Category: Personal Development

Train Like An Animal

I learned to surf from a very intense hippie instructor on a beach in Puerto Rico. He spoke of how the ocean was like a spirit mother or something, and he taught by means of whistling as if we were dogs in training. It annoyed me so much. It was also extremely effective. The instructor […]

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The Irreplaceable Survives the Interchangeable

Conformity may be craven, but it is a powerful and common survival strategy throughout nature. “Blending into the herd” works often enough. But for many reasons, conformity fails in the long run. Why? Because in imitating the crowd, the conformist becomes interchangeable with every other member of that crowd. If he is lost, it is […]

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The Easy Road Does Exist, But It Is a Scam

Always be on guard when someone offers to make something easy for you. Run like hell. They are stealing away an opportunity for growth. Of course, they aren’t promising you something that isn’t real. The easy road does exist. Most everyone takes it. Learning that’s easy gets you mediocre knowledge. Training that’s easy gets you […]

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Think While Doing

I recently listened to a fine episode of the Working Man podcast in which the interview made the good point that the trades are beneficial to help young men stop living so much in their imagination. They’re tactile, and they require presence. His observation bore itself out for me today, as I spent much too […]

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Two Ways To Stop Caring What Other People Think

Caring what other people think is deeply human, deeply useful for social bonding, and ineradicable as a habit. But this human tendency can also make us fearful, cruel, ignorant, lazy, mediocre, and unhappy. A lot of folks who went along with the Soviets and the Nazis probably did it – in part – from a […]

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The Challenging Paradox of a Good Father-Son Relationship

It’s hard to be a father, and I can say that with confidence because I have made it hard for my own. Part of the reason is that I’m flawed. But part relates to a paradox at the heart of the father-son relationship: Good fathers want to teach their sons. Good sons want to make […]

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The Long Run Is Here

Remember when your parents told you to drink all your milk and eat all your vegetables so you would grow big and tall? I didn’t. I’m not short by any means (5 foot, 9 inches or thereabouts), but I sometimes wonder if I could have been taller. Anyway, back when I was 5 years old, […]

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You’re Not Just Spending Time – You’re Spending Life

The wise have rightly said that “how you spend your day is how you spend your life.” It makes a lot of sense: the habits and the work happening (or not happening) day by day come very quickly to make up a life. Thinking about each 24 hours like this can have pretty profound effects […]

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Take Care of Your Tools

Back in May I spent a few days clearing brush with an older Hispanic man – someone far more experienced in the art of tree work than I. And every day before we started work and after we finished, he would take care of his tools. He would tighten the chainsaw blade. He would sharpen […]

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Not Fulfilling Your Dreams Harms Those Around You

When you don’t work to achieve your dreams, you’re harming not just yourself, but everyone around you. People are already cynical enough about the possibility of living courageously, living adventurously, and living fully. People already are set to give up on dreams by the time they reach college. They don’t need your help on the […]

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Will Your Ancestors Welcome You As an Equal?

“I go to my fathers. And even in their mighty company I shall not now be ashamed. I felled the black serpent. A grim morn, and a glad day, and a golden sunset!” King Theoden, dying on the battlefield of Pelennor in The Lord of the Rings Imagine if after dying you joined all of your forebears in Valhalla, or Hades, or […]

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My Favorite Philosopher Is Me

Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of people who are wiser than me. There are plenty of thinkers and writers more profound. There are plenty more original (I’m certainly influenced by lots of philosophers – some whom I don’t even know). There’s just not anyone else who can do my thinking – and living […]

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Needing Accountability Is Not Weakness

I used to think – and still feel sometimes – like wanting external accountability is a weakness. If I’m going to take action on something good, I should be fully self-motivated, right? Yes, self-discipline is quite important. But I’m now not so sure that external accountability is a weird crutch. We were made for tribes. […]

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Act As If You Represent Something

It’s really easy to act like a doofus when you are “just being yourself.” Trust me, I know from personal experience. There’s something to the idea of being entirely your own man and not caring how your actions reflect in the minds of others. But unmooring yourself from any larger sets of values or traditions […]

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Your Weaknesses Are a Tightening Noose

Gary Vaynerchuk says you should double down on your strengths and hire for your weaknesses. I think that’s probably right. But you should be aware of the nature of your weaknesses: they are a tightening noose. With every day that goes by, your bad habits and weaknesses become stronger and more set in place. Each […]

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Would You Watch Someone Watch TV?

