New Forbes Article: How To Grow Your Network Like A Super Connector

Aug 29, 2013


What separates super connectors is not the amount of time they spend. It’s how they build their network. Learn their #1 strategy.

Read full article…




New Forbes Article: How The World’s Top Relationship Builder Makes Introductions

Aug 22, 2013


Lessons learned from the world’s top relationship builder according to Fortune.

The lessons learned were distilled based on three interviews and nearly a dozen emails.

These interviews have had a dramatic impact on my life, and I’ve started a completely new daily relationship-building habit as a result.

Read full article…




New Forbes Article: How Giving In The Right Way Can Transform Your Business

Aug 13, 2013


Get an inside look at the new culture of extreme giving, and how two of the world’s top entrepreneurs have leveraged it to be more happy and successful.

Read full article…




The Lesson of Poverty and Wealth

Aug 10, 2013


Today, I talked with three entrepreneur friends. Two of them never have to work a day again in their life. The other is struggling financially and going through major challenges.

While seemingly opposites, I saw a commonality. Each was in a position of being forced to look inside and think about who they were and how they wanted to show up in the world.

Hitting bottom forces us to reexamine ourselves and remove limiting beliefs that are holding us down.

Hitting top forces us to look for a life purpose larger than money, proving oneself, and survival.

That’s what I love about life. There’s always something to learn.




Reflections On An Article That Changed My Life 15 Years Ago

Aug 9, 2013


Easter Island Statues

When Easter Island was discovered in 1722, it was a desolate island. It had no trees and little wildlife. Its grass was withered, and its vegetation burnt. Despite being 64 square miles, its population was around 2,000.

The most notable feature was 200+ huge stone statues lining the coast with at least 700 more in various stages of completion.

It didn’t add up. How could a primitive society move these huge stones without trees or ropes?

To answer this question, researchers did pollen analysis, radiocarbon dating, and archeological excavation. Not only was the island a subtropical forest of trees and woody bushes, it was once full of wildlife.

What happened to this pristine island?

Based on the research and stories from surviving inhabitants, a grim story emerged; a story of overexploitation and using natural resources to build, move, and showcase these huge statues as status symbols:

With passing years, the statues and platforms became larger and larger, and the statues began sporting ten-ton red crowns–probably in an escalating spiral of one-upmanship, as rival clans tried to surpass each other with shows of wealth and power. (In the same way, successive Egyptian pharaohs built ever-larger pyramids. Today Hollywood movie moguls near my home in Los Angeles are displaying their wealth and power by building ever more ostentatious mansions). source: Easter’s End

It is easy to write off Easter Island and say that we would never do the same thing to the Earth’s climate. It is easy to ridicule the pointlessness of having large statues as status symbols.

However, we still, to this day, do the same things as a society and as individuals!

I remember the angst of trying to be popular. I knew that the popularity I built would not translate past high school, yet it was extremely hard to step out of it. While high school may end when we’re 18, we jump right into new popularity contests in our personal and professional lives.

It is surprisingly easy to spend one’s whole life comparing ones self to other people and trying to be better than them.

A mistake that I see many, many smart people make (including myself at different times) is spending a whole life on a false assumption that could have been easily proven wrong with further introspection.

The two haunting questions from the author of Easter’s End that have stayed with me all these years and the ones I’ll leave you with are:

As we try to imagine the decline of Easter’s civilization, we ask ourselves, Why didn’t they look around, realize what they were doing, and stop before it was too late? What were they thinking when they cut down the last palm tree?




The Elephant In The Room

Aug 8, 2013


elephant-in-the-roomThe first time I was ever in a limousine was on the way to my dad’s funeral.

At the funeral home, about 20 people, most of whom I had never met, sat on foldout chairs. A minister who had never met my dad talked about God and how my dad was going to a better place.

As the minister spoke, people started crying. At 8 years old, I didn’t know how to react.

A heavyset woman sitting two seats to my right motioned for me to sit on her lap.

I looked at my mom for guidance. I felt uncomfortable, but my mom nodded her head in approval. I slid over. The woman pulled me into her body, gave me a handful of tissues, rocked slowly, and told me that it was ok to cry.
I started to cry deeply and uncontrollably.

