Tag Archives: Blogging

Should I Be Afraid to Publish My Name?, Vol. 2

(Image/ericjames.co.uk)

(Image/ericjames.co.uk)

I had never considered using a pen name. Not really.

I don’t know why.

Maybe vanity. Maybe I wanted my name out there so everyone I went to high school with would see that I’d finally done something with my life.

Maybe credibility. Because I write a first-person narrative in a pseudo-journalistic style, I thought putting my name on it was the only real option.

I finally asked myself the question: What would really be so bad about using a pseudonym?

There are only two, and both are stupid:

  1. Vanity. It’s stupid because no one from high school gives a shit, and if they did it wouldn’t matter.
  2. Money. It’s stupid because writers don’t make any real money, and it’s foolish to assume I ever will. There are logistical challenges related to receiving checks, banking and paying taxes from money earned writing under a fake name. But if I was ACTUALLY making money from something I published, wouldn’t the hassle be worth it? Of course it would. But I probably won’t, so who cares?

I found some online resources addressing this topic. I read them and started warming up to the idea.

The internet marketer in me knows having my own URL would be beneficial in the long term. I could make sure whatever name I chose had an available web address.

I found a random last-name generator. I’ve been playing with it.

The first one I liked and researched ended up being the name of a gay porn actor. So… probably not.

Step one, pick a bunch of names I like. Matt and Matthew are both options.

Step two, research the name to make sure there isn’t another famous one.

Step three, find a sensible URL that’s available (much harder to do in 2015 than it used to be, and picking anything but a .com seems like a poor choice, though I could see that changing someday).

It would help protect my son. His mother. My friends and family.

It would protect my professional interests that don’t involve writing.

I’d like to tell you I would be the same amount of honest no matter what, but the truth is, writing under a different name would probably keep the bravery and honesty quotient higher.

I’m coming around to the idea. And it’s kind of fun thinking of names.

Do I want to be Matthew Hawkins? Or Matt Shaw? Matthew Church? Matt Jackson? Matthew J. Warren? Matt Keller? Matt Watts? Mateo Juarez? Matt Chase? Matthew R. Hendrix? M. W. Hood?

The possibilities are endless.

What I haven’t settled on is just how much any of it matters.

I only know erring on the side of caution regarding those I love and care about would seem the wisest course. And I find myself (surprisingly!) leaning that way.

As always, I’m interested in your opinions and how you feel about it.

A penny for your thoughts. An imaginary penny, of course.

Sort of fits the occasion.

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Our Fake Lives

This post is totally not about the Manosphere. You're welcome.

This post is totally not about the Manosphere. You’re welcome.

I don’t know how much of my life is real.

Less than half, maybe.

Sometimes you just have to stop and shut the fuck up for a minute. Just stop. And every ounce of focus and energy you possess is dedicated to being still. Just breathing. For a moment, there is nothing else. Because you’re not thinking about yesterday. You’re not worried about tomorrow. A total investment in that next breath.

In, then out.

The faintest hint of a smile on your face.

And again: In. Through the nose. Hold it. Just a moment. Then, out. Through the mouth.

That’s one of the few times you can know it when no one else is around: This is real. I’m alive.

Different things make people feel alive.

Not everyone would feel it sitting at a Las Vegas poker table the way I do. Check. Bet. Raise. Re-raise. That’s right. Ship those chips, sucka.

Not everyone would feel it sitting at a keyboard. Tap-tap-tapping until things I think and feel morph into words.

But I hope most people feel it when I feel it most. In a crowd of good people, a bunch of friends, laughing, sharing. Connected.

Less than half my life is real.

It’s not real because I spend a lot of time mentally in the past. A place that no longer exists and where pain and sadness sometimes live.

It’s not real because I spend a lot of time dreaming or worrying about the future. A complete fantasy impossible to predict because we have no idea what’s going to happen five minutes from now.

It’s not real because I watch TV and movies more than I should.

It’s not real because of books and video games.

It’s not real because so much interaction with others happens via a digital device or on an internet platform.

I’ve always wanted this to be me. These words right here. But the truth is: They’re not, and can never be. Because however many hundreds or thousands of people ever read this stuff… they don’t (and can’t) see me as I am. They fill in the blanks like all of us do when we read books and stories. Our brains plug the holes with guesses, and we invent something that isn’t real.

I’ve been divorced more than two years now. In that time, I haven’t met or dated even one person locally who could conceivably be a serious girlfriend or potential stepmother for my son. That fact comes up in conversation sometimes.

“Do you want to have more kids?”

The mathematical logistics suggest it’s not happening anyway.

“Women who read your blog love you, Matt!”

I hear that sometimes, too.

I always answer it the same way: “Yeah, but it’s total bullshit. They don’t like the real me. They don’t know me. They like the version of me they invented in their head.”

And then I remind them what I just told you. Even though I’m pretty nice, reasonably funny, semi-attractive, passably competent, gainfully employed, and open to meeting people, the net result of two years of being alive as a single mid-thirties dad is: zero potential girlfriends. I wish I was kidding.

Maybe you should try online dating!’

A bunch of people know this already, but this blog was intended to be a dating blog when I first launched it. I thought it would be hilarious to be this emotionally wrecked, ticking time bomb, cliché, middle-aged divorced guy doing all the things those guys do, and then tell the stories along the way.

Edgy! Hilarious!

And I was trying to online date, but I was shitty at it in large part because I hated myself and wasn’t emotionally ready to be dating anyone, anyway, and was stupid for trying. Instead of owning that, I blamed my height since so many girls who online date only want to date tall guys, even if they’re only 5’1”, themselves.

