Category: Inspiration

How To Be An Adult

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The “experts” say I need to make shorter videos and blog posts because you are too spacey and dumb to stay focused for anything longer than 5 seconds.

I think more of you than the experts.

I want to talk about the clearest explanation of what it means to be an adult I’ve ever read.

Why is this important? Because if we don’t understand it, it won’t happen.

What won’t happen? We won’t be adults.

And our society will be awful.

Our founding fathers knew that people were awful and broken and corrupt and evil. This is why they put such an emphasis on virtue and moral development. It was imperative that people were intentional about becoming virtuous. Otherwise, we’d be left to our own devices. Which are terrible.

Today, there’s this belief that man is good, so we don’t need to work on virtue. We don’t need to define virtue. In fact, virtue either doesn’t exist or is a bad thing! I disagree.

This is from the great Mark Manson [Language warning], whose writing I really enjoy lately.

There are three levels we’re talking about here: child, adolescent, and adult. We want to get to adult. Most people hang out in between child and adolescent. But we all want to get to adult. Well, we SHOULD all want to get to adult.

When you are a kid, you’re learning about how the world works, it’s all about finding pleasure and avoiding pain. A kids brain is constantly collecting information on what feels good and what feels bad.

This is why when my son Jack was first starting to play too rough on the couch, he’d fall backward without looking, one time he got too close to the edge and I needed to give him a controlled fall to the floor to teach him, “don’t do that anymore.” He was too little to hear what I was saying, he needed to feel it. Kids need to feel what feels good and feels bad.

Then, we get into the adolescent phase, things become more transactional. Adolescents start to learn that there are consequences. Hopefully, they learn there are consequences. This is why parents who don’t institute consequences are crippling their kids. They’ll say “I want this candy bar now, but if I steal it my parents will be mad, and that’s not good. So I won’t steal the candy bar.”

This is higher level thinking than just the child. The child is all about now! The immediate pleasure of the moment drives their actions. The adolescent is beginning to form principles, “stealing is wrong” but the principles are still acted out based on seeking pleasure or avoiding pain.

“My teacher will punish me if I skip class, so I won’t.” This is good. This is growth, but it’s not the end. There’s still a major problem in this approach to life: everything is seen as a trade off:

From Mark Manson, “I will do what my boss says so I can get money. I’ll call my mother so I don’t get yelled at. I will do my homework so I don’t screw up my future. I will lie and pretend to be nice so I don’t have to deal with conflict.”

Nothing is done for its own sake. Everything is a calculated trade-off, usually made out of fear of the negative consequences.

So what makes an adult? Manson: “The adult does what is right for the simple reason that it is right. End of discussion.”

So a child in the checkout aisle says, “I want that candy bar now, I’ll steal it from the grocery store.”
Boom. Done. That’s the order of things for a child.

An adolescent says, “I want this candy bar now, but If I steal it, Dad and Mom will be mad…so I won’t steal it.”

An adult says “stealing is wrong.”


End of discussion.

An adult lives in the world of principles. Full stop. Whether it brings pain or pleasure, it doesn’t matter. It’s all entirely, and solely about principles. Right and wrong. End of story.

An adolescent will say they value honesty but will tell white lies or exaggerate the truth if it benefits him. So he doesn’t really value honesty. He only does when and if it helps him seek pleasure or avoid pain.

An adolescent will tell a girl he loves her, but really, it’s just to get pleasure in the end. Selfish pressure, usually sex.

Adolescents will say they’re generous, and they love to give gifts, but there’s always an expectation of getting something in return. So the person’s generous, but only where it makes them feel pleasure.

An adult is honest, loves, and is generous, for its own sake. An adult will do these things, be honest, love, and be generous, all the time, expecting nothing in return. Ever. An adult does these things even if it brings pain. Even if it’s harder. Doesn’t matter. It’s the right thing to do. End of story.

Where are we in society today? A lot of people are children: “do what feels good now. All the time. Every time. Without question, without thought to anyone else including myself and my future, it feels good, I do it.”

That’s a child.

Most people are adolescents, “I do the right thing if it benefits me.”

This is where I am most of the time, too. I’ll call someone back…if I think it benefits me. I’ll help someone out…if I think I can get something in return. I’ll donate money…if in the end it could benefit me. I’ll meet with someone…if they can help me.

I have to really work on getting out of this selfish transactional way of seeing people. It’s a really bad place to be.

There are very few adults. People who do the right thing for its own sake.

If you’re in a moral conundrum, good! It means you’re thinking about what the right thing to do is, that’s great, you’re no longer a child.

When you start debating the pros and cons of an action though based on how it benefits or hurts you, you’re an adolescent. Stop doing that. Be an adult. Do the right thing.

You know what the right hting to do is. Most of this debate is just you trying to rationalize or justify doing the wrong thing. Don’t do that. Do the right thing. You can do it.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the Earth itself and all of its contents rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose, never that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, is it best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you. Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise, as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual.”

That’s a poetic way of saying, “do the right thing for its own sake.”

No matter what.




I want to talk about failure.

I came across this video from the founder of Spanx, before you laugh, she’s worth over $1 billion. I’m not. So I feel like I should listen to her.

I love that idea, “Failure for me is not trying”!

If you don’t want to do something because you’re afraid of failing, you ARE failing.

Nothing is worse than not trying.

Jeff Bezos, had a great, safe job at a software company. He had the idea for an online bookstore. Should he quit his job and take the risk? He did the math in his head: in 50 years, where will I have the most regret? If I try this online bookstore and fail or if I don’t even try it at all? He decided he’ll have more regret if he didn’t try at all.

