9 Experiences That Pushed Me To Grow In 2014

My experiences this year pushed me far beyond my comfort zones and helped me understand myself more than any year before.

Going into 2014 I had many of the same goals that you probably had. Eat healthier, exercise more, make X amount of money. Unsurprisingly almost none of those things went the way I’d intended. Instead, the things I never could’ve planned for ended up making this the best year ever.

Here are my biggest personal growth experiences of 2014.

Moving to Orange County
Leaving the place I called home in search of new opportunities and experiences was challenging mentally and physically. Any time you move states you’re in for a lot of work. From finding a new home, to packing, moving, settling in, getting new license plates and drivers license, new utilities, etc. Like I said, a lot of work. Also, leaving behind your friends and family for a place where you know almost no one can lead to some lonely moments. While it was hard, moving to Orange County resulted in a year of growth. Almost every item on this list wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t moved.

Working with Matthew
My girlfriend and I moved into a live/work loft in Santa Ana, CA. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. Architecturally inspiring and full of open space for working, playing, and entertaining. Because the space was so large I decided to invite my buddy, Matthew Gallizzi, to share the large workspace with me. For the following year we worked together almost every day. In the morning we’d go for a walk around the nearby park and talked about business and life. We’d help each other work through ideas, creative blocks, and tough decisions. Imagine working next to a business coach, accountability partner and best friend every day.

Recording the Startup Riff podcast
Soon after Matthew and I started working together we started a podcast called Startup Riff. The idea was that we’d freely talk about our thoughts around various topics like productivity, the entrepreneur mindset, idea validation, etc. The response was relatively good for starting with almost no pre-existing audience. We even had a few people that would regularly tune into a live broadcast.

Even though we stopped recording the show after our 43rd episode, the Startup Riff helped Matthew and I hone our public voices and it taught us a lot about how to produce a weekly audio show. We’d also been wanting to get all our thoughts on starting a business out in some easily digestible form and the podcast allowed us to do just that. Now when someone asks me for advice on a certain topic I can point them to an in-depth conversation about it. That alone made this experience priceless.

I’ve got to thank Matthew for this one. His birthday gift to me was setting me up with an opportunity to speak at an event at Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Entrepreneurship. I’ve been deathly afraid of public speaking all my life so even though this was only a three minute “Ubernote”, the experience was a huge growth moment for me. Perhaps the biggest of the year.

A few months later, Matthew and I also got the opportunity to speak at Valley High School, in Santa Ana, about our experiences in entrepreneurship. It was a lot of fun and exposed me to the unique challenges that come with talking to a group full of rambunctious teenagers.

Getting a bunch of dental procedures done
Shortly after my birthday I faced one of my biggest fears, going to the dentist. It was my first visit in years and I knew there was work to be done. I’d been told 6 years ago that I really needed to get my wisdom teeth out and over those few short years a cavity had also become infected.

This year I had cavities filled, a root canal operation, and two wisdom teeth extracted. It was a long and painful year for my mouth. Take my story as a warning. Don’t wait to go to the dentist or doctor, even if you’re a starving entrepreneur with no health insurance. Health > Business = Always.

Going to NYC for Unretreat 2014
For the past two years, Matthew and I have done something we’re formerly calling Unretreats. It’s basically a week spent in an unknown city where we dig deep and work together through our struggles personally and professionally. This year my girlfriend, Josie, joined us and ended up creating some of the most profound moments for me. I helped her recognize things she needed to work on to be a stronger woman and she helped me recognize things I needed to work on to become a better man. We cried together for the first time in a while. It was freeing.

For the past two years I’ve left Unretreat inspired, with new friends, and changed in ways that only a week of deep, vulnerable conversations can do. Can’t freakin’ wait to do it again!

Starting (and shutting down) Kangaroo.io
After attending a Lunch and Learn event in Orange County, Matthew and I had an idea for a company feedback tool. We wanted to test it as a minimum viable product so we set up a basic landing page at kangaroo.io and started testing the idea by throwing up a few ads. Before we knew it we were on Product Hunt and some of techs biggest companies were signing up for our service as we were still mapping out processes and building the back end. It was nuts. We tuned and tweaked the project over the next few weeks and were able to test out some very personal onboarding techniques.

Eventually, we began to question if kangaroo.io fit either of our self-defined purposes. It was tough but we came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the path either of us were interested in going down. I think we both learned to stick with our focus in the future and don’t give into trying every interesting idea that comes along. It’s a sure fire way to waste precious time and feel off purpose.

Making art with Rogue Food Works
Rogue Food Works is an immersive dining club in Denver, Colorado. In August, I was invited to attend one of their events and I was blown away by the unique and high-quality experience they’d put together. Shortly after the event, they asked me to help them create a launch strategy and content series for their upcoming Indiegogo campaign. I said, “Hell yeah!” and we quickly got to work. It’s been a lot of fun working with the creative guys at Rogue Food Works and they’ve pushed me harder creatively than any other project I’ve worked on this year.