That always annoyed me. Hence the name, Must Be This Tall To Ride.

Even though my motives for quitting were wrong (pride), I think I was right to not use online dating in an effort to fill the companionship void after my divorce.

It’s another part of this Fake Life problem I feel like so many of us have.

It got me thinking about this Culture of Disconnection we live in, DESPITE living in the most-technically (and technologically) connected time in human history.

It’s almost as if the more fiber-optic lines we lay, and servers we build, and devices we create, and online communities we join, the less-connected we feel in our actual, physical and spiritual, real lives.

The ones that are true and real when we first wake up in the morning.

The ones that are true and real when we’re standing in the shower shaking out the cobwebs or contemplating whatever today’s top concern is.

The ones that are true and real when we’re with all the people who really know us. When all the digital image management programs aren’t running. And it’s just us, live and in color, being a God’s honest human being with other people.

I don’t mean to disparage the Internet or social media. I am a happy and willing participant, particularly in the blogosphere. (Is that still a word?) And it’s a bona fide MIRACLE that grandparents living far away can FaceTime and Skype with their grandchildren, and that we can more easily than ever before stay in touch with people far away who mean so much to us. It’s so much better than no contact at all, and I’m grateful to be alive when these things are possible.

But when I take an honest, no-bullshit look at my own life?

I lean so heavily on you. I do. Like. Comment. Like. Like. Like. Comment. Like. Comment. Like.

I lean so heavily on escapism. A show I’m binge-watching on Netflix, or some new-ish movie on HBO GO.

And my biggest crutch? This phone. But not to speak. Not much.

Many days and nights, I didn’t feel lonely because I had people there, typing back to me in those little gray text bubbles.

And thank God. This is not a BAD thing. It’s not bad that we can stay in touch with people and not feel lonely for a moment.

But it’s a Band-Aid solution, and not even a particularly good one. Like a shitty, generic drugstore-brand band-aid.

Because sometimes our faraway friends get busy.

And even that little gray text bubble isn’t talking back anymore.

We get afraid. I’m not even sure of what.

But if you’re divorced or perpetually single and don’t live by a bunch of friends and family, you don’t need an explanation. You just get it.

And so the Magic Internet Elves invent all these tools for people. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Where people can paint whatever picture of their lives they want to.

Awesome. Great. Fine. But is it real?

And they invent online dating. Where people can Swipe Right and Swipe Left and send winks and messages to strangers based on a few strategically selected photos and their best sales pitch.

Awesome. Great. Fine. Now it’s really easy for single people to find each other. But is it real?

And they invent mobile devices to keep us “connected.” Where people can do all the Magic Internet Things no matter where they are with other “connected” people no matter where they are. But is that living?

I don’t know.

But I know that none of us have as much time as we’d like. I know that time goes so fast, even when I’m just sitting at home alone. And I know I don’t want to spend my life dead.

I’m not sure what it looks like. The life where I always smile and know I’m all the way alive again, connected and whole.

But I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen watching that movie or liking that Facebook post.

Whenever I find myself unsure of what the next move should be, there’s only one thing left to do.

In, then out.

The faintest hint of a smile on my face.

And again: In. Through the nose. Hold it. Just a moment. Then, out. Through the mouth.

Because it always comes to me.

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Road Trip!

road trip

I’ll totally be on the Interstate the entire time and it won’t look this pretty.

As I do every summer, I head west today for my annual week of trouble making with family and friends in Illinois.

There will be lots of pool time, loud music, day drinking, excessive tequila consumption, Mississippi River boating, and probably even some cool stuff I haven’t thought of yet.

While this is all happening, I will also be an attentive father. (I promise.)

What is, however, in question, is to what degree I will concentrate on writing blog posts and responding to comments. There aren’t many opportunities in life to shirk 95 percent of daily responsibilities without consequence, but this one week per year at my dad’s excellent and well-stocked home grants me that luxury.

I can’t promise to adhere to my regular posting schedule for the next nine or so days, and acknowledge that exactly zero people will lose sleep over it, but I wanted to mention it anyway.

I like writing here and won’t intentionally neglect it. But for at least one week, I’m not going to force it either.

See you when I see you!

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How to Start a Blog

(Image/blog.ringcentral.com)

(Image/blog.ringcentral.com)

Feral Wife asked:

Hi Matt, I have truly enjoyed reading your blog. I found it shortly after asking my husband for a separation (we decided not to). Your words were a blessing, and long story short, you and the many commenters have inspired me to start my own blog. The premise of my blog is I am the wife of a shitty husband, a husband who was shocked when I asked for a separation. Now we are trying to work it out and stay married. So I want to share my journey in hopes of helping other wives and husbands. But I don’t really know where to start, I am assuming your blog didn’t start off as fabulous as it is now (if it has, more props to you!) so I am asking for tidbits/advice on where to start. I would like to remain anonymous, for a variety of reasons. Anyway, you said we could ask you stuff, for free, so I thought I’d ask: “How do I start my own blog?”

There are countless reasons to start blogging.

Some people love writing. Some people like telling stories. Some people dream big and hope people will like their writing and that it might create future writing and career opportunities. Some people process information and life events best when they get thoughts down on paper (or a computer screen). Some people want to help and be a resource for others.

If you ask me today why I write here, those are my reasons.

But that’s not why I started.

One night, less than three months into my marital separation, I was self-medicating with vodka before some friends were picking me up to go out.

I was feeling sorry for myself because my wife was seeing someone.

I was feeling sorry for myself because my son wasn’t home.

