Tag Archives: Books

‘We Regret to Inform You’: A Story About Marriage and Book-Publishing Failure

regret to inform letter

(Image/Now and There)

I felt that little jolt of hope and nervous excitement in my chest when I saw the unopened email and recognized who it was from. Please let this be it.

It wasn’t it.

“Dear Matt. You’re not good enough. I’m not interested. Good luck.”

Damn it, I thought. I can’t believe this is happening again.

There was a lot riding on the first major non-marriage promise I’d made to my wife, because I didn’t know if I’d get to keep her if I didn’t fulfill it.

We moved to a beach town near Tampa, Fla. after graduating from the Ohio university where we’d met. I was a newspaper reporter. I wrote business stories for a daily newspaper, covering things like commercial real estate development and Florida’s regulated energy industry.

We were still five years away from the first iPhone launch, so it wasn’t weird to put your economic future in print journalism back then.

We both liked Florida—its gorgeous beaches, its mostly beautiful weather, its amazing seafood, and having sun-soaked skin most of the year. But. People—family, friends, community—mattered more to us than those great things. We missed home. We had limited financial resources in our early twenties, and it was cost-prohibitive for us to travel home. We missed funerals, weddings, class reunions, and holiday gatherings because of the distance.

It affected my wife more intensely than me. I was raised as an only child who split time between two parents who lived hundreds of miles apart. I was accustomed to living far away from people I love. I was pretty good at by-myself stuff.

But this was her first encounter with it. The distance. And she took it hard.

Living far from home was hurting her.

Her hurting was hurting me.

After our first year or so in Florida, my singular purpose became finding a job back home. That might seem like not that big of a deal. But I was a newspaper reporter. Guess how many newspaper reporting jobs are available at any given time in a livable city in Ohio?

I flew to several job interviews in Ohio. I even interviewed in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Detroit because they were much closer to home.

There was so much riding on these interviews. It wasn’t about me getting more money or advancing my career. It was so much bigger than that. It was me fundamentally fulfilling my first promise to my wife who I married DURING the couple-year job hunt in a largely attended, and beautiful ceremony near Cleveland.

In the car, sitting at dinner, or lounging in bed, we’d talk about how much we hoped this time it would work out. That we’d finally get the offer. Total strangers I needed to be good enough for so that I could be good enough for my wife.

Sometimes I’d get a letter in the mailbox, or receive an email or phone call from a newspaper I’d interviewed with.

My chest would thump. Before answering the phone, clicking the email, or opening the envelope. This has to be it. Please God. Let this be it.

But for many months, the message was always the same: “Thank you for your interest in working with us! It was such a pleasure to meet you! Everyone on staff loved you and thought you’d be the perfect fit! Unfortunately, competition was really high for this opening, and we had a ton of qualified candidates. It was such a hard decision, but we did choose to go with someone else.”

And then I’d die a little on the inside.

“Have fun telling your wife that you failed her again. I’m sure she’ll think you’re awesome and have no regrets about hitching her wagon to a constant failure!”

Sometimes, I’d wait several hours to tell her. Because she cried almost every time. And in a way, I couldn’t make it better, because in some respects, it was my failure to win the job that made it hurt.

Other than the unfortunate situation with my parents living hundreds of miles apart from one another in my formative years, I’d never encountered personal adversity before this. If I tried to accomplish something, I usually did. (Not because I’m awesome, but mostly because I only tried to do things in which I had a certain degree of confidence, and those things tended to work out.)

I thought I was done with that experience. And I was grateful for it. But—in a much different way—I find myself back here once again.

“Sorry Matt! We really appreciate you contacting us, but we’re just not interested in anything you have to say and don’t think anyone else is going to be either. You’re not good enough. But hey! Good luck!”

I’m Trying to Make a Non-Fiction Book Titled ‘She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’

As most of you know, back in early 2016, I published a post with this title, and then all hell broke loose. A few days later, it was the most popular thing on the internet globally for 15 minutes, and I was getting dozens of media interview requests, and large publications seeking permission to republish it.

More than five million people read it on this blog. I can’t imagine how many more must have read it on the larger sites like The Huffington Post, Your Tango, Thought Catalog, Babble, etc.

The Inquistr published an article ABOUT the article. That’s when I got scared, because I was seriously trying to keep my writing a secret in my personal life.

But that’s when everything changed.

That’s when I learned that things I wrote could matter to people more than I ever imagined. A thousand people told me over the following week or so that I’d saved their marriage.

And it was no doubt hyperbole, but all I could think about was that maybe that was a thousand husbands who didn’t have to cry like I cried when my wife packed a suitcase and drove away. Maybe that was a thousand little kids who didn’t have to cry like I cried when I waved to one of my parents out the rear window while we drove the opposite direction.

That’s the moment my life became less about me and more about other people. My blog audience tripled after a solid few months of viral website traffic.

Credible publications invited me to write for them. Event organizers invited me to speak at their events. TV, radio, and podcast producers did the same.

Me! An idiot who started a blog drunk on vodka because I was upset about my divorce, and jokingly named it Must Be This Tall To Ride, because I’m not very tall (5’9”-ish) and was only then realizing what a handicap that was while pathetically trying and failing to online date. The blog was supposed to be about not being good enough for my wife, and not being good enough for anyone else either.

I didn’t think people would actually read this shit. But then they did.

Everything in my life unrelated to parenting is about trying to help others have better relationships. More accurately, it’s about helping people NOT accidentally poison them through a series of innocent, thoughtless behaviors and habits that happen in their blind spots—behaviors that ended my marriage, and ends thousands per day.

Just because we didn’t know any better.

I think I can write a book. And I think I can write a book that doesn’t suck.

Everything I write and publish is a stream-of-consciousness first draft with no editing, and no thoughtful organization. I unprofessionally spit it out in about an hour during a lunch break. Just like right now.

With the guidance of professional book makers and editors, as well as actual time to research and interview, I’m excited to see what’s possible.