Here is a piece I put together for them using the Storehouse app.

Packing up all my belongings and living on the road
My girlfriend and I go on a lot of road trips. It’s one of our favorite ways to travel. So, when our lease was up at our loft in Orange County, we put our stuff in storage and hit the road for a few months. We drove up the coast of California to spend a few weeks traveling through Oregon and Washington before heading back down to New Mexico to spend the Holidays with my family. After this trip, I think I can say that I’ve fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest. The lush and mighty trees of the Pacific Rainforest, the serene Oregon coast, the amazing coffee, and the beyond friendly people. Everything about the Northwest spoke to my soul.

Uncertainty going into 2015
I’m done worrying about how all the seemingly fragmented pieces of my life will fall together. I spent much of the past year trying to come up with some cohesive business strategy that would encompass everything I enjoy but I made very little actual progress towards starting anything. My fear of uncertainty and “doing the wrong thing” paralyzed me. I know this mental discomfort is all part of my journey, part of untangling myself, overcoming my fears, and embracing what I subconsciously know I love to do. And while I may not have made much progress on my own personal projects this year, I do feel good about the number of people I advised and helped grow their projects. I think that’s the direction I’m going. I like using what I’ve learned over the past decade of carving my own path to help others do the same.

As to where I’ll be living next. I’m not really sure. We’re considering making the move to Portland or Seattle, but it’s too early to make that decision. For now I’m relaxing, enjoying my time with my family, and quietly plotting for 2015.

I’d love to know what experiences forced you to grow this year. I look forward to reading your stories in the comments below.


How I Make Every Day The Best Day Ever

Last week I had two of my wisdom teeth forcefully ripped from my jaw and I stubbornly refused to take pain medication. A few hours later I lay on my couch writhing in agony while talking to my Mom on the phone.

She asked how I was doing.

“I’m still having the best day ever.” I replied.

For about six months I’ve been playing a mental game with myself by proclaiming every day “The best day ever.”

I can’t remember exactly why I started repeating the phrase but it has changed my life. There’s no longer good days, bad days, productive days, or fun days.

Every day has become the best day ever.

It’s the way I start every day and the way I remember every day that’s passed.

If I’m alive and my basic needs are met, what more do I need to make it my best day yet?

Our ancestors didn’t hinge their happiness on big screen TVs and pay raises. Why should I? It seems our definition of happiness is more complex and difficult to attain than ever before. Yet we live in arguably the most healthy, abundant, and technologically advanced time man has ever known.

So what does it take to make every day the best day ever in a world where our basic needs are largely met but are no longer the barometer for being content?

It seems pretty simple to me. We lower our bar, take responsibility for our happiness, and take inventory of our blessings.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love new gadgets and treating myself, but when you realize that waking up with your basic needs met is enough to be happy it makes you thankful for everything you’re fortunate enough to have beyond that.

Some will say I’m naive and that it’s easy for me to say that every day is the best day ever when I’m not going through chemo, losing my home, or mourning the death of a loved one.

Yes, I’m not, and some days it’s certainly easier to say than others but struggle is a defining part of the human condition. I’ve struggled in the past and I have no doubts that I’ll face even greater struggles in the future. Knowing that, it might not be easy but I’ll still go into each remaining day with the mindset that “Today is the best day ever.”


P.S. Want to read more about “hacking” your mindset to fight depression or just kick ass at life? Check out Kamal Ravikant’s excellent short book – Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.

This Is The Difference Between Dying With Regrets And Living At Your Best

I know what it’s like to be paralyzed by fear.

When every morning feels overwhelming.

When trying to make the right decision leads to no decision.

When time and money constantly feel like they’re running out.

When losing comfort scares you more than taking the risks to get to the next level.

When your dreams feel more like dreams than ever before.

You can change this.

You can choose to remain in a reactive state, letting fear guide you from decision to decision. Or you can take control and lead proactively, carrying out every action and decision you make with courage and confidence.

This is the difference between indecision and decisive action.

The difference between feeling like you need more to be complete and knowing you are enough as you are.

The difference between punching the clock to fuel a braver man’s dreams and cashing in on your passions.

The difference between short-term shallow relationships and long-lasting authentic relationships.

The difference between dying with regrets and living at your very best.

So I ask you.

When will you finally get tired of letting fear control your decision-making process?

When will you decide to put in the work to overcome your fears?

When will you start trusting your heart? Trusting your experiences? Trusting your skills?

You are enough. You are ready. This is the fight you’ve been training for all your life.

It’s time to show the world what you’re capable of when you’re fully engaged. Fully alive.