How you can get really smart by acting dumb.

In his book, My Father’s Business, Cal Turner Jr., the long-time CEO of Dollar General and the son of the company’s Founder talks about how his grandfather was one of the smartest people he ever knew. What makes this particularly interesting is that his grandfather dropped out of elementary school to help run the family farm after his dad died in a freak wrestling accident. (I’m assuming it wasn’t cauliflower ear.)

Turner goes on to say that his grandfather’s lack of formal education offered a significant advantage.

It says a great deal about Luther Turner that he was able to turn
his third-grade education into a plus. He was convinced that everyone he met was smarter than he, and that he needed to learn some thing from each of them. He became a first-rate observer, a great listener, and a dedicated student of life. What he practiced was more than empathy. It involved valuing the other person and his or her information, insight, and perspective.

– Cal Turner Jr
I was surprised to learn that Dollar General was never actually in the military.

To be clear, I’m not encouraging you to drop out of school after 3rd grade. (Very few of my readers are in the 3rd grade and under demographic.) But it’s important to recognize the danger of assuming you are the smartest person in the room. We all have blind spots which limit us. But if you remain open to the ideas of others you have the potential to become as smart as everyone you have encountered combined.

Key Takeaway

Everyone you interact with has amassed their own unique combination of knowledge and experience. Which means they have insights and perspectives you don’t have. Listen to them. Learn from them. Add their lessons to your own. The only limit to how much you can learn in life is your own curiosity and receptivity.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How to have the best life possible.

I am always looking for insights and advice on how to live a great life. I look for wisdom and nuggets everywhere. I expect you share the same interest in life advice since you decided to read this article based on the best-life headline.

When I find golden lessons I like to share them with as many people as possible. In fact, I recently published an entire book full of 80 of the best life lessons I have learned titled What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? The book lets you consume a lot of actionable insight without consuming the 20 calories packed into those delightfully bland non-cookie cookies. And since there are 80 lessons, the book saves you 1600 calories. So it’s kind of a weight loss book too. (But not really.)

Another Book Recommendation

But I am not the only one who writes about the valuable life lessons they have discovered. Ray Dalio’s #1 New York Times bestselling book Principles is full of great lessons on both life and work. Plus, it is the only book I own that comes with two of those built-in bookmark ribbon thingies.

While there are many great lessons in Dalio’s book here is his simple summation of the entire work.

In order to have the best life possible, you have to:

1) know what the best decisions are and

2) have the courage to make them.

-Ray Dalio

The key insight here is that you have to constantly improve your decision-making ability and increase your courage. Which means that we are all on the Yellow Brick Road with the Scarecrow and the Lion.

Key Takeaway

Constantly upgrade your decision-making skills. Know your own guiding principles. Study the outcomes of your decisions to learn what works. And study the principles of others so that you can adopt their best thinking as your own. Then live life according to your own proven principles. They will not only lead to better decisions, but they will also lead to positive outcomes that will increase your courage to make the right difficult decisions in the future.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

Embrace the difficult things in life. They make you stronger.

I face challenges every day. Big ones. Small ones. New ones. And ones I have seen a thousand times before. As an entrepreneur, I’ve signed up for a life of challenges. As a parent, I’ve committed to helping 3 other humans work through their challenges too. I often feel like a contestant on American Ninja Warrior: Work & Home Edition. But I enjoy hard things. I find great value in the difficulties.

When life throws challenges my way I embrace them because I learn from them. I get better. I discover more about myself and my character. I develop more skills. I realize how capable I really am. #AintNothingGonnaBreakMyStride

The challenges of life are like the challenges of sports. Or video games. They are forms of competition. They are there to test you. To force you to think, learn, strategize and grow. Challenges force you to add tools to your toolbox, plays to your playbook, and tricks to your bag of tricks.

Triumphing over your personal and professional challenges is a rewarding part of the human experience. The more challenges you face the more you feel like you have faced the same type of challenge before. Which means you face each new obstacle with a greater sense of confidence that you can handle it. Because you can, Toucan!