We would probably find it incredibly boring to tune in to people tuning in. A person watching TV is often enough expressionless, usually sedate, and – at the end of the day – doing nothing unusual or noteworthy. They are the most boring possible character for a TV show. We watch TV to watch interesting […]

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Only the Man Who Teaches Himself Is Ready for a Teacher

Want to learn any serious skill the serious way? You’ll pursue some kind of apprenticeship, or some kind of learning under a master. But wanting to learn a skill is one thing. Getting (and deserving) a good master is another, and it only comes to the people who are already doing the work to learn. […]

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I Was a Fool vs. I Am a Fool

“I’m so sorry for the way I acted. I was a fool.” I’ve had some times when I’ve had to admit to other people (or to myself) my foolishness. I’ve looked back on times in my life when I was so sure I was wise and so wrong about that – and tried to admit […]

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Stop Watching Movies Alone

Staring at a screen. Sitting in a dark room alone. Stuffing your face. This is the experience (for many people) of watching movies and TV alone. Contrast that with gathering together with your family to watch a beloved movie. Your dad is belly-laughing. Your mom is asking unnecessary questions about the plot. Your brother is […]

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Create Your Own Hard Times

““Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And weak men create hard times.” I was born a son and a grandson “hard men.” They farmed, led businesses, shaped land, and raised families through good times and bad, and if their stories are any indication, they worked like dogs to do it. Because of them I grew […]

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It’s a Joy To Endure Misery In Company

Suffering alone is one of the worst human experiences. Suffering in fellowship is probably one of the best. Tonight I watched the movie Master and Commander for he first time, amending a serious gap in my movie-watching resume. And I can say that I’ve seen no better illustration in film of the fellowship of sailors. […]

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You Create the Voices In Your Head

“That’s not good enough.” “You’re unfocused.” “You’re not working hard enough.” “You’re not bold enough.” Like all sorts of people, I struggle with internal voices and internal self-talk like this. It can be limiting at times, keeping me from taking leaps I need to take, or making me kick myself for past regrets. Often internal […]

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In Defense of Romanticized Careers

Most of us have the jobs we do and the jobs we romanticize. We romanticize the jobs of cowboy, firefighter, soldier, farmer, and filmmaker – and we do the jobs of tech support, retail associate, lawyer, and corporate executive. We all have an intuition that the former jobs are more beautiful, cooler, or somehow more […]

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The Three Ways To Spend Your Twenties

There might be about three main ways to spend your twenties. You can goof around – working easy jobs, partying every chance you can with friends, traveling around, etc. This way is enjoyable in some ways, certainly easier than most paths, but it is ultimately short-sighted. Those who choose it are in for a rude […]

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Manly Things Make a Manly Spirit

These days I’m surrounded by manly things. I’ve got a gas lantern hanging on my door, fishing rods and deer heads on the walls, and books on cowboying and farming and sailing. I’ve got a toolbox in my back seat, dirt on my clothes, and a barbell in the back yard. I’ve got fireplaces and […]

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Welcome the Early Arrival of Regret

Regret is truly one of the worst feelings known to conscientious man – and the regret of something not done or opportunities/risks not taken is the worst kind. It’s so bad that some people – myself included – try to organize their lives to minimize regret. But there’s a good argument to be made that […]

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Enforced Planning and Reflection Time

I’ve heard that Alexander Solzhenitsyn chose to his time in the communist gulags (besides writing) in reflecting on his past sins. While I’m no Solzhenitsyn, and the relative lull of life under the new normal of the pandemic is no gulag, I’ve found the shared thread. I have luxuriantly long stretches of time to imagine, […]

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Don’t Feel Guilty for Not Being a “Team Player”

“You aren’t being a team player.” “You always think you’re right.” “You are so stubborn.” The irony is that these criticisms only sting if you’re a pro-social, agreeable person – they wouldn’t work on sociopaths or narcissists. So take them with a grain of salt. It helps to know that the people who make these […]

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Which Walls Aren’t You Watching?

“I am the watcher on the wall.” – The oath of the Night’s Watch, “Game of Thrones” This morning my Dad woke me by poking his head in my room and informing me of a tornado warning. He explained where I could shelter and then told me he’d let me know if he thought we […]

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How Will You Spend the Formative Years You Have Left?

For most of us, our formative years are an unbroken, unconscious succession of experiences – until they aren’t. At some point, we become self-aware and realize that we are in our FORMATIVE YEARS (good God!), and that the way we spend this time is *actually* shaping our futures. We curse ourselves for not listening to […]

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