But First, I Need Someone to Say Yes

About three weeks ago, I started querying literary agents for a full-length non-fiction book titled “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.” You might say I have strong data to support the title’s effectiveness.

When trying to publish a book the traditional way (through the old guard publishing houses in New York—there are four primary ones that have consolidated most of the traditional printing press industry) as an unknown, first-time author, the first step is sending a query letter to book agents.

I have to research agents and agencies who represent authors writing in the genres I’m interested in writing for. Then I email them a little pitch telling them about the book idea, why I think it has merit, why I think it’s unique, and why I think I’m the person who should be writing it.

And then you email them with something like “QUERY: ‘She Divorced me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’ (nonfiction relationship self-help/memoir)” in the subject line, and hope that someone gives a shit.

The biggest agencies MIGHT write you back sometime within six months. (It can seriously take that long.) Others might write back faster.

Some have. Four, to be exact. About 25 percent of the agents I’ve queried so far.

All with the same message: “Sorry. Not interested.”

And that’s when it hit me that this wasn’t going to be easy. I don’t know whether I thought it would be easy, but somewhere deep down, I guess I hoped it wouldn’t be hard.

And I don’t mean difficult. I don’t mind difficult.

I mind hard. Where you feel it in the head and chest and feel like that 23-year-old all over again: Maybe I’m just not good enough.

Or maybe I am. I think I’m the only one who is supposed to have an opinion that counts. But, and this shouldn’t surprise anyone, it feels as if everyone’s opinion but mine matters.

Ultimately, yours.

But before I even have the opportunity to try to make something substantive for you to decide what to do with, I need some faceless stranger reading hundreds of book pitches per day to decide that mine is worth taking a closer look at.

I wish the fate of the most personally relevant and important project of my life weren’t in the hands of people I’ve never met and most likely will never meet. But that’s where we find ourselves.

Again.

Trying to be smart enough. Trying to be good enough. Trying to matter enough.

Jobs. Wife. Dates.

Must be this tall to ride.

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What’s Next For MBTTTR?

metamorphosis

(Image/The Bridge)

“Shit or get off the pot,” is a fairly common idiom where I’m from.

Aside from evoking troubling images of Jesuit standoffs and triggering my (somewhat exaggerated, but totally real) bathroom-related phobias, it translates loosely to “Make a decision, you mook!” or “Start actually doing the things you keep saying you want to do!”

It’s also one of those times where it’s more okay than usual to write or say bad words. #smallwins

This blog has been a great project for me since drunkenly posting my first amidst my darkest days as a human being 40 months ago.

But we need to get serious about next steps. It’s time.

I hope you’ll help.

I want to do and be more than some random idiot writing the same stories using different metaphors over and over again on his blog.

The conversations we have here about marriage and human relationships matter. Maybe more than anything.

We all have our own individual goals and interests and dreams and pursuits. Things we chase, perhaps because we believe there will be some great sense of reward, happiness and forever-satisfaction if we ever get around to capturing it.

But no matter what is going on in our lives—no matter how wealthy, or accomplished, or “successful” we are in those individual pursuits—the quality of our human relationships is the most influential factor in how good or bad our lives are.

When we have conflict with those we’re closest to—spouses, partners, siblings, parents, children, friends, co-workers—life can get unpleasant in a hurry.

Only deteriorating health can affect us more profoundly, but even in a worst-case scenario, the unhealthy person who loves and feels loved can speak honestly about a life well lived in ways physically healthy people with crappy relationships cannot.

This. Stuff. Matters.

What Do You Want?

People ask me for books.

People ask me for coaching.

People ask me for membership forums.

People ask me for video content.

People ask me to speak to groups.

It remains difficult for me to wrap my head around that. I still think of myself as little more than some idiot blogger.

And I’m mostly right about that. I AM mostly just an idiot blogger. But for the right people, I’m something else too.

I am—for the right people—able to communicate concepts they’ve been unable to communicate in their biggest life problem regarding the things and people they care most about. Their marriages. Their families. Their close personal relationships.

Their very way of life is threatened by the brokenness that creeps in sneakily through the years, poisoning our hearts and minds, further damaging our already-shitty translators so that we can’t understand each other, adding anxiety, fear, shame, guilt, depression, cynicism and apathy to our already-heavy loads.

It’s terrifying when you feel doom coming.

It cripples you when the bombs finally drop.

There is no amount of money, material wealth, fame or “success,” that can help broken humans wake up in the morning happy to be alive when EVERYTHING hurts. People try to numb it with alcohol or drugs. Distract from it with escapism or sex. But there’s nowhere to run.

It follows us. Tries to consume us. Tries to kill us.

Until we unbreak.

There are many brilliant and scholarly people out there who fundamentally understand what it takes to heal the broken. People who are smarter and know more than I ever will.

But—and this applies to every husband, wife, person in an argument, politician, lobbyist, etc. who has ever lived—how much does it matter how true or right what you’re saying is if no one ever listens anyway?

My gift or purpose or value seems to be my ability to frame relationship problems in ways that resonate with people.

So, even if I never bring any good ideas to the table, if my ability to effectively communicate important concepts to the right people can be the difference between a family or marriage staying together and thriving, or breaking and creating life-long regrets, then—no matter what—I have something to offer.

I really care about the things I write here. It breaks my heart to see or hear about children crying as they wave goodbye to one of their parents. More than three years later, it still breaks my heart to wave goodbye to mine.

So, What’s Next?

I must decide. We must decide.

I think it makes sense for me to eventually transition Must Be This Tall To Ride into a multi-contributor publication. I think it makes sense for me to build out my own site, where perhaps I can combine my passion for these subjects and desire to help into something tangible that actually CAN help.

It seemed asinine to me to position myself as any sort of relationship expert or fake-ass therapist. That’s not what I am.

I am, for lack of better terms, a translator. An explainer. A decent question-asker.

And perhaps there’s a place for someone like that to work more directly with humans trying to find their way through difficulty, or who want to avoid it altogether.

