Make the Right Investments

“If I need to raise $250 million, I could do it in a day or two.”
“That’s crazy, how could you do that?”
“When you bring something to the table, people will want to give you something in return.”

My friend is in commercial real estate and based on our above conversation, it's an exciting time. His company is always wheeling and dealing to secure funds to buy and sell large buildings, and hearing him talk about it, you eat it up.

When he was discussing a deal that he was making, I was inquisitive about how it’s possible to raise $250 million in the matter of a day, like it was $250.

He said that the money is never the issue. When you have a solid reputation; trustworthy and transparent, then giving investors something (interest/ownership/etc) for their money, then anyone will give it to you. Lack any of those qualities then raising money becomes difficult.

It makes for better business relationships, but also personal ones; the difference being that what we share between each other isn’t money.

Our lives become richer when we invest ourselves with people that give back. Think of the love, kindness, friendship, anything positive as "interest" to the relationship and when people see that you have those qualities to offer them, making them richer, then they are more apt to give you a part of themselves.

There is a bit of caution when involving yourself with others; in order to give fully, you need to receive as well. I try to surround myself with people that I can feed off their energy. When you’re around positivity, you’ll feel that way more often than not. The thought of a good friend and you can feel the effects of their spirit and the kind words of your relationship.

I’ve supported many people who continuously took without giving and it wore me out. It taught me to be careful to who I give myself to in the long term because you can’t be surrounded by vampires sucking the life out of you, ending up emotionally broke.

While I won’t be raising $250 million anytime soon, the value of who I surround myself with is worth much more.

Imagine the interest.

Our Designer Life

“You’re where you’re supposed to be because you’ve designed it that way.”

“Shi*, she’s right…”

A friend took me to a spin class and the environment is very energetic and positive. While sweating profusely, the instructor was shouting inspiring comments and that’s when I heard the quote opening the post.

We can feel like life gets out of control sometimes, and I can see how. The funny thing is that we’re always in control; there is never a moment when we’re not steering our ship. I seem to forget that.

I’ve reflected and realized that I’ve been unhappy in some situations, blaming the outside for my frustrations. Instead of looking inward, I stuck things out, hoping that others would change or that circumstances would figure themselves out.

When nothing changed, I acted surprised. I thought it was going to be different this time, but here we are x amount of time later, still stuck in the same crap. In the end, I stewed in the resentment instead of redesigning what I want my life to be.

The last couple years have taught me that having hopeful expectations that situations or people will progress for our liking is an endless, fruitless chore. We can't design others, as much as we want to.

There comes a point where the life we’ve designed is no longer tolerable. It’s keeping us back to getting to the next level, but to get there, we have to move forward. You shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to be better and if that means moving on from a boyfriend, job, your hometown, whatever, then go for it.

The status quo is designed to flourish because only effort can change it. But when you’re sick of what the status quo has given you, it's back to the drawing board.

Meeting My Inspiration

I was having dinner with a couple friends when I heard a familiar voice from the side. I looked over and saw his trademark big hair and glasses, so I knew it was him.

I got nervous and a million things went through my mind as to what to say. It’s not every day that you see a huge influence in your life sitting across from you.

How do I say hello? Do I tell him of his importance to me becoming a writer? Everyone is at dinner so I don’t want to disturb them, it’s not really polite to ask for a picture or a million questions.

I thought about the first time I read his book "Choose Yourself", which was something unlike anything I ever read. I related to his attempts to hide from the world while hungover, feeling exceptionally lonely due to a breakup, anxiety of a business failing, the sky falling.

But here we were, in New York City, random restaurant, sitting three feet away from each other, both a long way away from those failures, as if the universe had this planned all along.

I asked aloud, "James Altucher?” and he turned around, smiled, then said “Hi, how are you?” I extended my hand to introduce myself, then looked at him and thanked him with the most gracious appreciation that I’ve ever gave to anyone, seeing that he was my inspiration to start writing.

I thought about the introduction afterwards; imagine being in his shoes where people come up to you with gleaming eyes and want to spill their guts to you for being their inspirations or idols. Do they take it for granted? I wouldn’t know how to handle it, such a humbling experience. I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to be a Michael Jordan or Derek Jeter.

What do we expect out of our idols? I prefer someone that has been through the struggle and comes out a better person, yet is trying to achieve that progress on a daily basis. I want them to have flaws because no one can relate to perfection and any expectation that they must be perfect is unreasonable.

