Weston's Blog

by Weston Ludeke

The Power of Non-Zero Days

From r/GetMotivated

I’ve done it.  I’ve extended my Duolingo streak to over 100 consecutive days!  114 and counting as of today.  It wasn’t too long ago I blogged about crossing the 50 day threshold.  As I wrote in that post I inadvertently got a streak going and soon the number kept climbing and I didn’t want to break the streak.   Over the past 100+ days of practicing my Spanish I’ve learned far more about the language than I ever thought was possible.  I was always procrastinating about learning the language and now I’ve got the confidence that comes with progress.

Small Gains and Consistency

I used to think to myself that I didn’t have the time to learn another language or to accomplish all of the other things I wanted to.  I kept procrastinating, using excuses that I was too tired at the end of the day, the time wasn’t right, and on and on.  What finally clicked for me with Duolingo is that the app continues your streak by only completing one lesson.  That one lesson typically takes me about ten minutes to complete.  Instead of trying to fit in an hour or more of time into my day, all I needed to keep the streak going was to simply complete a minimum of one lesson per day.  Ten minutes out of even the busiest schedules is nothing!  I started my streak at the beginning of November last year and kept it going through travelling for Thanksgiving, family visiting during Christmas, New Years, and plenty of nights where I was exhausted from work and/or went to hung out with friends.  In all of these instances I’ve kept the streak going and constantly surprise myself in how much I’ve learned.

Stumbling upon this Duolingo streak has led to a dramatic world-changing view for myself and how I view self-improvement, mastery, and the art of learning anything.  I realized that small incremental improvements every single day can lead to huge improvements in the long run.  I soon started applying this idea to other areas of my life:  I’m now reading many more books than I’ve ever read in my life.  Even at the pace of 10 pages per day, one could complete a 300 page book in a month.  That’s twelve books per year!  Not a huge amount for true bookworms, but much more than I’d assume the average person reads.  Want to read more than that?  Just bump it up to a few more pages per day!

In addition to doing my Spanish every day and reading more, I’ve started consistently working out again and cooking most of my meals at home while trying to avoid eating out.  Even if I only spend thirty minutes lifting weights, it’s still more than I would’ve accomplished than by doing nothing.  By doing these things daily, even in small increments, I’m positioning myself for success in the long run.  [Note:  No, I don't workout every single day. I take rest days for proper recovery.]

The Non-Zero Day

A few weeks after my streak got started I stumbled upon this Reddit comment in the GetDisciplined subreddit and it articulated some of these early thoughts that were kicking around in my head.  The idea a redditor named Ryans01 spoke of was the power of the Non-Zero Day.  Every day counts, even if you only write a few sentences in that novel you’re trying to write, do ten push-ups, or run one mile… you’re still putting yourself on the path towards success.  The key here is do something everyday towards your goal, no matter how small.  Doing a little something everyday will get you closer to your goals.  It’s much easier than you think.

Need more proof?  Read this awesome Lifehacker article about how comedian Jerry Seinfeld says to form a habit.  He says to get a calendar and mark an “X” on each day you do that one thing you’re wanting to do… like an “X” for each day he wrote a new joke.  Do this every day for several days and you’ll soon have a long enough “X” marks in a row on your calendar that you won’t want to break the chain.

Get Started!

Get started, what are you waiting for?!?!  Remember the key here is: small incremental improvements every day will lead to amazing long-term results!  Here’s that Reddit post again… seriously read that shit!

Written by Weston

February 24, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Posted in My Life

The Road Is Life

Hard to believe it’s already February 2014.  The dust of 2013 has finally settled a bit and I thought it’d be neat to write out the story of when my wife and I moved from California back to Houston May of last year.  We took lots of photos but never actually took the time to tell the story of our move back home.  What a journey it was!

Houston by Flickr user araza123 under a Creative Commons license.

A Change of Pace

I spent the first seven years of my life in many cities in and around the Dallas metroplex before moving up to Springfield, Missouri in the heart of the Ozarks.  I grew up in Springfield and lived there for the next eleven years until I finished high school.  Throughout those eleven years I would spend many holidays back visiting family in Dallas and on my grandparents farm north of Wichita Falls.  I always enjoyed coming back to visit Texas and felt like I was missing something in my life by not being there.

