Author: aaronvelky

The Marathon and I…

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Marathon running is much like owning a business, quitting a job to start a company, or anything else that requires you to go the distance. This weekend I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, and wow did it go differently than expected.

Still, I learned a lot about the character and habits and mindset in place, and how this test is just a reflection of the others that are undoubtedly coming my way.

9 months of preparation. Nearly 500 miles of running logged, probably more if you count the non-tracked runs. There I was, in the presidential suite of the Double Tree near the Pentagon (and no, I didn’t pay for it, I’m a travel hacker – duh!).

I’m drinking water like it’s my job. I’m carb-loading like it’s the last bit of food I’ll ever get.

The Marine Corps Marathon was only 9 hours away.

I wake up early, 4am, get a little food, drink some more, and get into my meditation and visualization.

Wading through people and lines and drop offs, I get to the starting line and before I know it, I’m running. It’s chilly, but the run warms me up. I’m on pace for 3 hours in the first 6 miles, no big deal. I am smiling as I go by fan after fan after fan, watching families cheer on loved ones and fan-created signage that makes you laugh – i.e. Never Trust a Fart.

At mile 11, I’m moving at a good pace, averaging just about 7 minutes. I have lots of energy, but without any warning, my mind starts screaming at me to stop. Something’s wrong, but I won’t admit it to myself, and I refuse to listen to the weak thoughts.

WHAM. It was like someone hit me in the head with a sledgehammer.

Getting to mile 12, my head is spinning and I can’t run upright consistently. I tell myself I should stop for a break, then I battle that thought down. A few more yards and I can’t run in a straight line. I bump into someone as I try to find a way to the side, but I’m so unstable I can’t move my feet right. I waive for help, and two marines jog over just in time to catch me as I nearly start to fall over, no doubt assisted by a cramping right quad.

Sitting down, my world is on fire.

“You’ll never make it.”

“Quit now, and just go home.”

Among the list of marathon woes people experience, I don’t recall one saying “weak mindset.”

But here I was. Thinking about quitting.

After 20 minutes sitting, waiting for a medic, and then checking vitals still not feeling better, we called a medic over, but he took 10 to get there and another 5-10 to get to the aid station. By the time I got to aid, I was shaking. Cold, numb, and unsure of what I was going to do.

Some treatment, more vital checks. I’m laying under a space blanket made of ‘soft’ aluminum foil. And I can see out of the tent. I can see runners, who at this point are running a 5 hour time, a full 2 hours off my goal. But they are running!

Mentally I’m giving up. I’m angry and frustrated and sad – among other emotions – all at the same time.



Electrolytes, food, blanket. Stop shaking, and I’m sure I’ll be okay, right doc? He warns me that if I’m not showing signs of improvement, I should consider opting out.

Isn’t this message what we hear all the time? Play it safe…Make it easy on yourself, just don’t even try!

Just take it easy, go home and fall in line with everyone else. It’s easy.

This is the messaging we always get. Stay where you know it’s safe. 

(Let’s tie this back to business – THE WORLD DOESN’T PUSH YOU TO BE GREAT. ONLY YOU CAN DO THAT!!)

Thanks to whatever they gave me, a few minutes later it was like the lights turned back on. I could finally think clearly.

There was no fucking way I was not finishing this race. I had a PT massage my cramping right quad and hamstring, and hobbled my way out. Here we go.

The rest of the race was a series of fails and pains and cramping, but I got to the last hurrah and powered my way through it, despite cramping at nearly each step. Fuck it, why not finish, right?

If it isn’t overt at this point, I did not hit my 3 hour goal.

I wasn’t even close. In fact, I don’t even know my time. I don’t care.

Crossing the finish line and resting, I had two friends meet me. I started to eat some fruit, sad down, and on came the shivers. It wasn’t long before medics had to come back over and I was back in the damn tent again. Shaking, I get changed and sit with all kinds of stuff to help me get warm.



“Beginning stages of hypothermia,” the doc says to his team. We joke about it, and I’m laughing. I don’t feel good at all, but that’sthe irony – I somewhat love this space.

Yes, look how happy I look!!!!

By this space, here’s what I mean:

Odds against, and people telling me my best shot is to not continue (welcome to entrepreneurship my friends)

Overly fatigued, injured, but proud of what I’ve done

Mindful enough to know whatever pain I’m in or whatever I’ve suffered, better is coming and the current state is only temporary

Down, physically and emotionally, but never out

A few years ago, before I spent a 2 year period truly self developing with at least 10 hours a week, I would have had a totally different response. Here’s how, despite not making my goal and being SO far from it, this is still an event I’m proud of:

This will apply to any entrepreneurs reading and anyone that’s thinking of doing something tough – like quitting your job or having that conversation you’ve been avoiding.


Ask for help – there’s nothing wrong with it, and typically it’s just your ego that wants to fight for power dynamic wins. Take a deep breath, get clear on what you need help with, and ask for it. Find a coach, get a mentor, whoever you can! 

Be able to receive – people will help you but you have to be open to getting help. I had a long conversation with a friend of mine that really struggled with this. People would ask him, “How can I help??” and not only did he not have an answer, but he couldn’t accept the help even once he did! Be willing to accept what people offer, and you’ll have a much better go at your goals!

Finish at all costs – no matter what. Make it happen. Don’t worry about what happens, just make the decision to figure it out no matter what comes your way. It’s an outlook and perspective that becomes critical at higher levels too. 

Don’t do it alone, have people there to support you – seriously, back to point one and two. Get people around you that will help you get there. You’ve got this.

Whether it be starting a business, quitting your job, or running a marathon, I believe in you and your ability to make it happen. Focus in on the goal, and who you need to be to accomplish it. And after that, never look back!



What’s an area of your life where you could use these four to make RAPID change and finally get where you want to be?

Share below – and let’s figure out how to get you there!



Redlining – Burnout Perspective Take 1

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One of the beliefs that I came to be self-aware of was this: I was associating suffering with success. I had in my mind this connection, which started in the healthy way – like you work more you get more.

It started that way as an athlete, I believe, because work is associated with suffering, and pain (the right kind; think building muscle) is a good thing. But where I ended up was the belief that the more I suffered the more successful I’d be – and this was outside the gym. If I sacrifice more, give up more,  I’ll win.

That belief came to such a powerful halt was because I sat down and really looked at it objectively: if that is my belief system the only thing I’m chasing then is suffering and I’ll never be happy because suffering and happiness are opposite.

We’re in a culture that’s almost narcissistic when it comes to work – “be an entrepreneur and I don’t give a fuck about anybody else, and just get your money.”

I think conversely we’re also getting messaging like: “Give up everything – don’t  eat, don’t breathe – just work and work.”

A friend on the other end of the phone says, “I feel like I have been red lining I think for the past four years and I’m at the point now where am I stuck. And I’m thinking, ‘I’m red lining but I can’t ever possibly get what I want if I’m working this hard and often and require a serious break just to make sure I don’t die.’” This conversation turned out to be just the message we both needed.

Redlining in the sense of working so hard you’re sacrificing everything else, i.e; burnout.

So for any of out there not sure what will take you to the next level, let’s talk about how my approach has changed, and what results have been.