Gold Medalist figure skater Scott Hamilton has calculated that he’s fallen 41,600 times on the ice. “The greatest ingredient in a joyful and productive life is failure

It’s like the old Nike commercial with Michael Jordan,

“I’ve missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

This is the Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles:

One of Jordan Peterson’s rules for life is “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. A line that we’ve used a lot is “Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.” That’s what people put on social media. But I like Peterson’s line better.

One last quick piece of advice if you are stuck with some aspect of your life, please read the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

This book finally motivated me to buckle down and write my book. It’s all about The Resistance. This is the force that’s keeping you from doing the things you know you should do.

We think Th Resistance is an external force. We blame a million other things and people for why we’re not doing the thing we want to do: we blame our spouse, our job, our boss, the economy, but The Resistance is an enemy within. It’s self-generated and self-perpetuated. And it is programmed to do one thing: prevent you from doing your work.

You have to kill it.

You are more than your resistance, you are more powerful than the resistance, and what you are going to create is better than the resistance. Fail. Fail fast and fail forward. Learn from your failures, and celebrate them!

That’s on an individual level.  I want to talk about it societally as well. We have to keep our society as one that celebrates risk and has the proper perspective on failure.

Nassim Taleb in the book Antifragile [CLICK HERE for a great analysis of the man theme of the book] makes the point that American kids have the worse test scores, but we have the strongest economy and more innovation and entrepreneurs. Why? Why doesn’t Japan, who is always at the top of the education test score rankings, have a stronger economy?

One reason is culture.

Our culture has been one that celebrates risk. People try new things and start new businesses and invent new products. But in Japan, if you risk and fail, it brings great shame on you and your family. So people are encouraged to not risk and not try new things.

There is a Jeff Bezos in Japan, with a great idea and the ability to do it, but his culture says, “dont risk.” So he doesn’t, and the Japanese version of Amazon, or whatever it is, doesn’t happen.

I fear our culture is becoming more risk averse.

I look forward, to be like Sara Blakely’s dad; to celebrate failures around the dinner table with my son because it means he’s taking risks. It means my son is growing. It means my son is becoming the fullest version of himself.

We talked about this on the radio the other day. A listener called in and shared a quote his boss has on the wall of their engineering company: Mario Andretti “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”

So get out of your comfort zone. Get out and fail!

Two questions for you: What’s a major failure in your life you’ve made and how has it made you a stronger person. Second question, what’s something you’ve always been scared to do, and maybe now you want to publicly commit to? Share it in the comments and we’ll encourage you!

The IMPOSSIBLE Edison Test

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This is the test Thomas Edison gave to potential employees. It’s 146 questions. You have to get 90%. Compare that to current Standardized tests where 55 is considered passing. When I was a HS junior the passing grade was 65. My senior year, they lowered it to 55. Shockingly, our school got so much “smarter” that year.

I have the entire test below. I got maybe 3 right. To be honest, I didn’t know the first 5 and gave up and scrolled quickly through. I knew 1 or 2 and thought maybe I would guess another one right. I’m not proud of this.

But the questions do seem a bit random.

But this was on purpose. He wanted employees with good memories.

This is a Scientific American magazine article in 1921,

If I had a man in my employ who was right only half the time, or a little more than half the time, he would last just long enough for me to find him out, and that would not take very long. But our schools consistently and persistently give passing grades to students who are right above 60% fo the time. I consider this a disgraceful procedure. If they can’t teach the boys and girls to be right more consistently than that it is about time they admitted their failure and gave up the effort to teach them at all. In the good old days when a student had to be right practically all the time or take a caning and occupy a position of general disgrace, the school and the college produced far better results. I consider that a man who makes a grade of 50 on one of my tests has scored da total failure…

A man who has not got 90% of these facts at his command is deficient either in memory, as discussed already, or in the power of acquiring facts, as I shall presently make clear. And either deficiency is fatal for my purposes.”
We talk a lot on the radio about raising kids to maintain their natural curiosity. Kids growing up LOVE to learn about the world, but schools KILL curiosity in kids around 3rd grade.
This is Thomas Edison, “Somewhere between the ages of 11 and 15, the average child begins to suffer from this atrophy, this paralysis of curiosity, this suspension of the power to observe. The trouble I should judge to lie with the schools…it is clear to me that our schools and colleges are turning out men who not merely have failed to learn, but have been robbed of the capacity to learn.

I think of Frederick Douglass. He was born a slave and later sold to someone in Baltimore. He got his first taste of reading from his master’s wife. His master put a stop to that. But the seed was planted. Young Frederick became obsessed. When he would go on an errand he would bring pieces of bread and meet up with the poorest little kids in the city who were desperate for food. He traded with them. In his words, he would trade them bread for “that more valuable bread of knowledge.”

The obsession he had with learning to read – with learning about the world – our kids are all born with that, but the modern education system kills it.
This TED Talk is a must watch on this issue:

But back to Edison’s point specifically, I think it’s important that we memorize things. I want to learn to memorize again. It’s a part of my brain that has atrophies over the years. For all of human history, men memorized everything. My challenge is to memorize a poem. I’m going to start with Rudyard’s Kipling’s IF.

Then Invictus. Whatever you want, it doesn’t matter. Memorize the Declaration of Independence with your kids.

Let’s first agree that memorizing is a long lost art and we as humans should improve this muscle.

What poem will you start with? How can you do this with your kids? I’m excited to hear your memorizing goals. I’ll join you!