Springfield was an okay place to grow up but I always had much bigger ambitions… I wanted to see the world and experience living in a big city again. After finishing high school I had a scholarship for a free two years at the local community college or I could’ve stayed home and gone to Missouri State University, but I decided I needed a change of pace.  By my later years in high school my father was working in Dallas again (commuting back to Springfield on the weekends) and was able to re-establish residency in the state of Texas.  Even though I hadn’t ever step foot in Houston (save for maybe a few times as an infant), the University of Houston caught my eye as an affordable state school in a large city where I could get in-state tuition.  Hell, UH didn’t even force me to include an essay with my application!  I applied and was soon accepted into UH…  I was on my way down to H-Town!

The First Seven

I started at UH in Fall 2004 and graduated in December 2008.  My college years were an amazing time of learning, self-discovery, re-invention.  It was an interesting time learning a how to live in a completely urban environment and I spent lots of time exploring the city and made friends with people I’ll be friends with for a very long time to come.  It was an excellent time.

That December I graduated from college and worked a few gigs before getting an awesome job at a software company late in 2009.  The software sales gig was excellent and had amazing benefits and pay, but four months into my tenure there the company announced a round of layoffs… including half of the salespeople in our office. Damnit!  Just as I finally thought I had a job to love!  Even though I still had a job, it made for a depressing time for everyone left in the office… we all knew we’d eventually be next to be laid-off.  I decided to keep my head down over the next year and work my ass off at the job while still looking for another job on the side.  I started reading lots of articles on TechCrunch and the other tech blogs and soon got the bug to move to Silicon Valley and work in startup land.  I was inspired by everything going on in the Valley.  A year after the layoffs happened I quit my job at the software company and my fiancé and I headed west towards the Valley.

California Love

After a month of being in Silicon Valley, I soon hustled my way into a job at a small startup in the ad tech industry.  This was June of 2011.  I wrote about my experience hustling my way into that job here.  I was a fun time living in California and my wife and I spent lots of time exploring the area.  Some of our favorite places were Pescadero, Big Sur, Big Basin State Park, Santa Cruz, and Boulder Creek just to name a few.  It was an  amazing time being so close to the state parks and the ocean.  My fiancé and I got married in May of 2012 and got to spend some quiet time together as newlyweds.  It was a fun time!

view of the Burlingame CalTrain station across from the office where I worked

Going Home Again

On January 7th, 2013, after a nice two week Christmas break back in Houston visiting friends and family, I walked into work like any normal day only to be fired before the day was out.  The startup I was working at had just raised a new round of funding two months before and the leadership team felt my skills were no longer needed for what they were trying to accompish.  After my time at the startup ended, I spent the next few months applying to jobs in both the Bay Area and in New York.  Soon it was almost May and we were coming up near the end of our apartment lease in Mountain View and I still didn’t have a job.  After increasing from $1,500 a month to $1,800 for our one bedroom, our apartment complex wanted over $2,000 per month to renew.  After weighing many different options, we decided to head back to Houston.

When we moved to Mountain View in 2011 we left Houston on good terms.  My wife and I had loved the years we spent in the bayou city… she was also a transplant, hailing from Mexico.  We knew we’d have no problem eventually moving back, so when we decided to leave Mountain View due to the cost of living we had no hesitation about making the decision.  We still have both sets of parents as well as many friends back in Houston and the cost of living isn’t quite as insane as the Bay Area.  We had a fun two years in Cali but Houston was our home.

We shipped nearly a dozen boxes of stuff back to Houston, loaded up my Camry with as much as it would hold, and either sold or got rid of the rest.  Since we didn’t have any specific plans to be back right away, we decided to take our time seeing some sights along the way.  Since I didn’t have a job lined up, we had no specific plans about getting a new apartment back in Houston… our tentative plan was to split our time between both sets of parents while I looked for work.

On The Road

By the time we got the last of our boxes mailed home and hit the road out of Mountain View it was 2pm on Wednesday, May 14th.  We had taken I-10 two years earlier when we moved West so this time we decided to take the old Route 66 East heading back to Texas.. which is now mostly I-40.  Time to Get Your Kicks On Route 66!

Our first stop along the way was Las Vegas.  Since we had spent so much time over the past few weeks preparing to move, we decided to have a full day in Vegas doing nothing… no driving, no moving, just wandering around and seeing the sights.