What I’ve moved towards is this place where I come first. A little self love, a little happiness, a little reverse priority.

I don’t set appointments before 10 am. (Unless, there’s like a really urgent need.) I also avoid email as best as possible during this time. Before 10 am is for me and it’s for work in the most productive and creative part of my energy.  By productive, it doesn’t have to be work. It could mean going for a run, or anything that’s highly productive: Planning, thinking, creating, mapping, setting goals, eating, etc. Those could be more productive than meetings and pulls and emails.


We associate working with more production, which is simply not true.

So, I think what we’re after what we’re chasing in in this concept of red lining is super high production and if we’re aiming for super high production, then we must realize that the amount of time we put in is pretty much irrelevant. Production is not a function of time.

Example: Working on a project could take you 10 hours, or 10 minutes. If you complete the project with the same level of quality in both cases, which is more production?

You can have a really really productive day in five minutes and you can have a really unproductive day in twenty-four hours.

I think by setting some boundaries and installing some limits and putting yourself  in a position where what you’re consistently asking yourself “Is this high production?” and if you’re not in a high production mode – STOP talking, STOP working and find some joy.

For a long time, I would get home at like 9pm after some coaching. I would answer emails for an hour, then crash. But now, I’ve realized I’ll do a better job if nine o’clock, I know I’m tired, and I realize they won’t read them until tomorrow. So I sleep, get up at my 530, and plan out my day, and email them at 10am, when they’ll read it. Sleep is my highest and best use at that moment. Sure, there are exceptions, too. I’m not suggesting this is a rigid system at all. It’s one I’ve adapted and iterated over more than a year.

But this redefinition is important. It forces us to reanalyze the relationship that we have if ‘doing work’ is the objective. The objective of a business is to build happiness (search that quote) and, in my opinion, to serve others.

The messaging we get is opposite this. The hard part is in taking all of these fucked up messages that are just bombarding us consistently with: “If you’re not working, you’re going backwards” and that’s just not true. I am constantly moving forward, but that doesn’t mean I’m ‘working.’ That also means that sometimes I have to redefine what qualifies as work.


The efficiency and productivity that you need might be best strengthened or added to by stopping working and going for a walk.

As a creative, I really tend to lean into my creative as often as I can, and truthfully I can’t do that and go, go, go without breaks that lead to inspiration that lead to better quality creation. I have to spend almost as much time reflecting as I am painting for my painting to have any emotion in it.

I don’t know a whole lot about every industry, but let’s talk real estate as an example. I think I understand at least one simple principle:  If you want to sell one $3,000,000 house you make more money than if you sold four $100,000 houses. Spending your productive time focused on one success then rather than for mediocre performance, and you’ll make more. Commission based on sales doesn’t have to mean volume, it can mean quality.

Secondarily, our culture of comparative, comparatives as a means of happiness, seems to undermine most of our positive emotions. Worrying about everyone else ain’t going to make you happy, it will just make you suffer.

If you hang out with old people or anybody over the age of like sixty that’s been successful you’ll get a very different sense of this concept of work.

They’re going to have wildly different ideas of this relationship that we have with work. They’ll say things that challenge your perspective. Often we’re desperate to  get the things that make us feel better with money that we don’t have. So, we work on things we don’t like, and then have to keep working to maintain them.

This cycle spirals when all we wanted the whole time was to do things that we love and the things we want only cover that up frustration of NOT doing what we love. Things mask that anger frustration and pain and we end up chasing and burning the candle at both ends to get something that didn’t require money in the first place. If you do things that make you happy every day more than likely the money going to come because you’re doing what you love.

Happy people are typically successful people – not the other way around. Successful people are not always happy.


Some marathon runners run because they enjoy it. Some because they think it will prove something, or win them something – like attention or love. Who do you think generally becomes more successful?


We often think that it’s the big things that will make us happy: it’s the big house, it’s the big wedding ring, it’s the big cards, cool clothes, and flash cars. But if you’re trying to figure out why you’re redlining, and why you’re not feeling productive, consider that you’ve been sold an image of happiness, not a feeling of happiness.

Chasing something that you don’t want, with energy you don’t have, especially when you don’t even enjoy the chase. I am of the opinion that if you are aligned with why you want something, the chase has meaning and therefore production, redlining and other elements of the chase much more naturally work for you.

If you need millions, why?

I’m not suggesting millions is bad. Get yours. But why? Do you want to just be flashy? That chase will be tough until you get really clear on why.

This happiness element relates to production in a major way.

I’ll tie this together quickly and neatly.


Redlining, burnout, isn’t real when you’re happy, and if you know why you are moving a specific direction (clear on why you want a specific end result, rather than why you’ve been told you should want it) and understand what will move you towards that, you will quickly find that ‘more time is not the same as ‘more work.’ In fact, doing more work may mean working less, because you’ll attack the work in spurts and with lots of energy.

So for any of you out there approaching burnout, shed your need for ‘work more’ and focus on produce more, and you’ll be on your way to a happier, healthier you.

Personality, Confidence, and Systems

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I have been working with a few clients taking them through a course I created called Mental Mastery. The emphasis is on mental training that will change physical elements – like athletic performance, success, networking and work ethic most commonly. It also augments any business aptitude, too.

So, the conversation with one of my clients, loosely transcribed (and edited to fit the format here) is below. This particular day we were talking about Personality.


AV: What’s the most important thing to know about your personality?


CLIENT: “That it’s part of who I am and can lead me to success?”


Not quite.

A fundamental element of personality, in my work with students (any age), is this idea that your personality is not fixed. Your personality can change depending on the experiences and environment that shape you.

We can be calm, cool and collected at some point; it can be angry, disappointed, and upset another depending on your experience. Sometimes I’m shy. Sometimes I’m not.

Most of us think of traits like these physical elements of our being – athletic, brown hair, blue eyes.

Your personality is also made up of other adjectives: generous, humorous etc.

These other components are all quite flexible. With this belief, I coach students to a systems-and-goals based personality, so that they can move forward and have the necessary perspective and tools to be successful.

The exercises we’ve been working on are often self-reflective, and my role is somewhat of a shepherd in self-exploration. In doing so, it’s also important to mention that we are often exposed to environmental pressures to be, change or maintain our personality in specific ways, but changes in the environment will also yield changes.

So as we dive into the call that my client and I had, you can learn, takeaway, and grow with them.

Onward. Here’s what we did.


AV: What you think is driving you towards your goals?

CLIENT: “The way I think and act. And motivation?”


At a base level, yes.

Some would immediately suggest it’s your personality, or your work ethic, or your network. But I would disagree with all of that.

When we start to see success, it can trigger a lot of fears and emotions, and we can self-sabotage. What we need is a way to avoid the emotions and stay focused. The emotions can totally mess us up.

So then, we need something emotionless; rigid. It’s your systems. Systems make for your success.

Systems create continuous progress to take you towards your goals, and systems are indifferent. When you are not motivated, when you are not energized, when you’re not inspired things still happen.

Willpower is limited and the system works to support action without willpower.

If the word system scares you, or doesn’t seem clear enough, let’s define it:

System: set of operations and feedback loops that operates with little or no regard to motivation, excitement or other emotions.


CLIENT: “So how do I know if I have a good system?”


