The Angry-Boat

When Alex Hormozi worked at a fur coat dealer as an 18-year-old, one day, an angry customer walked in and started making a scene. “Where’s John? This is ridiculous!” the lady went off. “I spent so much money on this coat, and now this button already came off!”

Just as the woman was really getting fired up, John, the owner of the business, walked out and…started raging too! “Mrs. Johnson! You are right. This is outrageous! Totally unacceptable! Who sold you this coat? We’ll get rid of them right now! Did anyone see you with the button missing? We’ll get to the bottom of this right away!”

Shocked by John’s intense reaction, the lady actually began to calm down. “Uhm, you know, it’s not that big of a deal. I mean, these things happen. I just want it fixed. Can you fix it please?” “It is a big deal!” John continued. “We’ll handle this, just one moment.” John grabs the coat, takes it out back and, within five minutes, returns it to the lady — buttons and all.

The customer is over the moon. “Oh, thank you so much John, you’re the best! Sorry I was a little over the top before.” “No no, you should be,” John reaffirms, and as he passes Alex on his way back into the warehouse, he just shrugs his shoulders in a gesture that says, “You know, customers.”

That day, Alex learned a valuable lesson: “There can only be one person in the angry-boat.”

Usually, we try to calm down angry people, Alex says, but that’s a mistake. It’s in the phrase: When we say, “Just calm down,” we downplay their emotions. Instead, we should validate them. Get angry on their behalf!

When your partner is venting about work and you begin venting with them, that gives the two of you something to agree on. Instead of getting angrier and angrier, they can nod their head and go, “Yeah, that’s what I mean!” That, ironically, has a calming effect.

What’s more, there’s only so much room for anger at any given time. The angry-boat is a one-person canoe, and as soon as you get in, the other person will have to get out. A few days ago, when my girlfriend ranted about an ongoing, frustrating situation with her employer, I ended up getting so angry at them, she started telling me to calm down. “It is what it is. Let’s just wait and see.”

This is a great lesson for managing customers and relationships alike, but for it to work, you’ll need a third party to be angry at. If your partner is angry at you, you can still get angry at yourself, but it’s hard to share this anger in a productive way. Still, it validates their feelings if you tell them: “Actually, you’re right. I would be angry at me too in this situation.”

The next time you spot someone in the angry boat, don’t duck and whisper soothing words at them from afar. Hop right in, and demonstrate that you understand how they feel. Join the scene midway, and act it out until the end. Chances are, by the time you’re on a roll, your customer, friend, or partner will already be back ashore, extending a hand for you to join them back in the land of calm — and then all you have to do is remember there’s no reason to be angry.

Emotional Needs vs. Factual Needs

Every now and then, my girlfriend and I have a discussion about some topic that, on the surface, seems to be just a to-do list item related to organizing, admin, or other everyday matters. It could be deciding on a budget for a vacation, researching for a new piece of furniture, or figuring out some paperwork.

When you look at the timing of the discussion, however, you might wonder: Why are they talking about this now? We might be thinking about a problem months in advance or debate a matter for which, at this point, we don’t really have sufficient information to make a good decision. That’s because not all of our brainstorming happens to address the surface-level, factual needs you can see. Some talks we hold mainly to manage our emotions. Of course, we rarely realize that’s what we are doing.

Have you ever felt the pressing need to resolve an issue, even though, objectively, there was no urgency just yet? Then the need was emotional, not factual — and that, too, is valid. Similarly, whenever you wonder why a partner, friend, or family member is so bent on talking about something right now, chances are, they need emotional reassurance. It will barely matter what you say nor what you agree on, as long as you agree on something that allows their emotions to subside.

It takes a lot of awareness to spot this pattern in the moment, but when you do, you are free to either move on or help your loved one reach a calmer state. The stakes drop a lot instantly because you realize the issue at hand doesn’t really matter — what matters is being there for one another.

Separating your and other people’s emotional needs from reality-based ones is a lifelong task. You won’t succeed at it in each discussion, and sometimes, tempers will raise before coming back down — but it is a most noble, unmistakably human service you’ll perform, and that is its own greatest reward.