I want to collaborate with others to create content of lasting value. I want to write books. And have conversations. I want to discuss the formulation of programs and curriculum developed by the appropriate thought leaders, tailored for the appropriate audiences and executed in ways that create fundamental, paradigm-shifting change in the way people think about their human relationships.

People are afraid, sad, angry, broken, and the thing that can help heal those wounds most effectively is the simple realization that we’re not alone. That others are fighting the same battles.

My story is your story.

People don’t read this stuff because they care very much about things that happened to me.

People read this stuff because it connects with them on a deeply personal level, and because things I thought, felt or experienced are the same types of things they think, feel and experience.

It was never about me. It was always about them.

All of this, if it ever has the chance to matter, must be about you.

Please help me take this thing somewhere where good things can happen. Good must spread.

It must.

If you care about the things we talk about here, I hope you’ll share any ideas or suggestions you have about evolving into whatever comes next.

Thanks, everyone.

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Maybe You’re Giving Too Many F*cks: A Q&A With Author Mark Manson

Tim doesn't give a fuck. Image/Mark Manson

This makes me laugh every time I see it. You go, Tim. (Image/markmanson.net)

There are bad words in this post.

More than usual. I used to publish many bad words here, but have cut back, probably because I worry too much about what other people think. Which is bad.

That’s what Mark Manson’s new book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: The Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life is mostly about (along with Mark’s original blog post which inspired it).

We all spend a lot of time and energy on trying to be who and what we think other people want us to be. And it leaves us feeling a little dirty and dissatisfied because it’s inauthentic and bullshitty.

Our mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being is affected by a variety of meaningful and important things. Some people think profanity is meaningful and important. Some people want to use only nice words and feel comfortable all the time.

But sometimes, I think we MUST feel uncomfortable, because that’s when we figure out what really matters and what doesn’t.

I don’t intentionally cuss in front of children (or my grandma), and I value politeness and respecting others’ opinions.

But once in a while, boats need rocked, beliefs need challenged, and taking a counterintuitive approach is what’s needed to live well.

You might not like it. I’m fairly certain my mom doesn’t.

But for this post, at least? I just don’t give a fuck.

subtle-art-cover

F-bombing the book title is a bold choice. The word “Shitty” will live in mine.

Mark Manson is one of my favorite writers, possibly my very favorite.

He’s smart. He’s funny. And many of the things he writes hit me in that place where your mind, heart and body go: Ohhh. That feels uncomfortably true.

Other than me being a big fan and admirer of his work, Mark and I don’t know each other. I’m not pimping Mark’s new book for any other reason than I believe his writing has the ability to help certain people have better lives.

I truly believe that Mark’s work helps humans flourish. And that matters.

I think you should read his book. It would be awesome of you to buy a copy. By the time you read this, my pre-ordered copy should be sitting atop my book stack. Which is awesome.

A Q&A With Mark Manson

Matt: I’ve read a lot of your work and have been majorly influenced by a handful of your ideas. I value your opinions. What is so important to you about this specific concept that made it meaningful enough to dedicate an entire book to it?

Mark: I wanted to write a book about the importance of pain — that pain is often a good and necessary thing in life. It’s something that’s not said often and I feel like in our overly-consumer culture these days with social media and everything, it’s more important than ever for people to allow life to suck sometimes. They need to learn how to stop giving a fuck about everything all the time. In a sense, you could say it’s an approach to personal growth not through pursuing and achieving more, but rather by pursuing and achieving less.

Matt: I mostly write about relationships (the dating/marriage kind). How can learning how to give fewer fucks help someone or couples experience greater relationship success?

Mark: Not giving a fuck is essentially about choosing what to care about: choosing your priorities, your values. Most people who struggle in the dating/relationship area struggle because they’re giving too many fucks about the wrong things — being admired or receiving validation, avoiding rejection, or pumping up their own ego. For a relationship to function and flourish, one needs to get clear about what truly matters to them and what does not, and then develop the ability to sort and screen through potential partners to find someone who shares those values.

Mark Manson

That’s Mark. (Image/Forbes)

Matt: It was you who introduced me to David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech which you shared in your post “This is Water.” It had the same chemistry-shifting impact on me as I believe it did on you. (So, thanks.) How do we balance in healthy ways critical concepts like Awareness and Empathy with the self-preservation techniques of fuckage withholdment?

Mark: One of the subtleties to not giving a fuck is that it’s not about being indifferent, it’s about being comfortable with being different. Many people see not giving a fuck as this armor of indifference — by learning to not care about anything, they’ll protect themselves from being hurt. But the truth is that indifference is just another way of giving too many fucks. To truly not give a fuck about what does not matter, we must first discover those things in our life that matter the most.

Matt: If you had to pick just one of your articles, which would you choose that hit on one of those life-altering moments for you, in an effort to help others see the world as you believe it is?

Mark: It’s funny, the articles I love the most are often not the articles that readers get the most out of and vice-versa. For me though, the biggest ones would probably be “Being Special Isn’t So Special,” “Love is Not Enough” and “The Four Stages of Life.”

Matt: One of the great lessons of adulthood for me has been learning about Hedonic Adaptation. It is, in my estimation, the root cause of human dissatisfaction across the board, from how we always grow tired of our shiny new toys, adjust to pay increases, and perhaps most importantly, take for granted our romantic partners. What besides Mindfulness would you recommend to people (especially guys) for combating that psychological condition on behalf of their marriages and families?

Mark: The hedonic treadmill usually only applies to superficial, worldly pursuits — earning more money, buying nicer cars, banging more women, etc. This is why these things are generally considered superficial values and poor things to pursue (or to put another way, poor places to invest your fucks). As humans, we need a sense of progress in order to feel happy, therefore it’s important to choose goals and values that have no definitive end to them — becoming a great musician, being a good father, having a pleasant social life, etc. These are things that can always be worked on and improved upon.