James writes mostly about his flaws and how he bounced back (or didn’t) from them; relating to people with his experiences is more helpful than advising people on what to do when you don’t have a clue, that’s why I appreciate his work; it’s real.

Because that’s what we want our inspiration to be; real, like us.

Writing a New Story

“Locked up, what else is new? Story of my life.”

I could hear the resignation in his voice, that this was his destiny and his life would always be revolving from being an addict, getting in trouble due to his addiction, serving jail time, coming out clean, then life’s pressures causing him to repeat the process.

“It’s not the story anymore. That’s the old one. You don’t have to go back to that.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that.”

I was sincere when I spoke to my uncle. I got a little animated, swore a couple times, but the point was across. Yes, you are an addict and you're in jail, but guess what; you’re also a father, a son, an uncle, a friend, a human being. So what do you want to be going forward? What are you going to focus on?

We’ve all made bad decisions that have left us in worse positions and while we’ll continue to not get everything right as we go through life, how we look at ourselves will help determine how we bounce back. Do we focus on the mistakes or the solutions going forward?

I failed at numerous relationships, put myself in a ton of debt, had alcohol issues, etc. When I held onto those failures, my life was a constant depression and failures seemed to find me easier than successes. My family and friends would call me Eeyore because how negative my outlook was.

When I finally turned the page on the old stories and created new ones based on what I wanted to be, then the better life happened. I look back now and feel sorry for that young me, just as I felt sorry for my uncle that had that negative outlook for himself.

As our conversation ended, I reminded him of the good he did for people as a sober recovering mentor, to keep the positive first and foremost, while practicing on leaving the negativity behind. I told him that we’re waiting for him to get out, that we’re going help him write a new life story.

A story he could be proud of.

Dedicated to the Cause

“If I’m in a room full of 5 people and we all rap, you’re gonna say that I’m the best.”

I felt bad because inside I was thinking that a teenager from suburbia had zero chance of becoming a rapper. My face basically told my little brother that his dream was impossible.

“Didn’t you say that nothing is impossible?”

I did say that because I really believe it. I’ve met people that came from nothing to become everything. You see how dedicated people can work to achieve what others say is “impossible”.

I thought about his dedication and then reflected upon mine at his age. I became a bit guilty because who was I to tell him that he couldn’t become what he wanted to, I was like those people that told me that I couldn’t do something, except I listened to the naysayers and suffered the consequences of broken dreams.

I wish I had his amount of confidence and belief in myself when I was his age. I was talented at a lot of things, but the lack of self esteem and encouragement left me indifferent to developing any of them. Teachers would comment on my "wasted potential".

Why? Because I became dedicated to the wrong causes. I went from athletics and education to trying to achieve attention in other unhealthy ways since my dreams were unattainable. In hindsight, I wish I never listened to the negativity, but sometimes you have to take the long way home.

I struggled to gain meaning in difficult endeavors, so I went elsewhere and found it. Probably something a teenage shouldn’t be on a journey to find alone.

But sometimes it takes being dedicated to the wrong cause to figure out what the right one is for us. I’ve recently met recovering addicts that have dedicated themselves to helping younger recovering addicts to ensure that they don’t face and succumb to the same pitfalls as they once did.

I know the wrong roads to take when you're trying to find your way in life. It's my turn to dedicate myself to giving younger people direction so that their journey is easier than mine.

I don’t want my brother to give up on his dreams, it would be doing a disservice to not support his cause and to the teenager who needed someone to encourage him to follow his dreams.

It's What Makes the World Go 'Round

It’s late Monday night and I’m taking a break from editing my friends’ wedding ceremony, because after a few hours of computer screens and synonyms that associate with love, my mind is scrambled eggs. So I’m typing on a computer to get away from typing on a computer…

I have a week to make sure it’s the most perfect ceremony ever written. It’ll be finished by tomorrow and I’m joking about it being perfect, but I do want it to be wonderful because my friends’ are great people.

It’s my first time doing this, so I’m assuming the wedding official is like a referee in sports; there to make sure the rules are followed to guarantee a fair outcome, a part of the show, without being the show. I’ve been practicing my speech so I’ll be sure it’s nice and clear, but it’s in front of a couple hundred people!?! I better not mess up.

