Don't Forget Your Light Today Cover

Don’t Forget Your Light Today

The Drink of Despair is an ingenuity of evil. Parching whoever drinks it until they’re desperate for water, this nasty potion will nearly kill its consumer. Naturally, it must be drunk to be overcome — and dark wizards use it to protect their important belongings.

When it comes to dark wizards, Lord Voldemort is the poster child rather than the exception, and so, in one of the series most tragic moments, Harry Potter must feed his headmaster and mentor, Albus Dumbledore, the nefarious concoction. The pair succeeds in sipping the cup, but their victory is short-lived: What they hoped to acquire is no longer there, and they now find themselves weak and defenseless — surrounded by, of all things, water.

It’s a trap, of course. An army of Inferi — spellbound corpses — is hiding beneath the surface. Inside the dark lake of what on any other day would be a welcome source of refreshment, they’ve been waiting to “welcome” the two intruders all along — and drown them.

Since Dumbledore is too frail to fight and Harry isn’t quite strong enough, the inevitable happens: The boy trips, the Inferi grab, and into the depths he goes. Just as it seems Harry’s number is up, with the last blink of his eyes, he spots a flash of red. It cuts through the darkness above. Warmth fills the water, and a second later, he can no longer feel the Inferis’ grasp.

Harry swims to the surface. When he pokes his head out of the water, he can see but one thing: Fire. Raging, burning, darkness-crushing fire.

A pale Dumbledore stands in a tornado of light. Wielding his wand like a lasso, the all-powerful magician directs the fire from its center, raining wave after wave of scorching inferno upon their opponents. Harry manages to reunite with his savior, and, together, they fend off the attack.

The boy can consider himself lucky: Dumbledore brought his light today — and it made all the difference.


I’m dancing with my demons
I’m hanging off the edge
Storm clouds gather beneath me
Waves break above my head

I’m not sure he ever saw the Harry Potter scene, but given these lyrics, Chester Bennington from Linkin Park may as well have been in it. Nobody Can Save Me is the first song on their album One More Light, the last record to feature Chester as lead singer before he died by suicide.

The song is upbeat, the lyrics encouraging. Walking on the edge between light and dark, it reminds us to bring our sunshine — to conjure our ring of fire:

If only I can save me now
I’m holding up a light
Chasing out the darkness inside
And I don’t wanna let you down
But only I can save me

Chester struggled with depression all his life. One day, he simply forgot his light. Having listened to him since I was 13, I’m glad he brought it for so long.

We all have a light. We are One More Light. That’s what Chester taught me. The light is deep inside ourselves, and only we may ignite it.

Been searching somewhere out there
For what’s been missing right here

It’s a beautiful gift he left for us. Thank you, Chester. One More Light. Don’t forget.


“Home,” the candle in our bathroom reads. “No matter when and where, it is a safe place. Whatever happened, it is a warm harbor.”

When I see the flame flickering in the glass, I remember: Home is where the light is — and the light is something we carry.

Wherever you go, let there be light. Hold it every day, be it a tiny spark on your shoulder or a wall of fire against the dark.

As long as you bring it, there will always be light. Put it in your pocket. Let it do its thing. But remember to take it with you.

Don’t forget your light today. It might make all the difference.

If You’re Not Valued, You’re in the Wrong Place Cover

If You’re Not Valued, You’re in the Wrong Place

When she graduated high school, the father told his daughter: “I’m proud of you. Soon, you will move out and go your own way. I’d like to give you a going-away present. Follow me.”

The father walked to the garage and pressed a light switch the daughter had never seen before. A single light bulb lit up and revealed: Hidden in the back of the garage, there sat an old car. It was dusty, dirty, and clearly not in good shape.

The father smiled and revealed a set of keys: “I bought this car many years ago. It is old, but now, it’s yours! I only have one request: Take the car to the used car lot and ask how much they’re willing to give you for it. I’d like to know.”

The daughter was happy to have a car, but she wished it was a better one. With a sigh and an awkward half-smile, she took the keys and drove downtown. When she returned, she said: “They offered me $1,000, dad. They said it looks pretty rough.”

“Hmm, okay,” her father said. “Might you take it to the pawnshop and hear what they say?” The daughter rolled her eyes and went off. When she came back, she said: “The pawnshop was even worse. They only wanted to pay $100 because the car is so old.”

“Okay then,” the father said, “only one last try: Take it to the car club and show the members there.” At this stage, the daughter really didn’t see the point anymore, but because the car was a gift, she did as her father asked.

When she returned, the father could see the surprise on her face. “Well?” “Dad! Five people in that club offered me $100,000 on the spot! They said it’s a Nissan Skyline, and every collector worth their salt would give an arm and a leg for such an iconic car.”

The father smiled and said: “If you are not being valued, you’re just in the wrong place. Do not be angry. Do not be bitter. But do go to another place.”

