Leading From the Back

Leadership is an honor and a responsibility.

It’s something the world will always need. The act of leading is how we create momentum around ideas, initiatives and progression. It’s a choice and a privilege to lead others.

Leadership is also a skill. It can be learned and cultivated, but I believe some people are just naturally gifted with it. In that regard, there are fewer leaders in our world than followers. And to be candid, most people follow because it’s easier than leading.


Because leadership can be heavy.

That’s my truth, and what most leaders would probably tell you if they allowed themselves to be honest.

That’s not positive or negative, it’s just a representation of the weight that comes with leadership. This includes mental, emotional and sometimes physical weight. Humans look to leaders for guidance, answers and support. This simply requires a lot more energy to execute and sustain than being a follower.

I’ve been engaged in leadership roles since I was a young child.

  • I led my younger brother and peers growing up.
  • I was the captain of sports teams.
  • I excelled at academics and competition.
  • I served in leadership roles at different companies in my 20’s and 30’s.
  • I’ve created various businesses and teams over the years.
  • And now I lead my family, peers and clients in beautiful ways.
That’s where “leading from the back” comes in.

For decades I led from the front. I still do most of the time. I see the vision, set the pace and lead the execution. It’s my natural way of being. I thrive under pressure and enjoy the responsibility of strategy, direction and decision making.

However, I didn’t realize how heavy it was until recently. I didn’t realize how much energy it was requiring. I didn’t realize there was a different way to lead until I stepped back, literally.

I was on a hike at a retreat 2 years ago, and instead of charging ahead in front like I always do, I followed the advice of a mentor and chose to stay in the back. It was completely foreign to me. I’m never in the back. I’m always in the front, setting the pace, pushing forward so that followers have somewhere to go. I’m built for that.

But being in the back gave me a whole different way of being. It felt light and free. It offered a new perspective. It required way less energy.

So I stayed in the back and had an extraordinary experience.

Then I got home and reflected on what happened. By staying in the back I gave myself permission to rest and relax. I was still there in leadership form, but I allowed myself to take a break. This gave others permission to step up and lead. They had their own unique experience and I saw them. I saw them like I couldn’t see from the front.

And then I realized how important this was.

Empowerment & Rest

First, when we lead from the back we empower more people to step into their own form of leadership. We can still support them, but it’s completely different when they’re going first. When they’re failing. When they’re setting the pace. We can see them in a whole new way. We can still guide them without being in front.

Second, leading from the back gives us a break. It allows our nervous system to rest and recharge. Then we can come back better when we decide to be in the front again. I believe we all need a break every now and then to come back better. That’s why we retreat. That’s why we take breaks.

Some of you may not want a break. I get it. You’re wired to charge ahead and lead with passion. I was just like you! And I still admire that. I still have the same engine.

But what you may not realize is how much energy it’s requiring. How much weight it’s putting on your nervous system. How badly you could use a break if you just allowed yourself a bit of grace.

You can’t see this when you’re leading from the front. And you can’t feel it until you’re leading from the back.

Choosing to Lead from the Back

I’ve changed the way I lead in my life. I still lead from the front, but I look for ways to lead from the back.

For example:

  • When I hike with my family and friends I choose to stay in the back half the time. I still select the hike and know the path, but I want them to guide. I want them to feel more confident navigating nature.
  • When I support the people I work with I choose to let them go first more. I still set the strategy and I’m still there if they need something, but I want them to take the first step. I want them to take more ownership of their role.
  • When I have meaningful conversations I choose to listen before speaking. I still ask intentional questions and hold space, but I want others to start the dialog. I want them to feel heard and witnessed.
Leading from the back is a different way of being.

It’s why great military commanders aren’t in the front lines. It’s why great CEOs aren’t doing the grunt work. It’s why great coaches ask questions before speaking or telling a story.

This isn’t a new concept, but it’s very true for me in this season of life. I’m choosing to lead from the back so I can get a different perspective. I’m choosing to lead from the back so I can recharge. I’m choosing to step back and see people around me emerge into their own leadership roles.

What about you?

Are you currently leading from the front or the back?

Truly Disconnecting from Work

How often do you disconnect from your work?

I’m not talking about simple rules around your working hours or no nights and weekends. Those are great and healthy, but I’m talking about truly disconnecting here. The “I’m not available for several days” type of disconnecting.

No phone, no email, no social media, no connection.

I took several trips this summer where I was disconnected from work. One was a 3+ family Europe trip and the others were 3-5 day experiences where I was offline in nature. This was intentional to align with my family’s word for the year – challenge. I wanted to challenge myself to see how much adventure I could squeeze in, which required disconnecting from work.

Here’s a recap of what I learned –

1. Fear of being Unavailable

There was initial fear of being unavailable, probably the same fear you sense when you consider it. For example:

  • Will the business be okay while I’m gone?
  • Will clients and projects move forward?
  • Will money still come in?

I had taken a week or two off in previous years, but this summer I really checkout out and tested these questions. Every business has unique needs and circumstances, but the fear is the same. It’s all in our heads.

What actually happened while I was gone?

  • The business was just fine. In fact, I think it’s healthier and more battle tested from my time away.
  • Clients and projects still moved forward. This just requires clear communication and expectations.
  • Money still hit the bank. Deal flow was a little lower than normal with me away from sales, but that’s perfectly fine. There’s always time for new deals.

I also understand if you’re a one-person show and your time away from work actually stops all business activity. In that case, the fear is more intense but I’d still encourage you to consider how you could get ahead of things and create space to disconnect. That said, I would argue that disconnecting is a possibility for everyone.

The fear is real. I get it. But again, it’s all in our heads.

2. Easier with Practice / Reps

Disconnecting from work gets easier with practice. I remember the first time I did it a few years ago. I was so scared of the questions above and my inability to be available. It was a 3-day retreat and I committed to being offline. I told my team members I’d be offline and not to bother me unless it was a true emergency, at which point they could text me.

During the retreat I didn’t check my email once, nor did I receive any emergency text messages. When I came back everything was gravy and I remember feeling that bolt of confidence. So I tried it again and the same thing happened.

Now it’s part of my practice. I disconnect regularly and encourage my team members to do the same. I have a general process for disconnecting, which includes:

  • Proper planning and preparation
  • Setting clear priorities and expectations with my team
  • Communicating with clients that I will be offline until a certain date

With this in place, things still get done and work goes on without me. Clients understand that I need this time away, and if they don’t, they aren’t a good fit to work with me or my team.

Put the reps in and it will become a healthy routine.

3. Time Away from Computers

Computers are powerful devices with lots of utility. I get that. However, they are also toxic to the human soul. We were not designed to be on these things, let alone be on them for 8+ hours/day. Furthermore, we were not designed to have mini computers in our pockets all day long. In many ways our phones are making us dumber and causing all kinds of new stress our ancestors never experienced.