In their training, the military special forces go through some of the most difficult challenges that humans will ever face. But those very challenges also provide the tools and confidence to overcome anything they face later. Both in the military and while shopping at the mall.

The challenges of life are not to be avoided. Or lamented. They are what make life interesting. They are the primary source of self-improvement. They teach you and make you stronger.

To accelerate your growth you can also read about the challenges that others have faced, and how they learned and improved through them. It is why reading is so valuable. It allows you to learn vicariously through the challenges of others without losing a battle, a war, or a limb. Because you can only lose so many limbs of your own.

Key Takeaway

Life challenges help you learn and grow. Each one leaves you better equipped to face the next. Each one adds to your skills, experience and understanding. It is a critical part of the evolutionary process. And it strengthens us both as individuals and as a species. You grow. You adapt. You thrive. And you are better prepared to face whatever comes next.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

5 Keys To A Great Life.

This summer my family and I took an amazing vacation to the west coast. We visited Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon, The Grand Canyon, and Zion National Park. Along the way, we packed in a lot of surfing, hiking, and In-N-Out Burger.

There was also a lot of togetherness. In fact, the togetherness is my favorite part of family vacations. I love having my family of 5 together in the car, at the hotel, at meals, and throughout our activities for a week. It’s one of the perks of taking your kids far from home when they have no money. They are happy to stay close so that they can eat.

The togetherness results in a lot of conversation. This morning I found a list I wrote of 5 Keys to a great life that I shared with my family during a conversation in L.A. The list was written on the notepad from the Loews hotel in Santa Monica. And just being able to bring my family to that beautiful beachfront hotel felt like I was winning at life. (This paragraph has been brought to you by the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica. Where families can enjoy togetherness, beach access and notepads.)

Here is the list.

5 keys To A Great Life.

  1. Dream Big Dreams: The size of your life is determined by the size of your dreams. It’s the same phenomenon that links the size of a goldfish* to the size of its fishbowl. So think big. Dream big. Do big. *This is true of real goldfish. But not the delicious snack crackers, which come in only one size.

2. Take Risks: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Risks are the gateway to rewards. Take chances. Learn to be comfortable with uncertainty. You’ll figure things out along the way. Bet on yourself. Because you have the ability to stack the odds in your favor through determination and hard work.

3. Develop Rare and Valuable Skills: Become really great at something special. The journey is extremely rewarding. The process of self-improvement is empowering. The better you get at a skill the more passionate you become. The world will reward you with opportunities that are not available to those without those skillz. Which will enable you to pay the billz.

4. Develop and Maintain Strong Relationships At the end of our days the only thing that will really matter is the impact we have on each other. Prioritize your human connections. Develop as many relationships as you can. Maintain them over time. Those connections will reward you in more ways than you could possibly count. Unless your rare and valuable skill is counting.

5. Become Self-Reliant: The greatest gift you can give yourself is self-reliance. Become a resourceful problem-solver. Learn to make your own money, cook, and change a tire. Self-reliance builds confidence. Both are attractive to others. The more you can handle on your own the more control you have over your life. This is the basic theme of every song by Destiny’s Child.

Key Takeaway

Dream big. Develop your skills. Invest in your relationships. And learn to count on yourself. Those basic steps make it easy to take risks because you know things will turn out well. After all, you’re going to make it happen.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The important life lesson I learned as a young driver in Vermont.

I grew up in Vermont. Which is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The rolling Green Mountains of Vermont are heavenly. It’s where snow, maple syrup, and Ben & Jerry’s were born. I am always homesick for Vermont in the fall when the leaves perform their grand finale and the landscape explodes with color. It’s why leaf peepers flock to Vermont every fall. What? You’ve never heard of leaf peepers? Ask Larry, Darrell, and Darrell.

Vermont Driving

Vermont is still my favorite place to drive. You are greeted by one amazing view after another. You find yourself wowing a lot. At the bigness, the smallness, the coziness, the quaintness. Vermont is a very simple place that remains largely undeveloped and unpolluted by man-made sights and sounds. Which is why it is recognized as the least polluted state in America. (To be fair, there aren’t a lot of people there to do the polluting.)