After spending a day wandering around Vegas we hit the road again East.  Next up we came upon the Hoover Dam.  I didn’t care enough about the Dam to wander around too much but we did get a few photos.  Wait a minute… let me back up a second.  Did I mention we got lost on some dirt road trying to find the dam?  We thought we had some shortcut to get to the dam but the signs we a bit confusing… we ended up on this incredibly bumpy dirt road trying to navigate our way around to the dam.  My poor Camry wasn’t exactly built for off roading.. but for whatever reason we kept going and ended up driving on the dirt road until it ended near something called Painter’s Cove at another end of Lake Mead.  Of course we could’ve turned around, but then we wouldn’t have gotten these awesome photos!  …we weren’t completely nuts… there were people at the end canoeing in the lake.  Plus, how often we get get a view like this?!?

We finally got back to the interstate and drove around the Hoover Dam for a bit and snapped a few photos.  But like I said, we didn’t care enough about the Dam to walk around too much. Still, we were able to snap some awesome photos!

Driving along through the Arizona desert was beautiful!  We took I-40 through the state until we got to a neat little town called Williams about an hour south of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.  Part of I-40 mirrors the historic Route 66 which was one of the first highways crossing a huge portion of the country, stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles.  When we arrived in Williams we had to stop and snap some photos.  It was very picturesque and you could tell the locals gave homage to their Route 66 history.

After walking around Williams a bit we headed North on 64 towards the Grand Canyon!  It was starting to get late in the afternoon but we figured we had a few hours of sunlight left to see a the Canyon for a little while until it got dark.  We made it to the Canyon and were able to walk around for about an hour before nightfall.  It was $25 to enter the park so we decided, at that price, we would have to come back and see the Canyon some more in the morning.  It was an excellent decision!

The hotels close to the Canyon were super expensive so we drove the hour back to Williams to stay in a cheaper location.  We woke up the next morning at 5am to make the hour drive back to the Canyon to have plenty of time to wander around before we needed to hit the road again.  It was perfect timing because by the time we got there it was around 6:30-7am and the we got to watch the sun rise.  Also, the park was very empty at that hour so we got some quiet time to wander around at that hour before the hordes of people and tour buses arrived.  The site of the Canyon is life-changing and I’m so glad we stopped!

After the Grand Canyon we hit the road East and continued  our journey towards Houston.  We did manage to stop in the small town of Winslow, Arizona to snap a few photos of this neat place:

Then we continued East into New Mexico.  Gaby and I have been huge fans of Breaking Bad since the show first aired, so we had to make a few stops while driving through Albuquerque to see some of the places used in the show.

A few more hours along past Albuquerque and we we were finally back in Texas!  Of course we were still about 600 miles to Houston once we got to Amarillo, but it still felt good being back in our home state.  Once we hit Amarillo we swung over to the Cadillac Ranch to snap some photos.  The Cadillac Ranch was built (if my memory serves me correctly) in the seventies and has these cars sticking out of the ground in the middle of this cow pasture.  I mean, you’re literately walking through the Texas Panhandle dust and cow shit until you get to these Cadillacs sticking out of the ground. Then, you can spray paint the cars and tag them with whatever you’d like.

After doin’ some spray painting, I knew we needed to hit up the Big Texan Steak Ranch.  This was the first time in our lives we’d been in Amarillo so we had to do the most ridiculous, over-the-top Texan thing imaginable.  So, of course we go to a place where these morons try to eat a 72 oz. steak (and a shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, & dinner roll) in under an hour to get their meal for free (if they fail, they owe $72).  It was a hoot!

Meant To Be?

After Amarillo we stopped in Burkburnett, Texas visiting with my grandma for a few hours, we hit the road towards Houston but got stuck in a nasty hailstorm in Wichita Falls so we switched directions and went West for a bit before continuing South so we could go around the storm.  More storms were developing in the area around us so we changed plans and decided to stop in and stay with my dad in Bridgeport, Texas for the night… which is a few hours from Ft. Worth.  My dad had been working in Bridgeport for three years helping save a small hospital in the town from having to close down and his tenure as administrator was coming to an end.  He was soon going to be heading back to Houston full-time, just like we were.

My dad had been staying in an apartment in Bridgeport that was payed for by his employer; the company had even payed for the furniture in the apartment.  He had thought the furniture was going to be kept by his employer but at the last minute the new CEO decided he didn’t want to fool with an apartment full of furniture; he told my dad he could keep everything.  My parents don’t need any additional furniture in their house in Houston so my dad said Gaby and I could come grab everything and use it ourselves.