My time away from computers was awesome. It gave my mind a break and liberated my soul. I felt more presence with my family and friends. I felt more alive being outdoors and exploring. I felt like the kid who grew up with nature as my playground.

The consequence is that now it’s harder for me to come back to computer life. I often struggle the first week I’m back “in the office.” My phone and computer feel like foreign objects that demand my attention. My inbox feels like a space that I don’t want to be in. My text messages are backed up from friends and family.

However, I’m getting better at balancing the transition back. Computers do serve their purpose and allow me to create income for my family. They also enable me to share content like this. I can be grateful for computers after having enough space away from them. That’s the key – recognizing when I need a break from them, which my nervous system will usually inform me of.

Some quick tips I’ve learned here:

  • If you can choose time away from computers, do it. Any trip or vacation will be more meaningful with your phone and computers gone. A single text message or email can dominate your attention and take you right out of your experience.
  • Tell your family, friends, team members and clients you’ll be offline. That way you won’t have a flood of text messages or emails to come back to. Let them know ahead of time so their expectations are set.
  • Use your phone for things that enhance the experience. This includes picture taking, navigation, restaurant hunting, etc. Then put it away instead of opening up social media and your other apps. This keeps you in control of using the device, instead of the other way around where it controls your attention and distracts you.

When I travel to beautiful places I like to share pictures on Instagram. This reflects my inner creator and explorer. It’s also how I want to be seen in the world – as someone who seeks adventure and shares his findings. I want to inspire other people to get outdoors and travel, so I use my phone as a device to support that. Then I put it away and stay immersed in the experience.

Time away from my phone and computers is a huge element of staying immersed in the experience.

Benefits of Disconnecting

Disconnecting from work has a lot of benefits and they’re unique for everyone. After a few years of disconnecting here’s how I’d summarize the key benefits from my experience.

1) I feel less stress

This is easily the top benefit. When I disconnect it allows the stress from work and competing priorities to fade away. We all have stress and some of us have a lot of it. A quick 3-5 day disconnect from work, preferably in nature, is arguably the greatest stress killer available. Way better than any medication or prescription that promises to reduce stress.

2) I feel more creative

Nature and new experiences have taught me so many lessons over the years. They supercharge my creativity with new ideas and solutions. I always come back with a fresh perspective after having time away from work.

3) I feel grateful for my work

Work has been a big part of my life for the last 20 years. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’m wired to serve, create and solve problems. Taking true time away from work allows me to come back more grateful for it. I have more appreciation for my team, my clients and all the things my business helps co-create in the world. Just like any relationship, sometimes I just need space from my work.

There are plenty of other benefits, but these three stand out every time I disconnect. I also think they represent value for like minded entrepreneurs who want to justify time disconnected. If those benefits don’t speak to you, I’m not sure what will 🙂

I’ll leave you with a question –

When’s the last time you truly disconnected from your work?

Honoring Time with No Demands

How often do you give yourself time with no demands?

I recently learned about this phrase “time with no demands” from John Wineland, a men’s group facilitator, speaker, teacher and author. He does powerful work. John wrote about time with no demands in his book – From the Core. He writes about how this is one of four key things men need.

What I didn’t realize until hearing John’s perspective was exactly how important time with no demands was in my life. It’s been a part of my practice and journey to find inner peace. It’s also something I’ve been sharing with my family, friends and clients. In fact, I just co-led a men’s retreat where part of the focus was time with no demands. We took 8 men into the Colorado backcountry with an intent to disconnect from normal life. We embraced nature, self discovery and time with no demands. It was beautiful.

So what exactly is time with no demands?

It’s time with yourself where nothing is requested, asked or needed of you. It’s time where your mind shuts down and allows your nervous system to rest. No questions, tasks, ideas or any other competing thoughts for your attention.

This includes requests and demands you might put on yourself. You see, we’re really good at placing demands on ourselves. They come in the form of silent expectations and agreements. Things our ego mind will decide we should or need to do.

I bet you’re familiar with that voice:

  • “I should do this today.”
  • “I need to get that thing done…”
  • “What should I make for dinner?”
  • “Who do I need to respond to?”
  • etc.

The list of internal demands piles up quickly. It’s embedded in our human psychology to do this. We often let that voice dictate our life. And then we let external demands from others add to the pile. All the questions, requests and needs coming from other humans.

I bet you’re familiar with those as well:

  • “Can you do this for me?”
  • “I need you to do get this done.”
  • “What are you making for dinner?”
  • “Did you respond to that person yet?”
  • etc.

This creates a mountain of demands, which puts a massive amount of stress on our nervous system. That’s the problem. When we operate with tons of demands we operate under lots of stress.

If you’re a parent or leader you know exactly what I’m talking about. We take on demands all day long, and then we feel the pressure and stress as a result. However, most of you may not even realize how much stress you’re putting on your system. You may have just acclimated to it and assumed this is “normal life.” I see so many tired parents and leaders in the world. Their body language tells the story. It’s yearning for rest, peace and self love. Yet their mind has them tricked playing victim to a life with constant demands.

Well, I would argue that there’s a better way to live. It’s a life that gives you permission to take time with no demands.

So how do we take time with no demands?

It starts with prioritizing yourself. That means self care and practice of honoring time with yourself before prioritizing others. This includes your family, children, partner, team, etc.

Time with no demands is time with yourself.

You have to give yourself healthy permission to take this time. It’s time in your schedule where you’re alone and distraction free. No people, no phone, no agenda or desires. It’s time where you can let your system rest from demands.

For example, time with no demands can be taking a walk alone in nature. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the walk without distractions or internal demands. You will see the beauty and hear the sounds that nature creates, which helps you find your way back to that curious, creative, peaceful self. The stress will fade away and you will give your nervous system the gift of rest.

Time with no demands is NOT taking a hike with friends or family. That can create all kinds of demands. People needing water, wanting to know how much further, questioning the route, etc. Take it from someone [like me] who hikes with their family a lot! I love that time with my family, but it’s certainly not time with no demands.

Another form of time with no demands is immersing yourself in a solo sport or activity.

For example, taking time to golf alone. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the activity without competition or comparison from others. Enjoy the motions of swinging your club, watching the ball fly, and then walking the beautiful green to your next shot. Your focus on the act of play will take you back to that same curious, creative, peaceful self. It will allow your nervous system to rest.

A few other examples of time with no demands:

  1. Meditation or time in silence that has no desired outcome.
  2. Gardening, crafts, or other artistic work that allows you to create something as an expression of yourself.
  3. An intentional retreat where someone leads you through time and exercises alone. Note: I’m designing such retreats if this interests you 🙂

The key is spending time with yourself in a way that honors your natural need to be curious, creative and at peace.

We all need time with no demands

The final point I’ll make is that we all need time with no demands. It’s built into our operating system as living creatures. Look at every other species on the planet. Do you see them operating with a bunch of demands? Nope. You see them resting in nature while staying curious and surviving.

