Category Archives: Productivity

Input = Output

It’s easy for us to understand that what we eat directly affects how our bodies look and function. What we put in, is what we get back out.

Where we sort of get tripped up is in realizing that this concept of consuming goes much broader than just the meals we set down in front of our faces.

Input is more than just food, it’s what we watch, what we read, who we talk to, and what we listen to.



Input is input. When we are dieting, input is easy to see. We can track the food we’re consuming, what it was, how many calories were in it, and overall if it’s good for us. We can easily relate good input to giving us good output.

When it comes to not food things we don’t seem to make the same connections. We tend to forget that the people we hang around with often times shape us. We forget that the songs we listen to put us in better moods. We forget about that connection of input = output when it comes to things that are not food.

Let’s consider a few different categories of input and look at how they can impact our lives, our health, and our happiness.

What type of social media accounts or news outlets do you use or read? What are the people talking about in those outlets? Do they talk about positive things? Things that build you up or give you confidence? Do they talk about negative things and things to be afraid of? Do they offer you new knowledge that you didn’t have prior, like a ‘How to’ video? Or do they offer you entertainment and a smile?

photo cred: Freestock

Everything that we look at on the internet and on our phones is feeding us some type of content and as we watch that video clip or read that article we are consuming that content. So what do we know about consuming? Well we know input = output and that should be telling us something about what media we’re consuming.

I think there is a very strong relationship to the type of content we consume and the type of output we generate in the world. Sort-of… a Clockwork Orange just maybe not as extreme.

When you’re working through different things in your life and you’re trying to change a situation or change a scenario that you’re in, think about the amount of content you are consuming in regards to that change.

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Do you want to get in better shape? Then not only should you be eating well and exercising, you should be consuming fitness content in that same regard. When you’re on social media, are you following accounts that promote healthy eating and exercise? Or are you laughing at that next meme about eating cheeseburgers?

Do you want to pick up a new hobby? Then find a book on how to do that hobby and a couple of online bloggers who already do it. Most likely a few of them are already showcasing some of their work on some social media platform that you can learn from. Follow them and consume their content.

Do you want to do better with your mental health? Check what content you may already be consuming that is detrimental to your mental health. Do you read a lot of sad stories or watch content that is, by nature, depressing? Try changing up what you’re inputting into your mind set and swap those out with something a little more up beat or positive. See if that change in input doesn’t affect your output.

In most cases than not, a lot of us our products of our environments. Not by choice, but by nature. That’s not to say we can’t change who we are or even go against that nature, but rather it’s very easy for us to simply fall in line with what’s around us.

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One of the best ways to improve your situation, whether it’s a bad situation you want to make better OR a good situation you want to make the best, is to check what you are inputting into that system and understanding that it has a dramatic affect on what you’re outputting.

I’d love to share some ideas others have of how they are taking input and turning it into positive output in their lives. If you have a great source of input I’d love to hear and share it!

Some of my top sources of positive input come from a number of motivational speakers like Inky Johnson and Gary Vaynerchuck. I also love to consume the content of Ray Dalio & Stephen Covey.

What content do you consume that helps give you great output?


The Two Rare Skills You Need To Be Wildly Successful

There’s a lot of things out there to learn in life.

I remember being fresh out of high school and changing my major about 500 different times never really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I felt like I had to find the right skillset or I wouldn’t be setup to be successful later in life. Unfortunately, the skillsets you need to actually be successful in life aren’t even taught in the class room.

For anyone out there reading this and trying to figure out how to be successful at what they’re doing, understand that it has nothing to do with what you’re actually doing. The two skills that you need to truly be successful can be applied to any job, any relationship, and any situation. They are the secrets to success.

Skill #1

photo cred: Moritz Mentges

The first skill is the most important one. It’s the one that actually creates action and makes things happen. Skill #1 is Work Ethic.

Work ethic means that if you put in the hours, you put in the work, you collect feedback, and you take time to learn, you will find success. Work ethic is the number one ingredient to making things happen.

Life is often times like a set of dominos except every so many dominos gets bigger and harder to fall over. Each time you knock down a domino, a couple of them fall, but then they get stuck on a domino that is even bigger than the others. That’s when you have to come along and work to make that next domino fall.

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And they don’t just keep falling for you. That’s a trick that a lot of people fall in to. They think they can just work hard for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, and then dominos will just keep falling, but that’s just not how it works. Your domino’s will stop falling and you will have to go put in more work to make the next one fall.

Skill #2

photo cred: Nathan Dumlao

The second skill goes right along with the first. It’s what keeps us honest and balanced and it’s life’s way of making sure you earn what you get. The second skill is Patience.