On a serious note, the process has been revealing. I think about the times we’ve hung out, the laughter, the fun, the sadness, all of which can bring inspiration to writing the best ceremony possible, yet the problem is that words can only take you so far.

I relate them to other friends of mine with great relationships and I see a lot of similarities. You know when the universe gets the right people together, you can feel it when you’re with them.

I think of my own serious relationships to draw from and what made them worthwhile. It’s not easy all the time, but that’s what makes the bond tighter. After the honeymoon period, it becomes a bit surreal because you get to see what they’re really like and sometimes it’s not what you envisioned.

That’s the fun part though; a relationship is about discovering the world together, as well as each other. It’s picking one up when they’re not feeling 100%, sacrificing something today for a stronger tomorrow, and keeping the relationship foremost because when the relationship becomes about one person instead of the team, the bond weakens.

Then before you know it, days become weeks, then months and years. My grandparents were married for 60 years and I remember my grandmother telling me how they made it work;

“We got separate beds because I would kick and snore in my sleep.”

All joking aside, she said that although times were different in the 1940’s, relationships were still the same. It relied on being balanced, supporting each other’s weakness with their strengths.

They were separated for almost two years due to World War II and while they wrote to each other, what kept them going was remembering the initial euphoria of first falling in love with each other and never forgetting that, even as they went through other crazy stuff in those 60 years.

“That’s what makes the world go ‘round.”

In a couple weeks, I’m lucky enough to have a front row seat to see what makes the world go ‘round; marrying a couple that didn't let go of those feelings of when they fell in love.

Better get back to the ceremony.

My Secret to Being Productive

I’ve read too many self-help blogs and books in my life, listened to hundreds of podcasts and watched a bunch of inspirational videos, trying to figure out the key of becoming a more productive person.

I don’t know why I obsessed about that, it’s not like I'm lazy, but I figured I could “hack” my life in ways that would get me to accomplish more every day. For what? Who knows, maybe I feel bad for all those days I was hungover and stayed in bed all day.

These attempts at being more productive left me miserable and lethargic. The pressures of trying to get more done or doing activities at a higher level would subconsciously force me to not engage in an activity. Why do it if I wasn’t going to be better than yesterday?

A friend read my discouraging post about my difficulties in writing and creativity, so she offered a book that she thought would help me. The book was Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love.

I was hooked. The book discusses the idea of creativity and how it originates. Ms. Gilbert sees inspiration as a force of nature. Ideas come and go depending on if your accepting of them, the point being to go with the flow and enjoy what comes to you without being unappreciative.

I’ve never known how to go with the flow. It’s been said a million times to me, but I’m a control freak, easier said than done. This book helped me understand what going with the flow actually meant by relating it to writing.

Inspiration will find you when you’re in the right mindset because it wants to be creative and developed with you. Don’t try to control or force inspiration because it’ll be much harder to find it. I applied that lesson to the rest of my life over the last couple weeks.

It all clicked. The secret of a productive life isn’t what I thought it was; being “busy”, enormous pressure to achieve a million things daily, or taking things too seriously sometimes. The secret is fun!

Fun, really? Yes, I promise.

When you’re looking at life through a spectrum of fun, then you’re always going with the flow, taking on inspiration anywhere and everywhere from the good and difficult in life. There are no boundaries because there’s no worry or controls to try to set them for you.

I feel like a kid again; working on different ideas that I wouldn’t of thought of or engaged with before, my energy is sky high, I’m more engaging with people and I’m excited for what each day brings, instead of being indifferent.

The weight of the pressures, controlling attitude, and other robotic functions are gone. If I’m not feeling creative or if a workday is slower than usual, no worries, I’ll have fun doing something else that will ignite a spark.

As 8AM passes this morning, I have a list of work to get done, but only one thing on my to do list matters; having some fun.

The rest will fall into place.

The Validation Distraction

I found my master’s degree sitting in it’s envelope underneath a stack of clothes in my basement. I remember the day I got accepted, I felt validated, that I could make up for the times I messed up in high school and college.

“Getting my master’s will mean I’m smart again.”

I really believed that. I was searching for an external validation to my intelligence because being accepted by a school or classmates meant I’m smart. It was an excuse to overcome my failings as a high school/college student because I never fulfilled the potential everyone saw in me.