Humans are unique with our intellectual capacity. Basically, the strength we gain from our powerful minds is also our greatest weakness. Our minds are what generate all these demands and it starts at a young age. We’re taught to accept demands from school, sports, community and society at large. As we get older the habit sticks and we become adults that are accustomed to operating with lots of demands.

This creates a hyper competitive and stressful environment. We’re co-creating a world filled with demands. A world that replaces curiosity, creativity and peace with rules, systems and stress. A world with very little space to be our unique and beautiful selves.

I would argue that we all need more space. We all need more time with no demands.

Creating Space for Retreats

I’ve spent the last 5 years retreating for myself.

What does that mean exactly? A few things:

  1. I’ve physically retreated away from my family, home and normal environment.
  2. I’ve mentally retreated away from daily desires, demands and distractions.
  3. I’ve emotionally retreated into a new space that helps me become more in tune with my true self.

By doing so, I’ve become more aware, alive and at peace. We’ll dig into that shortly, but first, let’s start with why we retreat.

Let’s start with WHY

Whether we realize it or not, most of us take on way more than we can handle. This is especially true for entrepreneurs, leaders, high achievers and parents. We’re wired to take on all kinds of things in our lives, which create stress that we’re often not even aware of.

Stress isn’t always bad or negative, it’s simply a force or pressure we experience. We all accumulate stress in different ways – physically, mentally, emotionally and behaviorally.

To that extent, we normally suppress the stress we take on without a healthy system to also release it. In other words, most of us are out of balance and take in more stress than we release. This suppressed stress builds up over time and starts to affect the way we operate.

For example:

  • We can become tired, fatigued and overwhelmed from too much stress.
  • We can become ill or vulnerable to more disease from too much stress.
  • We can become emotionally unstable and volatile from too much stress.

As you’ve probably heard, stress can kill people. It’s no joke. And that’s precisely why we need healthy systems to release it.

Retreats are one of the most powerful and effective ways to release stress.

That’s not the only reason to retreat but it’s certainly one of the most common benefits.

Benefits of Retreats

Every time I retreat I pay attention to my level of stress before and after the retreat. Without question, I come back with less stress. The internal pressure I feel is decreased, and sometimes, even lifted. It’s fair to say I always feel lighter when I return from a retreat.

Some other benefits of retreating include:
  • A renewed sense of energy, focus and internal peace
  • Clarity on my current priorities
  • Deeper gratitude for people and things in my life

By stepping out of our normal routine and environment, we’re able to see things from a different perspective. We’re able to feel things we couldn’t feel. We’re able to reset, recharge. and refocus.

A retreat is stepping back with the intention of coming back better.

In other words, we retreat so that we can advance.

Types of Retreats

Retreats can come in different forms and durations. They don’t always have to be long or extravagant either. In fact, it’s possible to take a retreat every day if you design your lifestyle in ways that support it. Here are a few common ways to retreat.

Week long Retreat

Week long retreats are arguably the most effective and life-changing. This offers an opportunity to leave your normal physical environment for 7 days, which allows you to fully immerse yourself in a new experience. After day 3 you will typically sense a shift in how you think, feel and operate. You will have an opportunity to really be with yourself and forget the desires, demands and distractions in your normal environment.

These are also the most challenging retreats to commit to. We come up with all kinds of excuses around why we cannot leave “normal life” for an entire week. These excuses simply come from fear. Fear of letting others down, fear of what we might experience, and all kinds of other fears.

However, that fear is exactly why we need to retreat. A week long retreat is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself if you choose to overcome the fear and create space for yourself. You will learn new things, feel new feelings, and come back with a shift in how you operate. As a result, you will also reduce a lot of stress you’re carrying.

Weekend Retreat

A weekend retreat is the probably the most common. This involves leaving your normal physical environment for 2-3 days, which also allows for an immersive experience. A full weekend experience can often give us a needed reset including some of the benefits listed above.

This is a great place to start if you’ve never taken a retreat. It’s less scary while still giving you some space to disconnect. It can also be a great precursor to a full week long retreat.

Some common weekend retreats include:

  • Adventure retreats
  • Community retreats
  • Leadership retreats
  • Yoga retreats
  • etc.

The point is to break your normal routine for a few days. Similar to a week long retreat, you will likely come back with less stress and a renewed sense of focus.

Daily Retreat

Finally, there’s the daily retreat. This involves a mini escape from your normal environment, whether it be mental or physical. These can be creatively designed to fit your lifestyle. For example:

  • If you live close to nature you can take a quick hike or bike ride.
  • If you live in a big city you can practice a quick meditation or yoga.
  • If you live in the suburbs you can take a peaceful walk or nap.

Again, the point of the daily retreat is to break your normal pattern without having to physically leave your normal environment. Daily retreats are a great alternative and supplement to longer retreats.

Daily retreats can also be free and available to virtually anyone. This eliminates the fear and excuse factors. Daily retreats are a matter of choice and commitment. In other words, we have to prioritize them to yield the benefits. By creating daily space for ourselves, we can start to operate with less stress and better energy.

Everyone Should Retreat

I rarely use the word “should,” especially in this context. I don’t like telling people what they should or shouldn’t do unless advice is asked for. I call them should bombs.

That said, retreats are something I believe we can all benefit from. Why? Because we all need space for ourselves, and retreats are a powerful way to do that. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you have 1 kid or 7 kids, you have a job or own 12 businesses… fill in the blank. No matter who you are and what you do, I believe you need space for yourself. Period.

So consider giving yourself the gift of a retreat.

SPACE Retreats

The Ego’s Core Functions

Our ego is a powerful part of our psyche.

It’s heavily involved in how we think and make decisions. There are many ways to interpret and describe the ego, which I won’t expand upon in this post. Instead, I’ll focus on three core functions I’ve experienced from my relationship with my ego.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “ego” here is a general definition:

The internal voice inside your mind that protects you.

This voice can speak to us often. It helps us make sense of reality and serves some important roles in now we function.

3 Core Functions

Now let’s break down the ego’s 3 core functions –

1. Survival

First and foremost, our ego is designed to protect us. Its default state is to keep us alive and make sure we survive. This is the same mentality inherited by every other living thing on the planet. All animals and plants are designed to survive in nature, including humans.

Our ego is the driving voice behind this survival mechanism. This is why:

  • Our ego becomes scared if we feel physically threatened.
  • Our ego becomes angry and sad when we lose something we cherish.
2. Social Adaptation

The second function our ego serves is social adaptation. It’s designed to help us socialize and fit into society. Our ego craves external validation and seeks the approval of others.