“The right place with the right people will always treat you the way you deserve to be. Know your worth, and never settle where you’re not appreciated. Never stay where people don’t value you.”

The daughter never sold the car — and she never forgot this lesson.

The 4-Ears Model of Good Communication Cover

The 4-Ears Model of Good Communication

All relationship problems are communication problems.

Tim says: “The window is open.”

Maya says: “I’m not your butler.”

Whoa! How did such a small interaction go so wrong? Tim said just four words, but, immediately, his girlfriend felt offended. Sadly, exchanges like this happen millions of times every single day. I’m sure you’ve had one.

Maybe, Tim just thought out loud as he noticed the window being open. Maybe, he wanted Maya to notice the birds singing outside or tell her that he opened it for a reason. Or, he really did want Maya to close the window.

Unfortunately, Maya responded so fast that she didn’t have time to consider all these options. Her heuristic-driven brain jumped to one conclusion when it should have thought about many.

We all do this. We speak before we think, and we damage our relationships in the process. Today, Maya snubs Tim. Tomorrow, Tim cuts Maya off. And the day after tomorrow, Tim and Maya break up. How sad and unnecessary.

If Tim and Maya had taken some time to talk about how they communicate, they might still be together. This is called meta-communication, and it makes perfect sense: If all relationship problems are communication problems, improving your communication will make most of your problems go away.

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What Is Unconditional Love? Cover

What Is Unconditional Love?

Unconditional love is the only true love there is.

But, to be honest, I don’t really know what ‘unconditional’ means. I don’t think many of us do.

We know what’s not unconditional love.

Expecting someone else to fulfill your needs is not unconditional love. Neither is doing them favors if those favors are attached to that same expectation. Even hoping your partner will want all the same things you do isn’t unconditional love. That’s just delusion.

Blind trust is not unconditional love. When you see your girlfriend walking right into a trap, you must call her out on it. False pride isn’t unconditional love. Sometimes, our loved ones screw up. If your boyfriend is on the wrong side of an argument, tell him why and help him see.

But what is unconditional love? Here are some ideas.

Love is understanding

Will Smith’s house cost some $42 million and took seven years to build. Everything is custom-made, from the recording studio to the basketball court, and it looks like a Moroccan-style wonderland. The house is called “Her Lake” because Will dedicated the Herculean feat to his wife, Jada — or so he thought.

Dissecting the misunderstanding, Will remembers being devastated when he realized that, actually, he built the house for himself. Having grown up in an abusive household, a perpetual theme park mansion where everyone is happy 24/7 had somehow crept into his picture of an ideal family — and it didn’t matter whether Jada wanted the same or not.

Today, Will uses a little acronym to not repeat this same mistake: L.U.V. — Listen, Understand, Validate.

“There is nothing that feels better to a human being than to feel understood. The mission is to thoroughly and completely understand what the person is saying.”

In order to understand, we first have to listen. That’s hard when you’re just waiting to get out something you want to say. You have to “quiet your own mind, your thoughts, needs, and desires” so you can pay true attention, Will says. Then, make sure your judgments are correct by repeating — and validating — some of what your partner has just entrusted you with.

You won’t always succeed in understanding others, but you can always make the effort — regardless of the final outcome.

Listen, understand, validate. That’s unconditional love.

Love is help

Someone once asked a Navy SEAL instructor who makes it through the training for the most elite combat unit in the world. This was his response: “There’s no certain kind of person, but all the guys who make it, when they are physically and emotionally spent and have nothing left to give, somehow, they find the energy to help the guy next to them.”

We think of war as the polar opposite of love and, in many ways, it is. Ironically, being a good soldier — someone destined to fight — is not about being tough, smart, or fast. It’s about loving the person next to you and helping them succeed. As he recounts this story, Simon Sinek says:

“It’ll be the single most valuable thing you ever learn in your entire life: To accept help when it’s offered and to ask for it when you know that you can’t do it.”

Of course, to receive love when you really need it, you must have offered it to others before. It’s a circle. We all must take care of each other.

“The minute you say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m stuck, I’m scared, I don’t think I can do this,’ you will find that lots of people who love you will rush in and take care of you, but that’ll only happen if you learn to take care of them first.”

The primary reason to help someone shouldn’t be that they need it but that you can. After you cover your own basic needs, the easiest way to feel love is to offer it to someone in the form of mental, physical, emotional, or material support. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself. Take a small step out of your way so someone else can take a larger one on theirs.

Will Smith agrees:

“At its core, I think love is help. Everybody is having a hard time. I think love is a deep desire for our loved ones’ growth, blossoming, and all around well-being.”

Look left. Look right. Who’s standing next to you? Those are the people who need your love right now. They deserve it as much as anyone. Who knows? Soon, you might be the one in need, and they too will give you a hand.