I was feeling sorry for myself because I was taking my first crack at online dating and it was a colossal failure by every measurable standard.

I was totally losing it. I called an 800 number off a card someone at work had given me for over-the-phone counseling.

I don’t remember anything about the conversation except for the part where the therapist lady told me I should start writing down my thoughts and feelings. Normal people keep journals. I thought: Maybe I’ll just write anonymously and publish it! That might be a fun experiment!

I thought Must Be This Tall To Ride was going to be a sarcastic, juvenile journey through my online-dating stumbles—the story of this bumbling, depressed, freaking-out newly single 30-something father trying to “date” for the first time in his life.

I started blogging because I’m a total spaz and as soon as any idea pops into my idiot little head, I rush off and do it until I get bored or distracted by something else and move on.

But then something happened I didn’t expect—some people gave a shit. People were reading. Not a lot. But some! Whoa.

Writing has some magic qualities for the people doing it. Something intangible that, no matter how many times people tell you, you can’t really understand it until it starts happening. That therapist lady knew it. But I didn’t. Not until, for the first time in my life, I took things from the inside of me and turned them into words.

It was a little scary. A little embarrassing. But, man. It worked. I really started feeling better.

And then something even crazier happened.

Some of the people reading said it helped them feel better, too.

I’ve written PLENTY of immature bullshit here. Sorry. I am immature and sometimes I make bad decisions that are bullshit.

But mostly? I started really caring about being someone who wasn’t adding to all the noise and negativity shrieking and clanging around out there.

Maybe this can matter. 

How to Start a Blog

1. Have a reason. A concept. A thing.

No matter how much I don’t want to be, I’ve sort of become this divorce/relationship blogger, which makes no sense, but whatever. Sometimes things don’t make sense.

2. Think of good blog names, and pick one with a sensible, AVAILABLE URL (or if you’re not hiding your identity, try to secure your name. Example: BobRodgers.com)

I picked Must Be This Tall To Ride because a week earlier I wrote to some 5’2” online dating chick one night who wouldn’t date guys under six feet, and I used it as the subject line. It made me laugh. She wrote back, but not because she wanted to go out. I’m glad the URL was available. That was lucky.

3. There are a variety of blogging platforms. I like WordPress for many reasons. Choose a non-sucky theme

I picked this theme (called “Chunk”) because it’s SUPER-clean, and I like clean. I like Google’s home page. I like Apple’s advertising. I like white space.

So I chose this because there aren’t any distractions.

I thought I would be able to customize it so that I could take some of the things that live WAY down at the bottom of these pages that most people never see, and move them up to the sidebars. But this theme doesn’t let you do that, AND I suck at HTML coding, so even if it did, I probably couldn’t have pulled it off.

My advice: Choose a theme that allows people to follow you via email up in the sidebar, and showcase other information they care about like recent posts, or popular posts, or how to follow you on social media, or whatever. When you bury it at the bottom of your blog like I do here, most people never see it because they’re busy and don’t care. You have to make it easy and obvious for them to follow you.

4. Use photos in your blog posts.

I usually stick with just one image up top. Credit the photographer or at least the source whenever possible in the caption. People like images.

5. Write as much as you want, but 800 words or less will help readers stay with you.

I usually write over a thousand because I’m wordy and don’t always do what I’m supposed to.

6. Write well.

This is subjective. I don’t think I’m a particularly great writer. But (usually after publishing a mistake or two every time) I’m pretty good about keeping the copy clean. Typos are bad. Using “their” instead of “there” is bad. Bad punctuation is bad. Bad everything is bad. Unfortunately, I do some things poorly. It’s because I’m only moderately intelligent AND because I rush through this stuff, never planning ahead, and hastily hitting Publish during my lunch hour at work. It’s a bad blogging and writing strategy.

7. Make it easy for people to share your work.

WordPress plugins make it easy to embed social media sharing on your blog. Twitter is the only social media I use to share posts and it generates very little traffic because I’m shitty at Twitter. Facebook is obviously the biggest and best place to share. Because I’m afraid of family members and people in my professional network reading about accidental vaginas or my grandmother hypothetically marrying a Liam Neeson movie character, I’ve always been too scared to share stuff on Facebook. But it’s still the place where my posts that do get shared, get shared most often.

8. Reply to comments.

I’m not always good at this, but I aspire to be.

9. Try to develop a regular posting schedule.

Posting every day only worked for about nine months for me. That was masochistic. I generally stick to Monday-Wednesday-Friday now and I find it more manageable. There’s no right or wrong way. But consistency is smart.

10. Tag and categorize your posts thoughtfully.

I just sort of guess. There’s a science to it, but I’m always in too big of a hurry. Tagging or categorizing my posts “Marriage” or “Divorce” or “Penis” allows people to find content that interests them and lets regular readers know what they’re getting into.

I’m probably leaving stuff out because I’m out of time and need to stop writing this.

In Conclusion

Feral Wife called my blog “fabulous.” Which is too kind because of all its structural deficiencies and sometimes-shitty writing.

If it is fabulous, I have a hard time believing it started out that way. Some people have read every post, and they would know better than me.

I’ve published close to 500 posts in just over two years here, and any time you do something hundreds of times, you get better at it, but that’s also subjective because some of you are reading this (or quit 700 words ago) and are thinking: Why the hell am I still reading this?

Fair question.

I have no idea.

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The Magical Power of Writing for Two Years (and a Bit About Marriage)

Magic-Book

The date came and went without me noticing.