Personality helps us determine what we want and what we align with, what’s important, and where we want to go. Systems are the car that gets us there.

Maybe material things aren’t important. Maybe you prefer experiences. If that’s a part of your personality, then let’s create a system supportive of that.

A failing system would be one that supports material things over experiences, and thus incongruence.

I’m not suggesting you change. I’m suggesting that creating a system of alignment can greatly support you being more present, more happy, and more successful at having and doing what makes you happy.

And happy people almost always find success.

What we can see, most of all, is that we are human and the system helps us stay consistent and stay protected. And when (not if) we fall, when we fail, we have a system to make sure to ensure that we retain what we’ve worked towards before getting too far off course.


If building a system and goals is not currently a part of your personality, that’s okay. You can learn and incorporate small changes. A good catalyst will change that.

Working with my students, they too had no system and lacked direction. They were dealing with a lot noise – frivolous uses of energy that netted them only temporary positive outcomes because there was no series and connection to what they actually wanted.


But after some work together, we’ve developed a system and a progressive goal system that HAS BECOME A PART OF THEIR PERSONALITY.

The important elements are two-fold:

  • Getting coaching to develop a system and set of goals can push you to where you are successful – this comes as a function of your processes being disconnected from your emotions
  • Personality can change, and should, as you grow into more self-awareness, desire, and challenge – which can mean doing or being someone that creates goals and systems


There is a really cool quote from Albert Einstein and I believe it is, that goes:

 “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results is the definition of insanity.”

AV: What do you think about that?

CLIENT: “I feel like that’s most of my last year or last season!”


So maybe start with this:


Ask the question: What actions are you taking again and again while expecting the results to change?

We all do it, but we can look at it objectively and then make change.

And if something doesn’t work, how quickly can we change it?

It all seems pretty logical but you’ll be surprised how many people are doing the same thing over and over. Maybe they know it, maybe not.

If you find yourself looking at your results and haven’t hit any of them, it’s a great time to say “Is everything going the way I wanted to go and more importantly why not?”

I liken our issue here with mashing the buttons over and over again (that’s a nerdy gamer comment meaning doing something without tactics or strategy). You may win the round, but when things get tough, you’ve got no shot at a win.

A system is a series of actions and reflections (feedback loops) that acts and operates without regard to emotions.

Putting a system in a place with a combination of clarity and support can help you avoid random actions that are based on motivation and high energy outbursts. Instead, what we are is calm and controlled so that progress and growth is regimented and sustainable.


CLIENT: “So, what role does confidence play in developing in a personality?”

I think there’s a relationship between the two. If you’re confident in your personality, your personality can shine and you can be more confident. It upcycles positively.

Confidence is a feeling and belief, so it can be fleeting as well.

Any top-level performance (athletic, entrepreneurship, etc) is going to be driven by the decisions we make and the way that we feel.

If we’re not feeling successful we are not feeling confident (emotional states) our energy is going to be off and we’re going to make poor decisions.

But confidence can upcycle too.

For example, if you’re really good at math, you start to get rewarded in class with good grades, even when challenged. Then you’re invited to an upper level class. You have some confidence going into that, so taking on something new is not so scary.

After this event, you may realize that you could take on new challenges, and whether you are successful or not, you grow. From that, you may develop a system to deal with the emotions when you get invited to do something you’re afraid of:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Count down from 5
  3. At zero, open your eyes, GO!

A system doesn’t need to be complicated, after all.

You may also find yourself intimidated, and not confident, which is where having a system like the above is key.

But here’s where personality, systems and confidence can all swirl.

If you are aware of your personality you can make decisions that align with it. If you are goofy and generous, and you’re doing goofy and generous things you’re probably going to feel confident. If you’re doing things that are really serious and very selfish, you’re likely not to feel confident that you’re doing something very different from your personality.


We are often pressured into being something we’re not and we feel stressed, anxious, worried and fearful because we’re not aligned with our personality.

Suddenly, we’re unsure, confidence leaks, and we’re forced to rely on something firm to help us back up. Without a system, there is nothing firm to hold us upright.

But, if a person has a system, they can be sustainably confident – as they’ve got a means to deal with hiccups and blunders, or loss of motivation.



Here’s a few examples of systems I use (below are the simple ones) to make sure I don’t rely on emotions. Try them out:

  • I don’t read email when I first get up. Simple, but it keeps me from starting my day with any pulls of emotions. I focus on what I need to do, not what the world wants from me.
  • When I talk to someone and say, “I’ll follow up,” or, “I’ll send you that,” I immediately stop. I pull out my phone or journal (I almost always have one or the other) and write it down. I use Google Inbox and save a reminder right then right there.
  • Every quarter I sit down and look at my yearly goals. Then I break down quarterly objectives, then I go further into 30, 60 and 90 day goals, so that brick by brick, I’m building towards the yearly in alignment. It takes about 2 hours per 3 months.
  • I put events and due dates on the calendar. Another simple item, if I know a certain task is due in two weeks, on the calendar it goes. I spend Sunday looking at the week, and can make a list of things that need to be worked towards when it is present there.
  • I get up at 530 and get on a call at 6am each day to prime myself for a supercharged day. Having others on the call is accountability for when I’m tired or not feeling it. But I still do it.


Places where I could use a better system, since I have too much variability:

  • Eating a consistent set of meals each day. I’m on the go a lot and sometimes skip meals. Ooops.
  • I bought Freedom, and app that lets me block certain websites so I can’t get distracted. I need to start using it.
  • I’d like to read more often, and close my day consistently with it.



What are your systems? Are you lacking them? What parts of your personality need to change so that you can use them effectively?



The 11 Best Lessons I’ve Learned in 1094 Days

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It’s been  1094 days since I quit my job and went full-time into running ME as a company and sprinting after dreams like I was meant to. To encourage all of you others who are on the fence, in the thick of it, or still waiting for your chance, here are some of the lessons I learned reflecting back on my 3+ year timeline!


  1. Your biggest wall and barrier and enemy and hater (the list goes on….) is you.

Dreaming many nights as a kid, I remember floating high in the sky. It was a terrifying dream – watching myself float against a dark, cloudy sky in what seemed to be an abyss with nothing solid to touch or land on. There was no sound, nothing happening, and no action taking place. It was solitude.

But, there was someone else floating with me.

For years, as I circled around myself, staring intensely at another person, nearly nose-to-nose in epic dragon ball battle format, I realized something chilling.

The person I was standing face to face against was none other than myself.

In regular fashion of self-deprecating, I was the guy mad at himself for not getting up on time, or not working enough hours (more on that to come in number 5) or not celebrating a success with the team.

When I learned that I needed to get out of my own way, spend time finding better systems to keep me moving forward and out of my own way, and was more honest about what might have been holding me back, I was able to climb the walls and barriers faster and with more ease.

To do that, I stepped up big time to number 2, and I would recommend that if you’re in your own way, you do the same to get yourself more in-tune with the fact that you’re likely holding yourself back and screwing up your own progress.

  1. Money is energy – and spending energy on self-development always pays you back

3 years ago, I would have snuffed my nose up to investing in a course or spending to join a peer group. I could do it on my own, after all.

More importantly, I wanted to.