Love is help — and true help is unconditional love.

Love is acceptance

I saw Michael Bublé in concert once. After the first song, he told all 10,000 of us the following: “You know, I used to be so nervous giving shows like this. What if I forget the lyrics? What if I trip and fall? But when you go through something traumatizing, you realize: That shit doesn’t matter at all.”

At three years old, Michael’s son got cancer. He survived, but for a few years, Michael’s life was a living hell. What do you do when your child is about to die? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except, hopefully, find acceptance, and then take life one day at a time. That’s what Michael did.

Today, Michael carries that same acceptance wherever he goes. Whether it’s talking about his trauma, a confession on a talk show, or singing in front of 10,000 fans, the man is as authentic as they come. He radiates love at every turn, carrying a sort of lightness — a seeming disregard almost — for whatever happens next, because he knows he can accept it and handle life as it unfolds.

Acceptance is not victimhood. It’s registering the status quo in its totality, no matter how pretty or ugly it might be, and then dealing with it head on. It’s the Stoic skill of differentiating between what we control and what we don’t, and then doing the best we can about the former while ignoring the latter.

This also applies to our relationships. In Me Before You, a father tells his daughter over a breakup: “You can’t change who people are.” She asks, “Then what can you do?” “You love them.” Like us, our friends, families, and partners will never be perfect — and they definitely won’t be exactly who we want them to be — but that’s not the point. The point is to love them.

Will Smith shares a great analogy:

“I think that the real paradigm for love is ‘Gardener-Flower.’ The relationship that a gardener has with a flower is the gardener wants the flower to be what the flower is designed to be, not what the gardener wants the flower to be.”

How can you support your loved ones in who they truly aspire to become? That’s the question. It’s not about tolerating every flaw or never pointing out when they’re wrong, it’s about accepting them for who they are at their core.

Accept people without giving up on them. That’s unconditional love.

Love is a verb and — therefore — a choice

Understand, help, accept. These are actions. Not concepts. Not feelings. Actions. If true love sums up these activities, then maybe love itself is also something we do rather than something we feel. A verb much more so than a noun.

That’s the problem with definitions: If we don’t come up with our own, we’ll passively adopt whatever society hands us. In love, these cultural definitions are especially messy. It’s a broad word, and it subsumes a thousand different things, from the expensive chocolates on Valentine’s Day to butterflies in your stomach to the connection between a son and his long-estranged father.

It’s easy to get confused, to lose yourself in the abstractions and emotions, and to forget that the verb — the action of loving — is the part that matters. This dichotomy of verb and noun torpedoes our understanding of love so much that, often, we go about the whole thing the wrong way.

We end up so hell-bent on seeking love outside ourselves, on finding the noun — the feeling — in another person, that we forget we hold power over the verb at all times — and that exercising this power starts with loving ourselves.

In that sense, love is a choice. It requires no one’s presence but our own, and we can choose it in all circumstances. We can direct it inward and outward, and, at the end of it all, our actions will show how much we really chose to love. The feelings and symbols may come and may go. Love anyway.

Love is a verb. Choosing to love, over and over again, is unconditional love.

Love is compromise — without the feeling of loss

In all the above, there is an element of sacrifice. When we listen to someone, we can’t speak. When we help someone, we might slow our own progress. Acceptance can feel like giving up. And when we choose to do one thing, it means not choosing another.

Going back to the gardener-flower analogy, Will Smith says:

“You want the flower to bloom and to blossom and to become what it wants to be. You want it to become what God designed it to be. You’re not demanding that it become what you need it to be for your ego. Anything other than all of your gifts wide open, giving and nourishing this flower into their greatness, is not love.”

When you compromise out of love, you don’t feel like you’re losing something. You see agreement as a win-win. You gain from it.

Like Will said: Everyone is having a hard time. No one’s life is free of problems. In fact, it consists entirely of making tradeoffs. As such, the ability to compromise is a strength, not a weakness. We need flexibility.

Most of the time, the only way forward together is one neither party would have chosen on their own. When you’re alone, a narrow road might suffice. When you’re together, you need a path wide enough for everybody. Finding and choosing this path is an act of love.

Love is compromise without the loss. Flexibility is unconditional love.

5 Phrases Caring Partners Use Often Cover

5 Phrases Caring Partners Use Often

The best way to have a caring partner is to be one yourself. This isn’t always easy, but it’s simple.

For years, I used to wish someone would make me feel cared for and thus safe and loved. They wouldn’t have to fix all my problems, just show real interest, concern, and actually listen. As it turns out, much of receiving these feelings of affection, understanding, and respect was in my hands all along.

I’m in a relationship now, and the number one thing I’ve learned so far is this: If you want to feel cared for, care deeply for others. Reciprocity is a powerful force. When the giving is honest, it feels natural to want to give back, not forced or manipulative.