June 21 was the two-year anniversary of my first post here. You can’t read it anymore because I privatized it. I privatized it because I said angry things about my ex-wife. She is my son’s mother and my relationship with her means more to me than having a published account of the worst thing that ever happened to me.

It won’t be long before I start publishing my last name. I will publish books. I want to write for larger publications. I’ll have to use my full name, and protecting people I care about matters to me. Even if they’re just someone that I used to know.

It took two years to get here.

The Advice Guy

I don’t want to be Advice Guy. That guy is usually an asshole. Plus, I don’t really know anything. If you forced me to offer the world life advice; that would be my contribution: Stop pretending you KNOW anything about anything. You don’t know. And there’s freedom in being honest about it.

Better to ask questions. Better to seek truth.

There is something about writing that gives you an aura of credibility that you don’t really deserve, but it doesn’t rid you of your responsibility to help when people want it.

I’ve published about 450,000 words here in the past two years. And for reasons that don’t fully make sense to me, some people think that means I know things.

I never know things. I just think things.

On Marriage

People ask me to advise them on marriage ALL THE TIME. Several times per week, wives email me asking for marriage advice or at least for suggestions on how they might get their husbands to understand the things they believe I do based on what they’ve read.

It happens so often now that I’ve actually looked into acquiring certification for marriage coaching. Because, you may recall, I’m nothing more than one divorced guy who failed at marriage in his only attempt.

I think every marriage reaches a breaking point. And the choices made by each (or either) spouse during that time determines the union’s fate.

I think, generally speaking, everyone gets married (the first time) LONG before they’re ready. Ironically, you’re never ready for marriage until you’re already married and THEN demonstrate good (read: unselfish) decision making.

I think we grow up seeing all these married people around us, so we’re all programmed from Day 1: When you get older and become an adult, you get married! It’s just what you do!

All we see from these marriages are the masks everyone wears. We’re kids! No one is going to tell us how it really is. That he NEVER says thank you or demonstrates appreciation for all her hard work cooking or cleaning or taking care of his laundry. That she constantly tears him down and never encourages him. That he’d rather jerk off thinking about her cousin or his old college fling than have sex with her. That she spends half her day swapping complaints with her girlfriend about what an inattentive asshole he is while both of them fantasize about one another’s husband.

We send our kids off to school to learn about the World Wars and the Periodic Table and The Old Man and the Sea and about our solar system and Algebra II. And that’s great. We should all be learning things.

But when the kids are 30, clinically depressed and fantasizing sexually or otherwise about other people and other lives because no one EVER was honest with them about what it takes to make marriage work, I have to ask: Are we really teaching people things that matter? How much good is Hemingway and knowing the atomic number for Boron really doing them? When they’re broken and sobbing on the floor?

I think men and women are biologically different to varying degrees, and that, because of a misplaced desire for political correctness, or because people are sexist and believe their gender is “correct” or “better,” very few people ever bother to learn about gender differences.

So guys walk around their entire lives thinking women are overly emotional and crazy.

And girls walk around their entire lives thinking men are dense and are only motivated by competition and sex (but mostly just sex).

Guys think that over time, women will come around and “get it.” Start thinking “the right way.” Like a man!

Women think that over time, their man will come around and “get it.” That he will finally start understanding her and seeing her for who she truly is. The he will start thinking and communicating and doing things “the right way.” Like a woman!

Usually, 5-10 years later, it’s all fucked and broken.

All because no one bothered to teach us important things about love and communication. Because no one ever really showed us what it looks like to give more than we take. And how by giving more than we take, we actually GET MORE, and create a life of love and abundance.

No, we all hurt too much from that mean thing he said.

We all hurt too much because she is so disrespectful and makes us feel like failures.

Resentment grows. Communication lessens. Sexual interest and attraction fades. You grow apart and die on the inside.

THIS IS THE SAME THING THAT HAPPENS TO EVERYONE. You’re not a freak. None of it’s good. But it is normal.

It happened to me. And now it’s happening to you. And I don’t know how to stop it. I don’t know how to make people care as much as they should. And I’m sorry.

I am so sorry that I don’t know how.

On Writing

People like to ask about writing sometimes, too.

My advice on writing is infinitely shorter.

1. Read writers who write how you want to write. Also read other things. Basically, just read. A lot.

2. Write often. Use fewer words than me.

3. Bleed when you write. (It’s a metaphor. Please don’t cut yourself.) Write about things that frighten and embarrass you. That sadden or anger you. Because you need to learn (and constantly be reminded of) something really important: We are all super-similar and you are never the only one. And you get to be the brave one that helps people realize that simple, but sometimes life-changing truth. Don’t take it for granted.

4. Take off the mask. You spend every second of your life trying to be who you think your parents, friends, boss, kids, lover, neighbors, or whoever, want you to be. It’s exhausting trying to be so many people and we always fail at it, because it’s hard enough just being one person. Always be you. It organically filters out all the people you don’t want in your life without exerting any energy. And it organically attracts all of the people you do want to be part of it. And it makes you come alive. This is hard to do in real life, even though we should try. But dammit, you better do it when you’re punching the keys. Make courageousness a habit.

Writing makes me see the world differently.

Writing allows me to see myself differently.

So that I can grow and change and think and love and share and be better today than I was yesterday.

All it takes is a willingness to leave a tiny imprint of your soul in the words. Bare and vulnerable.

Not everyone will care.

But someone will.

And that’s where the magic lives.

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11 Books That Will Make You Smarter, Sexier and Awesomer

stack of books art

I read a lot.