Matt: The No. 1 question I get is: “How can I get my husband to understand what you’ve written here? He never listens to me any time I say anything he perceives as critical.” I care about helping others, and I believe husbands actively listening to their wives (hearing her, I mean; not following her directives) would dramatically improve relationships/marriage. What advice would you give women on how to communicate concerns or dissatisfaction in ways men are more likely to truly listen to?

Mark: Questions like this are hard because they’re so person-dependent. It’s hard to say with certainty without knowing the couple. After all, maybe there’s something in the wife’s communication style that is preventing him from hearing her. Maybe the husband has some deep insecurity that is causing him to avoid dealing with the issue. It could be a million things.

But in general, the short answer, is that whenever someone in a relationship has problems with their partner, it always needs to be communicated in such a way that responsibility or blame for each person’s emotions are not shifted to the other. For instance, many people naturally approach their partner by saying something like, “You don’t care about me and make me feel horrible because all you want to do is X.” Because this is said in such a way that puts all of the responsibility on the partner, they will naturally become defensive or seek a way to avoid dealing with it. After all, I can’t control how my wife feels 24/7!

A much better way to communicate it is something like, “When you do X, it often causes me to think/feel badly because I feel unloved. Maybe that’s my own insecurity, but is there something we can do to make it better?” In this example, the person approaching their partner with the problem is owning their responsibility for their own feelings and reactions, and are looking to find some solution. There’s no blame or guilt-tripping going on. This is far more likely to be successful.

Then again, a lot of men are raised and socialized to be emotionally shut down and distant from pretty much everyone (but especially women), so it can be a much more long-term issue that may actually have little to do with the wife herself.

Thanks, Mark

A big thank-you to Mark for making time for our tiny corner of the internet.

If you think as highly of Mark’s work as I do, perhaps you’ll give his new book a read and share it with anyone in your life who might benefit from it.

This sort of thing is good for everybody.

Because we mostly give too many fucks about the wrong things. And it makes us feel bad as we invest in other people’s opinions of us, or chasing things that ultimately leave us feeling empty.

Remember: Fuckage withholdment isn’t about being indifferent. It’s about being comfortable with being different.

We can participate in bullshit group-think and try to blend in.

Or we can be like Tim in the image up top. Each of us gets to decide.

Now, where did I leave those red balloons?

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The Truth is What We Save From the Fire

Value of hard things vs. easy things

Like vigorous exercise, a disciplined reading regiment, and giving more than we take in our marriages, there is VALUE — tons of it — in doing hard things. So maybe don’t run away. Maybe allowing ourselves to feel is THE way. (Image/Carl Richards – New York Times)

I’m afraid of someone using a circular handsaw to cut open my skull.

But I’m more afraid of dying, so if the choice is certain death or brain surgery, I would choose brain surgery.

I’m afraid of jumping off of 100-foot cliffs into unknown waters.

But I’m more afraid of being eaten by big-ass dinosaurs, so if a genetically modified hybrid Jurassic World dinosaur was chasing me, I would totally jump if the alternative was being Indominus Rex’s lunch.

Broken down in the most primitive way possible, human beings are motivated by just two things:

  1. Feeling pleasure
  2. Avoiding pain

Psychologists say most people devote more energy to avoiding bad feelings than chasing good ones.

I believe them.

It’s always the same.

Whether I’m standing poolside, on the edge of a boat, or on a sandy beach, and I know the water is especially cold (which I realize is subjective), it always takes me a little longer to brave the plunge.

The water generally validates my fears as my body revolts. I lose my breath a little. My male extremities disappear like a sick David Copperfield prank. I may or may not lose consciousness for a second. All I know is I want to sprint to warmth and dryness because swimming is supposed to be fun and not take your penis away.

However. Inevitably. In what feels like a few years, but is probably only a few minutes, your body temperature begins to regulate itself. Your breathing normalizes. Your body parts are usually all in place.

Phew.

Depending on wind and air temperature, your body often adjusts so well to the water that it begins to feel almost like a warm bath relative to the chilly air.

I was afraid to take the plunge. I was afraid of the discomfort.

But I always adapt. All of us do.

Change is uncomfortable. But we always adapt.

I allow myself to bathe in the discomfort, sometimes because there’s no other choice. But the truth hits you pretty fast: This was the only way to adapt.

We like to run from discomfort. We’re smart. We know that putting ourselves in certain situations, or subjecting ourselves to certain experiences are likely to cause discomfort. Sometimes, intense pain.

And we run.

But at some point, we realize the only way through it, is through it.

We allow ourselves to feel.

And God, it sucks.

But we adapt. We always adapt. And then some uncomfortable things no longer make us uncomfortable. Certain painful things don’t hurt as much.

Because we’re, just, stronger now.

So, Give Me The Fire

“Pain is sometimes an indication we need to set boundaries, learn to say no more often, or take better care of ourselves; but sometimes it just means that it’s human to hurt, and we need to let ourselves go through it.” – Lori Deschene

I don’t believe in fate, per se. I don’t believe necessarily that “everything happens for a reason,” because little kids get cancer. So, no.

But there is no question that enormous value can be gained from the horrible things we experience.

Maybe there were parents who weren’t very attentive to their child, and were on the fast track to divorce, but then their young child was diagnosed with cancer, and everything changed.

Maybe a sick child can teach you how to prioritize things that really matter in life.

Maybe overcoming adversity can teach them the life skills needed to handle future challenges.

Maybe the entire experience was a galvanizing moment for a struggling couple who finally learned how to choose love and practice gratitude.

Everything may not happen for a reason. But if you ask the right questions, you can always pinpoint the positive results of negative events.

If I have to choose between living with the wool pulled over my eyes, or feeling growing pains, then damn it, I choose growing pains.

I choose truth.

You fight for what you love. It doesn’t matter if it hurts.

You find out what it’s worth, and you let the rest burn.

Ashes from the flames, the truth is what remains.