Our ego is the driving voice behind this adaptation. This is why:

  • Our ego becomes nervous when we meet new people or experiences.
  • Our ego becomes happy when we make new friends or feel accepted.
3. Problem Solving

The final function our ego serves is problem solving. It’s designed to help us overcome challenges and problems in our life. Our ego feeds off pride and serotonin, so it will reward us for solving problems. It will even create new problems if we don’t have any to solve!

Our ego is the driving voice behind problem solving. This is why:

  • Our ego becomes frustrated when we feel stuck with an issue.
  • Our ego becomes excited when we have a new idea or solution.

There are plenty of other examples and possible functions of the ego, but these 3 are native to its existence. They all operate from a similar place as well.

Operating from Fear

Our ego is capable of all kinds of emotions, some of which I gave examples for above. However, it primarily operates from one core emotion – fear. Underlying fear is how it helps us survive, adapt and problem solve.

For example:

  1. The desire to survive operates from fear of death or not living.
  2. The desire to adapt operates from fear of isolation or not fitting it.
  3. The desire to problem solve operates from fear of complacency or inadequacy.

The ego is a fear driven machine. When we operate from fear we are honoring our ego’s core functions. Fear is not a bad thing either, it’s just a powerful emotion rooted in uncertainty. In fact, we need it to survive.

Many of us operate from fear most of the time. It’s how we stay comfortable and certain. It’s an essential emotion to operate from. But… that doesn’t mean we need to listen to our ego all the time.

Ego vs Soul

What our ego doesn’t provide is the voice of love, creativity and abundance. This comes from our soul, which is a completely different voice. Again, there are many ways to interpret and describe the soul, which I won’t argue. Instead, I’ll focus on what the soul represents in my world.

One way I would describe the soul is:

The internal voice inside your mind that inspires you.

To that point, our soul has its own set of functions which aim to inspire and liberate us from fear. The soul is an expression of our authentic selves, our deepest truths, and our natural gifts. The soul operates from love.

For example:

The soul has no fear of survival.

It knows life is a gift and all things have meaning, including death and loss.

The soul has no fear of social adaptation.

It knows real [internal] acceptance is showing up as our true self.

The soul has no fear of problem solving.

It knows we have everything we need and more.

The soul is the antidote to the ego in many ways. It doesn’t aim to fix your ego, but it can give you a different source of energy and perspective. It’s the other voice that operates from love.

So next time you’re faced with a meaningful thought or decision, pause and consider which voice is talking – ego or soul?

Growth in Linear vs Circular Journeys

We often look at journeys in our life as a means of growth or learning. However, we often overlook the way we approach the journey.

Here’s the idea –

There are two ways we could approach journeys in our life. One way is linear in which we move from point A to point B.

Linear Journey

Another way is circular in which we move from point A back to point A, realizing Ax. I’ll explain the “A squared” symbolism in a bit.

Circular Journey

What’s the difference? Let’s explore the shapes in detail.

Linear Journey

The line represents a defined start and finish. This is how most of us think about education and experiences. We have a starting point and an intended outcome or finish line.

For example, we start a new book with the intention to learn something. We finish the book, consider the knowledge received, and then put the book back on the shelf.

Primary education can also be a linear journey. We’re put in classrooms at age 5, given instruction for 13 years, and then graduated around age 18. Our schooling is considered complete.

Normal Growth

Linear journeys often represent normal growth. Going from point A to point B teaches us something new and then we close that chapter. We consider the growth received and leave the journey.

Normal growth reflects new learning.

Circular Journey

The circle represents a cycle. This is how we move through experiences without a defined start and finish, but rather a deeper opportunity to learn. We have an entry point into the circle, and then we do cycles to build more awareness and understanding.

For example, pursuing personal growth is a circular journey. I would argue that there is no way to reach a true end point or finish line in personal growth. It’s a continuous pursuit that evolves. After you do one cycle around the circle you will have a new perspective or understanding, and then it’s time to pursue another cycle.

Learning piano is another form of a circular journey. You might do a cycle to learn foundational principles, and then repeat new cycles to learn more advanced techniques. Learning any type of instrument, sport or skill could be considered a circular journey. You can never really “finish” the understanding and mastery of such pursuits.

Exponential Growth

Circular journeys can represent exponential growth. Doing cycles offers deeper learning that compounds from previous learning. Our capacity has expanded with room for more growth on the journey.

Exponential growth reflects deep learning.

Living in Circular Journeys

Life can become really fascinating and liberating if we embrace more circular journeys. Or stated another way, if we recognize that there’s always something more to learn. I think this is extremely relevant to situations where we’re taught that education is defined on a line.

A few examples:

  • It’s easy to think you learned something new from a book.
    But what if you read it again, or revisited a core concept, and then realized something profound? What if it taught you something entirely new in a different season of life?
  • It’s easy to think your parenting role might end when your children leave the house.
    But what if your best parenting experiences are yet to come as your children enter their own stages of adulthood? What if you could connect with them at a deeper level and learn amazing things?
  • It’s easy to think your role in a business ends after you exit it.
    But what if that was simply a cycle in your larger entrepreneurial journey? What if that was meant to spark purpose in your next endeavor?

As you can see, it’s mainly a mindset shift. Our perspective of journeys is shaped by needing closure. We are able to comprehend things more easily when there’s a defined start and end. That’s why we conditioned to create things with linear journeys.

That’s great, and I think linear journeys have their place, but I also think there’s a lot more growth that happens on circular journeys. I think we find exciting things when we go beyond the line, when we head into new cycles with an open mind. That’s where we can experience deeper learning. That’s where we can experience exponential growth.

In that light I will leave you with a question to ponder –

What’s something you thought you “finished” that you could still learn from?

– or –

What’s a linear journey you took that might actually be a circular journey?

Choosing Mental Clarity

Do you have mental clarity? Are you in control of your thoughts most of the time?

I recently asked my wife why she watches the news. Her answer was, “To get a sense of what’s going on in the world.” An innocent answer that many people would probably agree with. I think this same answer would apply to why people check social media – to check on what’s happening or avoid FOMO (fear of missing out).

In contrast, I don’t watch the news. Ever. I also use social media sparingly. I check Instagram daily, and then pop on to Facebook and Linkedin a few times per week to share my blogs and podcasts or answer messages from friends. I do not scroll or explore much at all.

I could give you a bunch of reasons why I think the news and social media have a negative influence on society. I could tell you how I think they’re programming us to not use our brains effectively. I could also tell you how they’re strategically engineered to induce fear and dopamine into our nervous systems.

But that’s not truly WHY I avoid them…

I avoid them because I choose mental clarity. I prefer to curate what I spend brainpower on. As a result, I am in control of my thoughts most of the time.

Mental Clarity

Our minds only have so much capacity for thought. We’re able to think around 50,000 thoughts per day, which calculates to 30ish thoughts per second. That’s a lot of thought!

In this regard, our minds are like computers. They have a limited amount of storage for thoughts. If you’re using up all the storage there’s simply no room left for more thoughts.