I do it for three reasons:

  1. I believe it’s the most-efficient way to get smarter. I’m kind of obsessed with learning about everything. When I was a kid, any learning that wasn’t hands-on was a total drag and I just wanted to play. I’m older now and my priorities and interests have shifted. I want to be a genius capable of solving any problem, but I’ll have to settle for Moderately Smart Guy Who Reads A Lot (and uses Google).
  2. I’m also kind of obsessed with new ideas and discovering new ways to do or think about things. That, combined with the desire to write things, makes it wise for me to read often.
  3. I want to be sexier and awesomer. (I have little evidence this part is working, but I think it probably is.)

Not everyone likes reading or wants to do it as much as I do. But maybe you’d like to try something new. For everyone who loves books like me, here are some exceptional ones I’ve read in recent months that I hope you enjoy too.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

So many people are miserable because they hate their jobs and/or lives. Sometimes it seems like certain people have given up. They throw up their hands: “This is all there is!” Some people perform mundane jobs and live what I might consider mundane lives. I’m probably one of them. Sometimes people in lives like that feel satisfied and content. I applaud those people. But there are others who always feel like something’s missing. I often feel that way. The call.

Jeff Goins explores this phenomenon and the personal journey in this fantastic book about how people find their “calling.” What you were meant to do.

I love it and you probably will too because I have excellent taste.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Damn near everyone wishes they were better at something. For example, I’m shitty about cleaning my house (which is why I bought and will read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing once I stop putting it off), and effectively managing my refrigerator, and finishing my large-scale writing projects. I was officially diagnosed with adult ADHD yesterday (which I already knew and told you about), and which is an inexact science, but I still believe in personal responsibility and Duhigg’s book helps me understand why we are prone to do or not do so many of the things we do. Good stuff.

Double Feature

Steal Like an Artist 

steal like an artist

and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

show your work

Both books are really quick, interesting reads that I have trouble differentiating from one another because I read them back-to-back within the same week. As someone interested in the creative process for writing blog posts, and more-ambitious things like books, the lessons Kleon imparts here are important to me. If you want to MAKE anything, read these books and thank me later. (Just kidding. No need to thank me. But seriously, read them.)

Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson

models

I’m a little embarrassed about this one because one might get the impression I was trying to learn “pick-up” artistry (which I was not, and which this book is not about, though Manson addresses it). The author’s mission is to help men become the best versions of themselves and develop what he calls “true confidence.” Not false bravado, but legitimate comfort with oneself to establish healthy boundaries while navigating the sometimes-scary dating landscape. This book taught me a lot of things about myself, and I imagine almost any man would benefit from the important truths and psychological lessons. Frankly, I think most women would like it too. Manson has quickly become (even though he’s a bit younger than me) one of my favorite writers. You should sign up for his highly infrequent blog posts here.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

choose yourself

This guy is my favorite writer. He has written two new books since this one (The Power of No, which I haven’t read but do own on Kindle; and The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, which I have yet to read because A. I don’t have that much money, and B. My book stack is beyond obnoxious and I just haven’t got to it yet.) Altucher is a genius and I love him. I read every blog post he writes, I listen to his podcasts on road trips, I subscribe to his monthly newsletters, and suspect I will buy every book he writes for as long as he chooses to write. No one has affected my thinking more than Altucher, and my life is better for doing so. Choose Yourself is exactly what it sounds like: A guide to rethinking EVERYTHING and making your own rules in a world that often wants you to play by someone else’s.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

on writing well

I’m in the middle of this one now. It has already taught me so much about the art form I love most. Zinsser provides a ton of important lessons about what separates good writing from bad. (I do a lot of bad.) And the real value lies in the editing and rewriting portion of the work (which I NEVER do on this blog, sorry.) Many of you are writers, too. If you have never read this masterpiece, please remedy that soon. It’s accessible and amazing for writers of all levels and it WILL make you better. Even if you can’t tell from my work.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by bird

Another book on writing, but less on science and more on art. I can’t describe this book, because its qualities are intangible. But I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you: It’s magic.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

ferriss four hour workweek

This one is a dirty lie because I haven’t read it yet, and I’m sorry to deceive you, but not really. It has 3,700 reviews on Amazon with a 4 ½-star rating, so I feel good about including it. Ferriss’ bestseller is in my monster stack and I will get to it and almost certainly write about it when I do. The reason I wanted to include it is because Ferriss is extraordinary and you should know who he is. I’ve read and listened to Ferriss many times in interviews and podcasts and articles. He’s exceptional and magnetic.

There’s never enough exceptionalism and magnetism in life. Tim Ferriss, yo. He’s legit.

The True Measure of a Man by Richard E. Simmons and Jerry Leachman

true measure of a man

Men have an identity crisis in 2015 because what it means to be a man in today’s society is radically different from what it meant for previous generations. Some men feel lost, like rudderless ships. I feel that way sometimes. People want to know why. We all just want to know WHY!?!?!? for everything. If you’re a guy and nodding your head right now? Please read this. It will help you make more sense of things. (You should read it even if you didn’t nod your head.)

Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas are the Currency of the 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher

idea machine

Claudia is James’ wife. So she gets bonus points from me simply by James-related osmosis. But I don’t want to minimize what she’s done here. Claudia took a staple of James Altucher’s self-improvement advice and made a nice, useful book out of it.

Bottom line: There is no skill I would rather possess than the ability to come up with great, creative ideas on-demand. Something shitty happens? BAM. I know what to do.  I want to complete a new goal? BAM. Here’s the methodology for tackling any problem with high-level thinking and execution.

That’s what this book will teach you how to do if you’re willing to grind and sweat a little (don’t get excited—I don’t mean that sexually.) Everyone can and will benefit from this book.