When I turned 16 and started driving the quiet, winding country roads of Vermont, I was amazed by the beautiful and everchanging views through the windshield. However, I also discovered something surprising that I never noticed as a passenger.

The best views were often seen in the rearview mirror.

After I discovered this visual secret I found myself frequently checking the rearview in my old Ford Escort, my Mom’s VW Jetta, or my Dad’s Saab 900. I found that the rearview magic could be found in every make and model of car I tested.

Over the past few decades, I have learned that life is like Vermont. Both are full of beauty. And if you are doing life right, there is more beauty behind you every day. So don’t forget to reflect. On your life. On your career. On your successes. And on your growth. Because no matter what’s in front of you, you can always find an inspiring view behind you.

Key Takeaway

Check your personal rearview mirror regularly. Your memories, experiences, and successes of the past are beautiful things. They are reminders of life fully realized. Your personal rearview mirror will show you how wonderful life can be. It will remind you how great you can feel. It will teach you how much you can accomplish. It will reveal the positive impact others have had on you. And it will remind you of the positive influence you can have on others.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

10 things Dads should teach their kids to love.

Over the past 16 years, I have learned a lot about what it takes to be a good Dad. Most of what I now know I have learned by making mistakes. Like the time I dropped my 6-month-old over a railing at the Zoo. I knew I had made a mistake when everyone around me started screaming. #truestory

One of the things I’ve learned is that to be a good father you should spend more time with your kids than writing blog posts on Father’s Day. So let’s get right to the list.

10 things Dads should teach their kids to love.

  1. Books

Collect Books. Read to your kids. Let them see you reading. Dads who read books keep getting smarter, more creative and more capable. It’s a great way to teach kids to fill their free time with something positive. I recommend the books with more words than pictures, but do what you have to do.

2. Alarm Clocks

Love your alarm clock. Set it every day. Let your kids know that the alarm clock helps you get the most out of every day. Let them see you get up and get productive in the morning. It will teach them to find gold in those golden morning hours.

3. Their Mom

The greatest gift a Dad can give his kids is to love their Mom. Treat her with respect and kindness, even if you are no longer together. If you are still together gross your kids out with how much you love their Mom. It’s like forcing them to eat really healthy food that they think is icky, but is really good for them.

4. Travel

Show your kids the world. Roadtrips. Camping trips. Trips to the store. Sunday drives. Overseas trips. They all count. Show your kids new places and it will spark new ideas, new understanding, and a new appetite to see even more.

5. Hard Work

Teach your kids how hard work leads to great results. Show them that there is no elevator to the top. You have to take the stairs. And if they see you taking the stairs 2 or 3 steps at a time they will too.

6. Encouragement

Kids who receive encouragement encourage others too. It’s one of the best ways you can improve the world through your children. You can do it. I know you can!

7. Saving Money

A kid doesn’t need a role model to know how to spend money. But as a Dad, you can teach them the critically important value of saving. Teach them to accumulate money by always saving part of what they earn. So like 50 Cent, they can watch the money pile up. And as the money piles up so do your options and your peace of mind.

Bonus: Read Rich Dad. Poor Dad. to your kids. I have read that book to each of my kids. It’s the best way to teach them about money.

8. Laughter

The world is full of funny stuff. Enjoy it. Laugh loud and often. Teach your kids to laugh at all that goes wrong. It is the best medicine. And while it may be addicting, it doesn’t cause constipation.

9. Donating

Teach your kids to love donating to causes they care about. Show them how to give without expectations of a return. There are endless ways to give. Share your time, talents and treasure. Or, if you are like my Dad, give blood as often as they will let you. That stuff is more valuable than gold to a fellow human in need.

10. Friendship

Be a good friend to your friends. Collect and maintain as many great friendships as you can. Let your kids see you connect and share love with others outside your family. It will teach them to connect and extend their love too.