We live in such a, “give it to me now” society and we’re so used to instant gratification. We want to do one workout, one little project, one day of hard work, and then expect the lavish rewards. Life doesn’t reward you for one single great effort. Life rewards you for consistency. You can’t go to the gym once and get in shape, you have to do it every day, over-and-over and to get to that point, you have to be patient.

Lacking patience is what makes people quit too soon. The lack of patience has people hitting the gym for a week and then giving up because they don’t see any difference on the scale without realizing how close they really are to getting there.

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Try to understand that life is longer than you think. All of that, life is short talk that you see online is garbage. It’s just another marketing point to get you to spend money. “Life is short, take the vacation…” but the truth is, life is pretty fucking long. You literally spend years of it drinking and partying (aka college) and then come out the other side 10 years later with a job and a family.

Life is long, be patient with your goals and with yourself.

If you take these two skillsets and you mix them together you have everything that you need to be successful. Don’t expect to put in 1 day of hard work and reach your dreams. You haven’t earned it and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone else that had. Life rewards you with what you deserve. Work hard, be patient, and reach a point where life has no choice but to reward you.


Living in the Present and Staying in the Game

It’s so often easy to let ourselves get caught up in the things that happen in our lives. We always seem to end up in one of two places, either thinking about the past or thinking about the future. And the thing about both of these places is that they cause us to end up frozen in the present.

When we’re thinking about the past we’re typically dwelling on a situation that we either wish we could live again OR that we wish we had done differently. When we’re thinking about the future it’s typically some form of anxiety or worry. Hoping for something to workout a certain way or uncertain of how things will happen.

What we don’t realize is that when we go to either of these places we actually drive our own mental cars into the ditch. We put ourselves in a situation where we have now become stuck. If you’ve ever actually had your car get stuck somewhere in a snowy or muddy ditch you know it takes a lot of effort to get it back out. Typically it takes some outside help, like a tow truck, to pull you back on to the road.

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In life, a lot of times we do this same thing. We get ourselves stuck in a ditch and we sit there waiting for the next tow truck to come along and pull us out. Waiting for the next thing to happen in life that will brighten our mood and get us out of that ditch so we can get back on the road.

But while we’re sitting in that ditch dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, everyone else’s car is driving right past us. The rest of the world keeps moving forward and what we fail to realize is all of the people that also get stuck in a ditch every now and then.

And that those that are happiest in life are the ones who know the tricks to getting themselves out of that ditch as quickly as possible so they can get back on the road.

That’s the key right there. Everybody falls into a ditch but the happiest people know how to get themselves out while the rest sit and wait for a tow truck.

So how do you get yourself out of that ditch on your own? The effort typically needed to get out of that ditch is so great. How can you ever match the strength and power of the tow truck to actually pull yourself out of that ditch?

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The secret is in realizing that you can only ever actually do anything in the present. Once you start to realize that you can only ever make a strategic move while in the present you understand that trying to do anything with the past or future is useless. You physically cannot make any changes to the past or future, understand that.

It’s sort of like the present is the basketball court or soccer field. The areas inside the field represent the present. All of the areas outside of the field, the fans on the sideline, the bench, the parking lot, everything outside of those lines is the area where you can’t actually play the game. They represent the past and future. You just simply can’t go to those areas outside of the field and actually make anything happen. It just doesn’t work that way.

photo cred: Victor Garcia

The way we take advantage of this is to get back onto the field or court and to just start doing things. Literally doing anything is still better than not being in the game at all. You have a better chance of winning if you are in the game than you ever will if you are on the sideline. If you’re on the sideline (stuck dwelling on the past or worrying about the future) you cannot make your situation better. You cannot get yourself out of the ditch.

BUT, if you put yourself into the game, you put yourself into the present and start doing things, you’ll find that suddenly you’re not stuck in the past or worrying about the future. You’ll find that suddenly, almost magically, you’ve pulled yourself out of that ditch and put yourself back onto the road without even realizing it.

So the next time you catch yourself feeling down about the past or worrying about the future go find something to do! Go for a walk, go read a book, go take a shower, go make a snack, go do something positive for yourself, or better yet someone else, and take action.

Take action in the present and get yourself back in the game.

Before you know it you’ll be out of that ditch and right back on the road.

Should You Have One Big Goal?

Having one big goal. One big target for what you’re after in life. A dream.

That’s what it’s all about. Time after time we see athletes and musicians have one big dream to grow up and make it big. They have this one dream, their life is all about it, and they are 100% focused on this one thing to make it big.

And the rest of us try to follow suit. We try to have just one big dream, well and then the other demands in life, school, work, family, social responsibilities. They all seem to be getting in the way of our one big dream, yet these other athletes and musicians don’t seem to have that problem? Why not?

The reason why not is actually quite simple. This idea of having one big goal and one big dream and only that one dream…. IS…. A…. LIE….

Let it soak in for minute….

….

….