But the reality was that at those points where I turned my nose up to investing in myself, I was being bullish by refusing to accept that I didn’t know something. Deeper than that, I was denying myself the chance to learn and denying myself the reality that as I learned, I would get better and my business would do better.

But I was basically insane, going about my business and doing the same thing over and over and expecting to one day get to abundance. Nonsensical!

Not only was that impossible, but I had the wrong idea completely.

This last 12 months, from mid-2017, I’ve invested a total of $8,145. 17 in myself. Courses, summits, networking groups, etc. Want to know how much my business has grown since then?

Nearly $58, 977.41. Would you say it was worth it? What’s holding you back from investing in yourself?

Find a course, mentor or peer group that can hold you to the fire of your own dreams, STFU about what you think you know and go learn it, and then come back to me and tell me it wasn’t the best decision you’ve made.

There. Challenge issued.

  1. Paydays come from Persistence.

No. No. No. No. No. No. YES! That’s how it goes.

There’s two truths here.

  1. Don’t think that you should be living in the whole “10% of your calls will be successful, so just make a TON of them.” That probably means your calls don’t showcase your product or your pitching is self-centered, rather than you looking to solve someone’s problem. But, you’ll still have to make a lot of them. The trick is to iterate quickly – learn what’s missing, learn what works, and get to the point where you can nail more calls at a higher rate. But you’re going to have to put in the time to learn it, and persistence through the NO period is key.


  1. Second, frustration is good. If you’re not angry that you’re not selling, if you don’t suffer a little bit, then you probably aren’t going to make it very far anyway. Because, at every level there are challenges and things that get you frustrated, and things that don’t work. So, pull your heart strings together, toughen up your skin, stiffen up that upper lip, and keep going through the hard times. The sunlight is just beyond the clouds.
  2. Get quick at identifying things you’re bad at; the faster you do, the faster the company grows

I wore a pendant for a while that helped me keep my mind on my attitude. It was a Jack of Hearts, and I was the Jack of all Trades, with a love for knowledge. But – I eventually had to retire that.

I found while hunting on the interwebs that the poem I knew was unfinished as it was often said:

            Jack of all trades, master of none.

But really, it was written WAY back in the early days as:

            Jack of all trades, master of none, oft times better than the master of one.

I was hooked. THIS WAS ME! Marketing, Consulting, designing, personal training, painting, coaching, start upping…. the list went on and on! I learned a lot, but man I was pulled in SO many directions.


I’ve since retired this Jack, as it can no longer be me.  You see, I was using this phrase as justification to learn anything try anything, and delegate little so I could learn.

This would be fine if I was at a full-time job – as taking on more assignments and learning from them is a great policy. But in the land of startups, this is a flippin’ death trap!

Speed is the game out here, and while I was learning my tail off, I was slowing everything down.

Once I took an inventory of the things I was truly best at (read also, best practiced at), I was able to find people to do the other work faster. Now that we’re up and moving faster with more income coming in, that is essentially how other jobs get created. Go figure.

Now I feel like duh, but serious advice here for other ‘jack of all trades’ types out there – lay down your pride, pick a few things you’re good at, and learn more about those skills rather than spreading yourself thin. Everything you’ve done to date, all that web work, marketing, product design, and all that – keep it with you.

You never know when you’ll call on it or when you’ll use that experience to connect two dots from two industries that create a brilliant mix!


When you can admit what you’re not good at, you can not only find the right person, but you will then know your strengths and be able to really lean into them too.

  1. Keep doing those humbling gritty tasks and celebrate the team wins

I was at an Ortus Academy event recently. The team and I were all done, and they were all huddling together, sharing stories and laughing. I knew we had a tight deadline to clear the room and get out of there.

You know those CEOs or leaders that go down to the janitors or boxing department and get ridiculed for being bad workers? Yeah, that won’t be me. Now, I might not be able to do everything, see above, but I can at least be unafraid of getting my hands dirty.

I was picking up the crayons left on the floor, sweeping up trash, and more.

And the best part is, I loved it!

The staff was sharing how enjoyable the event was, and how special the day was to the kids.

In a case like that, they deserve the chance to relish in the victory.

Five minutes later, after they were done celebrating, they all took a hand in the cleanup and we knocked it out and left. But I do believe that leaders lead from the front and serve the cause and the group before themselves. Rather than delegate the gritty stuff, take it on and see how transformative it can be for your team.

To my second point – I have had YEARS of moments where I chose to get back to work rather than celebrate a team win. After effort and energy is expended, let me share this massive lesson with you, in hopes you learn from it:

An hour spent celebrating with your team, cherishing the moments together, and building the chemistry and comradery needed to grow, is worth 50x what the one hour would be of un-energetic work after a long day.

Take it from me, build the team, and you’ll go further anyway.

  1. Finding better ways to do something at the start will teach you how to find better ways, but eventually, just fkn pay for it

This goes back to my Jack comment, number 4.

You know that guy that will work 4 hours to save himself $4? Been there.

A friend of mine once asked me why I had food delivered to my house. I was getting a service, HelloFresh, to deliver weekly meals, so I didn’t have to shop as much and had meals available.

Her argument was that I could save likely $20-30 a week, $120 a month, on food if I shopped at a market. I appreciated her concern, but here’s the reality.

If I have food delivered weekly, I save roughly 5 hours a month – the 15-minute drive both ways (30), 20 minutes in the store, 8 at the register, and 7 texting in the parking lot while I sit in my car. I still need to kick that habit.

In 5 hours, I can make WAY more than $120. In fact, at just my personal training rate, I could earn $350+ with that time.

Ease or pay – do the math, figure out if it’s worth it. And if not, spend the flipping money and go get you some more!

  1. Balance is not a real thing. Harmony is a better objective

Ask any entrepreneur or found or whatever you call us. Don’t count the guy or girl that wants to start a company but always finds a reason not to. Also, don’t count a guy that buys a franchise. I don’t think those belong in the same definition of the word.

But ask them about balance – about how many hours they take off, and how many days in a row they work. I just hit 43 days in a row, no days off. Even on a day “off” I’m likely to answer emails and plan out items or manage the team or be on the phone.

Balance is a myth in this world.

But harmony can exist.

Laden with passion, I love what I do and don’t want a whole lot of time off. That’s what got me here in the first place, through all the frustrations and need for persistence (see number 3). But, that means balance is not possible; still, there’s a need for something.

Be it not rest, or sleep, or love, or what-have-you, you may still need breaks and respites. Based on your aspirations and dreams, you may need or want less, but with the idea of Harmony in mind, your life should still be moving forward in all directions.

Harmony to me, in this context, is: The ability to create a lasting and perpetual lifestyle of work, play, and learning based on solid prioritization and alignment with purpose and goals.

With harmony, it’s not really taking a vacation. When I travel, it’s to reconnect with my creative side by changing my environment, and to experience new things with a new lens so that I can add more value to our business through that lens.

I don’t want to get away, even if I do book southwest a lot.

  1. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know – PLUS how you know them

I knew a guy that was a total dick to me the first time I met him, let’s call him Mike. Like – mean for no reason. He asked me to connect him to another friend of mine who we will call Dave, as he thought he’d be a great client.