Happy Father’s Day!

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media. It makes a great belated Father’s Day gift. Or a great be-earlied Father’s Day gift for next year.

12 important life lessons for new graduates.

It’s graduation time! Students across the country are thrilled to finally be done with classes, done with books and done with teachers’ dirty looks. But what they will soon find out is that the real life lessons start after school ends. Because suddenly your life becomes one big multiple choice test. And if you thought you were done with all that writing, here comes the big surprise:

Now you have to write the story of your own life.

Looking back, I can see that I have learned far more since graduating from Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire and The University of Wisconsin than I did in school. In fact, I read more now than I did in school. I ask more questions. I study people and events, and people at events.

I have been collecting the best lessons I have learned since the day I graduated from high school. Then, during the Covid lockdown, I turned my collection of most valuable life lessons into a book called What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?

I thought the book would help people like me who were trying to get the most out of life. I wanted to help my contemporaries maximize their happiness and success. I wanted to share some of my accumulated knowledge, inspire others, and make people laugh. Not necessarily in that order.

Since publishing my new book I have heard 2 responses over and over from readers.

  1. I wish I had read this when I was younger.
  2. This book will make an excellent graduation gift.

The positive response to the book confirms that the life lessons I pass along offer real value. For new graduates, the lessons will help build the life and career you imagined. Which is why so many people are picking up copies now, during graduation season to give as gifts.

My friend Kris picked up these copies for some special graduates in her life. Including her daughter Emma!

If you are a new graduate, congratulations! Welcome to the club! Here are a few things that will help you in your exciting next chapter of life. (And you thought you were done with all that reading…) (If you graduated last year or last century the lessons still apply.)

12 important life lessons for new graduates.

  1. Constantly Upgrade Your Thinking: You may have graduated, but you are not done growing. Never stop improving yourself. You are like an iPhone. You should constantly be creating better versions of yourself. Each one is smarter, stronger and more capable than the one before. (And now that you will start paying for your own phone you’ll want to put a screen shield and protective case on that thang. Phones are frick’n expensive.)

2. The best way to live a great life is to start at the end. By viewing your life from the end you can clearly see what you could have done and what you should have done. Do this now, while you can do something about it. And you will be able to turn your life into an epic story as big as your imagination. (And go to funerals. They will teach you more about life than death. Plus, there are always free ham sandwiches.)

3. It’s the first step that matters most. Far too many people dream about the things they want to do but never take a single step towards making it happen. Your dreams start with that first step. Take it. Make it happen. (And watch Hamilton. That dude did not throw away his shot.)

4. Let envy be your guide. Don’t get fooled into thinking envy is a deadly sin and try to squash it. Envy offers insight. Note the things you envy and truly want and add them to your life list. Then create a plan to make them yours. And get to work. (Sloth, however, is a deadly sin. Don’t mess with sloths, Sid.)

5. Your Success Is Directly Related to Your Contribution. Success is easy to understand. If you want more, contribute more. If you want to earn more money, add more value. If you want more social capital, add more value. If you want more political capital, add more value. It is the value you bring to the world that determines what the world offers you in return, Jedi.

6. Nothing will happen unless you make it so. JFK said, ‘Things do not happen. They are made to happen.’ Remember that action is everything. It is the difference between dreaming and doing. If you want something to happen you have to force it and will it to happen through your vision, action, and energy. This wisdom applies to friendship, entrepreneurship, and every other ship in between.

7. Kickstart your day with a smile. The first thing you should do every day, while still lying in bed, is put a big smile on your face. Science has proven that not only do we smile when we feel good, we actually feel good when we smile. Smiling is the easiest positive thing you’ll do all day. Yet it has the power to propel and protect you until you crawl back into bed at night. (So, if you haven’t smiled yet today, do it now, brown cow.)