– Switchfoot

Carry On, Warrior

That’s the name of Glennon Doyle Melton’s first book.

Her second book, Love Warrior, released Tuesday.

I caught a couple quotes from her recently that mattered enough for me to save them for a moment such as this.

Glennon said this in a recent Facebook post:

“I spent the first half of my life being afraid of pain. I found a million easy buttons to transport myself out of pain: Food, booze, sex, shopping, snark, scrolling.

“I was afraid of the wrong thing.

“I’m no longer afraid of pain — I’m now afraid of the easy buttons.

“Because I’ve learned that all my courage and wisdom I need to become the woman I want to be is inside of my pain. When you transport yourself out of it, you miss your transformation.

“First the pain, then the rising.

“You can do hard things, Warrior. You were born to do this.”

You will NEVER hear me celebrate my divorce. Not ever.

I failed my wife and son. I haven’t decided yet who I failed more.

It remains the worst and most painful thing that has ever happened to me.

Which raises something of a philosophical moral dilemma: Would I rather be married still walking through this world oblivious to the harm I cause others, to my wife’s persistent discomfort, and without the ability to help my son grow into a man capable of understanding what it takes to succeed in his human relationships?

Or… can I accept that this is what had to happen for me to arrive in a place where I have a real chance to be a decent human being moving forward?

Blissful ignorance and comfort? Or tormented enlightenment and discomfort?

I don’t know how to say that I’m happy my marriage ended, because that’s not how I feel.

I would NEVER say that I think my son’s life is better with his parents apart.

But I know how to say that I’m genuinely grateful for the opportunity to experience the kind of trauma required to instill real change.

I NEEDED to hurt.

I NEEDED the fear.

I NEEDED the anxiety.

I NEEDED to break.

I NEEDED to cry.

That was my path to right now. There could be no other.

I don’t know that anyone captures the true essence of the human condition in the midst of life’s most challenging moments as well as Glennon.

I wrote about my intense admiration for her in a post last month. And it’s because I am magnetically drawn to people like her — people who accept responsibility for their life choices, who don’t blame others for their problems, who courageously admit their flaws for the sake of helping and encouraging others, and are the ones willing to stand up and raise their hands to say: “This is what it’s REALLY like when I’m not pretending to be who I think everyone wants me to be!”

Because then we all get to feel a little more “normal” afterward. It takes the brave people admitting things for us to realize we aren’t the only ones with those same feelings and fears.

It takes courageous people to teach us how to live courageously.

From Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens’ story about the Love Warrior book release.

“It’s a beautiful lesson for each of us who takes on the responsibility and privilege of partnering and parenting: Do it authentically.

“I asked Melton if it’s daunting to embark on such a public life — book tour, speaking gigs — on the heels of announcing her separation.

‘I’m used to going out all busted up,’ she said. ‘It’s where I’m most comfortable. Now, more than ever, people don’t want shiny, perfect.

‘Lovely and easy and shiny people are really comfortable talking about their problems when they’re over,’ she continued. ‘We’re not allowed to struggle until after we’ve done our victory lap. That’s fine, but it’s less helpful than hearing from people in the trenches. How do I show up in the during? Maybe this all happened to me so I can go out there and be seen in the during.’

Thanks, Glennon.

I know exactly what you mean.

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A Quick Note About Stuff and Things 5-31-2016

stuff and things

(Image/samantharosling.tumblr.com)

Hey guys.

I had an unusually busy and not-super-fun weekend at a car dealership. I’ve decided that buying cars is one of my least favorite things.

I wanted to write a post today, but Time is being an inconsiderate jerkface, so I’m unable to. I’m writing this fake post instead just to say hi, and tell you random things you might not care about.

1. Read ‘Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person’

Alain de Botton wrote this extremely thought-provoking piece which ran in the New York Times Sunday, and I thought it was really interesting. Also, several people I know in real life or through the blog shared it with me, so it clearly has appeal with the kinds of people who read things here.

British author de Botton is the founder of the London-based School of Life which is dedicated to All The Things we discuss here, and is geared toward helping people “Develop Emotional Intelligence.” Frankly, I’m embarrassed I didn’t know about The School of Life before this past weekend, because it only took watching the 90-second intro video for me to realize their mission to help people with all the life stuff we don’t learn formally or informally as children is something easy for me to get behind.

2. Reader Lynda asks: ‘What Are You Going to Say to Your Son?’

What we teach our children about healthy relationships is THE key to changing the world RE: How to stop having crappy, dysfunctional relationships, and keep couples and families together.

Her specific question was this: “My question for you is what are you going to say to your son to teach him how to have a healthy relationship as he grows up? What seeds are you going to plant to help break the cycle? I have only a few years left with my boys under my roof to teach them what they need to know, and I don’t want to feel like they are doomed, given the family history. What are your thoughts?”

It’s a great question, and will be a post in the near future.

3. How Do We Rank Living Things?

You probably heard about the gorilla that was shot and killed by zoo workers this past weekend at the Cincinnati Zoo while rescuing a 4-year-old boy who crawled under a fence and fell into the gorilla exhibit while his mother’s back was turned.

The internet lost its mind, and after watching a minute or two of video on Facebook, everyone suddenly became experts on gorilla behavior with small human children.

Harambe, a 17-year-old, 419-pound male western lowland silverback gorilla died tragically having done no wrong. You’ll read no heartless commentary from me on his passing.

Animal lovers globally were weighing in on whether the gorilla should have been shot or tranquilized, and questioned whether the life of one human of which there are 7.4 billion should be valued over the life of a rare and endangered silverback gorilla.

I have a variety of thoughts on the matter, but there’s really just ONE question I’m most interested in exploring: How do we rank the value of life?

Are we wrong to automatically rank humans over animals? What about certain animals over others? What about certain people over others?

We must, and will, discuss.

4. Do Women Complain More Than Men?

I might be misremembering, but I think I read MBTTTR commenter Linbo ask this over the weekend, in the spirit of: “Are wives sometimes too demanding of their husbands? Are women more likely to complain about something than men? If so, why?”