I agreed with him, because what he was selling WAS a good fit for my other friend and would solve one of Dave’s problems.

The issue was that Dave was a phenomenal friend. And, I didn’t want to damage that relationship, not only for myself, but for all the referrals I would later be able to add back into Dave’s life.

So, I didn’t refer Mike.

Now, before you throw the judgment book at me, imagine this:

If the world worked where it didn’t matter how you treated people, only on the product you offer, how would you pick who to buy from?

We all like to buy from people we like. We like to work with people we like. Maybe we don’t get the option, but I’m willing to bet if you did, you’d choose based on likeability.

So, before you go about spreading negativity, burning former teammates, treating people you work with or for poorly, keep this in mind. You never know how and when people will come back to help or offer you something if you treat them right.

NOTE: On the flip side of this, I’ve also had people I just barely know refer people to me or my business because of how I treated them and how they felt being around me. It takes faith, but I believe this system to be foolproof.

  1. In a world of “work more,” and “hustle harder” there’s such a thing as overwork, and burnout

I love seeing the Instagram of Eric Thomas and Gary V. that get me up in the morning ready to put my fist through a cinderblock covered in copper. It really is true that you need to work hard to achieve major success, except that there’s more to it.

Major success is about leverage too – delegating, hiring staff to take on projects for you, and other things like that. Working so much your eyes bleed is not harmonious (see number 7) to you being healthy and able to sustain a lifestyle.

While you might believe that working harder will get you to where you want, consider investing in yourself and getting more educated, deploying better systems, and understanding your market and client’s needs better. Then, working 2x as hard can earn you 15x as much.

But, don’t expect 22-hour days, a diet heavy on red bull and caffeine, and a bed that’s essentially a chair with a headrest on it to give you the harmony you need to really hit success.

  1. Bad quality work will get you somewhere faster than waiting

Just write. Or draw. Or speak. Or dance. Or program. Or build.

Whatever it is you do, you may be convinced it needs to look good or work well. But I’m here to argue otherwise!

When you create something new, or are creating at all, the usual block is quality. Instead, hedge your bet and put out something unrefined and see how the market responds, or how readers like the general theme and topic. This is how Ortus Academy has grown – out of testing and refining for TWO YEARS. Each time we ran a program, we changed the program to align with our vision and capabilities. More time, more programs, the more flaws we found.

In doing so, we have lots of iterations, data points, and yes, a list of fails.

But we also have am equally large list of learning moments, a list of people that come back to see how far we’ve come, and students that never knew the difference anyway.

I know you want it to be perfect, but dammit, just do it!

Post the article. Instagram the painting. Build the prototype and test it.

Then, use lesson number 3 to keep on moving forward and perfecting it after the frustration or failure hits.

This article, for example, is not perfect.


  1. Someone lied to me about me, and I’m so glad I found that out

In 5th grade, someone told me I was ugly.

In 9th grade, someone told me I was never going to play soccer in college.

In 12th grade, someone said I would never heal and play soccer again.

In college, someone told me I was always going to be an employee.

The worst part is, I believed all of them. Until I didn’t, and until I gave myself a reason to be what I wanted to be.

It was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do – to really look inward and look at the definitions I had of myself. I had to dig deep.

But what I found was life-changing.

Here I was, nearly 30 and all the definitions of myself, all my self-talk, stemmed from things I was told as a kid. Can you believe that? Not many of my beliefs about myself came from me.

And so, I looked at where they came from.

Teachers. 12-year-old (seriously, who can’t even formulate a serious thought at that age). People that didn’t know me.

And worse – for every negative thought, there were likely 12 positive ones that got outweighed or overshadowed.

So, I spent some of that awesome self-investment (see number 2) money on becoming more aware, and I rewrote my history.

My guess is that someone in your history assign you a label that you haven’t gotten rid of.

I imagine that you might not feel able to outrun it. But if you’re brave enough to write it in the comments below, I’ll respond with a few sentences you can say to yourself to help you override it.

Because your history is wrong. You can do anything.


  • AV

3 Mistakes I Could Have Avoided In April 2018

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Clearly, I wasn’t thinking….

I feel like I say this a lot lately. I own it – not easily – but I do. So, while it’s been a LONG time since I wrote, let me share 3 mistakes I made this month, that I don’t normally share.

The objective here is only to help you prevent yourself from making them.

And away we go >>>>>>

1. I didn’t share where I was struggling.

This past weekend, I was talking to my accountability team from a course I joined called M1. It’s run by a guy that used to work with Tony Robbins.

It’s been a great investment, and really helped me grow as an individiual and entrepreneur.

So for WEEKS, I’ve been not drinking enough water. I’m active, and I work really hard. So I can’t afford this mistake. But I just kept on going.

I said, I’ll fix it when….

I’ll address it when….

Or I made excuses.

Then I realized I needed some help. Not like, clinical help. Just some support. Some backup.

I told the crew, and now 4 of us are on a thirst challenge. 20 oz when you wake up, and 10 oz each hour.

Challenge – I’m in. They knew how to motivate me, help me, and they got behind me right away.

Why didn’t I do this earlier.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re struggling with something, tell people. Ask for help. This is always my achilles. I’m working on it. 

2. I didn’t admit that  I was scared

I have big aspirations. I’m sure you do too.

IN order to be the person I envision, I need to share the journey. To give more to the community, to talk to more people and find ways to help them. To speak to others on topics like this one.

So I have to be unafraid to get out in front of them.

I have to speak. I have to engage. I have to try.

If I’m really going to be what I say I am, it’s time that I get brave.

Now, I’m not perfect but I’m certainly not a coward – I know that much about myself. I felt that I was unable to give to people, or provide value, because I wasn’t “there” yet. That’s just a bullshit excuse – as I have a lot to give and as I grow, my responsibilty is to pass what I learn back down.

But, until I really fessed up with my fear, I was paralyzed.

Whatever you’re afraid of, it’s okay to be scared. It’s not okay to let that paralyze you.

I bought a go pro, and you’ll see a lot more writing and content from me. That’s something I’m committed to. Who else can this message itself help? You, a friend? Share it on!

Bottom Line: Fess up if you’re afraid. It’s the first step. [Here’s a great book to help you here too]

3. My habit wasn’t serving my future

I grew up a comic book kid. Big time nerd here.

A few months ago I downloaded a game called Contest of Champions.

Aside from the countless dollars I’ve wasted on the randomized (supposedly) gems and shit that gives me more heroes to play with, I spent hours.  Even if it was only a minute a day, that’s a lot of time in a month. That’s enough time to write to you and help you along your way.

Instead, I opened the app. And I got rewarded. If you login daily, you get stuff free.

They had me hooked.

It wasn’t until just yesterday that I realized that the future version of me doesn’t do this. And so I had to let it go. I even hesitated, and argued with myself as I uninstalled it.

Stupid Past-Aaron. Shut up. You’re headed up, stop looking down.

Now, I can use that extra 10 minutes a day to help you, be productive, or at worst/best – completely disconect.

Bottom Line: If your future is being held back by a current habit, do what you gotta do to SNAP out of it and get real with yourself. 


Learn from my mistakes, so you don’t make them! Here comes May!