Lately, I paid attention which phrases my girlfriend uses that make me feel cared for, respected, and loved. Now, I’m making an effort to use them more often. I’m not perfect, but it feels good to say and mean them — and to frequently hear them in return.


1. “Take all the time you need.”

In my last relationship, I constantly felt bad for wanting to work. I was just starting as an entrepreneur, and though I didn’t put in Bill-Gates-like hours, the usual 40 of a common job just didn’t cut it.

My girlfriend at the time was a student. She had more time on her hands, and she often asked: “When are you done? Can we hang out now?” I was always excited to spend time with her after work, but these constant check-ins made me feel guilty despite the fact that I loved my work.

In my current relationship, hearing the words, “Take all the time you need” gives me huge relief. Whenever one of us has to finish something before we talk on Zoom or make dinner together, the other tells them to move on their own schedule, and it’s liberating. It makes me want to get my work done faster — minus the guilt.

Being in a relationship doesn’t handcuff you to your partner, but sometimes, we put the shackles on ourselves — usually out of fear. We’re afraid we’re being selfish if we pursue our own interests, and that they might reject us if we don’t spend every second with them. Ironically, often, both partners have this fear, making it wholly unfounded.

Your partner is their own person. They’re busy. They want to do many things and, a lot of them, they’ll have to do on their own. Let them. In a healthy relationship, one of the best gifts you’ll ever give — and receive — is space.

Don’t incessantly text your partner with real-time updates, and don’t expect them to do the same in return. Only if you’re apart will you learn what it’s like to miss them. You’ll appreciate them and the time you spend together so much more if you allow yourself this feeling in healthy doses.

2. “Are you ok? You looked worried.”

In the music video for their song “Family” the Chainsmokers tell the story of Rory, their cameraman. Rory joined them when they were still unknown, and then, like the band, he became famous.

Eventually, he became so successful that he lost himself, and, after a bad car accident, he fell into a spiral of negative thoughts. The band, his friends, his family, they all continued to make time for him and helped him get back on track. Had they not, he might not be here today.

The video ends with a simple message: it’s cool to check up on your friends.

When it comes to your partner, checking in on them isn’t just cool, it’s necessary. When they appear or sound worried to you, tell them. Let them know you’re under the impression that they feel a certain way: sad, angry, scared, anxious — whatever the emotion might be, shine a light on it.

Notice how different this is from saying, “You’re angry.” The truth is you can’t actually know. You don’t know how anyone is feeling except yourself. But you can make an educated guess, and if you deliver that guess in kind, people will thank you for it.

Sometimes, it’s better to do this a few hours after the fact because it gives both you and your partner time to reflect on what’s going on, but “Hey, you looked worried earlier, you ok?” often goes a long way.

3. “Do you want to talk about this now or later?”

Making room for what’s important to your partner is a two-part job: First, you have to create a safe space for them to share how they feel. Then, there also needs to be time to talk through those feelings and, eventually, help them figure out what to do about them.

“Do you want to talk about this now or later?” is a great sign of commitment and dedication. It shows you’re willing to take a break from whatever you’re doing to listen to your better half.

The phrase also accepts that they might not be ready to talk about this problem, either because they’re busy or because they need to think more about it on their own. It signals you’re open and willing to help, not just now, but whenever they feel like they need it the most.

When it comes to not only our intimate relationships but also our friendships, few actions are more powerful than letting them know you have their back.

4. “How do you feel about this?”

I think on some level, everyone can relate to Rory’s story: Sometimes, I get so busy that I forget to even consider how I feel about things. That’s how we bottle up emotions. We don’t mean to. It just happens. That’s why it’s nice to get a reminder from time to time.

You can’t have a real-time check-in for every emotionally challenging situation, but making them a habit can prevent a minor situation from becoming a major headache. Like all things under pressure, we gain stability from letting off a little steam every now and then.

“How do you feel about this?” is a universal phrase. It doesn’t just allow your partner to pause and think about their feelings towards what they’ve just experienced, it can also be a chance for you to get their opinion on a story or idea you’ve shared.

Proactively asking your partner for their opinion or how they feel about your plans eliminates many uncomfortable conversations down the line. No one wants to tell the person they love that they think an idea of theirs is bad — but sometimes, we’ll have to. Them asking us this simple question first is a great sign of humility.

5. “How did you sleep?”

If you’re with your partner for 30 years, you’ll spend 10 years next to each other — sleeping. Just because you’re not awake does not mean that it’s not time spent together.

Asking your partner how they experience this time is a simple courtesy, but it adds up — and so does a lack of it. Imagine waking up with a huge headache, and all your partner has to say is, “I slept great, let’s go!!”