It didn’t matter I was knee deep in building a startup because “meh, that’s a business with a few of us”, school is what really matters and it will take me places. (I was just a little brainwashed)

The degree didn’t fulfill anything. It’s an “accomplishment”, but aside from meeting some wonderful people, my validation was only fulfilled when I realized that I didn’t need a degree or whatever to prove I’m smart.

When you’re searching for validation to satisfy fulfillment, it means that you’re not satisfied within yourself. I’m talking about asking people or statuses to validate what you’ve done, like without their stamp of approval, your accomplishment is worthless.

Some validation does matter; your partner’s love validating a relationship, your client/boss approving of a project to continue a business relationship, or a moral validation of actions to know right from wrong (so you hope).

I spent most of my life looking for validation, whether it was the master’s or being right on a decision, it didn’t change things, results weren’t different because my business partner was wrong on a decision and I thought “I told you so!” If anything, it’s pathetic on my part to wish for negativity to ensure it validating my decision.

My friend was upset with me because I didn’t validate his job move. In fact, I told him that it was the worst decision that he ever made. I’m glad he didn’t listen to me because he enjoys his new job and the freedom it gives him. My validation meant nothing in the scheme of things because if he listened to me, he’d still be unhappy, working long hours to no benefit. Just do you.

If you go looking for it in every place but your soul, you’ll die never finding it. There’s a never ending supply of people that are looking to be impressed, don’t fall for the trap. It becomes a distraction because there’ll always be a one-upper who will be better than you or try to out do what you’ve accomplished. Focus and be comfortable and happy with what you feel, enjoy or accomplish.

Forget the validation distraction because if we’re filled with joy or it’s making us better people, then that’s all the validation we need.

Keeping At It

I’m riding the train right now, it’s pouring out. I’m letting the dreariness of the weather to enter my mind. I try to fight it with a couple coffees and some words, but I feel like I’m getting nowhere.

It’s been a tough go lately on trying to write something meaningful. I have different topics and experiences over the last few weeks, but after writing a few hundred words, I’m looking at a message-less screen. So I save it then click the X to look at it for another day.

We may go days, even weeks without that spark that gets us going. When it happens to me, I try to keep at it. I’ll write and while I’m not happy with what I create, it’s better to keep in motion then not. When you’re not moving, you’re dying.

If you don't move around, your muscles deteriorate. When you keep at it, you build those muscles and become stronger. My creativity and desire "muscles" shrink if I stop writing and it worsens, to the point where I want to quit because why write if nothing good is coming out.

When this happens, I'll take a step back and think about why I decided to do it in the first place. Maybe I expect too much from a blog that serves as an outlet of my experiences. This should be easy and fun, a place to connect with people, not "change the world" writing, I forgot that.

While we face bumps in the road that slow our progress, as long as we continue going forward, it’s going to smooth out for us and we’ll be able to get to the places we want to be faster than before.

I ran into an acquaintance last week and he thanked me for writing, saying that he goes through similar stuff so it’s comforting to know he isn’t alone when dealing with life’s troubles.

The appreciation and connection is a reminder to why I do this. It may not be much, but it makes my desire to write and help people stronger, building that muscle.

I thanked him for telling me that and before moving onto other topics, he ended it with:

"Make sure you keep it going."

Virtual isn't Reality

It's Friday night so I've decided to stay in and relax. If I want to see what my friends are up to, I can open Snapchat on my phone and see them having dinner at a restaurant or open Instagram to see pictures of others having fun at a bar.

Today’s technology has brought us a finger tap away from seeing our friends and families anytime we want, but has it brought us closer though? 80% of my communication is done through writing texts to people, as opposed to calling or visiting them. Where’s the substance?

A friend that also stayed in decides to FaceTime me and while it’s welcoming to see and talk to her, it doesn't compare to being present for real thing; the touch, the sights, the words, everything that is there for the soul to experience.

I understand the excitement for the future in tech, such as virtual reality, but why are we in a rush to live life in a virtual sense instead of living it in actuality (The accompanying picture scares the crap out of me).

We should use these virtual experiences as a means to illicit ideas for our next adventure instead of as a replacement. I want to feel the warm water, taste the wine, laugh with friends, feel my stomach jump as I snowboard down a mountain.

You can only live life through a screen for so long until your instincts take over.

So get out there; feel it, live it, and be one with it.