I always believe tomorrow can be better than today.

So, I read. Because I want to be a part of the solution.

We have Father’s Day coming up. And also, just, life.

Maybe you or someone in your life can benefit from one of these.

I hope so.

Please have a great weekend, everyone. Love you guys.

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A Funny Little Thing

kevin hart

Because of work stuff, I can’t write today.

Soon (tomorrow?) I’m going to tell you about the time a clinical psychologist befriended me via this blog and asked me whether I’d ever looked into the possibility of having ADHD.

I scoffed at first. No way! I’m totally normal! Everyone lets their auto insurance lapse and has trouble planning ahead! Everyone sucks at keeping their house clean and forgets things all the time!

And then I read about ADHD. About how it impacts your day-to-day life. What the common traits are of the people (about 5% of the population) affected by it.

I thought ADHD was a bullshit label people used to drug hyper kids. Kind of a fake, made-up thing.

But then I read what undiagnosed ADHD adults experience at home and at work.

Whoa. That’s me.

Then I read some more. That’s me too!

And some more. Goodness.

And even more. HOLY SHIT.

Another Eureka moment.

Why have all of these things happened to me? Why do I do the things I do the way I do? Why can’t I fix this?

Now I think I know why.

And just maybe, this will change everything.

More to come.

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Why I Wrote “An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands”

Families matter. And if you believe your husband doesn't think so, there's a good chance you're wrong.

Families matter. And if you believe your husband doesn’t think so, there’s a good chance you’re wrong.

“Wow. Your marriage is a complete replica of mine except I haven’t walked out yet and you sound a bit more attentive than my husband. I wish he would read your blog and consider it, but he probably wouldn’t cause he’s an asshole.” – Anonymous blog comment

Because a lot of wives are unhappy in their marriages, many of them turn to the internet where they type things like, “my husband is an asshole,” or “shitty husband” into Google.

Maybe they’re looking for advice on how to cope with a bad marriage.

Maybe they’re looking for other wives who feel like them.

Maybe they’re looking for a shred of hope that the life they dream of isn’t completely impossible.

More and more, they find one of the “An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands” posts. Usually Vol. 1. What that means is, hundreds of strangers every day—people who have never read anything else I’ve written, nor understand my motives, nor realize I wrote it two years ago when I was totally broken—are stumbling on that post.

I think it’s a bad post. It’s poorly written and lacking any semblance of the wisdom and understanding I’ve acquired in my search for knowledge.

But one thing is clear: The message is resonating. Because people keep reading and sharing.

There’s something here that matters to people in pain. And that, I understand.

What’s a Shitty Husband?

Lee wrote me, “Understand that not all husbands are shitty…I found myself disagreeing with your choices fairly quickly while reading, and I can see how you ended up where you are now.”

Laura wrote me, “You aren’t a ‘shitty husband’ for being human. And labeling yourself as one isn’t making anybody feel better.”

Let’s get something straight. I like the word “shitty.” And I’m not afraid to use it loosely, because it’s a funny word and an attention-grabbing one in a headline.

Some husbands get drunk all the time, are never home, screw other women, hit their wives, and all kinds of bad things no human being should be.

I CANNOT HELP A MAN LIKE THAT.

A woman who marries a man like that probably has really unhealthy boundary and self-esteem issues, or experienced an unplanned pregnancy and decided to marry the father in an effort to do what she felt was best.

I can only help one kind of guy. And I think there are millions of them. And so much of what I think about and write about is for them, their wives, their children, their extended family and friends.

The kind of guy I can help is the shitty husband who doesn’t know he’s shitty.

Guys who get drunk all the time, are never home, screw other women, hit their wives, and all kinds of other bad things, KNOW they’re shitty. They know and don’t care. They do not empathize with their hurting spouses. Unselfishness and improving the lives of his wife and family are not concepts he ever thinks about.

The kind of guy I can help is ACCIDENTALLY SHITTY. A regular guy with an honest desire to keep his marriage vows, raise good kids, and have the kind of family most of us dreamed about when we agreed to get married in the first place. A guy who takes immense pleasure from imagining him and his wife sitting on the porch together 40 years from now, watching grandchildren play in the yard.

I can help the guy who truly loves his wife.

I can help the guy who doesn’t understand why he and his wife always fight about the same things.

I can help the guy who never considered that men and women can describe the exact same situation completely differently with neither of them being wrong.

I can help the guy who doesn’t understand how his wife can feel lonely and unloved even though he’s physically present.

I can help the guy who is too ashamed, embarrassed or afraid to be 100-percent honest about sex.

I can help the guy who feels flattered by the cute girl at work because she makes him feel good, and doesn’t understand why his wife doesn’t do that anymore, nor how dangerous it is.

I can help the guy who doesn’t know what to do when his wife is grieving from the death of a loved one.

I can help the guy whose wife is worried about money and long-term security.

I’ve written it many times before: Good men can be shitty husbands. They’re not bad men. They’re simply bad at marriage. The same way people can be bad at archery, or advanced math, or baking muffins.

Being active and engaged and communicating effectively in marriage is a learned skill, and many men don’t know how to do it because their grandfathers lived in the Mad Men era, and their fathers followed in the same footsteps, or were never around at all.

Being a man in 2015 is so much different than it was 60 years ago. And to succeed, we must evolve.

I write for good men who are getting it wrong and who can and will respond to new information that makes sense to them. I was 33 years old and married for seven years before I understood what I know now.

Men are frustrated because their wives “change” throughout the course of their marriages, especially after becoming mothers.

