Ray Allen’s Great Advice

Ray Allen was a role model for me when I was growing up in Seattle watching the Seattle Supersonics basketball team. I went to a game at the old Key Arena and he absolutely dominated.

Ray Allen went on to play 18 seasons in the NBA and was one of the most accurate 3 point and free throw shooters in NBA history. He was a 10 time NBA All Star and Won 2 NBA championships.

I saw a great quote from him on how to be successful that I wanted to share with you:

You’ll win a championship in Boston. You’ll win another in Miami. The personalities on those two teams will be different, but both teams will have the same thing in common: habits. Boring old habits. I know you want me to let you in on some big secret to success in the NBA. The secret is there is no secret. It’s just boring old habits. In every locker room you’ll ever be in, everybody will say all the right things. Everybody says they’re willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to win a title. But this game isn’t a movie. It’s not about being the man in the fourth quarter. It’s not about talk. It’s getting in your work every single day, when nobody is watching. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade. The men who you are going to win championships with are all going to be very different people. What makes them champions is the boring old habits that nobody sees. They compete to see who can be the first to get to the gym and the last to leave. Your peers who think this is a cliché, or who think this doesn’t apply to them because they have God-given talent, will play their whole careers without winning an NBA title. »

Ray Allen

I couldn’t agree more with him. The key to success anywhere in life is developing good habits. What is a habit? It’s a behavior pattern that generally takes 21 days or longer to form, then you no longer have to think or use willpower to do that behavior. Most of my success in business and life have come from the habits I’ve managed to figure out. Scientists have shown that each time you have to make a little decision like whether or not to eat a piece of candy that takes a little bit of willpower… and the more conscious decisions you have to make, the tireder you get and the more likely you are to make a bad decision. Here are some habits I have tried to set up for myself over time that have been helpful:

  • How to avoid being tired at work (it is no fun to work when you’re tired)… ?
    • Go to bed at the same time each night (preferably early enough where you can wake up without an alarm)
    • Avoid looking at phone or computer screens two hours before bed
  • How to stay fit?
    • Only buy healthy food at the grocery store. Then when you are hungry, your only options are the healthy stuff… so you may not be excited to eat it, but you’ll eat it anyways. Eventually you lose the desire for processed sugar and natural foods taste far better.
    • Exercise every day…. Even if it is something tiny like walking around your block. Eventually this will build up to more and more.
  • How to be successful in your job and get promotions and raises?
    • Find out what KPI the company looks at for you and try to think of ways to improve on your scores each day
    • Ask for help and ideas to get better from your team lead
    • Complete all of your trainings as early as you can as this will leapfrog you ahead
    • Go above and beyond the normal effort in your work
  • How to avoid depression and be happy?
    • Studies show that humans need socializing each day. I use the time I drive in to work and the time driving home from work to call family and friends each day. I will try to schedule a fun activity like rock climbing or lunch with friends or things like that at least once a week
    • Daily exercise (as little as 7 minutes gets results) has been shown to be an enormous factor here, as is eating more fruits / veggies / nuts / seeds / white meats and avoiding sugars / processed fats like candy or butter.
    • Sleep more
    • Short commutes… our remote team already has this down, living closer to the LA office for those who work here is a big mood booster
    • Finally – just keep living… studies show that older people tend to naturally grow happier!