8. Fill your attitude with helium. Life is unpredictable. One moment you feel like you are on top of the world. the next moment you feel like the world is on top of you. But a helium attitude rises anyway. Don’t let setbacks, curveballs, and negative people drag you down. Do what helium does, and just keep rising. Your attitude is everything in life. Make sure you fill it with the right fuel. (And if you ever need a good laugh, suck in some real helium and say ‘Luke, I am your Father.’)

9. Always bet on yourself. Don’t buy lottery tickets. Don’t bet on sports or horses. Instead, bet on yourself. Bet on your ideas. But on your intuition. Bet on your determination. And on your willingness to affect the outcome. Stack the odds in your favor. It is the easiest way to mitigate risk and set yourself up for an epic payout. (And add Take A Chance On Me by ABBA to your life soundtrack. It’s a real toe-tapper.)

10. Find your Sliver Mentors. Everyone will offer you advice. But only take advice from people who are already doing what you want to do be doing. And rather than have one mentor for everything it is useful to have many mentors for slivers of your life. Learn the tips and tricks of the people who behave the way you want to behave. Don’t listen to every voice in the wind. Instead, carefully curate the advice you accept from those who offer great examples. (And keep a good tweezer around for regular slivers.)

11. Ask For What You Want. Never be afraid to simply ask for what you really want. A closed door will often open when you show just how much you want to go inside. Remember, someone holds the key to unlock every locked door. (Don’t simply take what you want. Unless you look great in an orange jumpsuit.)

12. Don’t Build A Network. Build Friendships. Throughout your career, people will tell you that you should network. This essentially means you should meet people who can help further your career. This is bad advice. Don’t network. Instead, befriend as many people as you can. Prioritize developing genuine relationships. When you make great friends you will have a great network. Because when you make people the most important thing in your life, everything else magically falls into place. (And keep eating Lucky Charms. They’re magically delicious.)

Key Takeaway:

Commit to a lifetime of learning and growing. Get a little better every day. Read. Think. Make friends. Find people who can teach you. And always bet on yourself. The best is yet to come. But it’s up to you to make it happen.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+If a $16 graduation gift fits into your budget, consider grabbing a copy of What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? for a graduate in your life.

6 Tips To Establish New Power Habits.

A great life is built on great habits. Do the right things repeatedly and you will build momentum. Do the wrong thing repeatedly and you build a rap sheet.

Your great habits have a compounding effect. Each great step helps amplify the step before. All of which will earn career, social, health, and even financial capital that will open doors for you.

I was on The Morning Blend this week talking about habits. You can see the segment here.

But How?

Habit development is a process. Here are a few of the most important things to know to get the process right, like Bob Barker.

6 Tips To Establishing New Power Habits.

  1. Start with your identity.  Identify as an exerciser, reader, money saver or a neat and orderly person. Once you identify as the person who does these kinds of activities you will do the kinds of activities your identity identifies with. It’s always a case of the chicken and the egg. So just decide that you are a chicken and start laying eggs.

Remember: Identities are all made up anyway. (Just ask Madonna.) None of us came out of the womb as runners, readers or pop singers. We were all just naked and unemployed. One day you simply decide you want to take on an identity and you go with it. The great news is that you can add to or change your identity any day.

2. Make it easy at the start. If you have chosen to identify as a runner, don’t go out the first time and run until you barf. You won’t want to come back. Instead, run until you feel good. Don’t go past that point. Stop before it hurts or feels negative. Run for a couple of minutes. Not a couple of miles. Make it enjoyable, make it easy. Make yourself want to do more next time. In the beginning (#NameThatBook) the most important thing to do is simply create the system or process. The length doesn’t matter.

3. Optimize and intensify over time. Once the routine is established you can adjust it to be more productive. Lengthen the duration of activity. Increase the intensity and focus. But raise the bar slowly and you will build even more momentum.

4. Market the habit to yourself by putting cues in your path.  If you want to journal, leave your journal and pen out where you will be reminded to write. Put your exercise clothes on your dresser or bathroom counter so they are easy to pick up and put on. Place your laundry to be put away on your bed. This provides additional obvious cues and reduces friction to action.