Your End-Game Is Making You Miserable

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Have you ever said:


I’ll be happy when I get to X. Or…

I’ll be happy when I have Y.  Maybe the best one…

I’ll be happy when I win the _______.

For me, it didn’t matter what it was, it always ended with “…then I’ll be happy.”

I used to have these unhealthy approaches to happiness. It made sense at the time,  but after hitting the goals that I set, I ended up having to start over each win. I was voided by hitting the goal – the opposite of happy or fulfilled; I was now empty and desperately clawing for new direction.


“Fill it with another goal,” I’d say. Or, another beer, coffee, or material purchase.

But happiness isn’t a place. Not even this awesome place:


I must say, this does look amazing, doesn’t it?!?


My approach to being happy was improper, and it’s likely that you’ve said something like this when imagining your happier place. I set out to be happy, so naturally, I felt that happiness was a place that I could climb to with enough money, cars, friends, travel, airline miles, or awards.

But these will inevitably fail to make me happy always and forever – because as soon I get there, I’d be sitting there with only a need to find another thing to chase to satisfy me. The pleasure would be gone, and nothing would take its’ place. 

My end-game, set on a fixed point, could never make me happy.


Setting Goals Is Good. But Goals Are Just Mile Markers


Ironically, we have these same habits in setting business goals, personal achievement objectives, sports mentalities, physical insecurities and relationships.

It’s not that setting goals is wrong; it’s that our method of measurement should include goals that come as a result of continued betterment, rather than one that uses goals as the means of achievement.


An example:

If I aspire to be a successful professional artist, I might imagine that I’ll be successful when I sell my painting to a big-time gallery. I’ll be happy when I get there. I can stop. And likely, I will. 

The truly successful artist may set a goal of selling a painting to a big-time gallery. But, his or her artistry would be founded on continuing to hone and perfect the craft, and that particular sale coming as a result of the continuity. That artist would then, after the sale of the art to the gallery, go on to produce higher value works, see a better lifestyle and level of success.


I’ve got a friend that hit his first million in net worth. He’s been miserable, and had to go about changing his life around because it wasn’t fulfulling him. He’s got no achievement in his life, only goals that he’s checked off his list. More money – check. More career accolades – check.

More happiness, fulfillment, and love – well that will come when I get to 2 Million. Won’t it? 

Maybe, and there’s some research that says more money can mean less stress. Some argue the opposite. 

Wealth is a byproduct of me offering better value to customers, or selling at a higher price point, or addressing a larger audience. But you’ll have to learn more, break habits, and change a lot to get your wealth. It’s not just a one stop goal. Even the word wealth is very subjective. That’s really not my point though.

My point is – finding the process that allows me to keep growing is more important than setting a fixed point that I look towards for measurement of my success.


Failing to hit a Goal is Only Allowed in an Alternative End-Game Process


The major flaw in this logical pathway is not inherently obvious until you start to look at the conditions in which life is forced to exist. Life, and the microcosms: business, sports, and happiness, are a continuum of experiences, both good and bad. I can’t say that failing to hit a goal is something I’ve never experienced – actually many failures have brought tears. 

My end-game never changes, and so, a painful failure is just another stone in the pathway I’m building. It works something like this:


Where does it start? Where does it end? It doesn’t. It just is something you keep doing.

When trying to find happiness, my failure is a distinct element in the path, but it is not a distinct element in the journey. In fact, some argue, like Mark Manson, that you should stop trying to be happy. In doing so, you allow yourself the room to actually let the journey create happiness.

Most importantly, placing an exorbitant amount of weight on a particular goal is a recipe for the mental process I like to call “Becoming the Failure.”

When determining whether or not I am successful, I can look at an event that did not go in my favor and approach it as a learning lesson. Remember, my focus is on continued betterment, so any setback is an opportunity to continually improve.

However, if my goal is all that exists to me, and I fail to achieve it, I am now a failure – someone that didn’t hit his or her goal, unable to reflect upon it appropriately and still stuck underneath of it as a means to joy, completion, or success. Rather than looking at the failure from a distance, I’ve now become the failure, attributing the failure to me (my person, brain, talent, capability or other fixed component of myself), rather than to the process.


The best athletes go back to work after a bad loss, continually invested in the process of getting better. They don’t quit and sulk and attribute the loss to their personality or their work – they continue to work to get better where they know payoffs are secure.

These 5 ways will help you leverage the right parts of the process. And some others agree that being able to fail is a critical element in happiness, or success.


Because to them, the product (the object and thing that they are working towards) isn’t a fixed place in time. It’s, instead, a wheel, something constantly moving, constantly changing. It’s a process.  And the successful believe in the process.



What part of your end-game can you re-configure, so that you’re setting yourself up for a better, happier, journey? Comment below!


How Great Ideas REALLY manifest…..

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I want to tell you a story about the things that businesses don’t tell you:

It’s not Genius that creates ideas.

So my blog, these articles, they are all about finding other ways to make money. Enjoyable ways. Liberating ways.

As an example, Really exciting news: This week, my business Ortus Academy, launches it’s third product.

We take kids through our game, NumisMatters, then through 10 lessons about money, including things like Earning, Saving, Value, Investments, Stocks, and Money Attitude.

It’s a ton of fun honestly, and it’s one way that I’ll make money this year. One of many, but they are all the same in the way they start……

I’m going to walk you through my process.




Behind the scenes of any big launch, or idea, or product are four key things, we’re going to talk about them.

First let me tell you how Money Club happened.

I got a call from a school, who liked what we had. I sat with the director, and we went over things that we already did, and what he wanted.

I said ten words, “Thanks for having me out. How can we help you?”

I didn’t say anything else for 20 minutes. I took notes. I thanked him. I left.

He essentially told me all of his needs, wants and fears, and then I had enough to go off.

Back at HQ, (fancy letters meaning our local coffee shop) we discussed whether it was feasible to make him happy. We called two other schools, got some feedback on the idea. Called teacher friends. Called parents, I still call my mom about these things, shut up.

And then we went balls-to-the-wall crazy into creating it.

So here’s my process.

This is how Convert Your Skills, a 1-on-1 course I offer that teaches individuals how to upstart income streams with a zero starting point, started.

This is how Ortus Academy started.

This is how I arrived at Pipeline Soccer Club to coach.

It’s all the same:

1. Be open
If you aren’t open to new things, how could you possibly build a business. A friend of mine is the most closed-minded person I know. He and I balance well, but he can’t run a business because everything is impossible. When you talk like that…it is impossible.

At one point, flight was impossible. So was going to Mars.

2. Listen
When someone talks, ACTUALLY listen. I know this is brave advice. It’s also the best way to get laid. Don’t blabber on, ask more questions and then shut up. Shocking how easily you can find hidden gems in business opportunities if you’re paying attention.

Heard everyone you know say that it’s time for someone to invent a better way to hold your keys, because they are annoyed by the jingling and searching…..well, maybe you have a business

3. Listen more
Think you’ve done enough listening… it more. Ask better questions. Ask more questions. Do research. Research and reading count as listening.

4. Try it like you mean it
We live in a world where it’s cool not to give a f*(*k. It’s embarrassing. So when you hear the things people want, and you do your research, and STILL it seems doable, that’s when you ditch all the inner “No, I can’t” and “I’m not sure” and get to work.