I think that’s another post and discussion to be had.

5. Try Brain Surfing. It’s Fun.

This month, I had the good fortune to cross digital paths with author and brand strategist Heather LeFevre. She wrote a kick-ass marketing strategy-travelogue hybrid book called Brain Surfing The Top Marketing Strategy Minds in the World” which I’m in the middle of and liking very much. If you’re in the marketing world and/or are passionate about international travel, you’ll like it because it’s exceptionally creative and offers crucial insight to business owners and marketers about brand empathy, community building and storytelling. 

6. Please Root for the Cleveland Cavaliers to Win the NBA Finals

Pretty please, and thank you.

7. Watch ‘Bloodline’ if You Have Netflix

I’m serious. Season 2 just recently released. That’s just a good life tip you can thank me for later. Check it out here.

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Because Your Marriage Won’t Survive Without It

(Image/unincorporatedmagazine.com)

(Image/unincorporatedmagazine.com)

I don’t have enough clout to recommend things and have people actually do what I suggest.

I love my second-grade son more than anything, have never given him a reason to not trust me, and I STILL can’t get him to do or try certain things I know to be better than his shitty 7-year-old ways that don’t work.

I’m sort of smart enough and self-aware enough to know when I’m talking out of my ass. But when I’m pounding the table, saying: DO THIS! IT WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE BETTER!, you can rest assured I believe it strongly, whether we’re talking about shredding your own blocks of cheese instead of lazily (and foolishly) buying pre-shredded grossness, or about things that actually matter, like how to not ruin your marriage and create a life of misery for you and your children who deserve better.

I received an email over the weekend which included this question, which is fair and reasonable if you don’t have access to my checking account: “Are you singing the praises of ‘How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It’ because you’ve been promised a commission?”

It kind of made me laugh. But then I let it roll around in my brain for a while, and I started to worry that other people might actually think this too. Because I DO strongly recommend the book often. To be clear, I don’t care if people incorrectly believe I make money I don’t actually make. But I do care about helping men better understand their wives, and encouraging them to give more to their marriages than they do. I also care about being credible so they won’t immediately dismiss things I’m saying that contradict their current: “My wife’s crazy and overly emotional, and if she’d just relax like me, our marriage would be perfect!” philosophy.

The answer to whether I’m a paid shill for that book, or any book, is: No. I just think it has a legitimate chance to save marriages, and better yet, contribute to happy ones.

If the woman who asked me that could look at my bank statement after the holiday shopping season, she would totally get a reverse-lady boner and realize there’s no way I’m earning secret book money.

[UPDATE: Because transparency and NOT being a lying douchebag matters to me, effective April 25, 2017, I have begun participating in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, which means if people click a link on MBTTTR, and then buy something on Amazon afterward, I’ll get a tiny percentage of the value of that sale. Because I’ve never done anything like this before and am writing this note before having ever received a check, I’m totally unsure as to how much money we’re talking about, but you can rest assured I won’t be quitting my day job.]

‘I Can’t Believe I’m Asking a Stranger on the Internet for Help’

I have a series of posts that—in the context of this blog’s weak internet traffic—are semi-popular, called An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands. There are 12 posts in the series, and I secretly think the first three are crappy and I’m ashamed they are read so much. Collectively, the dozen posts are read more than a thousand times a day, and sometimes more when shared on Facebook.

Because of that, I get varying versions of this paraphrased email several times per week:

“My marriage is in trouble and I was looking for information online when I stumbled on your Open Letter to Shitty Husbands series. I’m in tears. It’s nice to read I’m not a crazy, psycho bitch and that other people feel this way too. I really think this can help people. But I have one question…”

Uh-oh. Here it comes.

“… how can I get my husband to understand this, too?”

That question is relentless. It haunts me.

I hate it because the answer sucks and isn’t at all helpful: I. DON’T. KNOW.

I’m not your husband! Some people like cabbage, and prefer winter to summer, and purposefully wear costumes to weekend Renaissance festivals for fun. These are not things I understand.

I have no idea what it’s like to be inside the mind and consciousness of another person—even people I see daily and think I know well.

I can only tell you what happened to me and hope that someone recognizes some of it, and then can make better choices that can lead to a better life.

Wives want to know how I became “enlightened.” How I figured out the secret. Because they believe if their husbands learn the secret too, their marriages can be saved and the pain and fear in their lives will go away.

I’m talking to people sometimes who are more afraid and in more pain than they’ve ever been. I remember what that’s like. It’s so bad that you stop worrying about dying, because dying is less scary than feeling like this forever.

Me telling them “I don’t know” probably feels the same as when broke, desperate and hopeful job hunters get form-letter responses from human resource departments thanking them for applying and promising to keep their information on file.

I don’t want wives to abandon hope, because I didn’t want my wife to give up on me, and at least some percentage of these men have what it takes to turn it around with the right information.

Those men and their wives and children are who I’m thinking about every day when I’m answering an email from another crying spouse on the brink.

Why That Book?

I don’t recommend that book because anyone is paying me to do so, or because I’m lazy and haven’t read any others, or because I assume everyone will feel exactly the same as I do about it.

I recommend it because—FOR ME—reading it was like Neo waking up from the Matrix, or Agent Kujan realizing he’d just spent the past few hours talking to Keyser Soze. I was seeing things as they really are for the first time. It’s the thing that flipped the light switch for me. It’s the thing that put me on the path to being able to write things that thousands of people read and say: “Oh my God! That’s just like my marriage!”

For me, it was: FINALLY!!! I get it now! I understand why my wife and I always have the same fight! I understand why she always brings up things from the past to be angry about even though I’ve completely forgotten them! I understand why more than half of all couples divorce or have unhappy marriages!

Changed my life.