That’s where the news and social media come in.

Think about how many thoughts you’re generating if you’re consuming news and social media regularly. Friend and family updates, world events, professional updates, new products and gadgets. Your mind is having a thought explosion! It’s an endless party of more things to think about and process.

One simple thing can have a ripple effect that generates thousands of thoughts.

For example, you see something interesting on Facebook. So you click through to the person’s profile who posted it. Now you’re scrolling through and consuming recent activity from them. You find a YouTube video that’s worth clicking, and YouTube launches in a new window. Now you’re watching a video that mentions something you heard a few weeks ago from a friend. So you check your phone to find a text message from them, which reminds you that you have this thing to follow-up on. So you switch back to your email to find the thing…

The rabbit hole evolves into thousands of thoughts from one little thing, and now your mind is completely hijacked. You are reacting to all kinds of stimulus.

So what’s the problem here?

There is no problem if you want everyone else’s activity on your mind. That’s a perfectly fine way to live. You’ll just never generate anything authentic to yourself. You’ll never have real thoughts that you create because your mind is using all it’s bandwidth on other stuff. It’s constantly reacting to the next update or external influence. That’s the trade-off.

When we consume news and social media regularly we’re putting our minds on auto-pilot. We’re giving those sources power to influence our thoughts. We’re giving up our ability to think freely. We’re reacting instead of choosing.

That’s the problem.

Balance & Choice

I’m not suggesting you find a cave and shut yourself off from the world. That’s a pretty lonely way to live. I’m also not suggesting you get rid of the news or social media from your life. That might send most people into a spiral of depression with new problems.

Instead, I’m suggesting you consider more balance with choice.

Consider a life where you choose to consume media in moderation.

Instead of watching the news daily, watch it weekly or every other day. Instead of checking social media hourly, check it daily or twice per day. Instead of quickly Googling something you’ve forgotten, give your mind some time to think and use natural memory processing.

Consider a life where you choose more space for authentic thoughts.

Instead of consuming things, you create time to sit and experience your own thoughts. Thoughts of wonder, curiosity and creativity. Thoughts that only you could create. Thoughts that are so unique and exciting that they’re child-like!

These thoughts cultivate the real gifts within us, the good stuff. They liberate our minds from being hijacked. They help us find internal peace.

Authentic thoughts ultimately allow us to become the fullest expression of our true selves.

This is why we choose mental clarity.

Cultivating a Courageous Life

What does it mean to live a courageous life?

It doesn’t mean you have to be brave and courageous all the time. It doesn’t mean you have to take crazy risks. It certainly doesn’t mean you have to be a hero that wears a badge of honor.

No, it can be much simpler than that.

I think it means you’re willing to face fear. You’re willing to be with it.

To be with fear, we need to fully understand it. Once we understand it, we can evolve our relationship with it. So let’s define fear.

Understanding Fear

Most of us associate fear with unpleasant emotion caused by a threat or danger. Or, something that scares us. Fear is a powerful emotion that comes in many forms:

  • Fear of threat, safety and survival
  • Fear of loss / death
  • Fear of pain or suffering
  • etc.

We also have different types of fear – fight, freeze, faint or flee. All of these responses are defense mechanisms for us to resolve fear. And in some scenarios, we need to fight or flee to protect ourselves. For example, we need to fight if we’re being attacked or seriously threatened.

However, there is one other form of fear that consumes us. This form of fear is uncertainty. For example:

  • Fear of not knowing what will happen
  • Fear of not having all the answers
  • Fear of not being accepted
  • etc.

We spend a lot of time and energy protecting ourselves from these non serious threats. In fact, I’d argue we spend more time with uncertainty than we do with other forms of fear.


Uncertainty has a strong grip on our mind. It aligns with our ego and exists to protect us. In other words, we’re safe and comfortable as long as we’re certain of things. It’s an easier way to live. That’s why most of us avoid uncertainty and the fear it evokes.

That’s fair but it comes with a consequence. I think it actually comes with a huge opportunity cost…

It hinders our growth.

Yep, that’s what we give up when we operate under fear of uncertainty. We lose our natural ability to grow.


Because embracing uncertainty is how we learn new things. It’s how we increase our capacity for understanding. It’s how we test our limits and expand our range.

This is why so many growth minded people seek to get out of their comfort zone. They know it will provide them with new experiences, relationships, and an overall understanding of things. When we increase our capacity for understanding we decrease our uncertainty.

We grow by facing the fear.

Let me give you some examples:

We might fear the unknown of doing therapy, psychedelics or coaching.

It’s that internal voice in our mind that says, “No, that’s not for me. I already have all the answers. I don’t need help.”

Then we embrace the uncertainty and experience life-changing insights.

We might fear creating a podcast to share our thoughts and internal wisdom.

It’s that same internal voice in our mind that says, “Nobody will care or listen. I’m not worthy or credible to start a podcast.”

Then we embrace the uncertainty and realize our shares helped someone.

We might fear the acceptance of going to a unique conference or retreat.

The voice comes in again and says things like, “I’m not qualified for that. Those people won’t be interested in me.”

Then we embrace the uncertainty and meet amazing people that warmly welcome us.

By facing our fear of uncertainty we push ourselves into new territory. We learn more about ourselves, our world, and our potential to grow.

We cultivate a more courageous life.

Project Waves of Life

Waves offer so much insight into energy and motion.

I was recently inspired by a podcast with my friend Josh Painter to investigate this a bit further. He offered some awesome perspective around what we can learn from ocean waves.

Lets look at a wave’s lifecycle –

First, it starts quite calm and peaceful. Ocean water is at rest in its default state. It doesn’t really move unless something sparks change.

So then it starts to move from change or external forces of nature. This can be wildlife, wind, human activity and other factors.

Soon it starts to build momentum. The movement and gravity creates enough energy to push the water towards something. It needs a destination.

Then it grows as it builds, builds, builds. The water rises and takes massive shape as the energy evolves into a powerful wave.

And then it crashes! Boom. The wave reaches its destination and releases all that energy.

Now there is peace until the next wave comes.

Sit with that for a moment. There is so much beauty and education in that natural process. I think it matches the same kind of process we deploy for larger projects in our lives.

Our Life Projects

Consider the projects we take on in 5 similar phases.


Our default state is rest. We do it every single day, and sometimes we do it for long periods or seasons. We don’t pursue a project unless something sparks change from this rest.


Eventually, external forces come along. People, ideas, desires all start to move us out of this restful state. We start to move.


Soon this movement starts to build momentum. An idea becomes a priority. Focus is created and draws us towards a destination. There is a goal or outcome for the project.


The energy around this project grows as it builds, builds, builds. It evolves and rises into this powerful force with resources, strategy and communication.


And then it crashes! Boom. The idea is launched and realized.

Now there is peace until the next project comes.