There’s a really awesome Branson Meme that’s fitting here. If you know him, great. If not, you should.







Maybe you have a different process? I’m curious what yours is! If not, steal mine!!!


PSC Fitness at Home

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Hey Pipeline!


I’m super bummed about this weather. Today’s been hot, sunny, windy, rainy, and then everywhere in between. If you’re stuck at home, and still want to get fit, here’s three exercises you can do right now, without any equipment at all!

Get started right away!


Swimmer’s Planks 

Hold your body flat in a plank on your hands, with your arms extended. Spread your feet shoulder width apart. This is a normal, full extension plank. In one motion, take your straightened right arm and move it backwards towards your legs  and then rotate it in a full circle back to the starting position. Next take the other arm and rotate around. Repeat back and forth for 1 minute sets, or for as long as you can.










The trick? Keep your shoulders and back still. Don’t rotate the hips and stay as flat as you can!


Step Ups

Find a flat surface that’s about as tall as your knees. Place one foot on the upper surface, so that your knee is bent. Press off of your foot and press your opposite knee to the sky. Lower the foot back to the floor and land on the toe. Repeat for 20 reps on each side. Do not alternate beforehand. If 20 isn’t enough, go for more, or put some weights in your arms!





Front Lunges

Simple and effective, the front lunge is a step forward and bend. Look to get your legs at 90 degrees each (square). Make sure you step far enough that your front knee (stepping leg) does not go past your toes. If it does, step further! As you step, lower the back knee almost to the floor, but don’t let it touch. Press off and return to the starting position!


Alternate each leg, and get a minimum of 20 per leg before you rest!!









Can you do what I do?? The answer isn’t yes….it’s Run!

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When I was in high school, I had this coach named Ken Griffith.

He was 50+. 6’2”. Fat. He drove a golf cart from the school down to the field.

He was a football coach. Not our kind of football. Not Soccer


I liked him. He made me work. He got the game. Sort of.

He used to yell at us, hill after hill. We’d have killed to see him do just one. JUST ONE.

I never wanted to be like him. Yelling. Standing.


Attached is the result of my latest run. I am willing to bet, you couldn’t keep up.



That’s not because you aren’t capable, but because you don’t know why you can’t.


Do you want to be a professional? Are you willing to train to get there?


The problem with that thinking is that you’ve determined an end point. What happens when you get there?

I want you to forget about the destination, and fall in love with the journey, the work, the sweat.

My playing career is different than I imagined now, but I keep trying to get better; coaching, playing, running. It’s a lifestyle.


If you fall in love with getting better, all the other components will fall into place, and you’ll reach heights you never thought possible.

Most importantly, you can trash talk everyone when at 28.

But that’s not why I do it.

Fitness, skill work, and play isn’t about whether you can or can’t. If you love investing in it, taking the good with the bad, how can you be anything but great???


So I challenge you.

Can you beat me? The answer isn’t yes….it’s why would you want to?

I run because I love seeing how I compare to yesterday. I don’t run to beat someone else.


I run to beat me.
You’d be surprised how fast you run after a few weeks of being better than yesterday.


Tip’s for your run (*or any other pursuit):


  • Run often. No one gets to be the best running “occasionally”
  • If you need a break. Take one. It’s hot out, but don’t stop moving. Just walk for a bit.
  • Prepare the day before, not right before. Hydrate, stretch, etc.
  • Running is mental. If you think you’re tired, you are.
  • Music helps take your mind off the other sounds that come with running.
  • Time it. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring. Those words came from a mentor and he’s 100% right.
  • Love the burn. I’m still sore from it, 2 days later. I love it.
  • Download an app to track your stats. I use Strava, or MapMyFitness.



This applies to anything. ANYTHING.


How does this apply to your dream, your job, or your creative pursuit?!?

Conventional Cliche’s – Challenged and DeBunked

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Now and again you hear conventional things like:


“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

“The customer’s always right.”

“Never say never.”

“The early bird gets the worm”




But what do they mean, and in this day-and-age, do they even matter anymore? Join me as I explore 5 of my biggest cliche’s and whether they are true or false today!



  1. Always Treat Your Customer Well

I’m often appalled at how I hear some freelancers talk to their clients. “Their paying you,” I always think to myself. Nonetheless, those same people seem shocked when the relationship changes, clients find other solutions, or when the client isn’t timely with responses.

The truth of the matter, at a basic, human level, is that people want to feel valued. That doesn’t always stem from your working relationship, it can extend past that.

During full-time employment, and watching contractors come and go, I saw several relationships that were based on the way the contractor treated the customer – not on their work. I heard things like, “He always calls on my birthday,” or “they do a great job of getting here quick.” It’s different for every relationship, but the small things go a long way.

I prefer to sit and talk shop with my clients. I want to know how they think, what their family is like, what they value. It not only is a great way to learn them, but it’s a valuable leveraging tool. Do not take that information with the intent to leverage client. But, invest in how they think and learn to translate; when you can speak their language you connect more deeply.

Finally, your interest has to be genuine. I got a bottle of vodka every time a certain painter nailed a job, but I knew it wasn’t a gesture of thanks, it was a gesture of bribery so we’d keep him around. At the end of the day, vodka or not, he didn’t care enough about our needs for us to do so – he badgered us for days for a check, where at a big company it had to run its course from corporate, and we’d been down the same road more than once with him. Eventually, he lost a $64,000 contract.


When it comes clients – learn about THEM – the people, not just the business. Ask questions, show interest, and develop a real give-and-yake relationship. It’s harder, takes more time, but when you treat your customer well, they’ll come back for more and recommend you. This is why I can charge $70/hr for personal training lessons, and be full to the brim with clients. Others struggle to get clients at $30/hr. I know what they want, need, and it’s only then that I can figure out how to deliver that.


  1. Own More, Be More

There was a time where if you didn’t own something, you weren’t going to be able to use the function it provided – think hammers and nails. Compounding from lack of rental services, the economic depressions witnessed by first generation Americans and immigrants placed value on ownership, the simplest way for an individual to showcase wealth. More was better. Holding on to items was smarter than having to buy them again. You didn’t throw things out. You fixed them.

In many ways, this was a brilliant approach – one I try to embrace. If I own it, I will care for it. But how long does that go on before you go broke?

Moving forward in time, baby boomers carried on the tradition of ownership as a lifestyle. Soon after, we have tv shows highlighting social phenomenon known as hoarding. It begs the question, what is the purpose of ownership if the utility is less than the cost of ownership?

Financially savvy individuals look at the overall cost of ownership a little more closely. Renting a powersaw for an outdoor project, for example, costs $15 (location based). Compare that to ownership of the same tool, $97, plus replacement blades, plus storage, and you can see the value of renting. Unless you are power sawing for a profession, why not rent, knock out all your work quickly, and return, for ¼ of the cost?

In 2011, we started to see a shift to rentals, including “access” services like NetFlix. In 2016, subscriptions are prevalent to the point of frustration, forcing us to choose whether to pay a larger lump sum for ownership, or smaller monthly payments. Now services like Quickbooks, Prezi, and Spotify are providing access to their material. Minimalists like myself go for as little ownership as possible. I like my workspace, my house, my computer, my software, and even my storage to be as useful as possible, and as lean as can be.