Conversation about life with a friend

Below is my email to a friend, I thought it was worth saving here for me to see again in the future at some point.
I was thinking about what you said that you sometimes wonder if you chose the right career path or maybe you could have considered going to a state school then going to live by a mountain town with a decent job or something. I felt the same way for a long time when I watched these gorgeous pictures of a buddy who did that show up on Facebook:
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He lived the life – had a camper that he went from mountain to mountain in, rock climbing and skiing and partying. Turned out though that after years of doing that, he was quite depressed. He felt like his life lacked meaning or purpose. He had fun, but he had nothing else he could do. He had trouble holding a girlfriend or job. He started doing more and more extreme stuff to get the thrill but usually felt more empty and depressed afterwards. He kept pushing it further and further, doing stuff that earned epic photos like skiing on one ski on the edge of a crevasse, or triggering a small backcountry avalanche and capturing it on his gopro, or jumping a 200 ft deep 30 foot wide crevasse (I can’t find that photo):
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Eventually, he pushed things too far and went in the backcountry a year and a half ago after the crazy heavy snows and was killed in an avalanche. When I talked to my buddy Fletch who was Adam’s best friend in grade school, he said Adam had been super depressed and just basically said he was going to keep pushing the limit as that was the only thing that he felt really got him feeling good again. He was a great guy and a good friend who took me to the summit of Rainier, and it was tragic to lose him.
I don’t know if you or I would have been happy just doing that completely live for the moment thing. I feel like you are a pretty happy guy and that having a balance of contributing to society while also doing fun stuff is a healthier balance. Your accomplishments are extremely impressive – the Air Force Academy and flying F-16s has been a big contributor to the security of our society and required incredible dedication and talent to achieve. You’ve been all over the world and made some awesome friends it sounds like.
It does sound like you feel like what you set out to do in that area though and are losing interest in continuing to fly. I think you are on the right path for you as you said you would either go work at the Air Force Academy or get a civilian job. My thought for myself is that taking some risk and making a change in your life is often something that is scary before you do it, and after you do it you realize it wasn’t as big of a deal as you made it out to be and that you just wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. For guys like us especially the financial concerns often end up leading to decisions that aren’t optimal. I still have been letting that control me too much and am trying to get outdoors and do what I love there more. We are heading towards our mid thirties and over half our lives are behind us now… I want to do some great outdoor climbing and skiing and camping before my body starts to break down.
Trying to balance the things that make me happy is tough… here is the current order of how I view this:
  1. Significant other. Nothing else is more important to your quality of life.
  2. Family & friends – quality time with these brings meaning to life and accomplishments don’t mean much when compared to these relationships.
  3. Career. Doing something you are passionate about and believe in is crucial.
  4. Fun life activities – I have been fortunate this year in that I have had a good amount of travel. I prefer being outdoors though and doing physical intense sports and miss this in my life.
  5. No commute. Research shows that one of the biggest factors in happiness is the length you have to drive each day… shorter the better.
  6. Hobbies… I’ve been reading a lot and working out and occasionally playing some video games.
  7. Avoiding the phone trap…. I haven’t figured this out. I literally get sucked into my phone reading articles I don’t care about, looking at ridiculous things on social media, and playing chess. It gets more addicting each day. It’s easy to sit down with it and look up and two hours have gone by. Painful.
What are your thoughts on all of this? I am always trying to make my life better and would love your insights – you are a thoughtful guy and willing to look at tough issues.

Anger / Frustration Resulting in Lack of Sleep

I have been dealing with a very frustrating client who refuses to read his scope of work or review the emails sent since then, and makes hostile demands. The first time he came to me, I helped out and bent over backwards and solved his issues. Now his project is more than 25% out of scope and he refuses to pay an invoice he owed months ago. He sends multiple drunk emails late Friday night and doesn’t read the reasonable responses or think through what he wants.

My difficulty is that I get sucked in emotionally to messes like this. My business has grown to be large enough where this client is just a drop in the bucket, but even one irrational and hostile person can throw my whole mood into the toilet. I woke up last night at 2 am and couldn’t sleep for hours because my brain was just going nonstop on responses to this client. I even knew logically that my responses wouldn’t matter – this guy was not actually looking at reality and was just reacting emotionally himself.

I have a hard time cooling off and letting angry emotions go. I think the best thing to do is to give this guy the weekend to cool off and send a simple and reasonable email Monday and let him think about it. Emotionally though I want to argue every point and present all my evidence immediately.

I think my challenge is primarily in finding ways to let angry / frustrated / anxious emotions go, especially when it is related to my business. When I have big problems in the business that don’t involve anger, I have no problem resolving them and sleeping easy. But even small problems that get me angry throw me for a loop.

How do I control my anger / frustrations? How can I actually get sleep?