5. You can change your life in one day. Quitting smoking may be hard, but it’s not hard to not smoke for a day. The same holds true for exercising, eating well or playing an instrument. Commit to one day, each day. It will make you feel like a winner every day. You will be inspired to do more when you feel like you are winning.

6. When you have a problem starting or maintaining a habit there is a problem with your system. If your habit is failing it isn’t you. It’s the system. Tweak it to make the habit stick. Make it easier. Change the timing. Change the setting. Use technology for prompts, reminders or encouragement. Pair it with a different reward. Find what you need to nail it.

Key Takeaway

Use good habits to create good habits. Set your identity and your actions will follow. Underdo it at the start. Allow yourself to be an amateur. Create obvious prompts. Optimize and intensify over time. Keep stringing together good days. And just don’t stop.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

The valuable life lesson Will Smith could use right now.

Everyone makes mistakes. Will Smith reminded us of that on Sunday night. And if you are a learning, growing, improving human your mistakes make you better prepared for the next challenge life throws your way. And life is going to throw more challenges your way. It’s what life does.

Early in my career, I made a mistake kinda like Will Smith’s. Granted, there were no Oscars involved. It was not on national television. I wasn’t mad at Chris Rock for saying that my wife looked like one of the fittest, most beautiful Hollywood actresses of all time. (You go Demi!) And I didn’t actually touch anyone.

But I did overreact to a coworker who had done something wrong.

In the moments that followed my overreaction, my boss gave me one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my career. He simply and calmly told me:

When you are right, don’t respond in a way that makes you have to apologize.

It was great advice. It perfectly reframed my mistake for me. I could see that I was in the right, until I wasn’t. Yes, I had been wronged. But I became wronger. The court of public opinion would have acquitted me, until my behavior was such that they could no longer support me. #IWishIKnewHowToAcquitYou…

For two decades now that piece of advice has been written into my decision-making code. When I am processing how to respond to aggravations, slights, irritations, and insults I frequently access that code. And it always helps me make better decisions. As a result, I don’t give my power of rightness back to those who have wronged me.

Key Takeaway

When you are right, don’t respond in a way that makes you have to apologize.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For a full collection of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How highly successful people win even when they are tired.

Sunday was the first day of Daylight Saving Time in America. We all gained an hour of sunshine but lost an hour of sleep. Which is a pretty good trade, unless you are a vampire.

Late Sunday afternoon I told my 14-year old son Johann that it was time for us to go to the gym. Not surprisingly, he told me he didn’t want to go. He said he was tired. I told him that I was too. But that we were going to go lift weights anyway.

When we got into the Jeep I knew it was time for a Father-Son talk. Thankfully, it wasn’t going to be one of those Father-Son talks where you have to use all the anatomically correct language and try not to giggle.

Me and Johann the moment I first held my book.

As we pulled out of our neighborhood and headed towards the gym I told Johann that I was about to share one of the most important lessons I would ever share with him. And I wanted him to listen closely. Here is what I said:

The Daylight Saving Day Lesson

You will always be tired. For the rest of your life, you will be tired every frick’n day. And being tired will always be an excuse you can use to get out of doing anything.

But if you use the I’m tired’ excuse you will never accomplish great things. You will never have big successes. You will never break away from the massive pack of average.

When you are tired, you have to go anyway. Work anyway. Compete anyway. Exercise anyway. Maintain your best habits anyway.

Become the type of person who does things despite being tired. And you will build momentum. You will separate yourself from others who use being tired as an excuse to not do what they know they should do.

You will do special things. You will make something great of yourself. You will make your parents proud. You will make yourself proud. And you will know that you are a badass. A badass who gets tired, like everyone else. But when you are tired and don’t feel like doing hard work you do it anyway. That’s how you win at life.

-Dad

Key Takeaway

You will always be tired. Don’t use it as an excuse. Go anyway. And use it as proof that you are a tough mofo who does the necessary work, even when you are tired. Because that’s what great people do.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+If we are on the same frequency, you’ll also enjoy my new book What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.