Stretching Into Your Potential

Lesson #1 of moving: You always have more stuff than you think you do. That’s because humans stretch without realizing it.

I lived in a tiny, 24-square-meter apartment for five years, but what I carried out of that flat today was almost enough to fill an entire van. From one day to the next, I don’t think I ever felt as if anything had changed about the place — but feelings aren’t reality, and so a little here, a little there eventually adds up.

What’s one more shoe box? One more suitcase? One more book on your shelf? In the moment, nothing. But when you move out, these are the things you find in nooks and crannies — and that might force you to rent a bigger truck.

Of course, when we’re forced to pack all our belongings, we lament this dynamic. “How did I rack up so much stuff? Couldn’t have made do with less?” While requiring more physical space is annoying and often costly, our habit of stretching into our environment isn’t a bad thing in and of itself.

When you acquire things for yourself or for your home, it’s a sign you feel comfortable. You’re growing into and with the place. How could it possibly stay the same for five years? You won’t, and neither will your home.

More importantly, however, you also stretch into the various roles in your life. On your first day at work, you don’t know how to complete any of your regular tasks. Three months in, however, you’ve long started making your own tweaks to certain processes. You add a little here, a little there, and make the work your own. The same applies to new friendships, being a dad, and becoming an artist. Your character will have some basic setup, but all the nooks and crannies? You’ll have to fill those as you go, and you’ll do that as naturally as breathing — and that’s a wonderful thing.

The next time you move, try to remember what each item meant when you first put it in its place. Did it help you grow as a mother? Was it a sign that you’ve started living healthier? Appreciate the stretching, and even when it’s time to let go of some possessions, you’ll feel grateful rather than annoyed.

Some people will roll their eyes when you set up personal photographs on your desk, but while their purpose is simple, their meaning is deep: You can take up as much space as you need to be who you want to be, and you’re capable of becoming so much more than you think you can.

The Sun Won’t Hide Forever

There’s nothing like that first day of spring, when you go out in the morning, the sun is already, finally shining, and you realize: “Wow! I don’t need my jacket!” It feels like returning home after a long journey, or like getting a reward after months of seemingly fruitless effort.

With seasons, the long dark before the dawn is easy enough to accept. In the depths of winter, we know spring is coming. But what about our botched online course launch? What about the half year we spent publishing content, only for our website to still be a ghost town? Will those winters be everlasting?

There’s no explanation as pithy or mathematically precise as the geometry behind our weather intervals, but as long as you have faith, spring is always coming. It might not come as a shower of money from the skies or a sudden wave of internet traffic, but if you hold steady and keep your eyes open, sooner or later, inevitably, you’ll spot the sun.

Sometimes, the sun is the realization that someone is not the right person for you. It could be a new endeavor that pulls you in so quickly, you forget your last project completely. Or it may be a slow Sunday afternoon drip of acceptance that, yes, perhaps it’s time to try something different.

Every first day of spring is unique. The temperature throughout the day, the speed of the wind, the level of humidity — the combination of these factors is different each time. It is only the feeling that is the same. For your personal spring, equal terms apply.

You may not make money where you plan to make it, find love where you set out to find it, or achieve greatness where you hope the world will see you, but the sun won’t hide forever. Stay aware of your surroundings, and be willing to switch when the rays fall on the other side of the street. After all, when you can take off your jacket in the daylight, why stay in the shade?

Take the Stairs for Fun

I’ve always been a proponent of taking the stairs for health. After all, it’s one of the easiest, cheapest, and most accessible ways to get some exercise in. But when’s the last time you took the stairs for fun — or at least with fun?

When I was younger, I genuinely enjoyed going down the stairs. I always turned it into a game. I’d have to walk sideways, backwards, or race down as fast as I could. Somewhere, there’s still an old video of me taking an entire flight in our school in one leap.

How often do we take the stairs without actually being there? Nowadays, I’m often lost in thought, pondering some issue or planning my next to-do, and by the time I reach the next floor, it’s almost as if I’ve teleported there.