Some ideas I am coming up with now:

  • Write a blog post like this
  • Exercise (but I already work out every day and that doesn’t seem to help in this scenario)
  • Talk to people about my feelings. Hard to do sometimes as a guy…. I am not embarrassed, I just don’t think about it.
  • Try to put things in better perspective in my head

College Is A Bad Decision For Most People

Student loan debt has skyrocketed over the last 10 years:

Once a student takes on this type of loan debt, they cannot get rid of it even in bankruptcy.

Everyone told me when I was a teenager that I HAD to go to college and it was incredibly important for my future. Everyone continues to tell American teenagers that college is the key to a good life. Unfortunately, everyone is wrong on this.

College was very wrong for me. I had started a business doing landscaping with a friend at that time and was seeing success with it. I closed it down and went to college, where I spent four years drinking and partying and majoring in business. During that four year period, I took only 3 courses that actually helped me in life (Intro to Law, Accounting, Microeconomics). The rest of my approximately 45 courses ranged from useless (terrible professor in Macroeconomics) to absurd (a class named Murder, that was about… murders). I even went to a pretty strong state school, the University of Washington. The Business School was ranked #11 in the world at the time I attended. I contributed nothing to society during this period and picked up an alcohol problem I struggled with the rest of my 20’s. According to the NIH, 60% of college students drank alcohol in the last month and 2 out of 3 of those binge drank in that time frame.

I don’t think my experience was unique… I actually think this is one of the better outcomes from four years of college. Most people I know who attended college had a lot more debt than I did, got worse first jobs, humanities degrees ** (which are basically just degrees in entertainment, about as helpful to the world as majoring in football or underwater basket weaving).

What should you do instead of going to college? Use the internet for your education. Every passing day shows better and better online courses for free. Any subject you would study at a university at any level is now online for you to learn in full completely free.  A few places to start: Udacity, Khan Academy, Laracasts, Wikipedia, and your Kindle. Those are just a few of my favorites I personally have used.  I also strongly recommend finding whatever career you want, then offering yourself as free labor – “unpaid intern” – for a year to apprentice with someone doing the job you want. You will learn all the practical skills of the work very rapidly and actually see if you like the field quickly.

But won’t you be missing out on the great networking of college? If by great networking, you mean hanging out with people with no jobs or purpose who spend most of their time drinking, sure. If you want a network of people who can actually help your career later, attend conferences / meetups / events and work internships within your field. If you do this for four years, you will develop a network of real professionals (many with years of experience in the field and senior positions) who can help you find a job. Who will be better at helping you find a job – a 22 year old friend who has never had a real job or a 46 year old senior manager at a major corporation?

But what if I’m not self motivated, won’t the structure of college make sure I actually learn stuff? Nope. If you’re not self motivated, you will have difficulty achieving anything in life. College will just delay the inevitable issues that will come up. The good news is you can build your self motivation incrementally and improve over time (mostly by building good habits). If you aren’t self motivated to learn by reading on your own, you will not be self motivated to properly do the coursework and learn in college either.

But isn’t that piece of paper extremely important for employers in vetting out job applicants? Unfortunately, this is the strongest argument against my idea of skipping formal college. Many employers do look at the university on your resume and use that to help filter candidates. I do think that more and more employers are like me though (I have 100 full time people) and completely ignore the university listed… I use actual skills tests to see who has the best ability to do the job in question. Further, the network you develop while doing unpaid internships and attending events will help you overcome the hurdle of not having a college listed on your resume.

So what are reasons I think someone should go to college? I think if you need access to incredibly expensive and regulated equipment – like nuclear reactors or industrial robots – college makes sense for you. If you want to do certain types of cutting edge scientific research, college will give you the opportunity to do so. If you want to teach others, you need to go to college and get certified so you can legally do so. I think this covers around 5% of people.


** – A lot of people insist that majoring in the humanities is a higher calling, far more important than the shallow capitalist goals of getting a job. I do agree that great literature, drama, art, philosophy, and music are important to society. Each of these though are forms of entertainment. People pay to read books or attend shows. People who are interested in these areas will be motivated to participate on their own time and don’t need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to do so.  Save your money and do this for free.