The book taught me something I generally knew in a boys like blue, girls like pink sort-of way, but didn’t understand:

Men and women (to varying degrees—nothing is one-size-fits-all) are fundamentally different in how they process thought and emotion, and there are very specific evolutionary science reasons as to why. Those unique abilities and differences helped our ancestors survive bear attacks and invasions from other tribes during the hunter-gatherer days. But today, those differences wreak havoc on our relationships because our natural, instinctive emotional responses and communication techniques clash. Our fear responses now kick in during arguments in the kitchen instead of in our wigwams. Totally helpful in the wigwam! Totally NOT helpful in the kitchen! Because we usually say horrible things to one another and then storm off afterward to do whatever we do to make ourselves feel better (which has the added bonus of also making our partners feel even more abandoned).

Having a high-level understanding of what was happening for the first time was a total game-changer.

And here’s what my brain did:

When something happens, I have always assumed my wife saw it, heard it, felt it and experienced it just as I do. Because I’m pretty smart, and she’s pretty smart, it makes sense that we see things the same way. But NOW I KNOW THAT IT’S NOT THE SAME. And when I apply my natural translator to something, and she applies her natural translator to something, we are probably going to disagree about what really happened.

The moment you realize your wife or husband isn’t broken or crazy, but actually responding to things exactly as he or she is naturally programmed to do, (and if your partner can understand that and give it back to you) you can instantly eliminate the majority of conflict in your relationship.

That won’t guarantee marital happiness. But it’s a pretty good first step.

Combining the knowledge gleaned from that book with my memories of conflict between my wife and I helped me put a bunch of the puzzle together.

Then I got divorced anyway, because most troubled marriages are over by the time the husband figures it out.

My divorce destroyed me emotionally.

I am a child of divorce and hyper-sensitive about it. My parents split when I was 4, and I grew up 500 miles from my dad, only seeing him during school breaks throughout my childhood. Every day of my life reinforced divorce = bad.

It was the one thing in life I was really sure about: I’ll never get divorced!

It hurt so much after she left that I needed to figure out how to not hurt anymore AND how to make sure nothing like that ever happens again. I’ve spent countless hours reading about, thinking about, and talking about relationships and human psychology.

Now I’m this new version of myself.

And I like how it feels to know one of life’s greatest secrets. 

Will the Same Thing Happen to Others?

Sometimes husbands read this stuff and think it’s bullshit. They can’t accept that their individual consciousness and worldview can be so radically different from others’. In their defense, it’s a really hard concept to grasp, and women are equally guilty of not understanding or respecting the fundamental differences between her and the men in her life.

Sometimes husbands refuse to read it because they’re prideful and don’t believe they need help, or maybe think acknowledging relationship troubles is a sign of failure and weakness, and most men will go to great lengths to conceal failure and weakness.

Sometimes husbands don’t appear to love their wives and family, and have little interest in anything that might be difficult to save something they don’t actually care about.

It’s hard to identify with people when they’re so much different than you.

But it’s really important that we try.

Sometimes guys like me read this stuff. They’ll leave a comment or a note, or maybe I’ll hear from their wives afterward: “Thank you. This changed our lives. You may have just saved my marriage.”

If there’s really a God that I get to meet on the day of my judgment, this is the one thing about which I get to hold my head high. This is the thing I get to say I did that mattered. Punching these keys and telling people I never met how I screwed up my marriage so maybe they can make better choices. Maybe someday I’ll get to tell God that a little 4-year-old boy was able to grow up with both his mom and dad because of something his father learned from me.

That’s why I always recommend the book. Because none of this is mine. It’s years of accidentally hurting my wife because I was selfish and ignorant. It’s years recovering from brokenness following separation and divorce.

It’s countless hours of combining the wisdom and lessons from a bunch of amazing thinkers and writers into a huge vat with all my nonsense and making something new.

Most of the time, people won’t care. Until a person is in total agony and desperate for answers, it’s really hard to care.

And even if you do care, you might think I’m totally full of shit. Maybe I am.

But every so often, when the stars align just so, the right person reads the right sentence at the right moment for them and everything becomes clear.

The Eureka Moment has a transformative effect on the heart and mind.

And then that person gets to be a better version of themselves for the rest of their lives, accidentally changing the world as they go.

Just like you.

Just like me.

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The Book Project, Vol. 2

(Image/timemanagementninja.com)

(Image/timemanagementninja.com)

You probably think I’m procrastinating. (And you’re technically correct.) But in the context of my life, things are right on schedule.

This is how I operate. I’m not defending it, nor proud of it. It’s just a fact.

Remember that one time I pledged you’d want me by June 1? Because I said I’d be in good shape by then? I didn’t even start seriously working out and altering my diet until a week before June 1. I can’t be entirely sure you’d want me today, but it’s at least 200-percent more likely than before. You’re welcome.

In April of LAST YEAR, I told you about the book I am planning to write. And I do have several thousands of words written for it. It’s not like the workout thing, where I literally did NOTHING I said I would for a few months.

But, still. I’ve been putting it off. And that has to stop. Now.

My 500-Words-Per-Day Strategy

I won’t know I can do this until I actually do it, but there’s nothing particularly daunting to me about the prospect of writing 500 words a day. I think it might help.

My favorite writer James Altucher preaches generating 10 new ideas every day. (It doesn’t matter what for. It only matters that you do it.)

Bestselling novelist John Grisham has published 33 novels in 25 years because he commits to writing at least one page daily, and sticks to it.

Perhaps the most successful comedian of all time, Jerry Seinfeld, set a simple target for himself: One new joke per day.

It’s a productivity hack to harness the power of momentum and reap the long-term benefits of incremental gains.

Writes Cathryn Lavery in the Medium post that inspired this one: Persistence creates luck and experience.

I know it to be true. Now, it’s time to apply it to finishing this book project which I hope will lead to new ones.

I am a world-class procrastinator. I will NEVER publicly admit all of the problems that have cropped up in my life over the years because of my tendency to put things off.

I am the captain of the ADHD squad.