Rather than waking up and immediately facing our days alone, we should use our mornings to show up to the starting line as a team. After all, what does it matter if we arrive at the finish line when we don’t do it together?


As you may have noticed, all of these phrases are simple. That’s another lesson I’ve learned in my new relationship: Being a caring partner isn’t about using big words. It’s about using the right ones — and saying them at the right time.

4 Zen Stories That Will Change How You Think About Life Cover

4 Zen Stories That Will Change How You Think About Life

I’m an introvert. I overthink. It’s what we do. My mind is always on, and even on good days, it can be hard to feel calm. Part of this is human nature — our brains are built to fix problems — but if you’re constantly worried about solutions, the future, and what’s not working, you can’t enjoy the bursts of relief we’re meant to celebrate whenever we achieve a breakthrough.

Drop a person like that into an environment of adversity, and they’ll forever lose themselves in a maze of their own making; a maze of thoughts they’ll whiz through like a rat seeking cheese, only to realize there’s none to be found once they’ve seen every corner. Now, on top of that person’s natural tendency to worry, every day offers them new opportunities to create negative thought spirals, and before you can scream so much as “Stop!” they’re already waving at you from the top of the slide, ready to begin another descent into misery.

It’s true. Life can be a real doozy sometimes. But even when it feels like the world is collapsing — especially if you’re prone to worry to begin with — you can’t dwell on the negative. The easiest way to do this is to turn to a good story.

Below, I’m sharing four that will get you back on track if you feel stuck in a spiral of worry. They’ll change your perspective, redirect you towards progress and growth, and, if you let them, they just might make your day.

The Farmer’s Horse

One morning, the old farmer’s horse ran away. The neighbors expressed their sympathy: “What bad fortune!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

The next day, the horse returned with a whole flock in tow. The neighbors were over the moon: “How lucky you are!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

The next morning, his son tried to tame the horses. He fell and broke his leg. The neighbors showed consolation: “Such bad luck!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

One day later, the army drafted soldiers. They skipped the farmer’s son. The neighbors were delighted: “What a blessing!” The farmer replied: “We’ll see.”

If you’ve ever thrown a whole morning after a spilled cup of coffee by sulking in your anger for hours after the event, you know the neighbors’ dilemma: Life is a rollercoaster because they overreact to everything. If, emotionally, all you know is the highest high and the lowest low, your life will always be stressful.

The farmer knows something they don’t: The jury on today’s events isn’t out yet. Who knows what consequence they might have down the road? That’s why he keeps calm, stays humble, and holds off on judgments.

Don’t live in extremes. Live in the middle. Don’t be like the neighbors. Be like the farmer.

The Learned Man

A man went to inquire about Zen. He raised questions while the teacher was talking and frequently expressed his own opinion.

Eventually, the teacher stopped talking and served tea. When the man’s cup was full, he kept pouring.

“Stop!” said the man. “Don’t you see the cup is full? No more can go in!”

“Like this cup, you are full of your own opinions,” the teacher replied. “If you don’t empty it first, how can you taste my cup of tea?”

Not only are premature judgments stressful and often wrong, but they also prevent you from learning anything new. As long as you hold a stick in your hand, you can’t pick up a stone. The same is true for our relationships, careers, and knowledge. The hard part of learning isn’t to get new information, often not even to understand it — it’s letting go of what you think you already know.

Variations of this story call the visitor a “learned man.” As we grow up, go to school, meet people, and live our lives, we all become learned people. The sooner we can let go of our preconceived notions, the sooner we can keep an open mind, widen our perspective, and learn what we must in order to grow.

Don’t let your cup overflow. Empty it often so you can taste new kinds of tea.

The Couple on the Donkey

A man and his wife were traveling with their donkey.

On the first day, both rode on his back. In town, they heard people whispering: “What a mean couple, putting all that weight on the donkey.”

On the second day, the man rode and the wife walked beside. People whispered: “What a cruel man, forcing his wife to walk while he rides on the donkey.”

On the third day, the man walked, the wife rode the donkey. People said: “What a careless man, letting his wife ride alone on the donkey.”

On the fourth day, both walked beside the donkey. Again, people whispered: “What a stupid couple! Why walk if they could ride on the donkey?”

No matter what you do, people will judge you. Since we’re all overflowing cups, we can’t help but spill some of our hard-formed if ill-advised opinions. Even if we don’t voice them, whether we think you’re stupid or a genius, we’ll always think something.

Don’t let any of those thoughts seep into your self-image. They were never yours to begin with. If you find yourself thinking the lady on the bus is rude, she’s probably just scared, stressed, or confused. Maybe all three. We love to generalize behavior and ascribe it to who people are when, really, most of what we do is a result of the context we’re in.

Wherever your donkey takes you, hold your head high. Ignore the whispers, and be kind to the villagers. They might not know what they’re doing, but it is not who they are.