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This idea that you have this big target you’re aiming for and that’s the only thing that you’re about is a trick. It’s something that’s used to sell self-help books to millions of people that still can’t manage to achieve their goals. Funny how so many books are sold yet so few people don’t achieve their dreams. Don’t feel bad, I was one of those people.

David Goggins once said he had an NFL player reach out to him and ask, “How do you keep that dog mentality. Once I got to the NFL I’ve struggled to keep the fight in me” and David responded by pointing out that the person had a finish line in their mind.

Basically they had this one big goal and once they reached it, their dream was over. They’d crossed the finish line and now realized they didn’t know what do with themselves anymore.

photo cred: Adi Goldstein

This is the problem with one big dream or one big goal. Even if you manage to achieve it, once you do, you’re left wondering what to do next. The drive that existed on the journey is no longer there at the finish line.

So here’s the thing, life is a lot longer than most of us realize. What good does it do to drive hard for 10 years to spend the next 30 unsatisfied?

And even if you could focus in on your one big goal and drive it all the way to completion you’d suddenly realize that you now have nothing left to look forward to. You would have built your whole life on one thing and one thing only. And let me tell you about how life likes to take dreams that you have and shove them in your face.

Don’t back yourself into a corner on a single dream because that’s what you see in a Nike commercial. There is enough time in life to do it ALL. I promise you. Life is long and there is a ton of time to do things.

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So my advice is to go out and set multiple dreams. If you want to be a musician great! Go practice every day. Then think of what else you want to be. What other hobbies do you have? What other responsibilities do you already have? Play any sports? Great go work at being great at that too. Spread your dreams out and work towards all of them.

Quit putting all of your chips into a single bet because that’s what the media has been telling you to do.

Go live a full life and DO IT ALL!

If you’re not doing something different every day, you’re wasting your life.

Automate FTW

It’s been a little while since I’ve written a true productivity post and today feels like just the right time to make that happen.

One of the most effective ways to get ahead in anything that you do is to learn how to automate as much as possible. In the world of technology there are a million ways to automate things but there are also opportunities to automate smaller pieces of our daily lives.

When you automate things you allow yourself to get more things done in the same amount of time. This is the real trick and the secret win to automating. Think about a situation where you do a task. Let’s say you log on to your computer every morning and you open up a series of applications, your email, your chat client, maybe an application you need to do your work, some music, a website or two to check the weather, etc, etc…. and in total, it takes about 5 to 10 minutes for everything to load up and be ready.

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And let’s say you do this every day, Monday through Friday for the entire year, that’s roughly 252 days. If all of this takes roughly 10 minutes to do each day, that’s 252 days x 10 minutes which comes to… 2,520 minutes or better said, 42 hours.

Now think about the time you save if you take those 42 hours and instead of doing the same task everyday you use those 42 hours to automate the task and take a 10 minute task down to a couple of seconds. The return on investment here is astronomical! I mean you’ve reduced the effort of this task by 99.99%. You’ve basically eliminated this work from your life and now have gained that time back to invest elsewhere.

photo cred: Carlos Aranda

So you should be thinking bigger now. What about a task that you do multiple times a day? Something that you do maybe 3 to 10 times a day? Maybe it takes a minute each time, maybe it takes 5. What about a task that takes 30 minutes every other day?

One area that I’ve cut a ton of time and work out of my own life is in managing my finances. I would constantly have to sit down and pull up an excel spreadsheet and breakdown and workout how my budget looked. What was I spending, what was I saving, where it was all going. It took a couple of hours every month and then a few minutes every week to keep it updated.

After a while I got tired of the constant manual labor and started looking for a better solution. Then I found https://www.mint.com/ and I’ve never looked back. Mint automated so much of the manual labor I was doing and not only gave me back a few hours each month it actually made my budget more accurate and less prone to human errors.

And if you continue to identify these types of tasks, these little things that you repeat on a daily or weekly basis and then you find ways to automate some parts or all of them you will find that you’re able to get even more done with the same amount of time.

This is the big trick to getting ahead. You’ve taken what’s fixed, the number of hours in a day, and you’ve managed to get more done within that fixed number of hours. If you keep compounding this effort over-and-over your levels of productivity will climb higher and higher than before.

Automate, automate, automate for the win!

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How to Master Anything

We often times consider ourselves to be good students. We can read a book or an article, watch a YouTube video, or take a class, and for the most part, we feel like we can learn the things we need to learn to be better.

Then we can go and actually try to do the things we just learned about. We try to fix that leaky pipe from the YouTube video or we try that next parenting trick on our kids, that we read in some book and again, we get a little bit better.

photo cred: Sharon McCutcheon

We repeat this cycle with almost everything that we do in most of our lives. We learn and then we try, we learn, then we try, and this is actually a pretty good method. I mean, it’s how we are raised from the time we enter school until we become adults and it gets us to where we need to go for the most part.

