10 Things I Want to Be Better At, In No Particular Order

#1: Acknowledging the Tension

Sometimes you talk to people and it’s butterflies and petunias, and sometimes it’s riddled with tension. Tension happens! And there is a spectrum of ways to deal with it, most of them less healthy than optimal. Maybe you get mad and fire back with more tension. Maybe you are like me circa 2011 and just go “tell me more”, “tell me more”, “okay, tell me more”, which is useful but obnoxious. Maybe you are the passive stone letting the river of tension wash over you, unwavering in your resolve.

Feeding racoon-friends is bad, but it's effective for relieving human/racoon tension
Feeding racoon-friends is bad, but it’s effective for relieving human/racoon tension

But there is another approach that I believe is WAY higher competency, and a healthy way to acknowledge and ultimately resolve tension. My friend Mark is great at this.

  1. Acknowledge the tension.
  2. Get them on your side.
  3. Share your perspective.

In real speak, that might look like, “I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the tension. I can tell you are frustrated, and I understand that – I expect you [insert pain point, e.g., feel like you’ve already wasted a lot of time on this, and now I’m pushing back wasting even more of your time]. Here’s what I’d like to do, why don’t you share your mind first. Tell me what’s up. And then I’ll go. And then we can try to find a good meeting point.”

You can modify that with your own affect. The goal isn’t to use some sneaky trick to disarm the other person, it’s to show actual understanding so you can have a more productive conversation.

#2: Building Multiple Habits at Once

You’ve probably heard of the research that shows if you can sustain a habit for 21 days then it will stick, and that you should focus on one at a time, and that you should focus on tiny habits first. But regardless of habit best practices, building a single new habit is challenging, source: see all the folks who still don’t floss.

I’ve found that disproportionate gains happen when you build multiple habits at once, e.g., if you follow good sleep habits + exercise + eat better, then each of these habits supports the others and has a compounding effect on your overall health. If instead, you start following a great diet, but get crappy sleep, then your willpower will drop and you may go back to gorging on Cheetos. Multiple good habits for the win.

Note: I’m not saying you should abandon the “one habit at a time” plan, but in cases where one habit is unsustainable without others, try tackling multiple habits at once.

Here is the best way I’ve found to do this: Five Day Plans.

Five Day Plans are a way to commit to multiple habits for a short period of time – you don’t have to do it forever, just five days. Method: draw a table with 1 to 5 at the top, and then list all the habits you want to tackle in the first column. I recommend going with four to six habits for the first block.


10 pushups
15 min walk
15 min reading
No electronics after 9pm

Your only goal is to mark off every habit as complete each day for five days. At the end of five days you can re-evaluate your list and create a new five day plan, adding more habits or making the existing habits more challenging, e.g., doubling the length of your walk. If in any given Five Day Plan you miss even one habit, then you are still expected to finish the plan and then re-do the same Five Day Plan over.

#3: Taking Care of My Body

There is some health stuff that I’m really good at: I eat well, I walk a fair amount and I do a lot of pushups. But I have some bad habits as well: working on the computer all day, going to bed late, etc. I’d like to take better care of my body.

#4: Delegating Complex Tasks

When you learn to delegate complex tasks you can really leverage your expertise and get massive results.

For me, the main barrier on this one is mindset. I have a tendency to say “I can do it myself” because it will be better, save time, etc. And for the most part this has served me well; I’ve developed a lot of skills from tinkering on projects.

Now that I’m learning how to delegate more complex tasks, and allowing myself to do so, I’m seeing way higher returns on my time. I’ve mostly learned delegation by observation / imitation, so one next step to improve this would be working with a coach.

#5: Deploying Capital

I believe this is the #1 factor to building massive wealth. It’s really hard to get rich off an income, but if you can put money into the right investments at the right time: either your own projects or other investments, then there is opportunity for massive financial gains.

For more thoughts on financial growth, see my article on life lessons.

#6: Living in the Now

I’d estimate that 80% of my conscious thoughts are either re-thinking decisions made in the past or worrying about stuff that hasn’t happened and probably won’t happen in the future.

Look how “now” I am on emei mountain.

You can probably relate – living in the moment is hard. If you want to improve at this I have a book recommendation. Pretty much everyone knows Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, but Dale has another book called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living that is full of practical strategies and examples of how to let go of the past/future and live in the now.

#7: Being More Authentic

I wouldn’t describe myself as in-authentic, but I’m definitely not as authentic as I could be. We all lie all the time, about everything to everyone, including ourselves. I want to lie less. I want to tell strangers how my day is actually going; I want to share more of my personal thoughts with close friends and I want to clear my mind of bias and insecurities.

#8: Making Great Work & a Great Life Compatible

I care more about pushing forward specific parts of humanity than I do about material comfort. Making even a tiny dent in humanity is difficult and takes a lot of work, but my mindset is shifting on the relationship between work and life. For a long time I’ve prioritized work at the expense of life, but I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. Team Cruise 2016 helped me realize the value of fun and relaxation and how that fits into a healthy, balanced life. I want to do more of that.

#9: Embracing the Awkward

Feeling awkward is a good sign to be cautious, but not a reason to stop. When you feel awkward it means you are outside your comfort zone and the flip-side is that there is opportunity for growth. The more awkward situations, conversations, etc. that you can be part of, the more you will grow. Sometimes this growth is internal, e.g., learning definitively that you do not like singing in front of a group, but there can also be very tangible benefits of overcoming awkwardness like salary increases, meeting someone amazing, etc.

#10: Cultivating New Friendships

I’m not terrible at making friends, but I could be better at it. I want to meet new people and cross pollinate the world with real friendships. I like the idea of impromptu interviews with folks, because it gives you a reason to chat for awhile and get to know each other. But I also want to create stronger relationships with the friends I already have, and introduce them to each other for new friendships independent of me.

High school friends 4 life
High school friends 4 life

The End

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