The Move

Two men visit a Zen master, looking for advice.

The first man says: “I’m thinking of moving to this town. What’s it like?”

The Zen master asks: “How was your old town?”

“It was terrible. Everyone was mean. I hated it.”

To that, the Zen master replies: “This town is much the same. Don’t move here.”

After the first man leaves, the second man enters and says: “I’m thinking of moving to this town. How is it?”

Again, the Zen master asks: “What was your old town like?”

“It was wonderful. Everyone was friendly. Just looking for a change.”

The master replies: “This town is very much the same. I think you will like it here.”

What we seek is what we find. Why you do what you do matters as much, if not more, as what you ultimately end up doing.

The reasons through which you look at the world as you roam through it will shape what you see, where you go, and who you’ll encounter. Ultimately, what you’ll find will be determined by how you chose to seek.

Choose wisely. Look for the positive. Stay optimistic. And don’t think moving alone will make you happy.

All You Need to Know

If you find yourself worrying a lot, overthinking things, and unable to enjoy life’s little and big wins, try changing your perspective with a story.

  1. The Farmer’s Horse is about not judging too quickly. A perceived misfortune today might be revealed as a blessing in disguise tomorrow.
  2. The Learned Man is about being willing to let go of your opinions if they no longer serve you. Don’t let them get in the way of learning.
  3. The Couple on the Donkey is about ignoring what others think of you while realizing you too tend to generalize. We all make bad choices from time to time. Everyone lives and acts in the moment, including you.
  4. The Move is about understanding that what you seek is what you’ll get. Your intentions shape your behavior, and thus your perceived outcomes and real results. Don’t let negative thoughts compound into a bad life.
The 5 Qualities of Emotionally Mature People Cover

The 5 Qualities of Emotionally Mature People

A few years ago, we had a falling out with my grandfather.

Sadly, my grandma died fairly young. Lung cancer. 2008. After her death, my grandpa started “acting out” — or at least that’s what a parent might say.

Before he retired, my grandfather was an architect and a very successful one at that. Since grandma died, however, my grandpa has been “spending the money with both hands,” as we say in Germany. Trying to fill a void that can’t be filled, he buys cars, art, and expensive clothes. He takes fancy vacations, eats out a lot, and dates women half his age who only care about his money.

He’s also completely retreated from family activities. He bailed on my sister’s concert once — before it was her turn to sing. He never shows up at our house anymore. He’s angry, erratic, and scares everyone away, even his friends.

Now, my grandpa was always a bit difficult, but I also remember him as a generous, funny, interesting man. He always had good taste, hosted great parties, and told jokes about everything. Unfortunately, that man seems gone.

Next to my aunt, I was among the last to visit him before he stopped talking to us altogether. In the end, what shocked me the most was his utter lack of perspective. He was unable to see anyone else’s point of view, and that’s why he now spends most of his time alone.

My grandpa never grew up. He is a 4-year-old child inside the body of a 79-year-old man. What my grandpa is missing — and what my grandma used to compensate for all these years — is emotional maturity.

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Why You Can Do Anything

In the 1970s, there was an electrician in Philadelphia. The man’s job was to install freezing cases in supermarkets. You know, the long aisles with glass doors where you pick up your milk and frozen pizza. To set up his own little workshop, the man bought an old bakery.

One summer, he decided to rebuild the front wall. It was made of bricks, about 16 feet high, and 30 feet long. After he had torn down the old façade, he called his two sons to the site. They were twelve and nine years old. He told them they were now in charge of building a new wall.

The boys’ first task was to dig a six-foot hole for the foundation. Then, they filled it with concrete, which they had to mix by hand. Clearly, this wasn’t just a job for the summer holidays. For the next year and a half, every day after school, the boys went to their father’s shop to build the wall. To the young brothers, it felt like forever. But eventually, they laid the final brick.

When their dad came to audit what they had done, the three of them stood back and looked at the result. There it was. A brand new, magnificent, 16 by 30 feet wall. The man looked at his sons and said, “Don’t y’all never tell me that you can’t do something” — and then he walked into the shop.

The electrician’s name was Willard Carrol Smith. It’s the same name he gave his oldest son, the 12-year-old in the story. Today, we know him as Will Smith.

“Brick by Brick,” as we might call it, is a story about the value of hard work. It’s also a story about what it takes to sustain hard work in the first place. When Will told it on Charlie Rose in 2002, he said it affects how he works to this day:

I think, psychologically, the advantage that that gives me over a lot of people that I’ve been in competition with in different situations is: It’s difficult to take the first step when you look at how big the task is. The task is never huge to me. It’s always one brick.

Is single-mindedness a competitive advantage? Probably. But in a world of abundance with enough room for millions of creatives, entrepreneurs, and entertainers, it pales in comparison to the ability to win the fight with who you’re really up against: yourself.