As people left the service, many gave me their condolences and told me that I was now the man of the house. That was a major concept for someone just learning how to add and subtract double-digit numbers.

Afterwards, we went to my Aunt’s house for fried chicken to celebrate his life.
We later went to the cemetery. I thought we were going to bury him, but instead, I was taken to a small building and was shown the urn that held his ashes. Everything that had physically been my dad was now in a small box in a wall of what looked like PO Boxes.
The experience was confusing, frustrating, illogical, fascinating, and thought provoking.

My dad was 33 years old, and he had died of lung cancer only a few months after diagnosis.

How does one come to terms with death? How does it shape how we come to terms with life?

Life is just as full of mixed emotions and uncertainty as death is.

We’re on a spinning rock going 66,611 mph around a star that is part of a universe with a potentially infinite number of other stars.

When we’re born, we inherit geography, genes, religion, social system, and government which have been evolving over millennia.

Our life is fleeting. We may live a long life or we could die tomorrow from something that is completely out of our control.

How do we make meaning?

That is the elephant in the room that almost no one talks about.

Most people live only in the context of what they’re given and what’s immediately obvious to the people around them.

The elephant is at the center of everything we do. Even a small change to the elephant in our life will trickle out to day-to-day decisions, and have a dramatic impact.

The risk of not talking about the elephant is that we spend our whole life trying to efficiently climb up the wrong ladder.




My Circular Journey To Find Myself And Stop Copying My Heroes

Jul 25, 2013


KingMandelaGandhiMontage

“I want to be that man!”

That was the thought that went through my mind as I participated in my first Anthony Robbins event during my Freshman year at NYU. I was inspired. I wanted to be ANTHONY ROBBINS. I wanted to talk like him, be strong like him, eat like him, make an impact like him, and create wealth like him.

He said, “Anything one person can achieve, you can too. You just need to model their strategies, and you’ll get the same results.”

It was like being in candy store. Any quality I didn’t like in myself, I could find the opposite in someone else and copy them.

So, I started reading autobiographies and biographies…Gandhi, Mandela, MLK Jr., Gates, Jobs, Bezos.

13 years later, here’s what I know:

I don’t want to be any of these people. I can never be these people.

What inspires me about them is that they’re really good at being themselves.

I want to be me.

It’s funny how familiarity doesn’t necessarily give understanding. I’ve lived in this body for 31 years, and I’m just scratching the surface.

Life is like a scavenger hunt. The clues are things that make me come alive.

It is hard to predict what they’ll be or even why.

All I know is that when I follow the clues, no matter how illogical they may seem at first, my world transforms.

I become more alive, I become more me. I become so inspired that I can’t help myself but work hard, get really good, be of service. I’m overflowing, and I need to share it with the world.

Insecurity-based comparison vanishes. It seems silly. I love being me. There is no way anybody can be me better than I can.

The scary thing about the scavenger hunt is that sometimes following the clues means we need to say goodbye to everything that makes us comfortable.

That’s when being me isn’t easy. That’s when it takes courage.

The beauty is that we all have our own scavenger hunt. We help others come alive by coming alive ourselves.

Oh how far we travel to end up where we started.




New Forbes Article: If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together

Jul 23, 2013



Everyday, at 5:30 AM, 23-year-old entrepreneur Nathan Latka’s iPhone alarm goes off. Seconds later, he’s in the kitchen making breakfast. He puts the frying pan on the lower-right burner and turns the dial to 7. What happens next is completely unexpected.

He sprints to the bathroom and takes a 4-5 minute shower knowing that if he stays longer, there is a risk of the house burning down.

On the one hand, Nathan’s ‘efficiency thinking’ saves time in the mornings and helps him in business. Nathan’s company, Heyo, is growing at 100%+ per year in part because of remarkable efficiency. It has 2,500+ customers, and their minimum plan is $25/month.

However, efficiency thinking comes with risks.

In this case, Nathan could be missing creative bursts of inspiration while enjoying a moment of relaxation in the shower.

When I started to write this article, my goal was to share the lessons learned of the world’s top relationship builders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. What slowly emerged as I conducted 15+ interviews was not simply a checklist of steps to build better relationships. It was a completely different paradigm of approaching one’s career and life that complements the drawbacks of ‘efficiency thinking’.