On the day we were moving out of our apartment in Mountain View a week earlier, after we had sold all of our furniture and were boxing the last of our stuff, Gaby called the daughter of our old landlord back in Houston to wish her a happy birthday.  Gaby had tutored her and her brother in Spanish so they developed a close friendship.  Gaby mentioned that we were moving back to Houston and the landlord’s daughter told us that our old apartment was currently available.  The news hit us like a ton of bricks.  We hadn’t even considered that it would be a possibility to moved into our old apartment…. we figured we’d live between our parent’s homes for a few months while I looked for work and then eventually find a place to live.  So, this news combined with the news a week later that my dad’s soon-to-be ex-employer was letting us take the furniture out of the apartment was incredible news.  It almost seems like our journey back home to Houston was planned all along by some higher power.  ;-)

Epilogue

We made it back to Houston and eventually moved into our old apartment in Houston’s east end, paying the same rate we had when we left two years earlier.  Eventually I would find an awesome job and we would pick up right where we left off with our old friends in the city we always loved.

Our two years spent living in California was an incredible time and we got to spend a year together as newlyweds away from everyone.  Now we’re back in Houston and we try to spend time with either my parents or Gaby’s parents each weekend.  We appreciate the time in the city we love and being surrounded by family.

I guess the lesson of this story is:  Don’t let any setbacks keep you down.  I could’ve been bitter or depressed about losing my job at the startup or at not being able to find more work in the Bay Area, but I didn’t.  We simply kept our options open and embraced the change and the road ahead.  You might not know what tomorrow brings or what lies ahead on the open road… but stay positive and things will find a way to work themselves out.

Thanks for reading!

Written by Weston

February 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Posted in My Life

50 Consecutive Days of Duolingo

One of my goals for the past several years has been to learn Spanish.  I’ve tried many different methods to learn the language and hadn’t found a method or program worth sticking with.  Stuff like Rosetta Stone is too tedious and boring, in spite of the crazy amounts of hype.

A few months back I started playing around with the Duolingo iPad app.  Duolingo is a free program that uses spaced repetition to help users memorize words and better learn a foreign language.  To my pleasant surprise, I got hooked using the app and really enjoyed their simple interface and didn’t find learning with their program boring at all.

Duolingo has a counter on the program so you can keep track of how many consecutive days you’ve used the program.  At first I didn’t really pay much attention to my consecutive day streak.  I would use the program for a little bit for two or three days and then take a day off.  I didn’t really have much of a plan.  Then one week two months ago my streak got to 8 days, then 10, and then I thought to myself, “Man, I can’t stop this streak now!”  Soon enough I kept my streak going and now (as of yesterday) I hit the 50 consecutive day mark.  Pretty friggin’ awesome if you ask me.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you did something for 10 straight days.  Or twenty.  Or fifty.  Sure, you would probably completely suck (like me) when you’re starting out, but eventually you’d start to suck a little bit less.  Each day you’d progressively be improving and learning a new skill.  It doesn’t even need to be a new language, it could be cooking, computer programming, or even playing a musical instrument.  The possibilities are endless.

The biggest thing to remember is a program like Duolingo can help you with your learning, but ultimately the motivation has to come from within yourself.  The consecutive day streak means nothing without the desire to accomplish learning that new skill.  The big picture is that after 50 consecutive days I’m now picking up more and more Spanish words in conversation and feel more confident that eventually I’ll know enough to be fluent.  It’s not easy, but by doing a little bit of work every day I know I can get there.

BAM!  Now get off your ass and get to work!

Duolingo - 50 Days

Written by Weston

December 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Posted in Learning

Digg Reader is pretty good

After Google Reader finally about to shutdown, I was in a state of panic because I had procrastinated on finding a replacement.  I played around with The Old Reader, HiveMinded, Feedly, and some others.

I was intrigued to find out that Digg was building their own RSS reader.  Digg was purchased in 2012 by Betaworks who immediately made a slick new interface, which was soon filled with interesting new content.

A few months later in April 2013, Betaworks then purchased one of my favorite productivity tools on the internet, Instapaper.  I’ve long been an Instapaper junky: Whenever I come across an interesting article that I want to save for later, I just Instapaper-it and read it during my leisure time.  The Instapaper app on my iPad is a Godsend, allowing me to catch up on reading all of the interesting articles I’ve saved but haven’t had a chance to read yet.

Once Digg Reader launched and I got a chance to play around, I was pleasantly surprised:  Betaworks included an Instapaper button inside of Digg Reader for every story (see the above image).  Woah!  Now, I can scroll through my Digg Reader and save articles to my Instapaper to read later.

