Category: Work on Yourself

On Trying to Become a Better Listener

I am a terrible listener… there, I said it. Problem identified and maybe should be highlighted, starred, and underlined. So let’s start here, “Why?”…

  • I don’t really think my ideas/thoughts are more important than others…BUT then again maybe I really do (Ha…What’s wrong with me!)
  • I can definitely be easily distracted when someone is talking by one thing they said that I can’t wait to reply to, light them up on, prove myself right about, whatever, therefore missing everything said after that (Boooo, Me!)
  • I listen from my own frame of reference, not the other person’s (It’s all about me!)
  • I fixate on words used, not looking deeper for intent (Shallow Hal!)
  • I get really bothered when someone uses 1,000 words to state something easily said in 10 words (Is that really my problem? Guess so!) to the point of trying to finish statements for them
  • Maybe my worst offense of all… maybe I don’t look like I’m listening, so the other person (in many cases, my lovely wife) says,” you aren’t listening to me” and I repeat back exactly what she said (Freakin’ Mimicer!!! Talk about pissed…”You missed the meaning A–hole!!”)

WOW… that is a long list… I truly suck as a listener!

OK now, I’ve been reading, asking others, and taking notes and it is time to do better. Where to begin:

  1. Make sure I am calm and rational… usually not a problem (until pushed to the point of explosion of course as I don’t have that much self-mastery yet… off the rails! Working on it)
  2. Make sure I am showing I care with my body language: eye contact, lean forward, posture (arms, shoulders, etc)… walk and talk if it helps (removes distractions)
  3. Listen with the intent to understand (don’t get distracted thinking about your own reply, in fact, forget it).
  4. Listen beyond just what you hear with your ears (use your eyes, heart, and mind…am I capable? That’s a strong “Maybe”).
  5. Listen with purpose:
    • Listen from the other person’s frame of reference
    • Repeat back (in an unmimicing way) that which you don’t understand
    • Pay attention to the other person’s body language, tone, etc…. what are they feeling/thinking?
    • Be present and engaged
    • DO NOT finish their thoughts for them (Yikes! Bite that tongue!)
    • Make sure you accurately understand their point of view before rebuttal… ask questions


In short, I think this means genuinely care about the other person and what they are trying to communicate to me, right?



  • I speak really poor conversational Spanish and no Japanese, but I tend to understand the conversations in Japan better as I tend to get fixated on Spanish words during conversations losing the overall meaning, whereas in Japan I just pay attention to tone, watch body language, etc..this is actually a rather amazing thing…the non verbal things you pick up are truly amazing…try it sometime with 2 people engaged in a language you don’t speak
  • I had a good customer who was very upset with me because we didn’t ask enough questions the first time we met and had to ask them in multiple follow-ups later. We did our homework the second time and finished the entire (very technical) conversation in 45 minutes and even got a tour out of it at the end because we had extra time and because we had shown enough respect as to make them think we cared.

Well, I’m not there yet, but trying to improve every day. If you know me and are reading this saying, “Dude, you are still a terrible listener”, I know, I’m trying, point it out…I really want to do better…efforting!


education“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever” -Gandhi

Let’s start with how we learn
Education theory says that to learn anything new we must hear it at least 200 times. In learning anything, first you imitate, then you identify, and then you internalize. Exposure is more important than knowledge

Don’t just learn… apply

There’s a great quote from Napoleon Hill, “knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when and if it is organized into definitive plans of action and directed to a definitive end.” “If we aren’t careful, ‘learning’, becomes endless avoidance of the work in front of us.” Ramit Sethi, “learning and changing are two different things… it is better to apply one book than read 20”

Some better ways to go about it

Read as little as feasible about the last 20 years… time can act as a cleanser of noise of overhyped work.

Before choosing something that requires you to dedicate years of your life to school for training (like a doctor), volunteer (at a hospital if a doctor) and see if you like the atmosphere/people first. I personally know many people who got their law degree only to hate being a practicing lawyer and give it up after spending years toiling away.

Combining disciplines can make you more unique/creative.: Software + biotech, EE + MBA, etc. there is also less competition when you combine disciplines… you can be an expert with only 500 hours of work instead of 10,000.

If you want to learn French, you will learn 10-20X faster if you move to France and get a French girlfriend…motivate yourself to learn.

Use the 5 Why’s to continually ask questions and learn more deeply.

To avoid just having a 40 year gap between college and retirement with nothing to show, work on: skills, relationships, character, hustle… these will always translate to something new.

Instead of teaching kids to suppress natural urges (aggression, sex, etc.) teach them how to better deal with them. If you suppress them they usually come out later even uglier.

Think about your 20s as you being in charge of your own education system

A few stats

At one point, 80% of Americans were farmers… now that number is 2%. Always keep learning as jobs of today will be replaced by jobs of tomorrow.

By about 8th grade kids start saying they aren’t good at this or that (I can’t draw, I can’t do math, etc.)…always be learning!

Other ideas

The Future Project” is a program that puts a “Dream Director” in schools… kids dream it and then they help them try to achieve it. I’ve never worked with these folks, but heard about it through someone else and really like the idea…helping kids make their dreams come true.