Read full article…

 




The Deep Struggles, Great Joys, and Lessons Learned of Blending Entrepreneurship & Marriage

Jul 11, 2013


“So this is how a marriage ends.”

That’s the thought that went through my mind as I hung up the phone in my hotel room after a lifeless conversation with my wife / business partner while I was traveling on business two years ago.

The idea that two people who were ‘meant for each other’ could just ‘grow apart’ never seemed like a suitable cause of separation. But, now I was living the possibility of it, and I understood.

At some level, I wished for the arguments of the past so I knew that we both still cared, but willpower no longer worked as a way to create emotion. I was losing hope for the first-time in our 13-year relationship. I was scared.

I wondered, “How have we gotten to this point!? How can I make sure this never happens again?”

The Story of Us

personal-sheena-michaelI met my wife, Sheena, during orientation our Freshman year in college. We spent almost every day at each other’s dorms and moved in together the summer before our Sophomore year. We talked for hours a day on our philosophies in life and our desire to make an impact. We envisioned an ideal lifestyle of being able to travel, meet incredible people, and make an impact. Through the realization of these conversations, the Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour was born. The tour has now been held nearly 400 times across the world with the mission of helping to spread the entrepreneurial mindset across the world.

Our daughter, Halle, was born when I was 27 and Sheena was 26. Although we were young, we had already been together 8 years, and we knew we were ready. Today, Halle is 4 and Jayden, our son, is 2. For the first 18 months of Halle’s life, we opted out of daycare and split our time watching her. One of us worked from 7:30am-1:30pm, and the other worked from 1:30pm-7:30pm. For the last two summers, we’ve followed the same routine.

business-sheena-michaelOur relationship is unique because we’ve blurred the traditional lines that people put up in their marriages between life, work, and parenthood. Instead, we’ve aligned everything under a shared purpose of each living to our full potential and having a positive impact on the world.

Blending is what has allowed us to grow together and to grow stronger. I used to think that marriage and life overall were fairytales where an amazing life just happens effortlessly after the right pieces are put in place.

What I now see is that where fairytales end; real life begins. Marriage begins when we see our partners’ imperfections, and, instead of running away to look for the next honeymoon, we still choose love. That is the kind of love that Sheena and I share.

Lesson One: Invest in the Relationship with Energy

The reality is that as business partners, parents, and husband/wife, every day is a serious struggle to rise up to competing demands while staying sane. As each day draws to a close, my mind is numb from going full force every single second. Switching between the highs and lows of parenting and entrepreneurship, all in one day, can be utterly exhausting. The thought of having a deep conversation on life or brainstorming how to improve the relationship after the children fall asleep often feels laughable.

For a period of a year, we only went on a handful of date nights and only one two-day vacation. When we did go on date nights, sometimes we’d literally drive somewhere to park and take a nap.

To thrive, a relationship needs more than time. It needs energy. That means spending time together when we aren’t about to break down from exhaustion. It requires having energy to truly listen, to take constructive feedback, to have real conversations, and to be intimate.

So, how can one have enough energy to invest in the relationship? This takes us to lesson two.

Lesson Two: Take Rest

It is often assumed that new parents and entrepreneurs should just accept that they will be sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation was one of the worst decisions I ever made.

When one is tired, one’s willpower to deal with and contain stress dramatically goes down. Furthermore, one’s mood is dramatically altered.

The biggest challenge for me is having a lower breaking point. Little things that I’d normally brush off push me over the edge. It is like becoming a different person. I yell at the children for small things. I become passive aggressive. My logical mind shuts down.

Willpower is not a sustainable solution. Sleep and breaks throughout the day is.

When I made parenting and entrepreneurship the center of my life, I based my life on two of the most volatile things in the world. When I take the time to recharge, I have a reserve to enjoy life, and I don’t hit my breaking point.

Lesson Three: Invest In Your Soul

What makes our relationship work is our curiosity for life, our desire to live to our full potential, and our enjoyment of being on this journey together.