The market won’t stop you. Fear will stop you. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being feared and fear of fear itself. Fear will concoct all kinds of convenient, well-disguised symptoms, like boredom, laziness, and purely psychological fatigue. Those are the real enemies you’re up against. A set of abstract concepts in your head.

Just for second, imagine it was gone. Remove all fear from your mind, and what can’t you do? Barring physical limitations, I can think of few things. I guarantee you Will can’t either. Rapper, TV actor, Youtuber, Hollywood superstar — his many labels defy our expectations of what one person can do.

The way Will built this long list of achievements is one goal, one wall, one brick at a time — because when all you do is lay one brick, fear won’t bother trying to get to you. That’s exactly what Will’s been doing all these years:

You don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say, “I’m gonna build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built. You don’t start there. You say, “I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. There will not be one brick on the face of the earth that’s gonna be laid better than this brick that I’m gonna lay in these next 10 minutes.” You do that every single day, and soon, you have a wall.


When I first started writing, I wanted to cover one topic in depth so people could come to know me for it. I chose productivity. It made perfect sense. I would learn how to write more and better while teaching people something they’re already interested in.

In the course of writing a 5-post series spanning some 15,000 words, I came across every productivity book and system you can imagine. Getting Things Done, The One Thing, Deep Work, Essentialism, Eat That Frog, you name it, I’ve seen it.

What I realized was that all these systems work — but only if you stick to them. Therefore, if a system was hard to stick to, it would be hard to make it work. That’s why the system I ultimately designed for myself and tried to teach people was mostly designed to be easy to stick to — and that’s why it greatly resembles the above story about the wall.

I used a set of questions to figure out the ONE goal — yes, just one — that mattered most to me. Then, I broke it down into little chunks, and from those chunks I derived a set of small tasks I could work on each day. These small tasks were the bricks.

With those bricks neatly lined up, I then optimized my routine for good nights, good mornings, and minimal distractions so I could actually “lay [each] brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid,” to quote Will again.

It’s been four years since I came up with my system, and my routines have changed countless times thereafter, but, at its core, the same idea remains:

Whatever goal I choose to go after, I build that thing brick by brick.

I’d like to think I can credit at least some of the millions of words I’ve written and some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have come my way to that system. I suggest you give it a go.

What’s your biggest goal? Can you imagine it? See yourself clearly as you hold the result in your hands? If not, think hard until you can. This is the first trap you might fall into: Thinking you can build more than one wall at a time.

Once you’ve settled on one, the only one that matters, don’t get lost in the mental image of the wall. It becomes daunting really fast. Instead, tear that fantasy down. Scrap it. Until there’s nothing left but a six-foot hole in the ground. Good. Now you can build your foundation.

The next trap that stunts wall-builders is choosing bricks that are too big. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. My first goal was to write 250 words a day. Often, I ended up writing 1,000. For you, maybe it should be to write one sentence. To send one email. To run half a mile. The task can never be huge to you. It always has to be one brick.

Finally, remember that it’s normal to feel like building your wall will take forever. Imagine how it must have felt for two pre-teen boys to work on one project for one and a half years. That’s more than 10% of their whole lives up to that point. In fact, Will remembers “standing back, looking at that wall, saying, ‘There’s going to be a hole here forever. There will never be anything but a hole here.’” Of course, eventually, there was.

That’s the final and worst mistake many people make in their quest to accomplish their dreams: they stop laying bricks. They have everything they need. The foundation. The vision. The right size for each block. And then they stop. Because they get tired. Or forget. But it’s just self-sabotage. Fear. Again.

If you have no idea whether your next brick could be the final one, then please, I implore you, keep going. Soon enough, you’ll be standing in front of a magnificent wall. Not because anyone told you to build it, but because you chose to. Just like you chose to send yourself a message — the same message a Philadelphia electrician once imparted to his two little boys:

“Never tell me that you can’t do something.”

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Everything We Do Is Not For Today

When the town’s crime boss wants a precious piece of land, he sends some of his goons to terrorize the school that’s built on it. First, they threaten the principal, then they torch a classroom.

Luckily, the local Kung Fu master saves the day. When he tries to acquire more help in form of the police, however, the chief says his hands are tied. His boss took the case. Corruption. After listening patiently, the master starts talking:

“The world’s not fair. But moral standards should apply to all. Those who rule aren’t superior and those who are ruled aren’t inferior. This world doesn’t belong to the rich. Or even the powerful. It belongs to those with pure hearts.

Have you thought about the children? Everything we do, they’re watching. And everything we don’t do. We need to be good role models.”

And then, master Ip Man says something important. Something we forget. Something that, little by little, seems to fade from the human story:

“Everything we do is not for today — but for tomorrow.”