Men are frustrated because their wives don’t make them feel confident, respected, trusted or loved like they used to.

Men are frustrated because their wives have lost sexual interest.

Men are frustrated because their wives make them feel like they’re no longer good enough for them. Despite all of the changes and sacrifices he has made, she trusts him less, and ‘nags’ him more.

Men are frustrated because their entire lives look nothing like their hopes and dreams, and they feel depressed, and no one understands, and there’s no one to talk to about it.

But really, everyone understands. And you can and should talk to people about it. Especially your wife.

I think I now understand how and why all these things happen. It was completely lost on me during my nine-year marriage. And I think there are a bunch of guys out there just like me.

And I think if every man understood what I know now (especially early in their marriages!), they would radically change the way they behave and communicate in their marriages.

Men are happier when their wives are happier, and most men simply don’t understand why their wives become unhappy. They’re not intentionally neglectful. They are accidentally neglectful. And everyone’s lives will be better if they figure it out before the inevitable affair or divorce.

Broken marriages, broken homes and divorce are really awful things to experience. As children. And as adults.

Not everyone is going to care what I have to say. Probably most won’t.

But once in a while, someone is going to stumble on this stuff and have the same sort of eureka moment I had when this all finally clicked for me.

And even if he’s a great guy, he’s probably a shitty husband. Probably accidentally so.

And his story can have a happy ending.

His children’s stories can have happy endings.

His wife’s story can have a happy ending.

So, yeah. This is all a little bit about me.

But it’s a whole lot about them.

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Help Me Find a Partner

partner

My wife would get frustrated with me because sometimes I don’t finish things.

It’s a pattern that reemerges in my life repeatedly. A new idea captures my attention. I obsess about it. I dive right in, fully immersing myself in it, sometimes at the expense of other things.

I think that became exhausting for her because she isn’t that way.

I think she saw it as a sign of immaturity and lack of discipline.

I know she saw it as a weakness.

Discovering Strengths

I participated yesterday in a self-assessment program called StrengthsFinder, a program run by The Gallup Organization (the polling institution) designed to help people better understand their strengths and behaviors.

Strictly from a personality-profile standpoint, it reaffirmed what I already knew about myself.

Strength #1 – I am inquisitive.

I have a naturally curious mind. I collect information. I crave and pursue knowledge. I tend to collect things that interest me. I am interested in many things, so I am constantly trying to learn new things.

Strength #2 – I love meeting people and making friends.

I love meeting strangers and learning about them. I want to discover common interests and build connections. There is no such thing as too many friends.

Strength #3 – I am fascinated by new ideas.

“You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are,” my assessment report said.

No sentence in the history of the written word has more accurately described me. It is the very premise on which the majority of this blog’s content is based.

Strength #4 – I am hopeful and fascinated by the future.

I dream of every aspect of life being better in the future than it is now. It is that vision for my future and the future of those close to me that drives me each day. I am a dreamer. And I pursue those dreams. But, sometimes…

Strength #5 – I have an inherent need to start a new project or hobby.

I am interested in many new things, and when something captivates me, I need to be a part of it and throw myself into it. That makes me awesome at idea generation and starting exciting new adventures, but that also lends itself to me “quitting” things in favor of chasing the next dream that has captured my intense interest.

Something dawned on me very quickly as I evaluated my results and contemplated their meaning.

Everyone has a very different, very specific combination of strengths. And when those strengths don’t jibe exactly with our individual goals, or don’t align with our strengths, we can convince ourselves that…

Lack of Strength = Weakness

And that’s a lie. A lack of strength is an opportunity.

My ex-wife can be very shy. She is sometimes not a good networker or can come across as unfriendly because of her shyness and general preference for surrounding herself with a few close friends and leaning heavily on them.

And I might be guilty of thinking of my wife’s shyness as a weakness, instead of properly identifying her strength as a loyal friend who builds super-tight bonds with those closest to her.

Similarly, my wife thought I was undisciplined and flighty instead of recognizing what I actually have is a strong ability to generate new ideas and passionately pursue new challenges.

Our individual strengths are hardwired into every one of us.

I Want to Write Books

As you can imagine, my strength profile makes it very difficult for me to see a project somewhat epic in scope (like a book) through to completion on my own.

Frankly, that applies to virtually every aspect of my life (I’ve said many times that much of what ails me will naturally work itself out when I have a full-time romantic partner again).

The woman (a friend) who is coaching me through this StrengthsFinder process said: “Based on a cursory look at your strengths, you’re gonna need a partner,” in regards to completing book projects.

“What do you mean? A co-author?” I said.

“You’re a starter. But can tend to let things cool… a co-author… a publisher pushing you. Someone you empower to give you deadlines,” she said. “You need a partner of some kind who can propel you. Motivate you. You’ll have to figure out what that looks like.”

“Interesting,” I said. “Maybe an editing partner.”

“Exactly,” she said.

I love writing. I have a lot to say. And I’m very close to being ready to pull the trigger on these larger writing projects I have floating around in dozens of notebook pages, computer files and folders.

My favorite writer James Altucher often writes about the need for collaboration.

“There’s no such thing as a lone genius,” he writes. “Every Steve Jobs has a Steve Wozniak. Every Marie Curie has a Pierre Currie. Every Lennon has a McCartney. Even the most isolated genius (Picasso) had a Braque.”

I am no “lone genius.” I think that goes without saying.

But I do really want to finish these book ideas, if for no other reason than to learn how (or how to NOT) write and publish a book. It’s time to get started.

But I need a partner.