Conclusion

Digg Reader is a fairly decent replacement for the recently departed Google Reader.  The Instapaper tie-in makes it even more useful.  :-)

Written by Weston

August 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm

A Startup Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

A meme that frequently pops up on HackerNews and various other tech blogs is a debate on whether working crazy hours per week (60-80+) is better or working less hours more efficiently is better. When you’re doing a startup, the amount of work needed to get done and the level of pressure on your shoulders is huge and conventional thinking goes out the window. You can’t simply think in terms of day-to-day or week-to-week and expect to survive.

The way I work is by having specific goals: 3 months out, 6 months out, and 12 months out. By having goals of where I want our startup to be I can then work backwards and fill in the gaps. My internal compass tells me if we’re on track to hit our goals and if I need to hustle extra hard to catch up or if I can ease up a bit in certain areas to focus on other things. It takes constant tweaking and is never 100% perfect, but it should help you stay on the right path.

Condition For The Long Haul

By having long-term goals, I’m able to refine my daily routine to put me on the track towards success. Many people talk about how they’re able to pull all-nighters and work insane hours at their startup. Just like college students quickly find out, this type of mentality isn’t sustainable long-term. It’s best to think of a startup as something you’ll be doing for five, possibly ten, years. You can’t keep pulling all-nighters, sleeping under your desk, not exercising, and eating like shit and expect to be a top performer.

I’ve found that by exercising five-six days per week, eating healthy, and making sure I sleep enough, I’m able to be more focused and get a lot more work done during the day. Not to mention the endorphins keep me more positive and less stressed out than when I’m not lifting.

I also keep my eating, exercising, and sleeping rigorously scheduled so I can stay focused on maximizing my work day… verses trying to remember to eat or fit in a workout. People may try to give you shit for leaving work at a specific time to hit the gym each day, but just ignore them. The five-six hours you’re spending each week at the gym is to help make you far more productive during the 40-50 hours (or more) that you’re working the rest of the week.

Bonus:  If you don’t have time to cook during the week, prepare your food for the week on Sundays.

Don’t Forget Cheat Days!

Bodybuilders are instructed to eat every throughout the week clean (healthy), while still maintaining one “cheat meal” or “cheat day” per week when they eat junk food. They have one day of pizza and a few beers so the rest of the week they can maintain completely focused on their goals while not going crazy at the monotony of their clean diets.

I’d recommend the same for startup people as well:  Have one day per week, or at least a few hours, where you don’t do anything work related and simply veg out and watch a movie or some tv.  This mental recreation should help keep your mind rested for the rest of the week.

Bonus:  In addition to a cheat day, I don’t take my phone into the gym with me so my mind can completely clear of the days’ tasks.  Your mountain of email will still be there when you leave the gym, I promise.

In Conclusion:

Ignore the people who tell you what they do each week: Productivity during your working hours is far more important than the number of hours you work. Have long-term goals and fill in your schedule and plans from there. Also, by thinking of a startup as a marathon and not a sprint, you’ll start treating your body the same way which should keep you focused for the long haul of success.

Now, here’s some crazy ass pics of The Rock’s infamous Cheat Days…. this after he ate clean for 100 days…

Holy mother of Pearl…

Written by Weston

July 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Combine Google Reader, News, and +

I’m a bit sad that Google announced this week that they’re shutting down Google Reader.  I read Reader on the web when taking work breaks, on my cell when I have downtime on the train, and on my iPad when I want to relax and get caught up with the world.

Discovery is the key

I think the big problem with Reader and it’s declining use has been lack of Discovery.  One of the things people who use Twitter like is they can easily search topics and hashtags to find new content.

Reader is very good at keeping my feeds organized, but these are just the websites I already know about.  What if the smart algorithms at Google could study a users subscriptions and reading habits on Google News and combine them to give the user a more personalized experience?  They could see I’m subscribed to TechCrunch and Mashable and suggest an article on VentureBeat that has lots of views and comments.  This would be very valuable.

Then, they could throw in more social features like making it easy to Tweet, Like, and + the articles across the web.  Yes, I think sharing News and Reader articles should be social network agnostic… it would generate more interest.

Also, why not allow comments under each article inside of Reader and News?  Google could build it’s own comment system…. more like Reddit with a +/- system would be a lot better then the horrible Facebook comment system (a rant for another day).

The Future of News

I believe the future of news is providing a personalized newspaper to each individual.  The newspaper would be smart enough the know my previous reading habits and subscriptions to suggest new content for me to consume.