Every now and then, however, the spiral staircase at work brings me back. I’ll race down trying to match the beat of the music in my headphones or deliberately walk slowly in a marching rhythm. It’s nice. It makes me feel young again. There’s more to life than emails and appointments. And yes, taking the stairs for fun definitely counts.

Maybe for you, the stairs didn’t do it. Maybe it was touching every handrail, counting bricks in the sidewalk, or spontaneously sprinting from lamp post to lamp post. Whatever it is that you once did for its own sake, try it again. If not for, then at least with fun this time.

Life only feels serious when we make serious faces. Relax your muscles, be a bit silly, and remember that the steps that feel only necessary are still 100% part of the way.

Not Forgotten, But Forgiven

In Along With the Gods: The Last 49 Days, three afterlife guardians are tasked with bringing an old man to the underworld. Unfortunately, a household god gets in the way.

Unwilling to let old Heo Chun-sam pass without first ensuring his grandson’s future, Seongju keeps stalling. He barters with the reapers. He keeps them around so they grow fond of little Hyeon-dong too. Most brilliantly, however, he reveals their own past to them in little pieces — something they had to let go of before taking on “their new gig.”

Slowly, it dawns on them that their collegial A-Team spirit mostly rests on their wiped memories, for the truth is ugly and a lot more complex than the titles of “boss” and “assistant.” Love. Murder. War. Betrayal. It all happened 1,000 years ago, and yet some things no amount of time can erase. Seongju’s last gift before his eventual departure is the truth — but not in the way assistant guardians Haewonmaek and Lee Deok-chun had expected:

“No one is innately bad. There are bad circumstances, that’s all. So when you’re resentful and angry and feel that you can’t understand something, try to read and think everything backwards. Then things will start making sense. Everything from humans…and the world…to this universe.”

How could someone murder their own flesh and blood? Why kill an innocent child? And how can someone redeem themselves for such atrocities? As the guardians are finally dealing with some existential questions long after no longer existing, they all do so in their own way but learn the same, valuable lesson: Not everything can be forgotten, but everyone can be forgiven.

As the trio watches Heo Chun-sam take Hyeon-dong to his first day of school, their guardian duty pager rings. Before the team takes off for another adventure, however, Boss Gangnim wants to make a confession: “You see, a thousand years ago…” His assistants, however, only wave off with a smile: “Geez. We’re busy! Why bring up a millennium-old story?”

Over Here, Over There

During my massage the other day, I noticed a pattern: Whenever the masseuse found a particularly tight spot, she would go over it once or twice, then move on to a different area. Sometimes, the tension in the first place resolved slowly. At other times, she had to revisit that same inch later and apply more pressure.

In any case, unlike the laser-style focus we often desire — and that, granted, often works — it was a more fluid approach to solving a problem. The human body is like a whack-a-mole machine. You push a button on one end, and a spring pops out on the other. Some of these connections are well-understood and fully documented. Others are still a mystery to science.

Can a message therapist press the ball of your foot to cause a reaction in your back? Maybe. But do they sometimes also take a guess by moving first over here, then over there, and hope a block will dissolve on its own? Likely — and, in some cases, that’s just as fair a strategy as knowing exactly which knobs to turn.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do to make progress on a project is to go do something else. Whether it’s inspiration or a creative breakthrough you lack, a little bit of “over here, over there” might do the trick. In business, a side project might turn into the main thing, like for Pieter Levels, whose 4th of “12 startups in 12 months” became his longtime focus. Similarly, an angry friend is sometimes best left alone until you both cool off and start missing each other.

None of this is to say that focus isn’t the right thing to shoot for most of the time — but at the very least, it’s a sign there’s no need to berate yourself when you lose it. Enjoy the detour while it lasts, and who knows? Perhaps by the time you return to the main event, an obstacle will have turned into a new step on the way.

On Different Communication Styles

When it comes to interacting with third parties, say hotel staff, our landlord, or a retail worker, my girlfriend and I have different communication styles. I’m always quiet, cautious, and diplomatic. “Could you please do this? Is that an option?” And so on. My girlfriend usually strikes a friendly but more assertive tone. “Please take care of this. I think it is our right to…”

Each style works in its own way, and when we are handling our individual affairs, we both make do the way we are used to. When we are dealing with a situation together, our styles can be at odds, but they can also complement one another. I remember one particular scenario involving a not-so-nice hotel room in which our good cop/bad cop routine scored us better internet, less noise, and a working AC.