Bottom Line: FALSE

Effectiveness and efficiency aren’t determined by whether you own something anymore. It’s up to you to look at the overall cost of ownership (purchase price + upkeep costs + return on investment), and make a good decision. The facts usually support that moderate uses are better of with a pay-as-you-go service. Do your homework.


  1. The Customer’s Always Right

It’s summer, and I’m sitting outside helping students at Towson move into their apartments. The property had gone through a miraculous transformation – in two weeks we’d manage to paint, clean and fix nearly 200 apartments….with a 7 person staff and contracted painters and cleaners. No small feat.

A mom issues a complaint to my assistant. Given an answer she didn’t like, she wandered to my table, where myself and two other co-workers sat under a pop-up-tent, and asked, awkwardly flirting with me, asking “If I worked out?” and commenting on my figure. Hand on the hip, chest out, she was angling, and I knew it. What she really wanted to know was why she couldn’t have a spare key. The argument was that, as the person paying for the apartment, that she should have a key. Her primary concern was her daughter’s safety.

Fact was, as a young adult, 22 at the time, I was really uncomfortable with her request, though she disguised it under care for her child. Aside from that, it was a major security issue. Her daughter had roommates. The more keys you give out, the less security you have. It makes costs high when you change locks, requires an overdose of communication, and most importantly, it undermines the student.

The fact was, she wasn’t in the right, but you can’t go around saying “You’re WRONG!” to everyone that you disagree with.

We found a middle ground. I had to center the argument about her daughter, and how trying to limit her independence (much like any young, independence college student experiences) would only force a much harsher backlash. When I made my point constrictively, she was agreeable.

Long story short, it wasn’t about making her right or wrong that won her over. What worked was guiding her through what the reasoning was for the policy, and making it connectable to her specific needs and concerns. There was no overarching bad guy, just real people talking about real issues.

Bottom Line: FALSE

While there is merit in a customer sharing their opinion, it doesn’t mean that they’re always right. I do not advocate for anyone suggesting that a customer is wrong, but there is worthiness in making sure your customer understands the reasoning behind your policy, stance or communication. Using words like “wrong,” “never,” or “always” are surefire ways to distance yourself from any customer disagreement, whether they are a major company in a large contract or a sole proprietor doing small works. If you can’t avoid disagreement, be mindful of how you disagree with a client, but don’t be afraid to.


  1. It’s Who You Know, Not What You Know

Life is all about relationships. But, it’s not what you know, and it’s not who you know.

It’s how you know them.

Today our job environment is much more nepotistic than is visible. We’ve been told that hard work, dedication, and a little luck will cause those senior VP’s to notice you and take heed to your superior ethic, offering you the chance of a lifetime! They’ll give you your big break! It’s coming, just hold on!!

Why is it that certain individuals seem to get more attention, more opportunities, and more praise than others? Is it a character component, or just pure luck?

It’s not just luck, looks, or ‘work ethic,’ it’s skill.  The skill is in production. People pay for a product, which takes production. Those that can produce stand out.

I’m not talking about the “go to work and do your job” production, I’m talking about the “get out of your range and solve major problems” production. See ahead, develop vision, and identify areas of need. Then produce solutions.

I provide two services (products):

  1. I will share my previously successful solutions in the ________ fields, or I will apply my knowledge and experience to a new field to solve your problem.
  2. I will find the appropriate person that can solve your problem within your constraints (budget, time, etc.)

This approach generates worth. Hand problems to me, I demonstrate my value, and the problem will be solved efficiently and effectively. The relationship is strengthened, and my reputation and “How” I’m known, is reinforced.

When clients make referrals, or describe you and what it is you “do,” they are describing how they know you. That how is the pathway to extracting value. If you are known for being late, lazy, and unproductive, knowing the right person is not going to help your cause (a powerful foe can cripple you). If you are known for being energetic, creative, and adept at solving critical issues, knowing the right people is everything you want it to be.

When you go to make an ask (“Hey, can you help me connect to______”), or declare interest in an opportunity, your relationship is going to be the foundation for your pitch. There will be a responsibility for you to sell yourself, of course, but if you can nail the how (relationship-wise) prior to your pitch, you’ll set yourself up for serious consideration, no matter what the big break is.


Bottom Line: FALSE

What you know is irrelevant to whether you are productive. Information is abundant; production is not. Prove yourself to be a productive asset, capable of handling tough challenges and those that need production will flock to you. As a top performer, your productive output is your value, and you’ll know that you hold your worth when you are referred to often.

As you build relationships, what you produce and how you go about the process is the fulcrum for you to leverage relationships for opportunities. Continue to develop a reputation for production, and your product will speak for the relationships you are looking to form. Without production, people have no reason to assign you bigger challenges (which in turn means bigger payments), or help you reach your goals, or refer you to others.


  1. You’ll Never Be Successful if You Quit Your Job

Before you judge me for saying this from the other side of the job fence, this was my stance before leaving my job, and is now reinforced after the fact.

Fact: Your job is a role. Your role requires you to complete certain tasks, achieve concrete results, make specific decisions, and develop realistic plans.

Fiction: Your job needs you to be the best version of you.

Some companies and some leaders, are going to want you to be exceptional. The vast majority however, want you to fill your role, stay within your boundaries, and complete the objectives to which you were assigned.

“That’s not true, they love me!”

Ok, go in each day for a week and sit down and play Pacman on your computer or phone. See how much they love you then. They pay you for a reason, not because they like your character. Fill the role, you’re good. Stop filling the role, and you’ll lose your value.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in 8 months, since leaving my job, it’s that I couldn’t have possibly grown this much under that particular wing. It’s just not possible. They didn’t want me inventing new processes that were smarter and more efficient. They didn’t want me taking new ideas, building a network of support, and creating something from nothing.  They didn’t need that, they just wanted me to manage the project I was in charge of. No extras needed. Not pay for explore, conquer and return. I got pay because I was supposed to play nice.

To be the best version of you, the restraints and limitations must be completely removed. Yes, you will fall. Yes, you will mess up. Yes, you will get your feelings hurt. But yes, you will rise, and yes, you will find out how powerful you can be and how much vision you possess.

Without those experiences, continuing down the safe path means two things:

  1. You are not forced to grow
  2. You are growing at someone else’s desired pace

Neither are good options. It is possible to stay where you are and grow, that’s not my point. My point is that just because you don’t have a job, doesn’t mean you can’t be successful.

Freelancer, entrepreneur, visionary, lone-wolf….whatever you want to call this role, this journey, is fine. But for me, I grow at my speed. No one gets to tell me when I’m going too fast or too slow, and experience is my teacher. That’s worth every penny.

Bottom Line: FALSE

It is possible to become a better you at your job, but it’s my experience that I could never have become this version of me while I was living under someone else’s rules, someone else’s timeclock, and someone else’s vision for my role. By challenging yourself outside of work, you can grow at your pace. While the difficulties are immense, the rewards are doubly so, and that’s a great trade-off for any warriors that are ready to challenge their past to better their future.


Conventional ideas certainly have their place, but not without challenging them. What conventional words of wisdom have you heard lately? Do they stand the test of time?