I don’t just want a partner. I need one. And I’m DONE thinking if I keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, it’s going to magically work one day. It will ALWAYS end the same if you keep trying the same thing.

We can call it a weakness if you must.

But I’m going to embrace my strengths. Everyone has them. And I’m going to leverage them. And I’m going to supplement my missing strengths with people in possession of the ones I need to accomplish my goals.

And I need one of those now. A person who possesses what I’m missing.

Are you a writer who has worked with an editor you like and respect? Are you an editor looking for a new project? Do you know how to find editors outside of traditional publishing? Do you have any tips for how to know when you’ve found the right person to work with on your most-important work?

I’m asking for your help.

I need a partner.

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Marijuana, Bible Studies, and Bridge Construction

(Image courtesy of screen-wallpapers.com)

(Image courtesy of screen-wallpapers.com)

“Shit! I have to go.”

Everything was hazy and surreal in the smoke-filled room. It’s because four of us just burned a massive blunt. I was pretty high. There was nothing particularly weird about that. In college, I was often pretty high.

“Where do you have to go?” my friends asked.

“Bible study,” I said. “I forgot all about it.”

“Bible study!? You can’t go to bible study!” my roommate said. He didn’t say it because he, or anyone else in the room, had a problem with faith or bible studies. He said it because I looked and smelled and was acting exactly like someone who had just smoked a lot of marijuana, and he figured—perhaps correctly—that it wasn’t an appropriate time to study Scripture.

“Gotta do it, man,” I said. And then I ran off on my 10-minute trek to meet a guy whose name I can’t remember to discuss a chapter in the New Testament I can’t remember discussing.

You know, because in college, I was often pretty high.

Can’t Stay Hidden Forever

In January, an exceptional guy about my age died. Everything was fine. His wife was pregnant with their fourth child. He was in excellent physical condition. Then, the doctors told him he had cancer the day after Christmas. And he was gone a month later.

Just like that.

The story hit me hard. I had never met Paul Coakley. But I knew quite a few people who were close to him in college and stayed in touch into our adult years. The story was tragic and touching and I wrote about it.

A random Google search yesterday led one of Paul’s friends to that post. They shared it on social media and now several hundred people have read it, and many of them shared it some more.

Because that happened, more people I know in real life discovered this blog. The world closes in on me every time that happens. More people to judge the adult version of me. A version of me so different from the one they might remember when I was young, confident, always positive and optimistic, strong, brave, and afraid of little.

Now, they’ll find someone else.

A divorced single father who hasn’t lived up to his own expectations. A guy who failed to achieve professionally, socially and spiritually, the life I’d always envisioned.

I’ve been writing here for two years now. I’ve grown accustomed to many people reading the things I write.

But it feels so different when it’s someone you know. People you respect deeply and maybe wish didn’t know about all your skeletons. The skeletons on display here. I used to joke a lot about my mother and grandmother finding this place and freaking out. That will probably happen one day.

I use my first name and I show my face because I feel like a fraudulent coward if I don’t at least do that.

Someday, I’ll have to own all of it. It still scares me, even though I’m actively trying to care less.

You can’t stay hidden forever.

What I’m Doing Here

Relativism (the reality of things being relative to one another—not the philosophical doctrine) is a funny thing.

Some people have seen and done things many of us can barely fathom. Especially some kid from a quiet little Ohio town, like me. Those people read about me smoking pot and all the keg parties and my bouts with conscience regarding sexual desire as a young kid in church, and probably roll their eyes, because to them—Who cares!?

Others living purer, more disciplined lifestyles might be more offended by my casual references to sex or my somewhat cavalier use of bad words. And I still worry about what other people think of me. It’s a weakness. I’m working on it.

Except, here’s the thing: I KNOW everyone feels most of the same things I feel. Because I’ve been alive 36 years and that’s enough time to figure out a few things.

I wasn’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies when I was 13. I grew up in one of those houses.

So it makes total sense that I wanted to party when I got to college and lived on my own. It’s totally human to want to learn and experience things for oneself.

The sex stuff? Everyone who claims to not understand is a dirty liar. Most people just don’t talk about it.

Everyone has a different definition of good and bad.

Behaviorally, I’ve long been a I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints kind-of guy.

Philosophically, I’ve always wanted to be a good person.

The older I get, the less I understand what it means to be a good person.

I only know that’s what I want to be.

I don’t know if it’s possible to bridge the gap between the righteous and the fallen. Because most of us don’t even know for sure what either of those things mean. But if there is such a thing—a bridge?

That’s who and what I want to be.

I’m probably doing it wrong.

If This is Low, I’m Looking for High

Being stoned during bible study is a metaphor for my life ever since discovering there are emotional consequences to various life choices.

Using the loose definition of these words, I want to be bad and I want to be good. I can’t look you in the eye and honestly say that I don’t occasionally want to do things I loosely define as “bad.”

I don’t know what it means to be a good person, but a good, loose definition might be someone who follows their conscience. Someone who has principles and sticks to them.

I’m certainly guilty of not always doing that.

I got high a lot back in college because I liked having fun with my friends.

I went to bible study because I liked the idea of pursuing a higher path (no pun intended).

And I’m always trying to offset some of the bad with some good. Like maybe if I do a bunch of good things, I can erase some of the bad things, even though I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that.

Like I’m trying in vain to scrub away some dirt in a foolish attempt to convince people I’m better than I am.

But I’m not better. I’m just whatever I am.

And if I ever did get to the top, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with myself.

I’m sure the view is nice.

But, in truth?

I dig the climb.

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