This is so relevant to how we execute projects in our lives. For example:

  • Writing a book (like Josh)
  • Starting a new business
  • Launching a course, podcast or website
  • Big home improvements
  • etc.

Each project has unique complexity and duration, but they all follow the same process. They all go from rest to release with degrees of movement and rise in between. They all reflect our drive to take energy from idea to realization.

Thank you, Josh, for the inspiration and deeper awareness here.

Learning From Temper Tantrums

Next time you see a child throw a temper tantrum, pay attention. You might just learn something about yourself.

What in the world am I talking about??

Let’s start with some limiting beliefs. It’s probably safe to say:

  • Most people see temper tantrums as a negative thing.
  • Most adults are uncomfortable in the presence of a temper tantrum.

Sound about right?

Ok, now let’s define what a temper tantrum really is.

From my perspective:

A temper tantrum is an example of how we move emotion fully through our body.

That’s why they seem so intense. All the yelling, screaming and crying is the body’s form of letting out emotion in a very raw and uncontrollable way. By not controlling them, we’re experiencing a full expression of emotion.

This emotion comes from feelings. Typically, a temper tantrum is a mix of anger, fear and sadness.

A child throwing a tantrum in a toy store is a perfect example.

It usually starts as Anger

– Something needs to change – child wants a new toy.

Then it can evolve into Fear

– Something needs to be known – child starts yelling and screaming to make this known.

And then it can evolve into Sadness

– Something needs to be let go of – child starts crying when realizing they won’t get the toy.

And the best part of a temper tantrum?

Once it’s over, it’s over.

Have you ever noticed how young children throw a tantrum and then completely forget about it 5 minutes later? Yep, that’s because they moved all that anger, fear and sadness through their body. There’s nothing left so they’ve shifted their attention elsewhere.

But what do adults do when we experience stress?

We don’t throw a temper tantrum. Nope. We’ve been conditioned to suppress the emotion and keep it buried in our bodies. We block the real feelings and tell ourselves all kinds of stories about why it doesn’t matter, why we shouldn’t be mad/sad/scared, why we should be strong, etc.

Then years later we have an “ah-hah” moment when we realize the trauma and actually feel the real emotion.

And why are we conditioned this way?

Because when we were younger our parents told us not to throw a tantrum! They literally taught us how to NOT feel our feelings.


Because it made them uncomfortable, like I said in the first place.

It still makes most parents uncomfortable because they’re not in tune with their own emotions. They fear being a parent who’s child throws a tantrum for all kinds of reasons.

Have you ever witnessed a parent who yells back when their kid throws a tantrum? Yep, that’s their anger firing right back, which is usually guarding the real fear (or sadness) deeper inside.

In short, most parents simply lack emotional awareness and intelligence to hold space for a temper tantrum. That’s why it makes them uncomfortable.

Ok, my game of question and answer is over. I appreciate you playing 🙂

I’ll leave you with a few points to consider.
  1. Consider a temper tantrum for what it really is, a demonstration of emotions. These emotions can teach us a lot about ourselves.
  2. Then consider if we [parents] can actually learn from our children in these moments. Why do we fear being in the presence of real emotions?
  3. And finally, consider why you don’t throw tantrums, or why you’re committed to not fully feeling your feelings. What kind of emotion are you suppressing?

Self Knowledge is True Freedom

Our greatest wisdom often comes from internal understanding.

What do I mean by that?

It’s easy to learn something. Just open a book or have a conversation with a friend about their latest experience. The ability to learn new things is in endless supply.

But that’s not where we really grow.

It’s a kind of growth… but not the kind many of us are looking for. Not the true “personal growth” that many of us crave. Not the internal wisdom that makes us feel most alive.

That kind of growth, real personal growth, only comes from learning new things about ourselves. It comes from a deep understanding of how our world works. It comes from acquiring real internal wisdom.

Real personal growth comes from learning new things about ourselves.

Let me give you a couple examples:

  • Learning how pizza is made is fine and logical. Most of us can understand that. However, making a pizza from scratch is a completely different understanding. Being with the ingredients, working through the process of making dough and baking at the correct temperature, and then realizing the actual taste of the end result. That’s a true understanding.
  • Hearing about startup stories is exciting. Most of us can understand the general process of starting a new business. However, actually creating a startup is a completely different understanding. Being with the fear and uncertainty, working through the early challenges of product development and marketing, and then realizing actual revenue from your efforts. That’s a true understanding.

So while it’s easy to hear or read something new, it’s an entirely different thing to actually experience it for yourself.

That’s where we gain real wisdom and become free of things.

Why do we need to become free of things?

When we understand something we can become free of it. Free of the questions, fear and uncertainty. By answering the questions, facing the fear, and realizing the uncertainty, we can experience peace. We can experience freedom.

Many of our desires and questions are related to lack of freedom. We become fixed on ideals and chasing things simply because we don’t know what it feels like to actually experience them. This constant pursuit is similar to being stuck in a cage.

For example:

  • We chase being wealthy until we have enough money. Yet most of us still feel stuck because true wealth is not gained by having money.
  • We chase being liked until we have enough followers. Yet most of us still feel stuck because true friendship is not gained by having clicks.

We can chase things all day long and simulate what others experience as freedom. And we can get really good at this! There are prescriptions and how-to’s for just about everything.

But we will continue to feel stuck… and never feel truly free.

True freedom comes from our own unique experiences. It comes from knowing who we are deep down inside. It comes from self knowledge.

Scheduling Time for Space

Humans have become a species that fill space.

More specifically, we fill our minds and schedule with things that occupy space. This is part of our modern culture and social conditioning. Take a quick look at the world we live in:

  • We have small devices in our pockets that allow us to find information and communicate with others instantly.
  • We have immediate access to world news, events and social media as it happens LIVE.
  • We pride ourselves in staying busy and active with a never ending checklist of desires.
We have so much access to information and things that we’ve simply forgotten what it’s like to live without them…

Lost are the days of sending a hand written letter or reading the newspaper. That’s simply too slow. We need instant gratification, and we need it now.

Lost are the days of being bored with nothing on our mind. That’s simply too uncomfortable. We need dopamine, and we need it now.

Lost are the days of having open hours in our day with nothing to do. That’s simply too lazy. We need to show the world that we’re achieving things.

But Why?

I think it’s related to our inability to be still and sit with ourselves, which requires space. I think it’s related to our inability to be patient and slow down, which also requires space. I also think it’s a bi-product of the dopamine driven culture we’ve created and accepted, which doesn’t want us to have any space at all.

Let’s look at our typical day:

– Wake up and check our phone instantly. We tell ourselves we’re just checking the time but our mind is anticipating some new notification to check.

– Make a cup of coffee to jumpstart our day and then open a news app or email while we wait. Sitting in silence while coffee brews is not an option.

– Scroll through Instagram while going “number 2.” There’s no way we can have a bowel movement in pure boredom anymore.