Companies like Outbrain and Taboola do stuff similar to this already, but they only provide recommendations directly on the website where an article is being read.  Google could build it’s Reader/News/+ hybrid to be a standalone place where each user could get content just for them.

 

Like this post?  Feel free to add me on LinkedIn and tell me you found me via this article.  :-)

Written by Weston

March 17, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Tech & Startups

Should Texas A&M Move to the SEC? (A look back)

When Texas A&M bolted from the Big12 to the SEC, it was quit a shock for college sports fans everywhere.  Many people questioned whether A&M would succeed in the SEC.  Here’s what I wrote at the time on Quora (note that this was written on Aug. 16th, 2011, before the 2012 football season was played).

Yes and no, but probably mostly yes (that is, if they can pull it off…)

Yes

1) From my understanding the SEC schools split their revenue equally (http://www.al.com/sports/index.s…).  Whereas the Big12 doesn’t… Texas takes a disproportionate piece of the pie (http://es.pn/o5aQqq) which will only grow now that Texas has it’s own television network, something that isn’t allow in most other conferences.

2) Also, it may lead to better recruits coming to A&M in the future.  Face it, the SEC is a more prestigious conference than the Big 12.  The SEC has won the past 5 national championships and is able to get the best of the best recruits.

3) Texas threatened to leave for the Pac 10 a year ago, before getting a better deal in the Big12.  UT’s arrogance (justified or not) pissed off Nebraska so bad they bolted to the Big 10 at the first opportunity.  A&M is simply following suit and the rest of the Big12 may not be far behind, the conference is on thin ice.

4) Yes, A&M has rivals in Texas as John mentioned.  South Carolina vs Clemson, Georgia vs Georgia Tech, and Florida vs Florida State are huge state rivalries between schools in different conferences.  UT and A&M can still play each other from different conferences.  Also, don’t underestimate A&M vs Arkansas and A&M vs LSU becoming big time rivalry games should the Aggies get in the SEC.

No

1) Because the SEC is such a good conference, the competition is incredibly fierce, much more competitive than the Big12.  The Aggies haven’t exactly dominated the Big12; they haven’t won the conference since 1998.

2) Texas A&M has an all-time record of 53-72-4 against the current six members of the SEC West.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but it looks like I was mostly spot on. :-) A&M was extremely lucky they got rid of Mike Sherman and hired Kevin Sumlin away from my Houston Cougars.  Sumlin promptly brought Kliff Kingsbury with him from UH to coordinate the Aggie offense.  And the rest is history.

Written by Weston

March 14, 2013 at 10:35 am

Posted in Sports

The Iron

I was going to write a post right now on why I lift weights and how great it is to be good at something, but then I re-read a story by Henry Rollins called “The Iron” and I remembered how beautiful the story was and decided to share that instead.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

“The Iron” by Henry Rollins

I believe that the definition of definition is reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself.

Completely.

When I was young I had no sense of myself. All I was, was a product of all the fear and humiliation I suffered. Fear of my parents. The humiliation of teachers calling me “garbage can” and telling me I’d be mowing lawns for a living. And the very real terror of my fellow students. I was threatened and beaten up for the color of my skin and my size. I was skinny and clumsy, and when others would tease me I didn’t run home crying, wondering why.

I knew all too well. I was there to be antagonized. In sports I was laughed at. A spaz. I was pretty good at boxing but only because the rage that filled my every waking moment made me wild and unpredictable. I fought with some strange fury. The other boys thought I was crazy.

I hated myself all the time.

As stupid at it seems now, I wanted to talk like them, dress like them, carry myself with the ease of knowing that I wasn’t going to get pounded in the hallway between classes. Years passed and I learned to keep it all inside. I only talked to a few boys in my grade. Other losers. Some of them are to this day the greatest people I have ever known. Hang out with a guy who has had his head flushed down a toilet a few times, treat him with respect, and you’ll find a faithful friend forever. But even with friends, school sucked. Teachers gave me hard time. I didn’t think much of them either.

Then came Mr. Pepperman, my advisor. He was a powerfully built Vietnam veteran, and he was scary. No one ever talked out of turn in his class. Once one kid did and Mr. P. lifted him off the ground and pinned him to the blackboard. Mr. P. could see that I was in bad shape, and one Friday in October he asked me if I had ever worked out with weights. I told him no.