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How To Communicate Better: 7 Simple Lines to Express Your True Thoughts, Beliefs & Feelings

Good communication is always simple.

What’s hard is having the courage to let it be. To say “I don’t love you,” rather than concoct some elaborate web of intricate, lesser truths — or even outright lies — hoping the other will stumble into it, trip, and fall over all on their own.

In the movie Hitch, titular character and communication expert Alex says:

“60% of all human communication is nonverbal; body language. 30% is your tone. So that means 90% of what you’re saying ain’t coming out of your mouth.”

It sounds intriguing, but I think it grossly underestimates the importance of truth. Even our subjective one. If you’ve ever sheepishly confessed something, shaking like a wet poodle, you know what I mean: A powerful sentence uttered poorly may be weaker than it could be, but it doesn’t turn the truth into a lie. People can tell what we tell. And they’ll react accordingly.

When I fail to communicate clearly, to say what I want to say, it’s almost never because of some complex combination of circumstances. It’s that I’m too afraid to say what I really — like really — think and believe. I have wiggled my way around questions, nodded my head when I should have shaken it, said “yes” when I meant to say “no,” shied away from asking for help, neglected giving compliments, and hated saying “sorry.” All in hopes of the truth magically finding its way to the light, which, of course, it never does.

Because it’s my job to take it there. The job, really. A job for all of us. The only one that matters. I’m not sure how much of what we’re saying comes out of our mouths, but I know that 90% of what does is a weak version of the truth. We may soften it to be polite, censor ourselves to maintain our image, or ask for less than we want because it’s more than we think we deserve, but, at the root of it all, there’ll always be fear.

There’s no way for me to bestow the power to act in spite of this fear upon you or even myself. It’s a war fought in countless battles over one’s lifetime, and you’ll need to summon the courage to be honest time and again. But it helps to keep some truths at hand. A little vial filled with beacons, all but ready to release. You’ll still have to uncork it each time, but at least it’s close by.

I’m only 27, but I’ve had — or would’ve had — to use all of these hundreds of times already. Here’s hoping that, in the future, you and I both will.


1. When you don’t know something, say:

“I don’t know.”

People will respect you for it. It’s a chance for them to say “I don’t know” too. And then you can figure it out together. We think of this line as an admission of defeat, but it’s actually the beginning of taking your power back.

2. When you don’t understand something, say:

“I don’t understand.”

People will explain again. Actually, most of the time, they’ll be happy to. It means they can double-check that they understood what they told you themselves. If you think about how comfortable you are with explaining things multiple times yourself, you’ll see why others will likely be too.

3. When you don’t agree with something, say:

“I don’t agree.”

People will respect your opinion. At least tolerate it. At least most of the time. Don’t launch into an immediate defense. Just plant your flag. Stand your ground. Stay still and watch what happens. Will they stand theirs? Start an attack? Or even join your side? Very few things in life can neatly be separated into right and wrong, which means very few ideas really need justification.

4. When you don’t want to do something, say:

“No, thank you, I don’t want to do this.”

People will find a way without you. They always have in the past and they always will in the future. No one is indispensable forever. Just like time heals all wounds, it makes everyone replaceable eventually. Spouses. Neighbors. Parents. Bosses. Leaders. Friends. You’re never too important to say no.

5. When you have a hard time going it alone, say:

“Excuse me, can you help me with this?”

People will be happy to give you a hand. Like “I don’t know,” asking for help makes people more likely to trust you, not less. After Benjamin Franklin borrowed a book from a rival legislator, they became lifelong friends. In fact, showing vulnerability is probably the only way to truly overthrow animosity.

6. When you like someone, say:

“I like you.”

People will like you back. Maybe not as much. Maybe more. But, when in doubt, most people opt to be friendly. They might not like you enough to kiss you, or to give you a job, or to go on holiday together, but they won’t stand in your way. And even if they thought about it before, now, they won’t cross you.

7. When you know you made a mistake, say:

“I’m sorry. That was my fault.”

People will forgive you. The word ‘default’ is made from ‘de,’ which means ‘out of,’ and ‘fault,’ which means ‘guilt.’ When we ‘default’ to doing something, that’s a safety mechanism meant to cover us in advance. We hate admitting mistakes more than making them and so our default reaction is to shamefully sweep them under the rug. True guilt, however, is too painful to just shake off. So we fess up and fix our mistakes. Therefore, it’s a feeling worth embracing.


In a world full of information, sending signals through the noise is more important than ever. In a world full of devices, it’s enough that the medium twists the message. And in a world where technology dominates everything, communication is a uniquely human differentiator. But only if we keep it real.

May the above sentences help you do just that. Oh, and whenever you find the courage to speak them, leave some room for one more thing: listening.

I don’t think the following communication expert had as much research as Hitch to back up his statistics, but then again, the numbers of nature never lie:

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” 
— Epictetus