– Eat a quick breakfast that can be microwaved or toasted. We don’t have time for a thoughtful meal, plus we’ll have 2-3 more cups of coffee to get us to lunch.

– Hit the gym for a quick workout while listening to a podcast. We didn’t even break a sweat because we paused several times to check text messages.

– On our drive home check Facebook at a stop light to see if we have any notifications in between the last time we checked it (10 min ago).

– Get home and help the kids get ready for school. They shuttle into the car and expect their ipads before they can buckle their seat belts, which they’ve learned from seeing us on our devices. Our mind is spinning on something we read earlier, so there’s no space for actual conversation on this drive.

– Arrive back home and head into the home office. We can now expect 6-8 hours of Zoom meetings, checking email, scrolling social media and staying distracted. We get up once or twice to use the bathroom and grab a snack. We had a meeting scheduled during lunch so there was no time to really eat.

– The kids get home and there’s a 10-minute window before getting back in the car for soccer practice. This was scheduled back-to-back with no time for a nap or rest.

– We get to soccer practice and none of the parents actually talk or communicate beyond a quick hello. That’s too awkward. It’s way more comfortable to just put some earbuds in or act like we’re reading a super important article (a.k.a. playing Candy Crush).

I’m not going to finish this day because I think you get the point…

By the time we reach the end of our day we’re exhausted. Our conditioning for staying active and distracted has sucked all the space out of our lives. There’s simply nothing left.

We don’t schedule space, we schedule THINGS to occupy space.

My schedule does not currently reflect that typical day, but it did at one point. And that’s exactly how I experienced burnout.

What was the common denominator?

I had no space. I was filling my life with distractions, commitments and things to do.

I didn’t have space to be still or stay bored. I didn’t understand how to go slow. I had one gear and a full schedule. As a result, I was basically running on fumes and it caught up with me. Burnout was a nasty thing that helped me realize rock bottom. An emotional abyss with no sense of purpose or direction.

Today things are different.

Hitting rock bottom was also the lesson I needed. It forced me to look at my priorities and lifestyle in a new way. So I took time to study how our minds work. I practiced slowing down and removing things from my schedule. I simplified my commitments and started building space into my day. For example:

  • I start my day in silence.
  • I rarely have my phone by me, and check it a few times throughout the day.
  • I don’t watch the news or consume any form of mainstream media.
  • I walk or run (alone) every day.
  • I write, record and journal every week to nurture my inner creator.
  • I say no to most things that are not a “whole body YES.”
  • I limit the amount of meetings I can join in a week.
  • I check out out of work around 5pm every day.
  • I take my time with work and meaningful projects.
  • I generally go slow and avoid things that fill space too fast.

As a result, I’ve realized a new level of internal peace and awareness. I learned that filling my mind and schedule with more things was no longer serving me. I operate better and show up more authentically when I have space.

The rest of the world still moves fast and chases more things, which is totally fine for them. However, I see a lot of stress, anxiety and burnout happening. I see people running on fumes with no awareness to even realize it.

I see a global culture that’s suffocating from lack of space.

What about you?

Are you hooked on filling space? Do you pack your schedule with things to stay busy and feel good? Are you truly exhausted inside?

If so, the answer might be to create a little more space.

Awareness of Projections

Projections are all the rage in human interaction. Yet most of us rarely even realize we’re projecting.

Before we dig into this hidden piece of psychology, let’s give some context to what a projection is.

According to Karen R. Koenig, M. Ed, LCSW, projection refers to: unconsciously taking unwanted emotions or traits you don’t like about yourself and attributing them to someone else.

While I understand this definition, it’s focused on “negative” perceptions of projecting. I’d like to revise the definition in my own terminology to be more neutral and accepting.

Here’s my definition of projecting:

Unconsciously attributing your own emotions onto someone else.

From my perspective, this is neither good or bad. It’s not a positive or negative thing. It’s simply projecting your emotions.

Let’s look at a few examples of projections:

1. You yell at your kids for making a mess.

They destroyed the living room in acts of absolute chaos. You get triggered and your reaction is to yell and scold them for making such a mess.

This is a form of projecting. You’re projecting your subconscious ANGER onto them, as if you are the one who has to clean up the mess. The act of cleaning up messes has likely caused lots of frustration in your own life, which is why it creates anger for you.

It’s not your mess, it’s their mess.

2. You tell your sibling they need to grow up and get a job.

They’ve lived a fairly nomadic lifestyle, much different from yours. They don’t worry about money and seem to get by with odd jobs. You lecture them on why it’s important that they find a real job and build a career.

This is also a form of projecting. You’re projecting your subconscious FEAR onto them, as if you are the one without a steady job and paycheck. That possibility scares you because you value the certainty and stability you’ve achieved in your own life.

It’s not your life, it’s their life.

3. You tell your parents they need to lose weight.

They’ve put on a bit of weight as they’ve gotten older and it’s become noticeable. Their diet is not great and they rarely exercise, so you decide to lecture them on how they should change things.

Another solid projection here. It’s easy to think you want to help but under the hood you’re projecting your subconscious ANGER and FEAR onto them. You may be angry that your parents aren’t valuing your advice. You’ve lived a healthy lifestyle and don’t like the thought of them not being able to realize similar results. You may also be scared that your parents’ health will decline quickly if they take no action. It scares you to think about your life without your parents.

It’s not your health, it’s theirs.

See how all of these examples have nothing to do with you, yet you make them about you by projecting?

Anger and Fear are powerful emotions that fuel most of our projections. It’s also completely natural to project from these emotions. While it’s easy to perceive these as “negative” interactions, as stated earlier, I think they’re simply a reflection of being human. It’s a form of attempted empathy. We want to sit in someone’s scenario and then give them our take. Virtually all of us have instances of anger and fear in our lives.

Projecting from Ego

In addition, we can also project from a place of pride or ego. These projections come in the form of mentorship, advice and general counsel from our own experiences.

Let’s look at a quick example:

You give a friend business advice.

Your friend is having challenges with their business. They know you’ve grown a successful business so they ask you for advice, which you share willingly.

There’s no anger or fear here, but rather a desire to serve. You’re projecting how you would handle the situation from realized experience in your own life.

It’s not your business, it’s theirs.

How to avoid projections?

Avoiding projections is actually quite difficult. Many of us project every day in our interactions with others, and it’s simply a part of how we communicate. Avoiding it all together is unlikely for most of us. However, there is a way to decrease how much we project.

The way to avoid projecting is to ask questions and hold space.

In other words, replace your thoughts and feelings with a question. Any of the examples I shared above could be reversed into questions.

For example:

  • Instead of giving your friend business advice, ask them where they think their business is most challenged?
  • Instead of telling your parents to lose weight, ask them if they feel healthy right now?

Asking questions is a form of holding space. It’s easy to share our thoughts and feeling around a topic (projecting), but it’s more challenging to hold space for it (questioning).

