me have dreams too.

In order to get over this bad habit, the last few years in addition to having my own “to-do” list, I also have a list of what the people I care about are doing, and each day I make my rounds to either encourage them or thank them, and I know I am a better person for it.

“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” — G.B Stern

  • Get curious.
  • Make your health a priority.
  • Keep good company.
  • Shut up and listen.
  • Keep moving.
  • Stop living in fear.
  • Stop Keeping Score.
  • Embrace simplicity.
  • Make an effort to be kind to people.

Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Kindness is forever cool and simplicity will never go out of style.


Thank you for reading.
And supporting this article.
I never would have thought it would launch my writing career.
— Michael

How to Wake Up Smiling: The 9 Decisions That Led to a Life I Love

When reading “The Warren Buffett Way” I came across a line that has been running around in my head ever since — “You only have to get things right a few times. 12 investment decisions in my career have made all the difference.”

Having recently turned 40, it seemed like a fitting exercise to follow Warren’s lead and get down on paper what my personal best decisions have been that have led me to a place where most days I wake up smiling.

1. I decided to make curious my baseline

Last year, when talking to my dad about the realities of getting older, he hit me with the following words —“The saddest part about getting older is seeing how intellectually dead some of my friends have chosen to become.”

Few sentences have frozen me more.

And after I let them sink in, I made the decision then and there to make curious my baseline and as a result the idea that “anything is possible” has actually become possible.

Life is not about being the smartest person in the room, or the strongest or the fastest.

Life is about walking through as many doors as you can and learning a new something, seeing a new somewhere and meeting a new someone.

Life is about staying intellectually alive — and I cannot thank my dad enough for smacking me in the face with that reality.

“I have no special talent. I am passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein

2. I finally decided to get my ass into shape

Ten years ago I welcomed in my third decade in the backroom of a dive bar in Central America with copious amounts of alcohol, cigarettes, and enough “extracurriculars” to wake up a dead horse. I weighed in at a cool 220 pounds (I am 5’9) and had serious bouts with anxiety and depression, despite leading a life that looked great on paper.

Today I weigh 155 pounds, can run for days, go toe to toe with my two little boys, and outwork most people half my age, and this is only because I decided to get brutally selfish in terms of my own health and wellbeing.

“When you make your health your #1 priority the rest becomes so much easier.” — Tim Ferriss

3. I decided to ask my wife to marry me

Last week I was talking to a 26-year-old creative and he complimented me on doing some pretty cool things recently, which I thought was nice. Then he kept talking, and when he did, the following words came out — “Man, can you imagine where you would be if you did not have a wife and kids to slow you down?”

Being that I am 40 means that I was once 26 also, so I did not give him the lashing out that I wanted to, but walking home that day I couldn’t help but think just how wrong that guy got it.

The secret to success is to keep good company.

And when it comes to good company, there’s no one better than my wife.

Full stop.

“The most important thing in the world is family and love.” — John Wooden

4. I decided to listen to understand people instead of only waiting for my turn to speak

I wrote in a recent post that because of my stutter I grew up a good listener, but that was a lie. Just like most people I was so caught up in what I was going to say, I never actually listened to anyone (even more so since I stuttered because I was so stressed out about having to actually talk).

I am not sure what the Myers-Briggs code is for a stutterer with ADHD who never really listened to anyone, but I am pretty sure it is D-I-C-K.

Fortunately for me, I had a great speech therapist who recognized this and taught me to prioritize listening to others in order to get over my stutter (smart huh?).

She forced me to make a habit out of writing down three things I learned after each conversation, and somewhere along the way I slowly began to stop worrying about what I was going to say, and I started to actually listen to what other people were saying — and instantly my relationship and career dominos started to fall.

“Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” — Larry King

5. I decided to get off the couch

This past month I have been to two kid birthday parties and I am very proud to say that I was the dirtiest and wettest person there.

I was the only adult to get in the pool. I was the only adult to fill, throw, and destroy water balloons over a bunch of three-year-old heads. I was the only adult not wearing any shoes.

You can either give your kid a bath or you can get in the bath. You can either sit in the park or you can play in the park. You can either eat dinner or you can learn how to cook.

This past decade I have chosen the latter and it has made a world of difference.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw

6. I decided to do what scared me the most instead of doing what I wanted to do the most

Everything I love today, I once feared.

Every. Single. Thing.

was petrified to take a sales job, but over time it led me to the work I love.

I was scared to death to leave a life I was not happy living behind, to start over in a new country where zero friends and zero work opportunities were waiting, but it led me to the love of my life.

I was absolutely terrified to start a family, but could not imagine a better life than the one I have with my wife and our two little ones.

Confidence does not only come from getting things right. Confidence comes from trying, and I am proud of the fact that at least I decided to become a “trier.”

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” — Henry Ford

7. I decided to stop keeping score

The beauty of getting older is that the longer you live the more patterns begin to emerge. I plan to go into more detail about this in the future, but one of the most glaring patterns is how the more good deeds you do today, the more good deeds will come back to you tomorrow, as long as you are just a little patient.

We can all think of a time when we did something nice for someone and it either went unnoticed or it was not repaid. But try not to get too frustrated with people and give lifetime — despite what people say, life is long.

“Keeping score is for games, not friendships.” — John Maxwell

8. I decided to stay away from complicated and embrace simplicity

A few years ago a friend recommended that I take a few minutes and write down everything I enjoy doing. After I was done he looked at me and he said, “What are you so worried about money for? Everything you love is either free or extremely cheap.”

This year I will earn a fraction of what I did a decade ago, but my smile is ten times bigger and this is because I finally took the time to identify what creates my smile and my answers were simple.

I love spending an obscene amount of time with my wife and kids. I love talking to old friends and making new ones. I love getting out into nature. I love reading and I love writing. I can do all of these things every day and I would be willing to bet so can you.

“Hack away at the unessential. Simplicity is the key to brilliance.” — Bruce Lee

9. I decided to proactively thank and/or compliment people

Like a lot of us, I have a tendency to get so caught up in what I am doing, and what I want to accomplish, that I forget that the people around me have dreams too.

In order to get over this bad habit, the last few years in addition to having my own “to-do” list, I also have a list of what the people I care about are doing, and each day I make my rounds to either encourage them or thank them, and I know I am a better person for it.

“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” — G.B Stern

  • Get curious.
  • Make your health a priority.
  • Keep good company.
  • Shut up and listen.
  • Keep moving.
  • Stop living in fear.
  • Stop Keeping Score.
  • Embrace simplicity.
  • Make an effort to be kind to people.

Don’t make it harder than it has to be.

Kindness is forever cool and simplicity will never go out of style.