Even when we get into our jobs and professions, we start out as students and then we are trained by our peers and we practice on what we’ve learned and soon enough we’ve got it down.

There is though.. another level. A level beyond just learning and doing. A level that can take us to that Next Level. That level is teaching.

When we start to teach something we take on a new perspective. We are now no longer asking questions but are stating what we believe are facts. We are saying, “This is how you should do it.”

What scares a lot of people away from making this next step is the potential to be wrong. The chance that a student or another teacher comes along and says, “no you are teaching this wrong” and so we’re afraid to fail as teachers, and so often times, we don’t teach.

But teaching is so incredibly valuable to becoming a better student that by avoiding that failure we are limiting our chances of getting to the Next Level. Teaching allows us to put to test the things we’ve learned and practiced. It let’s us validate if what we learned and how we learned it, is any good in the first place.

photo cred: Austin Distel

Most of us tend to take something we’ve learned the first time and that becomes the way we know how to do it. We learn it once, and it becomes the end all. I see so many people who learn something from one person, one source, and they believe it to be factual for the rest of their lives. They become completely unwilling to change because it isn’t the idea they were taught the first time.

Don’t be like those people, instead, you should take what you have learned and go teach someone else. Validate your ideas and see if it can work for someone else.

Along the way you will start to learn even more than you did as a student. You will start to see the things that really do work and the parts that really don’t. You will start to become better at whatever it is you are teaching and be that much closer to going from student to teacher to Master.

Avoiding Distractions and Getting in the Zone

Your phone beeps… the kids ask for a snack… someone rings the door bell… the next work email comes in… someone messages you on Teams or Slack… the dog starts barking…

Working from home was supposed to be quiet and peaceful. Wtf happened?

Well for starters, we had unrealistic expectations. Let’s be honest, things were never all that quiet to begin with. We’ve just added in a ton more distractions and made it a lot more convenient for them to distract us. Right now… as I’m writing this… I can see the little light on my phone blinking because I have a message…

It’s already distracting me from writing this and all it is… all it is, is a little light that is flashing every 3 FREAKING SECONDS!!@#$!

So how do you actually get any real work done throughout the week? How do you make forward progress on things you want to accomplish without being pulled in every other direction? Read on!

There are literally millions of distractors in our life and they all play on different senses. For example, we have visual distractors like if we see someone walk past our window in the middle of the day, or an email notification popup on our computer, (or that little fucking light that keeps blinking on my phone… OMG!).

We have audible distractors, like when we hear the kids or if the dog starts barking. We have distractors that relate to our sense of touch or comfortableness. Is it too cold? Too hot?

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All of these different distractors are ways to throw you off your game and keep you from getting nothing done and feeling even more stressed than ever before. but… the best way to fight these off is to start building tricks that defeat each MAJOR distractor.

I say MAJOR because you’ll waste all day trying to remove every distraction ever. Don’t be a perfectionist. Focus on the ones that give you the biggest ROI. Here’s a list of my distractors and how I fight them off and get INTO THE ZONE.

  1. My Kids – love them to death, can’t work with them at home.
    • The trick – promise them if they are good, I will #maketime to play with them that night.
  2. My Phone – beeps and buzzes all day long.
    • The trick – Silent mode and flip it upside down so I can’t see it. (finally the blinking is gone…)
  3. Emails/Messages – emails are endless…
    • The trick – Set my status to DND, turn off Outlook, and flat out ignore people. Sorry bout ya!
  4. Uncomfortableness – sometimes it’s too cold or too hot.
    • The trick – A cheap 20 dollar floor heater and mini-fan. I use them as needed.
  5. Little Noises in the House – the kids playing, cars driving by, my wife coming home on lunch.
    • The trick – Headphones and music loud enough it’s all I can hear.
  6. Other tasks or things on my mind – Often times there’s just other thoughts and ideas that can creep into our heads
    • The trick – Set a timer and focus on staying in the zone until the timer goes off. Then once it goes off, indulge for a bit. Bonus trick – write things down and then put that list somewhere you can’t see it until after you’re timer goes off.

These are all examples of distractors in my life that I’ve had to come up with little tricks for to block them out. Working from home didn’t actually make anything less distracting but I have found ways to get a ton of work done just by simply getting into my zone.

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I aim to reach this zone where I’m at my peak performance a few times a day. I try to setup some blocks of time and know what I want to get done in that block. Then I go through and pull out all of my tricks. Headphones in, coffee filled up, heater on, DND set for my messages, email closed, phone upside down, each and every trick I’ve got, I put to use.

Then I get in my zone and go to work.

I would love to hear other people’s tricks on how they get into the zone! What kind of distractions do you face on a daily basis and what tricks work to help you get in the zone?