For the first time in my adult life, I was broke, jobless, and out of options. Holding back a few tears, I phoned a former mentor, hoping he could supply a miracle or two.
When I arrived at my mentor’s office, he invited me to sit. Ashamed of my circumstances, I said nothing, but he forced me to vomit out the truth about my fledgling business.
My one shot at entrepreneurship had collapsed, but I refused to recognize it’s death, clinging to the delusion that I could resurrect it. …
Most of us like to think we’re street smart. We consider ourselves adept at sniffing out BS, skilled at clawing our way out of challenging problems, and savvy thanks to a fine-tuned intuition.
In my years as a salesperson and copywriter, I was fortunate enough to observe mentors schooled in the fineries of persuasion. Watching them work, it became clear. Most people aren’t street-smart, even the book-smart people who get straight A’s in school. They were easily fooled and blinded to obvious inconsistencies.
Street-smarts has nothing to do with your ability to score well on a test. It’s a different kind of intelligence, one that starts with awareness of what my mentor called primal flaws — irrational thinking and cognitive biases, vestiges from evolutionary development that no longer serve us in the modern world. …
You can tell a lot about someone after a few conversations. Are they inconsiderate, insecure, obnoxiously competitive, self-centered, overly sensitive, or just plain mean?
If they’re any of the above, they’ll drop subtle hints — the kind where you look back and think, “Oh, how did I not see it from the beginning? The signs were there.”
The warnings register as flickers of unease. You can sense something off, but you can’t quite pinpoint it, so you brush it aside. …
Have you heard the theory about the couch potato gene? In short, if you’re lazy, like me, it’s not your fault. You were born that way, so don’t feel guilty if you lean towards sloth.
Today, we frown upon laziness, but some studies suggest it yielded evolutionary advantages. Before the inventions of housing, farming, and medicine, people who conserved resources survived times of scarcity and banked enough energy reserves to outrun predators.
Times have changed since we scavaged for food and lived in fear of wild animals. Laziness hinders our ability to thrive in the modern world, except for one notable exception. …
When my long-distance girlfriend dropped me off at the airport, I sensed it would be the last time we saw each other. We had been dating only five months and had depleted our vacation days, air miles, and cash.
Neither of us said much during that car ride. After an amazing four days together, we sensed the finality of our situation. Still, I loved her. I had to make a move. “Turn the car around. I’m not going home. Let’s make a life here.”
That’s what I wanted to say.
Instead, we kissed goodbye like couples do when one of them rushes off on a business trip for a few days. On the plane home, my seatmate chatted me up, and we got to talking. It was this conversation that saved our relationship. …
If you’ve ever watched a jazz improvisation jam session, then you’ve witnessed one of the most inspiring yet confounding examples of creativity. Starting with a single note, they play off each other, responding instantaneously, creating beauty where none existed.
The musicians who master this skill not only create something from nothing, but they do it with little planning. Their techniques might seem music-specific, but you can apply them to any domain.
Fourteen-time Grammy winner Herbie Hancock best exemplifies these practices. Whether he’s the greatest living jazz pianist is a matter of opinion, but nobody doubts his impressive talent.
His flair for creativity started during his early days as a performer. That’s when an older musician gave him advice about what to do after playing the wrong chord. …
The most useful life principles don’t come from esteemed ancient philosophers like Seneca or Aristotle. Nor do they come from eccentric billionaires who litter their memoirs with pedantic advice, indecipherable to anyone outside their inner circle.
Their wisdom isn’t faulty, but if it requires serious study to understand it, you’ll gain little utility from it. Most of us lack the time and resources to learn and incorporate their teachings into everyday life.
The most useful, effective, and pragmatic wisdom comes in the form of common sense. Ralph Waldo Emerson defines it this way:
Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes —…
The moment had been building since the beginning of puberty. I had never been cool enough, chatty enough, or athletic enough. But at least a handful of women found me sort of cute. That changed in September of 1992.
Three days from the start of classes, I prepared myself for a night out at one of the cool bars — the kind where you really had to be 21 years-old. As I looked in the mirror and readied myself, my body deflated. The day had come where I couldn’t hide it anymore.
My hair was thinning, and no combination of chemicals, styling, or shenanigans would cover it up. I spent another hour trying to get it right, lathering my hair with gel, sculpting in a way that would put Michelangelo to shame. …
In 1727, a young Benjamin Franklin worked for Samuel Keimer, a struggling printer who had won a contract to print money for the state of New Jersey.
After a quarrel, Franklin quit, putting Keimer in a bind. Only Franklin possessed the unique skills to pull off the job, making him indispensable to the business's success. Keimer realized this and rehired Franklin.
Franklin’s reputation soared, and his success led to the eventual taking over the Pennsylvania Gazette as well as introductions to the powerful people of Philadelphia who would soon shape his political and financial fortunes.
Had Franklin merely helped Keimer or made himself useful around the printing floor, he might never have become a famous historical figure. He was indispensable, and people took notice. His story offers us a vital lesson. …