Why hold space?

Most of us already have the answers to our questions and problems. We simply need someone to hold space for us to find them. Finding our own answers and truth is more effective than following someone’s projection. Why? Because following someone else’s projection is not living authentically, but rather living vicariously through them.

I believe this is one of the biggest human issues. We spend so much energy trying to be like other people, emulating their lives, and striving for their status. Then years later we do some soul searching to realize we never truly wanted their life. We just want to show up as ourselves.

We are also more receptive to finding our own solutions than hearing them projected from someone else. Most of us would rather feel empowered to solve our own problems versus relying on someone else. This is why we’re resistant to coaching and therapy. It’s not in our nature to rely on someone else. It’s in our nature to find our own way. A great coach or therapist helps us find our way.

So when possible, think about how you might hold space next time you’re about to project.

The American Coder

This is a story inspired by The Story of the Mexican Fisherman.

A venture capitalist (VC) was at a local coffee shop one morning when a young man with a laptop came in. The young man ordered a coffee and sat down to open his laptop. He began working on a client project while sipping his warm cup of coffee.

The VC complimented the young man on his focus and asked what he was doing?

The young man replied, “I’m working on a new client project. I’m building them a website to showcase their products and sell them online.”

The VC looked at the young man’s work and noticed its quality. He then asked how many clients the young man had? The young man said he had enough clients and work to support his family’s immediate needs.

The VC then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The young man replied, “I sleep late, cook breakfast, play with my kids, take walks with my wife, travel a bit, and play soccer with by buddies. I have a pretty full and active life.”

The VC scoffed, “I have a Stanford MBA and run one of the most successful tech funds in the country. You have potential to be more and I can help you. Here’s what you should do…”

“You should spend more time working and with the additional profit, get an office. With the office you could bring on a few employees, which will allow you to build a team and take on more projects. With a team you could implement systems and processes to refine your project management and streamline your operations. You would then build your own product, which you could sell directly to your clients and new clients in a targeted niche. Then you can take an investment from my firm to expand vertically and offer additional products in your niche.”

The young man paused… and then asked, “Ok, but I have no idea how to do all this. I really just enjoy writing code and bringing ideas to life.”

To which the VC replied, “No problem. All you have to do is give up some equity in your business and report to a board of directors. They’ll tell you exactly what to do, who to hire, who to work with, how to scale, etc. You can still make some decisions every now and then. You’ll become knowledgeable in every aspect of your business from sales and marketing to building a team. Over time you’ll evolve into a CEO, but you can still write some code from time to time.”

The young man paused again… and then asked, “Ok, and how long will this take?”

To which the VC replied again, “Probably 5–10 years. You’ll have to work some nights and weekends to keep up with the investor milestones. They’ll keep you on track to make sure your business is profitable and growing. You may have to replace some of your travel with work conferences to stay up to date with industry trends. Your weekly soccer matches will probably be replaced with work happy hours and team building. It will be a “grind” but totally worth it to become an industry leader.”

“And then what?” asked the young man.

The VC laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to become very rich. You would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The VC said, “Then you would basically retire and have time to sleep late, cook breakfast, play with your kids, take walks with your wife, travel a bit, and play soccer with your buddies.”

The point of the story here is simple.

Sometimes we already have what we ultimately want.

Dropping Should Bombs

Should can be a very strong word.

It might seem like a subtle part of English language, but I think it’s a powerful word with more impact than we realize. Let’s start with the definition.

• should

Used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.

Obligation, duty and correctness are all words that relate to an attachment. Something to which we have a responsibility.

And then the last part – typically used when criticizing someone’s actions. This is the part that’s powerful. Another way of saying this is – telling someone what to do.

This is the part that carries more impact than we realize. I call it dropping “should bombs.” As humans who communicate constantly, part of our communication is telling other people what to do. We do it all day long…

  • You should do this.
  • You should try that.
  • You should get in shape.
  • You should talk to them.
  • You should really think about that.

All. Day. Long.

Great, so what’s the problem here?

Using should can be a major projection.

When we use that word we’re usually projecting an idea of our own onto someone else. We’re feeding them some thought that we’ve come up with because we think it might help or support them in some way. It seems rather innocent.

However, that word can carry so much weight. Using should can plant a seed in someone’s mind that they need to do something. In doing so, it can easily be perceived as a prescription or solution to a problem.

I think this does more harm than help, especially when help is not asked for. It’s one thing if someone asks you right out – “What should I do?” In that scenario, go ahead and unload your should bombs! But outside of that context, I think the word can be used sparingly.

Let’s dig in a bit more…

External Effect

Should has become a part of our daily dialog. It’s the most common way for us to give advice. We drop should bombs on our friends, family and acquaintances as if we’re all doctors of life with all the answers. We hear them say something and then we rush to give them a suggestion (or projection).

The question this brings me to is – “Who am I to tell anyone else what to do with their life?”

It’s their life and my thoughts are my own. I have no place to dump my thoughts on them. Now I’m just projecting or trying to feel helpful. When in reality, I’m likely just filling their mind with my own baggage and stories.

The caveat here is when we’re coaching or supporting someone. Again, they may ask for direct help, in which case it’s easy to justify saying should. But even here I would caution the use of should bombs. People generally already have the answers to their own questions. I believe we’re truly helping them if we ask more questions to guide them to their own answers instead of prescribing advice.

Internal Effect

Should is also a common word we use in our minds. We create the internal dialog of:

  • I should do this.
  • I should do that.
  • No, I shouldn’t do that…
  • Should I do this?

We create this this constant thread of debate with ourselves, which can be exhausting. The word is extremely heavy, even if we’re only thinking it. One subtle thought of should can stay with us for long periods of time. Furthermore, we can get hung up on past should’s – i.e. “Man… I should have done that.”

This type of internal narrative can be powerful and hard. However, there is a way to soften it.

Replacing Should with Could

I understand the need and context for the word should. However, I think using “could” is a better alternative in most situations.

Could is a lot softer with more flexibility. It stays open whereas should is very closed. Let me give you some examples –

Someone asks for help with diet and weight loss.
  • You should do Crossfit.

This implies that I have the answer for you. I know what’s right for you.

  • You could try Crossfit.

This implies that Crossfit might help. I’ve experienced benefits in my life from Crossfit.

Someone asks you for help with a relationship.
  • You should go to therapy.

This implies that I know what’s best for your relationship. I’m confident you need to go to therapy.

  • You could consider therapy.

This implies that therapy might help. I’ve experienced benefits in my relationship from therapy.

Starting to see the difference?

Should is hard and arrogant. Could is soft and graceful.


To be clear, I’m not saying you should stop saying should. That would be comical after everything you just read 🙂

I’m just sharing an example of how our words are powerful and important. Should is one of those words that can have impact. I’m becoming a lot more mindful of when I use it.