When we both became overworked, each of us stopped daily routines like journaling, meditation, and reading so we could rise to short-term demands. Interestingly, the body has a similar reaction to stress. When we continually activate the flight or fight response, the body diverts all of its energy to short-term performance and away from longer-term restorative processes that may prevent life-threatening diseases like cancer.

When stressed, instead of looking at challenges as signs that there was something for each of us to learn, we looked at them as signs that there was something wrong with the other person.

In the short-term, it is easy not to invest in oneself. There will not be an immediate negative consequence. However, the challenge is that by the time you notice something is wrong, it may be too late, or you will be in a hole that will take a lot of digging to get out of.

Lesson Four: Don’t Use Busy Periods As An Excuse to Not Do Lessons One, Two, and Three

We all hit busy periods in our lives. Those periods can last a few days, months, or even years. It is tempting to save time by not working on the relationship or investing in one’s self during busy periods. However, I’ve learned that a relationship can begin to unravel in just a few months or even weeks. One can become burned out in the same period of time.

It is so tempting to go all out in business and believe that doing so will take you over a hump that will change everything. My experience is that many of these busy periods are self-inflicted and the result of poor project management. Pushing through one busy period generally doesn’t take you to the promised land. It is about the long haul of showing up consistently.

It is hard to draw a strong line and keep investing in important things when things are tough, but there is no better long-term choice.

The End of the Honeymoon; The Beginning of the Lifelong Marriage

As entrepreneurs, our business is not just a different compartment of our life. It is an extension of who we are. Many of us start businesses to provide for our families, to live the lifestyle we want, to express ourselves, to challenge ourselves to become better people, and to have freedom. However, the dirty secret of entrepreneurship that few people talk about is that the exact opposite can and often does become a reality if we’re not careful.

I now understand that marriages challenge the core of who we are. Shortcomings in our character that no one else (sometimes including ourselves) sees are uncovered after years of marriage. As they’re uncovered, we can either hide from them or address them. Marriage can be the ultimate personal growth environment or its worst enemy.

Successful long-term marriages and personal lives don’t just happen. They require constant investment. But there is no better investment known on Earth.

I believe that our spouse is the most important person in our life. In the context of a lifetime, our children, parents, siblings, and business partners are our closest relationships for a only small period of time compared to our spouse. Over time, no single relationship has more of an impact on who we are as individuals, parents and entrepreneurs.

 

Ed. Note – Special thank you to my wife, Sheena Lindahl, for helping me write this post through 5+ revisions and lots of long conversations reflecting on our relationship.




On The Reality Of Arguments In Close Relationships

Jun 13, 2013


More than being a parent, more than being an entrepreneur, being a good husband has been one of the deepest joys and biggest challenges in my life.

I’ve noticed that my marriage / 14-year relationship goes in cycles between being so in love where I couldn’t imagine being in an argument and being in so many arguments that I don’t know what I could do to make things better.

Turning points happen when things are going so well that I stop doing the things that made it work well and when things are going so bad that I hit bottom, surrender my positionalities, and pray for guidance.

It is often stated that you should learn from your mistakes after the first time. The reality is that many mistakes in my life seem to be repeated over and over to different degrees and different ways until I somehow get it…hopefully.

In deep relationships, you can’t hide. You can’t get space. It is NOT humanely possible to ALWAYS have enough willpower to only share the positive parts of one’s self.

This is a gift and a curse. It is a gift because knowing and helping each other process one’s shadow side is deeply intimate. Being able to be ourselves makes us feel like we’re not alone.

It is a curse when there isn’t enough willpower to deal with each other’s shadows. In these situations, small problems can escalate in a matter of seconds as triggers rapidly fire.

Deep relationships can be one of life’s greatest engines for personal growth and also one of its greatest sources of tragedy.

I used to believe that life was like a fairytale. You reach a certain point and worries disappear and effort is not needed. You get married. You have kids. You make a lot of money. You donate to charity. You live on a tropical island where the weather is always perfect. You grow old peacefully.

My reality is that many of the most rewarding parts of my life have been the most challenging. There is no ending. There is just showing up every single day, giving my best, and appreciating whatever shows up.

LIfe isn’t just the beauty of a sunny, cloudless day. It is also the beauty of a rainy day and thunder that penetrates your bones.