And I am a little bit childish in that I prefer to spend pretty much all my time doing whatever it is I want to be doing, and pretty much never wanting to do things that don’t fit nicely into that little Things Matt Likes silo.

I can continue to use those things as excuses and never achieve goals I set for myself, or I can make small changes and slowly but steadily inch my way toward the finish line.

The key takeaway from going through the StrengthsFinder program in May was the realization that I need to sometimes protect myself from myself and structure projects and parts of my life in ways that minimize the negative effects of some of my (less-than-desirable) tendencies. In other words, in order to finish this book, I need partners.

A friend and co-worker agreed to be the person to hold me accountable to writing 500 words per day. If she does her part, and I do my part, the book should be written by the holidays. I am grateful to have people in my life who want to help me with this project. Much like the workout thing, one morning it was finally time to move. For book writing, today is that day.

Improve at something 1% each day, and you’ll be twice as good at that thing in 70 days. Improve 1% each day, and at the end of the year you’ll have improved 3,800%.

All it takes is repetition and the will to say yes every day. And like working out and disciplined eating, I can do that.

Which is good.

Because it’s time to scare the hell out of Bruce Lee.

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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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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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How to Get Unstuck and Solve Problems

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The most valuable thing in the world is a good idea.

Sometimes we think up something fantastic and find out it’s already been done and feel discouraged. But so what? Now we know we can think of really good ideas.

Many years before Apple invented the iPod and before the internet was commonplace, I thought of MP3 players.

I didn’t think of portable ones, though, so my idea would have never worked. But I did think of a large stereo amplifier where you could buy songs and they would be stored there (just in that one place!) like a jukebox. Essentially, a really crappy version of iTunes.

I always liked that something I thought up one day became an awesome thing. I like the real version so much better than my idea, so I’m glad Steve Jobs was on the case.

I’m getting obsessed with idea generation. As someone who works in marketing, writes stories and aspires to write books, I can’t think of a skill I’d rather have than the ability to generate solid, actionable ideas anytime I want or need to.

My favorite writer James Altucher has been writing about this over and over and over again. He writes down 10 ideas every day. For what? For whatever. Anything. Everything.

Ten ways to improve a cable company’s customer service.

Ten ways I could lose weight.

Ten ideas for getting a better night’s sleep.

Ten things for which to feel grateful.

Ten local businesses I could help with my skillset and knowledge base.

Ten places I can visit this year.

Ten people I could introduce to one another for business or social reasons.

Ten things I could do today to have more fun and feel happy.

There is no subject too big or too small. The reason Altucher writes down 10 ideas a day is to exercise what he calls the Idea Muscle. He insists whatever parts of our brain (I’m not a neurologist) are responsible for idea generation can be flexed and pushed and strengthened through repetitious exercise.

I believe him.

But, It’s Too Hard

My son says that about tying his shoes or reading advanced books or accurately throwing a frisbee or about any number of things he’s still learning how to do. He’s 6.

I know what he means.

There are so many things I used to be terrible at doing, but now I’m really good because I’ve done them thousands of times.

I still forget that lesson even though I’m 36 and am supposed to be an adult now.

I couldn’t write 10 ideas every day because when I have a million things to choose from I can never make a choice.

I do much better with prompts or with parameters. Constraints, if you will. Creative constraints are a valuable thing, and Twitter and it’s 140-character limit is probably the best modern-day example of it.

I would talk about this 10-idea-a-day concept with friends and associates. But I never really had any personal experience to back it up because I found it so difficult to do.

But then me and a couple partners started a side business, and one of the first things we do with prospective clients is thoroughly go over their business and come up with a list of 10 things we think we could do to improve it. It’s a fantastic exercise, and I’m pretty good at it.

My problem isn’t that I’m not capable of generating 10 ideas. I’m actually decent at it. I just have a lot of trouble honing in on specifics. Once I learned the value of artificial constraints on my ability to generate new ideas, the shackles came off. And now I’m getting better.

Enter James Altucher’s wife—Claudia Altucher. She wrote a book recently called “Become an Idea Machine,” based on this very idea. And in the book, she provides 180 idea prompts because if you come up with 10 ideas every day for 180 days, you will be an idea machine, she writes—someone capable of brainstorming viable, actionable ideas for any problem you might face.

I can’t think of one thing I’d rather be good at than the ability to come up with creative solutions on demand—in business meetings, in helping my son learn to think and problem-solve, in my personal life to help others and myself.

I’ve been writing 10 ideas a day based on Claudia Altucher’s prompts. Ten online courses (with curriculum) that I’d like to take. Ten mobile apps that would improve my life. Ten things that would improve commercial airline travel. Ten new recipes.

The point isn’t necessarily to generate phenomenal ideas (though you might!).

The point is simply to exercise the muscle. To get better at the part where you come up with creative solutions to problems.

At work. At home. In your social life. In your spiritual life. Financially. Physically. Et cetera.

The first few ideas are always easy. Then it gets hard and you make your mind sweat a little. That’s when the growth happens.

At some point, I’m pretty sure the prompts will ask me to come up with 10 new ideas by combining ideas that have already been thought of.

Endless possibilities.

Rad.

Someone who reads this blog wrote me. They’re sad. And they feel stuck. And I don’t want them to feel stuck.

And they don’t have to.

There are 10 groups or clubs or gyms or hobbies or classes they could join today to learn a new skill and meet new people.

There are 10 new careers they could pursue.

There are 10 things they could do that might make a spouse or partner feel more loved and appreciated.

There are 10 things they know more about than most people and could write books or make videos or teach an online course about.

There are 10 ways to laugh more.

There are 10 people to call or email or text RIGHT now because you love them and they need to know in case someone doesn’t wake up tomorrow or the world ends.

There are 10 people to hug. And 10 people to help. And 10 people to forgive.

There are always 10 things you can do this week, and tomorrow, and later tonight, and right now.

Things that might change the whole world. Or things that might only change you.

Sometimes, there isn’t any difference.

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