He told me that I was going to take some of the money that I had saved and buy a hundred-pound set of weights at Sears. As I left his office, I started to think of things I would say to him on Monday when he asked about the weights that I was not going to buy. Still, it made me feel special. My father never really got that close to caring. On Saturday I bought the weights, but I couldn’t even drag them to my mom’s car. An attendant laughed at me as he put them on a dolly.

Monday came and I was called into Mr. P.’s office after school. He said that he was going to show me how to work out. He was going to put me on a program and start hitting me in the solar plexus in the hallway when I wasn’t looking. When I could take the punch we would know that we were getting somewhere. At no time was I to look at myself in the mirror or tell anyone at school what I was doing. In the gym he showed me ten basic exercises. I paid more attention than I ever did in any of my classes. I didn’t want to blow it. I went home that night and started right in.

Weeks passed, and every once in a while Mr. P. would give me a shot and drop me in the hallway, sending my books flying. The other students didn’t know what to think. More weeks passed, and I was steadily adding new weights to the bar. I could sense the power inside my body growing. I could feel it.

Right before Christmas break I was walking to class, and from out of nowhere Mr. Pepperman appeared and gave me a shot in the chest. I laughed and kept going. He said I could look at myself now. I got home and ran to the bathroom and pulled off my shirt. I saw a body, not just the shell that housed my stomach and my heart. My biceps bulged. My chest had definition. I felt strong. It was the first time I can remember having a sense of myself. I had done something and no one could ever take it away. You couldn’t say s–t to me.

It took me years to fully appreciate the value of the lessons I have learned from the Iron. I used to think that it was my adversary, that I was trying to lift that which does not want to be lifted. I was wrong. When the Iron doesn’t want to come off the mat, it’s the kindest thing it can do for you. If it flew up and went through the ceiling, it wouldn’t teach you anything. That’s the way the Iron talks to you. It tells you that the material you work with is that which you will come to resemble. That which you work against will always work against you.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.

I used to fight the pain, but recently this became clear to me: pain is not my enemy; it is my call to greatness. But when dealing with the Iron, one must be careful to interpret the pain correctly. Most injuries involving the Iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not picking up anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the Iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.

I have never met a truly strong person who didn’t have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone’s shoulders instead of doing it yourself. When I see guys working out for cosmetic reasons, I see vanity exposing them in the worst way, as cartoon characters, billboards for imbalance and insecurity. Strength reveals itself through character. It is the difference between bouncers who get off strong-arming people and Mr.Pepperman.

Muscle mass does not always equal strength. Strength is kindness and sensitivity. Strength is understanding that your power is both physical and emotional. That it comes from the body and the mind. And the heart.

Yukio Mishima said that he could not entertain the idea of romance if he was not strong. Romance is such a strong and overwhelming passion, a weakened body cannot sustain it for long. I have some of my most romantic thoughts when I am with the Iron. Once I was in love with a woman. I thought about her the most when the pain from a workout was racing through my body.

Everything in me wanted her. So much so that sex was only a fraction of my total desire. It was the single most intense love I have ever felt, but she lived far away and I didn’t see her very often. Working out was a healthy way of dealing with the loneliness. To this day, when I work out I usually listen to ballads.

I prefer to work out alone.

It enables me to concentrate on the lessons that the Iron has for me. Learning about what you’re made of is always time well spent, and I have found no better teacher. The Iron had taught me how to live. Life is capable of driving you out of your mind. The way it all comes down these days, it’s some kind of miracle if you’re not insane. People have become separated from their bodies. They are no longer whole.

I see them move from their offices to their cars and on to their suburban homes. They stress out constantly, they lose sleep, they eat badly. And they behave badly. Their egos run wild; they become motivated by that which will eventually give them a massive stroke. They need the Iron Mind.

Through the years, I have combined meditation, action, and the Iron into a single strength. I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Time spent away from the Iron makes my mind degenerate. I wallow in a thick depression. My body shuts down my mind.

The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.

The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.

This article originally appeared in Details Magazine

Written by Weston

February 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm

How to Stay Organized Like a CEO

As a busy salesperson, one of the most important traits to have is to be organized.  Organization is often what separates a good salesperson from an excellent salesperson.

If you’re not someone who’s naturally very detailed and organized, there’s one very important thing you can do to change that.  The trick is to write everything down!  Anytime you have an idea, a task that needs to get solved at a later time, or anything else that needs to be remembered: write it down!

Two very awesome tools to manage this:

Google Tasks

When you’re in Gmail, simply click the red, dropdown arrow next to the “Gmail” logo on the upper, left-hand corner when you login.  When you click “Tasks” the Google Tasks window pops up.  You can use this add your to-do list.  Personally, I recommend that you write down everything you need to do.  The cool thing is you can access this from any computer where you can login to Gmail.

Bonus:  There’s a cool third-party app for Android that syncs with your Gmail account’s Google Tasks.  Anytime I’m away from my computer and think of something to do, I can add it to my phone.  Here’s where you can get the app:  http://goo.gl/z4Wvw.

Bonus #2:  Want to expand the size of that little Tasks window on your laptop?  Bookmark this link to access Google Tasks in canvas mode (full screen):  https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas (you need to login to Gmail to view this).

Asana

For more detailed to-do lists and project management, I prefer to use Asana.  Asana is a startup founded by ex-Facebookers and you can use it for team collaboration, but I just use it manage my work to-do list.  Best of all, it’s free for individual use or for a small team up to 30 people!

Every single thing I have to do I write down in Asana.  No more stuff written on sticky notes or on yellow legal pads on my desk… it’s all added to Asana.

Asana is pretty sweet because you can group items by “Projects” and under each Project you can have multiple items on your to-do list.  From there, you can also have detailed notes on each entry with additional context.  It’s pretty sweet!

If you need to have a note to follow-up with someone three weeks out, you can not only have a task that has “Follow-up with customer John Q. Public” but you can also have detailed info on the background of the customer and what the next steps should be.  This way when you look at the note three weeks out you know exactly what needs to happen.

Personally, I use Google Tasks for my personal stuff and Asana for anything work related.

Example:  At isocket, I would frequently send bug reports to our Ad Ops & Support team to catalog the issues I came across.  After sending a bug report, I would make a note in Asana under a Project I had just for bug reports so I could make sure nothing I submitted fell through the cracks.  A few times I caught things that hadn’t been even worked on, simply because I had logged them in Asana.

Bonus:  Here’s a cool screenshot of Asana from Crunchbase that will help you visualize the product:  http://www.crunchbase.com/assets/images/original/0016/8989/168989v2.png.

Are you a Maverick or a Superstar?

As Mark Suster once said, there’s a difference between Maverick salespeople and Superstar salespeople:

The Maverick is an incredibly good salesperson and can probably sell ice to Eskimos, they just usually aren’t the most process orientated people.  They are great at sales, just not managing sales people… which is a completely different skill set.  He uses the good analogy that a great chef isn’t always well suited to run a restaurant.

The Superstar is the rare individual who can both sell water to a whale but is also incredibly detailed and process orientated.  This person is probably suited for a VP of Sales position (at least eventually)… they can both sell and manage others.

The main difference between both of these is organization and attention to detail.

Conclusion

If you want to be a superstar salesperson (or a superstar in any role), the thing that will set you apart is your level of organization and attention to detail.  A good tip is to use tools such as Asana and Google Tasks to write everything down to remember everything and to help you get a lot of things done.

 


Like this post?  Feel free to add me on LinkedIn and tell me you found me via this post.  :-)

Written by Weston

February 14, 2013 at 8:45 am

LifeHack: Airplane Mode

My new favorite feature on my smartphone is Airplane Mode.  I got my first smartphone in April 2012 when I upgraded from an old school “dumb” phone, probably the lowest model on the totem pole to a Droid smartphone.  It took me until this summer (2012) to realize one of the greatest features of an internet-connected phone is Airplane Mode.

My lovely wife and I were about to head to Sicily for our honeymoon and Verizon didn’t have coverage in Europe.  I called and talked to a Verizon rep about what to do with my phone overseas and she told me to use Airplane Mode to still use my phone as a camera on my trip without the internet or phone service trying to connect.  Woah!

Also, I soon discovered my battery life increased about five-fold, if not more, since all of the apps on my phone weren’t connecting to the internet and dragging down my batter life.

I soon also discovered a smartphone will charge much faster in Airplane Mode because it isn’t constantly connected to the internet.  Airplane mode is also wonderful when I want to leave my phone on, but not be constantly interrupted by emails and text messages.  It helps me get work done because I am not checking it every few seconds to see if I have a new notification.

TL;DR:

  • Your phone will charge faster
  • Your battery will last longer
  • You can still use your camera overseas when you don’t have service
  • It’s a nice way to keep distractions to a minimum

Written by Weston

January 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Life Hacks

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