The trickiest events are when one of us is negotiating on behalf of the other. It’s easy to want to impose your own style of communicating on the other person. “You need to be more assertive,” my girlfriend might say, or “You’re too forward,” I may tell her. Sometimes, of course, we are right, and then the other will adjust. Most of the time, however, what we need is to trust one another. “She’ll handle the situation her way, and she’ll handle it just fine.”

Offering this trust can be a challenge, but it helps to understand why your partner communicates the way they do. In our case, I realized our communication styles counterbalance gender expectations. As a man, I’m expected to be assertive — but so are most other men, and so being loud and demanding often only leads to conflict. For women, the script is often flipped. Society likely expects you to be shy and timid, and if you want something, you’ll have to stand up for yourself. What gets a woman respect might get a man into a fight, and what makes a man well-received could make a woman ignored — and all of it varies from individual to individual and situation to situation, of course.

One of the greatest but hardest-to-learn lessons in life is that not everything needs to be done your way in order to get done at all. Let others do things their way, and you just might be surprised. Afford them room to be who they are. The more you know about what makes each other tick, the more comfortable you’ll feel in sharing responsibility, and the more you can balance your strengths and weaknesses, the better of a team you’ll be.

The Magic Thought

Some people spend their entire lives chasing one get-rich-quick-scheme after another. They’re always looking for a silver bullet, and they never realize that if they had spent all this time working on one thing, they’d already be eating with a golden spoon. Most of us learn this lesson at some point or other in our lives, if only in a specific area, like relationships, business, or finance — but it applies beyond even those fundamentals.

How often do you go on a thought chase? One idea incessantly trailing the next in your mind, you hunt for that one line, that one insight that’ll resolve everything and give you that “Eureka!” feeling. I do it all the time. Sometimes, I spend my entire 15-minute meditation in a single train of thought, only to realize that I completely missed bringing myself back to the present. If I can return from multiple mental tracks in a single session, that’s already a success. Forget “an empty mind.” That’s the rare exception, and it’s why we meditate in the first place.

The conclusion, of course, is always the same: There is no magic thought. No genius, breakthrough idea, that’ll “solve” your life forever like a puzzle. You can spend 40 years chasing insight after insight in your mind and be nothing but 40 years older by the end of it. Life must be lived. Thinking is helpful — but not the point. Whenever you do it obsessively, hoping for some form of thought-induced relief, you’re trying to catch a ghost. In search of the magic thought that doesn’t exist.

Think when thinking is needed. Do it strategically but never desperately. And when it’s time, get back to living. You may not be a wizard, but you still inhabit a magical place. Make sure you’re there to see it.

Later Is Not Too Late

Between lots to do at work, a girlfriend who’s trying to move countries, and the organization of all things and people tied to trading one flat for another, my head has been so full lately, it can barely hold on to the countless to-do lists I have set up, let alone the items that are on them, no matter how well-maintained they might be. Our brains have limits, and so do our senses. There’s only so much change you can consciously process on a daily basis, only so many to-dos you can remember, and even fewer you can actually complete.

Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night, frantically realizing that, “Oh my god, we’ll need induction-compatible pots and pans!” I do make a note, but, more importantly, I try to remember: “Later” rarely means “too late.” If I completely forgot about induction cookware, and it only dawned on me again while standing in front of our new stovetop, I’d shrug and then order some for next-day delivery — not ideal, but far from the end of the world.

The things that are both important and urgent are far and few between. As long as you show up for the big swings, the rest can happen tomorrow, next week, or two quarters from now, and life will go on just the same.

It’s okay to forget things, even to lose your head sometimes. People understand. It happens to them too. Give yourself credit for all the stressful days on which it remains square on your shoulders, and whenever it doesn’t, just pick it back up and flow on. Tomorrow is another day, and, usually, “later” is not “too late.”