Looking for some inspiration for something greater? Hear are some good YouTube videos to learn from with Richard Feynman and Elon Musk…fun stuff (I guess that depends on your idea of fun, but to each his own.)

Keep after it, kids!


The Learning Process: from Novice to Master


The Learning Process: from Novice to Master

If you want to get great at anything there are a few hacks (see my ultimate hack at the bottom), but there is no way around putting some time in. If you follow the below path, you may be able to shave off some time and achieve a higher level of mastery when all done. So you have to put in your time, but doing it in the right way makes all the difference.

Step1: Find your life’s task: What are you good at and what do you enjoy:

This can be the hardest part of the process, but it needn’t be. Two good ways to start this: 1) Make an x-y grid of all the things you’re good at and all the things you enjoy… where do they intersect  2) Ask others… they will tell you what you are uniquely talented at

Step 2: Find a mentor/apprenticeship:

This is the single greatest hack… finding a mentor who has already been down your chosen road can save you years of needless toil and frustration (unlearning the wrong thing can take more time and be more frustrating than trying to learn it the right way to begin with), but it does depend on finding the right mentor

Step 3: Clean slate: Allow yourself to be molded

Step 4: Lay the foundation/learn the fundamentals

Step 5: Practice:

Here comes the famous 10,000 hour rule…10,000 hours is only a guesstimate, but it does take time and practice if you really want

Step 6: Internalize: Unconscious processing

Somewhere during this 10,000 hours things will become natural and no longer forced… breakthrough!

Step 7: Growth

Step 8: Plateaus and dealing with pressure:

It’s not all roses and isn’t easy, otherwise everybody would do it

Step 9: Experiment:

Push the boundaries. This step is critical… just rehashing the same things everyone else has done is not the goal… we are looking for the blue ocean and to breaking new ground. Don’t even let your mentor hold you back here

Step 10: Form opinion:

Start to find your own path

If you do this, you will be one of the few… it is too much work for most people and they will give up early on. Still too much for you? Don’t have 10,000 hours? A shortcut possibility is to learn say 1000 hours at two separate disciplines and marry them together (first heard this idea from Peter Thiel) where nobody has done so previously. Now no one knows more than you at this intersection. This works amazingly well if you can find demand at this intersection, but predicting demand is your challenge… maybe the world just doesn’t know it needs this yet!

Some great books that I borrowed liberally from for this:

Mastery by Robert Greene

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin


Mastery of Self or What is My Meaning of Life


“The first and best victory is to conquer self. To be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile” – Plato

“What I am looking for is not out THERE, it is within me” – Helen Keller

So, firstly, “Self” has conquered me so many times I can’t even count them, so I feel a little dirty writing this per Plato above. Some questions I keep asking are:

How do I master self?
What do I stand for?
If what I am looking for is not out THERE, but within me, how do I tap into it?

Identify the Problem
The biggest problem is I feel like I have lived a great portion of my life as a chameleon… shape shifting and changing masks as needed to fit the world’s needs rather than doing the much harder work of doing a deep dive to figure out who I really am (I can’t blame it all on life as a salesman and marketer, can I?). This keeps those that I should be closest with at arm’s length, never able to really know me. Instead of being authentic, I have created a world of surface level interactions and relationships. Time for something better…

I have heard it said that one of the greatest regrets of the dying is that they let others determine how they lived their life. Socrates stated that a truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery… those who will not govern themselves are content to find masters to govern over them…yikes!!

How to be Better
Where to begin…maybe I start with what are my beliefs, values, and ideals? Are there traits I don’t possess that I would like to and how do I go about it? Everybody has superpowers, right… what are mine? How do I identify them, harness, focus, and magnify them? More importantly, how do I become more authentic, admitting that which scares or bothers me. Should I rely on my own feelings and thoughts or ask friends and family for honest feedback as they probably know better than I anyway. How you see yourself and what others perceive you to be may be two completely different things. I really like this quote from Chris Ryan, “you’re always digging into your own authenticity through your own b***s***!”…nasty indeed, but way true.

Some say the best way to master self is to start by serving others as the meaning of life is in who or what you love. Some say you can condition yourself to change your beliefs and ideals. Some say life’s experiences shape who you are and others say no matter what you experience you have the freedom to visualize those experiences as you choose. Some say self-mastery is a moving target that you must continually adjust for. Most everyone agrees that the idea of self-mastery will be different for each person. I like the way this is stated…” everyone has his own specific vocation in life… therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated” -Victor Frankl. But, lastly and most frustratingly, some say you may not know if you have mastered self until your death bed, if ever… it is like a nasty circle in that you have to live life to give it meaning but that meaning may not reveal itself until the very end…no freakin’ way, really?!?

Could this be it
So maybe the best approach is to write down my hierarchy of values, ideals, and beliefs, and decide who and what I love, how that differs from what I want, and to look at life from my death bed to see if that which I crave in the moment gives me the end meaning I truly want (decide what I want in life and create my world around it…not really finding myself, but instead recreating myself!). Then ask myself every day thereafter, who am I and try to go a little deeper every single day… eventually along this path I should reach enlightenment, right? Maybe it won’t be until my death bed, but that would sure be a peaceful way to go.

”It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique” -Conan O’Brien

An amazing book on the subject:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl