An Interview With Damien Hoffman

Damien is the CEO of a top 100 website called The Cheat Sheet (http://cheatsheet.com). MindFire is also lucky enough to have Damien as its own CEO. In this interview, Damien shares advice, best practices, mistakes to avoid and his philosophy on how to achieve success as an entrepreneur. Special thanks to 1 Million Cups of Coffee (http://ventureasheville.com) for hosting this event.

What's Meerkat?

#Meerkat FTW!

Meerkat is the app that's giving smartphone users the ability to broadcast almost anything, from concerts to sporting events to boring, everyday life. The live streaming, instantaneous nature of Meerkat certainly makes it appealing on paper, but is this really the next Instagram in the making? There’s only one way to know for sure — get on the train now, and ride it as far as it goes. 

The Early Meerkat Gets the Follower

In the business world, we’re always looking for the next big thing. Being an early adopter provides multiple benefits, such as building a large and lucrative user base for the future, as well as connecting you to other like-minded people for opportunities, partnerships and collaborations.

Who's on Meerkat?

If you don’t know what Meerkat is, go ahead and read one of the hundreds of articles online trying to make sense of it, or simply download it at http://meerkatapp.co. In a nutshell, you link your Twitter account, type in what you’re streaming with any applicable hashtags, then tap the Stream button. Watch to your delight as viewers begin to flock to your feed, or to your dismay as the viewer count stays at zero. We tested Meerkat in a couple different ways, and there seem to be distinct audiences in some spaces, such as venture capitalists who are going ga-ga over Meerkat, or the SXSW music fans responsible for the app's explosion. However, some audiences are also conspicuously absent, such as the realm of sports.

Meerkat in Action

The MindFire Sports podcast called F U Mode (subscribe in iTunes here) has consistently Meerkat’ed for the last couple weeks during not only the recording of its podcasts, but also from premium box seats at Time Warner Cable Arena for the Duke vs. Robert Morris NCAA basketball game — an event you’d think would be a popular stream, at least even for a moment. With appropriate hashtags and crystal clear video, the stream began and went on for a large portion of the first half, never garnering more than 2 viewers. We promptly ended the stream and tried a new strategy.

Keep the Train Moving

Damien, CEO of a top-125 website in the USA called The Cheat Sheet started a new Meerkat stream, only this time with different tags — tags directed toward his followers, addressing venture capitalism and why Meerkat may not be all it’s cracked up to be, at least as an all-encompassing juggernaut like Instagram. The viewers poured onto the stream, and our A/B test was finished. Meerkat is getting a ton of press, but are VC’s and the tech crunchers really the only people who will keep pushing to use this app? The answer can only be told in time, but one thing is clear — with a small daily user base and extremely isolated demographics, Meerkat isn’t trending toward the ideal unicorn that many are inferring it to be. There is something fascinating about Meerkat, though. We will certainly be riding this train, either off the cliff or into eternity. Go Meerkat, we’re rooting for you!

The Magic In Your Head

Things Aren't What They Seem.

Even if he’s a fictional character, a certain part of us feels like Dumbledore’s a pretty smart guy. Don’t get your panties in a bunch if you’re not a Harry Pothead; I think we can all draw some wisdom from the wisest man in the wizarding world (or would that be Gandalf? Yoda? Let the argument begin!). The essence of Dumbledore’s words seems black and white, but can applying this type of thinking to your everyday routine or your five-year plan be more complicated than simply ‘doing or not doing’ things? Surely it seems so… but things are not what they appear. Let me explain…

Expecting the Expected

Start with the fact that you have to put effort into doing anything in order to accomplish a goal. Does effort not inherently mean you must try, then, Dumbledore? Nice! I think we’ve got him on the ropes. Oh, but wait… here’s the kicker. Doing or not doing things  relies on the effort you put in to those actions; however trying simply indicates you’re allowing for the possibility of failure, and maybe even expecting it. 

Consider this conversation, and think about how confident you are in the person who is trying.

“Hey, Johnny, do you think you could help me out with changing a tire on my car?”

“Yeah, I’ll try.”

Ding ding ding! This is what Dumbledore is getting at. Of course you’ll try, what kind of loon doesn’t try in one form or another when they do something? The point is, the word “try” is indicative of impending defeat, thus setting a mental precedent from the start and keeping you from going into a task, objective, state of mind, or otherwise with 100% commitment and belief that you will succeed.

Ones and Zeroes FTW

Sounds crazy, but frame of mind is equally if not more important in every single detail of an undertaking than your reliance on your body to carry out your brain’s orders. If you want, have, or are asked to do something, DO it, or DON’T do it, but don’t try to do it. Half-assery is not a good look, and Dumbledore would totally flunk you for it. That is if SNAPE didn’t kill him! Okay this got weird but you get the idea.

Keep the Olympics Out of Boston

Boston-skyline.jpg

Boston is Awesome.

Boston is awesome because it is the perfect blend between city and town, sporting the best elements of both and differentiating itself through exclusivity of conglomeration. This is why the roads still suck in the North End. This is why Gillette Stadium is in Foxborough. This is why the T is still the most ancient metro system out there. This is why Boston is great. You think a Red Sox crowd of about 35,000 is tough to deal with on the T? How about the potential of over a million people trying to use it during the Olympics? Anyone can make that argument, though. I have a different one. Let me explain...

Policy or BS?

I read The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, written in 1961. It is an analysis of the planning policies she believed to be destroying many existing inner-city (and thus, whole) communities. Jacobs devised a theory called the Generators of Diversity. She argued urban planning rejected the real heart of a city, and repelled people living in a community distinguished by diversity. Planners would use what Jacobs called deductive reasoning to plan cities. Out of the policies they used, the most violent was called urban renewal; the most common was the “separation of uses,” both of which focused on residential, industrial, and commercial elements of a city.

Real World Example

Both policies destroyed communities and innovative economies by creating isolated, unnatural urban spaces, just like what is being proposed to be created in Boston for the Olympics. Jacobs supported a diverse urban life that would instead preserve cultures that existed in individual neighborhoods. Jacobs said “Cities rely on access to sidewalks and parks, high-density housing with a mix of incomes, uses and ages of buildings, and hands-off planning.” These are things that can be seen in many places around Boston, such as Brighton, MA, a neighborhood right outside Boston where I have lived before. 

The Strength of Many

A city’s economic strength, social character, and diversity is hugely dependent on the layout of its streets, parks, and buildings. For example, in Brighton, a few main roads like Commonwealth Ave., Brighton Ave., and Beacon Ave. all parallel each other, which attract a wide variety of people via restaurants, services, and nightlife, all the while wrapped in a quaint outer city suburb feel. Small neighborhoods snaking and winding throughout make for an ideal place to raise a family or live on your own as a student. The many establishments in wide variety offer jobs to people, creating an extremely unique atmosphere of diverse living in the shadow of one of the world's most prominent cities.

Capital Is Not Just Paper

This goes right along with what Jane Jacobs emphasized. She thought it was necessary to protect what she called the "social capital" of the city – an intricate web of human relationships built up over time that would provide mutual support in time of need, ensure the safety of the streets, and encourage a sense of public responsibility.

Diversity at Basic Levels

A lot of diversity at the neighborhood level is one thing, which Brighton has, and it is important so people can remain in their local area even if their housing needs, jobs, or lifestyles change. The other need is having easily accessible settings for casual public contact, including good sidewalks, public spaces, and neighborhood stores. By Cleveland Circle, there is a huge baseball/football field with a big park and pond, perfect for walking, biking, and running or other activities. Public transportation is abundant, and accessibility in and out of these boroughs is uncontested.

Save Our City

Jacobs was an early voice warning against urban renewal - big housing projects, highways, creation of business districts, etc. - all of which that were actually destroying neighborhoods and causing more problems than they were helping. Later events of the past 50 years have contributed to her argument that the planners were killing cities. She then showed the way as to how we can start to do better, step by step. We all saw how the Big Dig morphed from a simple proposition to a ridiculous catastrophe. This argument is specific to Boston, as it regards over all things the space available and history lain. Bringing the Olympics to Boston would not only be unwise, it would be unwanted by a large majority of its citizens, and retract the greatness of this magnificent city by tarnishing it with structures and traffic that would besmirch the legacy of that area. Those reasons alone should be cause enough to leave Boston out of consideration for the 2024 Olympic games, and all future Olympic games.

Kick Ass, Relax

You Can Read Your Mind.

You can’t lie to yourself. You can certainly try through denial, but truly lying (pun intended) to yourself is intrinsically impossible. A part of you will always know the truth. It’s easy to convince yourself of certain things in order to justify actions or decisions, but this type of behavior usually won’t provide the best long-term result. There is a way, however, to use this whole “not lying to yourself” thing to your advantage. Let me explain…

A Common Denominator

Think about a decision you’ve made recently that was relatively unimportant. It can be something simple, like which shirt you chose to wear today, a channel you watched on TV last night, or a song you picked to listen to  while you were driving this week. Off the top of your head, what do each of those choices have in common? The answer is none of them will negatively affect you if you would have chosen, say, the red shirt over the blue shirt, ABC over CBS, or Sam Smith over Taylor Swift. You don’t lie to yourself in these situations — you do exactly what you want.

Gimme That Sh*t

Now, imagine a scenario where you steer yourself toward a bad choice for what might seem good (at the time) or result in a form of immediate gratification. This could be something small like choosing to vedge out and do nothing because you’re not feeling particularly productive today, or something bigger like buying something new and expensive that you don’t necessarily need — you just kind of want it. 

Preparing for the Whoops

In the direct moments after decisions like these are made, a surge of happiness washes over you and the ideal result of your choice is realized. The actual idea of the choice might even be more invigorating than actually making the choice. That happiness doesn’t last long, though. In the scenario with the vedging, you’re either bored or tired (or both) a few hours later, and you’ve given up your day for nothing. In the purchasing scenario, a few months may pass when a real need presents itself, one that commands a sizable expenditure. Maybe your washing machine explodes, or your computer gets stolen. Maybe nothing happens, but your projected budget isn’t quite panning out how you intended. Your credit card isn’t helping you at that point.

Wealth is a Two-Lane Freeway

It’s okay to chill out, but usually better to do so at night, after you’ve earned it. It’s okay to buy a new car or a new TV, but only if you don’t end up paying more than money for it — stress is a currency which is undervalued. It’s an odd kind of currency, too, because the less of it you have, the richer you become. Sometimes we can make rash decisions without realizing the amount of stress we may have just invested in.

Less is More

I offer a solution to making better choices, and that solution is to condition your commitment to yourself. When you hesitate about a decision, small or large, trust that instinct. Consider the timeline of your choice’s lifespan, and ask yourself if it’s worth giving that choice life in the first place. When you do this, you will be happier and more empowered than ever, not only because your life has suddenly improved from a physical/monetary/mental perspective, but because you’re without as much stress. We all make poor decisions from time to time — it’s inevitable, and nobody’s perfect. If you’re honest and true to yourself, though, you can make less of them. A lot less.

Modern Guitar Playing: A Brief Summary

Blazing Trails

To be a pioneer can be a conscious or subconscious decision. In September of 1970, Jimi Hendrix died. Teenage Joe Satriani got the news while at high school football practice, and promptly walked up to the coach and quit the team. Highly distraught and newly possessed, his goal was set, and Satriani began his journey. One pioneer died, and another was realized.

An Unlimited Arsenal

Satriani’s very specific category of guitar playing has few masters and many students. The main gurus consist of, but are not limited to: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, and Guthrie Govan. This style has expanded on every standard guitar technique, and produced numerous new ones. These include legato, two-handed tapping and arpeggio tapping, volume swells, artificial harmonics, and extreme whammy bar effects, among others. The reason I prefer this style of guitar playing is because it requires dedication, originality, and is ever-evolving. This style in particular is always going to have the bar set higher, unlike other styles, which will generally move in a horizontal fashion. The epitome of mastering an instrument -- being able to play this modern virtuosic style with ease -- is to play in any other style with ease. It is uncomplicated to tell based on the names I mentioned previously that these players could do anything on their instrument, and that is something to be respected.

On the Shoulders of Giants

I like to think of modern virtuosic guitar playing as every genre thrown into a pot and blended into one. The roots can be traced back to the likes of Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, Allan Holdsworth and Charlie Christian, as well as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Ritchie Blackmore; very different guitar players, but each with their own sound and techniques submitted to the mix. The list of players who contributed later on throughout time and continue to contribute is extremely long. These are all players who have used techniques that are now popular in modern virtuosic playing, but on which players like Joe Satriani have expanded on.

Alienation Through Differentiation

Taking a look at Satriani, it is easy to hear how his sound differs from a vast majority of guitar players. One of his trademark compositional traits is to implement the pitch axis theory, which he applies with a variety of modes. During fast passages, Satriani favors a legato technique (achieved primarily through hammer-ons and pull-offs), which yields smooth, flowing runs. While Satriani didn’t invent legato, he certainly paved the way for its evolution, which is an aspect of this modern virtuosic style – evolution. Each player’s tone contributes heavily to the sound of the legato, slightly varying by the type of guitar, the amp, and the effects.

Practice Makes Cool

Overall, the technique is employed in a modern virtuosic way, and by comparing these two guitar players; one can see the specificity of the technique in relation to the style created by Satch. Another standout tactic of modern virtuosic playing is whammy bar manipulation. Utilized most notably by Jimi Hendrix in the early days of electric rock guitar, the whammy bar is now used in the most expressive ways possible by the likes of these titans.

Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die

In short, modern virtuosic playing is a technically demanding, ultra-expressive, and ever-growing style that is easily distinguishing the best guitar players in the world, and while there are countless new phenoms emerging all the time, the roots of this style will forever drink from the tree of Satriani.

 

Easier Said Than Done?

Say What?

Hmm, Chewy, I have no idea if Atheists can be trusted in a court of law after they’re sworn under oath… oh, hi! Yes, welcome to another blog post, friends. I often think about how I’ll never communicate with a massive majority of humanity, whether it’s because I don’t speak their language, or if we simply will never meet, in person or otherwise. The reason I give this a second thought is because I wonder what the world would be like if everyone shared their knowledge and had access to it at the snap of a finger, and there were no barriers. Before you call me crazy, let me explain…

Think Against Your Programming

Did you ever consider that 99% of the time you hear  a smoke detector, it’s warning you about your ability in the kitchen rather than an actual catastrophic fire burning down your house? Nine times out of ten the lifeguard’s blaring whistle is directed at little punks running around the poolside, and not any immediate danger. A car alarm going off at 3am doesn’t alarm you, it pisses you off. These types of communication are strange to me, because in our heads we have a perception of why they exist, but reality has given us an altered awareness. 

Barriers?

I think this concept applies to human interaction, too. If a Brazilian and a Japanese person were to meet and they couldn’t communicate with each other through language, each person would form a perception of the other, unlike one that would be formed if the two could speak to each other. This judgement can be founded on clothing type, hairstyle, nationality, and many other variables. The point is, a human’s innate acumen, whether positive or negative, is what keeps the communication barrier high. 

Break Barriers!

If we relate this point back to our examples, judging people before trying to understand them is, unfortunately, the 99% or the nine times out of ten ratio. Ideally, we would be more alert when a smoke detector goes off, aware of anybody who might be in trouble in the pool, and more conscious to look if a car is actually being broken into. As such, we should be more open to communicating with people who we normally wouldn’t. The tools are already there to do so: translation programs, language software, or even art and music.

Only a Small Percentage of Us Are Psychos

The truth is, smoke detectors will always be under appreciated, lifeguard whistles will always be dismissed, and car alarms will always be annoying. So too will humanity always be at odds with itself in one way or another. If we choose to try a little harder to communicate, though, those odds might one day even out.

March to Your Own Beat, or Don't

Just Do You

Harsh, but true. Frank Zappa was one of the most legendary musicians to ever live, and his genius was the result of following his own trajectory and doing exactly what he wanted to do, regardless of what was popular or safe (musically or otherwise). He was able to live his life the way he envisioned he ought to, taking advice where he could and either using it or not. However, of the 60+ albums he produced, he hardly ever, if at all, followed the beaten path. While Frank Zappa was obviously a unique, one-of-a-kind person whose methods worked for him in his own time, his message should be taken to heart one way or another. Digest it, and either use it or don't. I’ll tell you how you can try to do both! Let me explain…

Find the Right Speed

Being caught up in work can have various effects on a person. You can become overwhelmed to a point where you have so many things on your plate that you decide to do nothing. You invent ways to avoid progress — a quick social media check, a quick snack, a quick trip to the mailbox, a quick TV show… before you know it, another day is gone with the excuse “No worries, I’ll get back on track tomorrow.” This is a scary spiral into mediocrity which you must push through and avoid. Breaks are necessary, but they’re only an option when you deserve a break in the first place. Another way being caught up in your work can impact you is when you work without stopping, in large chunks of time; you work straight through the day, putting off meals or other necessities like exercise or those all-important decompression breaks, where you, in fact, do nothing. 

Question Everything

Regardless of your work ethic, you will no doubt be told by teachers, parents, or other influences in your life about how you should live and what you should strive for. Here’s what they may forget to tell you: everyone learns, thinks, and operates at a different speed and on different fuel. What works for one may not work for another. If you’re told you need to go to X college to major in Y and become Z, take a step back. Is this what you want to do, or is it what you’re “supposed” to do? Comfort is not gauged by security and doesn’t always yield happiness. Making difficult choices reveals a side of you which in more comfortable conditions may not have been possible to see. 

Stand Up

The meat of Zappa’s quote is to not fold under the pressure of what society says you should do. It exudes confident defiance. My takeaway is you should hear and respect (most of the time) everything you're told, but in the end, you need to make your own choice. A wise person told me that I’m never smarter for not knowing something. Take information and suggestions where you can get them, but don’t ignore your own thoughts and aspirations. Make decisions based on your own feelings. If you’ve ever tried to walk in somebody else’s footsteps in the sand on a beach, it never quite fits, does it? Some sand will always fall from the edges. The same is true in life. Take influence where you find it, and use it to make your own footprints on the world.

Be Louder Than the Noise

What Is Your Struggle?

Determination is the essence of greatness. No feat worth doing is accomplished without the desire to accomplish it. That feat could be as small as rising at 6am to work out or as large as curing cancer. All who strive will possess the resolve to do so, even in the face of adversity. Adversity can take on many forms, living or inanimate. For the person trying to wake up early, their struggle could be against the clock. For the person trying to become a great athlete, critics and words will try to bring them down. The person trying to cure cancer is matched up against pure evil, scientifically and otherwise. What makes each of these people go on? The answer can be derived through examining some of the great people in our world who overcame and conquered their foes. One of those people might even be you. Let me explain…

Relentless in the Face of Fear

The tale of Michael Jordan  failing to make the varsity basketball team in high school is one of many over-referenced sports stories of perseverance, and doesn’t quite get to the heart of our featured quote by Michael J. Fox. The reigning 2013-14 NBA MVP’s story does, however. Kevin Durant’s childhood was full of hardship. He moved countless times from apartment to apartment with his mom and brother, most nights with fear of where dinner would come from. He spoke of the many negative voices telling him he didn’t belong during every step of his life. That negativity, both human and intangible, is what spurred Durant to broaden his dream from becoming a recreational league basketball coach to becoming an NBA superstar. He never surrendered his dignity to forces against him.

The Burden of Average

While being hungry and having nothing can sometimes seem like the greatest obstacle, relativity reveals another type of tribulation. In 2009, Brian Acton was a software engineer struggling to make the transition from having a job to having a career. He was constantly exposed to others in his industry who were enjoying success, while he lived in the proverbial dregs of the tech world, like a rabbit with a carrot just out of reach. His personal endeavors were turned down by social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook. Instead of treating those failures as a sign he wasn’t meant for anything more and surrendering to the malaise, Acton persisted and branched out on his own. Four years later, he was selling WhatsApp to Facebook for $19 Billion in cash and stock. 

Resist and Persist

What is common among both of these examples? Tenacity, perseverance, determination? Yes. But what’s even more specific is that no matter the scenario, each person had to be told they couldn’t do something. I think every person in the world can understand and relate to that feeling. How many times have you been told you couldn’t do something? What’s more, how many times have you internally felt you couldn’t do something, simply writing it off as an impossibility? You may not have the 7-foot frame of Kevin Durant or the engineering chops of Brian Acton — I know I don’t. What you do have, however, is your own unique perspective and talent. The only way to turn that into something more is to be louder than the noise, bigger than the barriers, and stronger than the weight of negativity that will imminently fall on you. Remember, if someone or something is telling you that you can’t achieve your goal, you’re probably on the right track.

The New MindFire Sports Podcast

As some of you may already know, we have begun a new journey into the podcasting realm. While certain details such as the name, logo, and segments are still in the ideation phases, the substance of our conversation is fully developed. Our podcast questions the deteriorating state of sports journalism while offering our own take on the most relevant sports stories worth knowing.

We've been approved and are now available in the iTunes Store, so make sure you SUBSCRIBE to keep up to date on new releases.

You can expect a heavy dose of explicit humor, over-the-top reactions, unique insight, and most importantly, unadulterated information. It's like the Daily Show - but for sports. If you have any ideas for the show or would like to be a guest, email us at sports@mindfi.re. You can also tweet @MindFireSports. We look forward to recording more great shows and can't wait to stir up the sports world, one podcast at a time. If you haven't heard our first episode, check it out:

Winning Isn't Success

BOOM!

I’ll start this post with a bold statement: An antonym for failure is not success. Let me explain...

The Essence of Success is...?

If you could define the feeling of experiencing success, what would you say? For me, success isn’t the moment when you close the deal, raise the trophy, or receive praise for your accomplishments. I believe success — winning, triumph, victory; call it what you will — is something established over time. It happens inside and out, mentally and physically, when you work long nights, and rise early in the morning. It even happens while you dream. Success is something founded on an innate desire to be the best in whatever ambition you might be chasing. That foundation is also known as passion. If you’ve found your passion, then you, my friend, have found the lifeblood of success.

Building the Church

Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time because he was more successful than anybody else at playing the game. Because of that success, he was able to win championships, MVP awards, ESPYs, and many other tangible achievements. That’s just it, though — success is not tangible. It’s something that’s built for years and years. Shooting individual foul shots for two hours after a three hour team practice is success. Eating the right food in the right portions to give your body what it needs to operate optimally is success. Success is not achievement. Success allows achievement.

Motivate, Then Elevate

As MJ’s quote alludes, you won’t always win. From time to time, you will fail. However, if you don’t try to be successful, you will inevitably be unsuccessful  in all that you do — imagine that! Success is the persistent act of working hard, and you don’t need recognition to succeed; that will come later. You’ll be able to accept failure or achievement as long as you strive for success, knowing in your heart that, at the end of the day, you left if all on the proverbial court.

I Got 99 Problems But I Ain't One

Humor, Truth or Both?

George Carlin was a dark and twisted comedic genius. Upon reading this quote, you may think it's malevolent, but I think Carlin was on to something much bigger (as he often was); a way of thinking that can apply to numerous walks of life. It has to do with admitting defeat, utilizing resources, and asserting yourself to achieve a goal. Let me explain...

Not Just Another Brick In the Wall

A business owner starts with an idea, maps out a plan, builds a product, and hits a brick wall. That wall can be made up of countless varieties of bricks. It can be a brick that smashes a hole in the product’s functionality. It can be a brick that weighs the business down as it tries to tread water in its early stages of life. It can be a brick that whispers, echoing thoughts of potential problems and possible failure. It can even be a brick that looks like just another brick in the wall, there to impede progress. Sometimes, though, it’s a helpful brick. It’s a brick that shows you where to pivot and take a new approach to your business plan. The problem is, it’s hard to tell which brick is which, because lots of bricks look the same. Enter: George Carlin.

Value Is Everywhere

“If you can’t beat them, arrange to have them beaten.” In other words, if you can’t figure it out for yourself, admit it, then find someone who can. This can take the form of team-building, contracting, or research. Regardless of the avenue, having an outside perspective that provides advice, assistance, or even just an ear to listen is almost as valuable as your company and whatever tangible assets it has. By not trying to beat all your problems alone, you gain much needed confidence in your exploits, and as a result, you work much more efficiently. 

Power in Numbers

A great football coach was once asked how he was so good at his job. He responded, “I surround myself with people who are smarter than me.” Not everyone is a self-sufficient robot from the future designed to conquer every task by itself and conjure tactics and ideas capable of changing the world. With that in mind, you’re going to run into thousands of big and small issues in your life. It’s up to you to recognize when you can go it alone and when it might be wise to ask for advice, team up, and beat those issues down with a crowbar.

Beauty In the Eye of the Creator

Hidden Treasure

Earth is round, space is infinite, axioms like 1 + 2 = 3 exist, and The Jerry Springer Show is scripted. At one point, though, truths like these were unproven, dismissed by all humanity — well, almost all humanity. Great thinkers existed in the past as they do now, each of them with their own questions about why the world is the way it is, and why nobody has stopped to suggest there may be something else waiting in the wings which hasn’t yet been revealed. While our friend George Bernard Shaw states that all great truths begin as blasphemies — evolution, artificial intelligence, the theory of relativity, etc. — I believe that a truth does not have to be inherently world-changing to be relevant and impactful, or even change the world. I’m not as smart as Stephen Hawking, and you probably aren’t either, but that doesn’t mean we both don’t have something to contribute. Let me explain…

The Best Ideas Feel Good

For most people, including myself, it’s daunting to think about creating something that tens, hundreds, thousands or even millions of people will want or care about. So here’s a tip: don’t. Think about something that you want or care about, and start there. Don’t pine over imminent failure or the legitimacy of an idea. Creativity is sparked by a complete absence of anxiety. Jimi Hendrix wasn’t worrying about what people would think of Purple Haze when he wrote it, and Stan Lee didn’t care if you would appreciate The Fantastic Four when he drew it. Both of these artists threw caution to the wind with the primary goal of creating something they believed was awesome. As a result, each product’s authenticity resonated with everyone it reached. When experiencing a real piece of art, or a top-quality product, you feel its genuineness. When something is created purely for the dollars and without passion, you feel that too.

Buy What You're Selling

In the end, the most important thing you can do as an artist, inventor, developer, or innovator, is narrow your vision. Narrow it down to the smallest tunnel you can, and prove to yourself the idea is worth pursuing first. This foundation is essential. If you can’t buy in to your own idea, how do you expect anybody else will? From there, you can begin to consider outside perception and slowly cater to those whims (if necessary) based on the elements of your creation and what it takes to distribute it. No matter what your craft or skill, if you keep to this mindset, your desire to share your proposals and conceptions with the world will exponentially expand, all the while remaining as authentic and bona fide as a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo.

Everyone Sucks

You Gotta Start Somewhere

In any endeavor, starting out sucking is what eventually makes you great. Due to the current state of our wildly competitive, fast-paced world, it may be overlooked that if you want to build something substantial — a company, a skill, or otherwise — you have to start at ground zero. While there will never be another band like Nirvana or another company like Apple, there will be another world-changing entity of equal prominence. Hell, there will be more than one! When you find yourself at the helm of any project, regardless of what you hope it’ll eventually become, it's important to measure the budding life of your work by your own standards, and not try to prematurely live up to someone else’s. Let me explain…

You're Not the Only One

How many times have you come up with an idea and dismissed it because it wasn’t immediately perfected and polished to the caliber of excellence that others before you have achieved? I’ve fallen into this trap myself, and after absorbing our featured quote by Dave Grohl, it struck a chord inside me (pun intended). I discovered that I would constantly disregard the fact that my heroes once sucked as much or even worse than I did. 

Faith + Confidence = Win

This enlightenment strengthened two qualities in me that I believe are essential to anyone trying to make a name for themselves, rather than uphold a name for someone else while being paid minimum wage to do it. Those qualities are faith and confidence. On the surface these two traits seem similar, but in truth, they hold subtle differences that define a person on the verge of greatness.

Fueling the Fire

Consider this: you can’t have faith without confidence, and you can’t have confidence without faith. Inherently, you must be confident that your idea will work, or that you will have the determination to practice and hone your skills. Equally, you must believe that what you’re doing has purpose, or else passion — the innate faith — will not be able to fuel you. When the members of Nirvana first got together in a garage and sucked, they started practicing. As time went on, Dave Grohl was confident in his improving skills, and had faith in his bandmates to improve with him. The late Steve Jobs had faith in his idea that humans were missing a piece of technology that could change their lives forever, and he had the confidence to pursue its creation. 

Opportunity is Everywhere

While Rome wasn’t built in a day, we now have a lot of tools to build Rome much faster than an ancient civilization could. This fact echoes through any industry — you're more informed and have more tools at your disposal than any of your predecessors ever had, no matter the space you're in. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the accolades of brilliant people in the world today and failing to bet on yourself. Don’t let the triumph of others intimidate you; instead let it inspire you to know that those same people used to suck, maybe even worse than you.

What Doesn't Kill You

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

What else do you need to know? Our fictional friend Barney Stinson is right on the money with this quote about conquering low spirits and not only persevering, but excelling in your next aspiration. Sadness in life is inevitable and even necessary. However, it's my opinion that there is a difference between feeling sadness and being sad. You should never bottle up an emotion and completely ignore it — that can do more harm than good. It’s important to keep an even keel within yourself, chemically and mentally. With that said, it’s equally vital to be able to move on from any negativity that might plague you from time to time, not just by getting “back into the swing of things”, but by coming out stronger, better, and more awesome than ever before. Let me explain…

That's Just the Way It Is

Let’s start with this premise: if nothing ever went wrong, how would you know if anything is going right? Consider the fact that you laugh. You had to find something funny to laugh at, right? Maybe it was a #fail video on your Facebook newsfeed. Or, maybe you find that type of humor immature, but you turn on your TV, and some know-it-all just said something ridiculously incorrect and stupid, and their stupid ridiculousness makes you laugh. Regardless of the cause, laughter like this is a sign of a brief high moment. A contrasting low moment would happen as you finish that nice hearty laugh. You quickly try to change the channel of this stupidly ridiculous person spewing their silliness, only to discover that the batteries have finally died in your remote after seemingly decades of usage. Now you must go to the store for more batteries. Damn. In your high moment, you had it all, everything was great, and now you must leave your comfy couch to buy batteries. 

Best of Times, Worst of Times

Now, remove yourself from this facetious scenario I’ve concocted and apply the message to something real in your life. If you find yourself on a roll, and everything seems to be going perfectly, remember there may be something coming that doesn't go quite right. Chances are, it won’t be a catastrophic issue; however, it may seem that way based on a conditioning you’ve grown accustomed to during that stretch of time; a relatively constant stream of good luck and prosperity. On the other side of the spectrum, if things don’t seem to be going your way, realize the universe has a way of evening itself out. That’s not to say you shouldn’t work hard to get yourself back in the saddle, but despite your situation, it’s important to recognize and analyze where things stand, put them in a larger perspective, and figure out the first step to turning them in your favor.

You've Got a Friend in You

Don’t be affected too drastically when things in life shift one way or another. Of course, don't be a robot either; get excited, get pissed, get crazy, but then get right. Come what may, you will be stronger, smarter and better afterwards than you were before. Don’t be sad when things go awry. Be awesome instead, because you are.

Get a Grip On Passion

Are You Missing Something?

Did you ever wonder if there was something more to your life than what exists in your fridge or on your cell phone screen? Something other than a monotonous, scripted timeline that lays out your foreseeable future? If you have wondered this, you’re missing passion. Passion comes in many forms, and can be mistaken for something else if not measured properly. There are various ways to discover what you’re passionate about, how to determine if you’ve already found your passion, and what pitfalls can sap or even stifle your passion altogether. Let me explain…

What Passion Isn't

First, it’s important to identify what passion isn’t. Passion contributes to your life or the world in a positive way. In other words, playing that hot new video game for 18 hours in a row does not mean you’re a “passionate gamer.” It means you just wasted approximately 17 hours of your life (I know this from experience). Letting off steam and indulging in some entertainment for an hour by playing a video game is definitely not a bad thing, but when it begins to rule your life and give you nothing in return except a sweet new virtual kingdom or ten new unlocked levels, you’re losing time you could have spent looking for your passion. If you’re not a gamer, substitute any unproductive activity — binge watching Netflix, scouring the annals of Facebook, taking 100 BuzzFeed quizzes — I think you get the point.

The Answer to Your Question

So, for review, your passion is something that you can do for 18 hours in a row which contributes positively to your life or the world. Obviously, the video game example doesn’t do anything constructive for you other than make you really good at something that, unless you’re going to be one of a handful of humans on the planet who makes a decent living playing video games, is probably not the best use of your time. Passion reveals your unique skills that can be used to better your life mentally, physically and/or monetarily. I’m sure you’re wondering, “How the hell do I find my passion, then?” The answer is simpler than you think. Are you ready for it? Are you sure? Okay, you asked for it! To find your passion, you must… *drumroll*hunt.

Self-Examination

To hunt for passion, you have to consider what makes you happy. Think of something you’ve always been curious about. Maybe you’ve always been fascinated by the musicians who live in your car radio. Or, maybe you aren’t a music person, but you love the thought of building a car stereo. Maybe you’re bored by mechanical construction and despise the glam of top 40 music on the radio as well as on TV, but you really dig how life-like your video game graphics are. 

The Ultimate Reward

Whatever you find that interests you in this crazy world, which, by the way, is a treasure trove of curiosities, it’s up to you to put your foot down (or your video game controller) and try something new. Take an online class at UDemy.com without spending a dime. Ask someone you admire or respect what kind of hobbies they have. Go to a local pawn shop and strum the strings of a guitar. Hunt. You will be rewarded.

Originality is Impossible, and That's Okay

Hi, Uniqueness! Meet Originality.

Honestly, I never got into The Office, but from the tidbits I’ve been exposed to over the years, it seems right up my alley, especially this hilarious ‘quote of a quote’ by the main character, Michael Scott. It’s a well-known fact that any great idea, no matter how unique, is never completely original. In fact, if something you create has absolutely zero influence from any one person or thought before you, it’s probably not worth pursuing. While Michael Scott’s blatant plagiarism of The Great One’s quote is over the top and satirical, it indirectly (or directly, based on the writer’s intent) reveals a vital aspect of creativity. Let me explain…

A Timeline of Influence

In order to prove the point that all unique ideas, thoughts and creations are a result of influence, let’s go through a couple of broad categories to prove to ourselves this is true. Start with innovative thinking. Perhaps one of the greatest thinkers alive today is Elon Musk. One of his most audacious goals is to create a self-sustaining colony on Mars for humanity. Musk was quoted saying the most influential book he’s ever read is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written by Douglas Adams. Tracing backwards, Adams expressed multiple times his admiration for the great American novelist Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut has been quoted to say the classic Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift before him had a major impact on his thinking. I believe we’re beginning to see a trend here.

What Does "Original" Actually Mean?

Let’s jump over to another space and enter the realm of music. The old homage that there is no original music left to be written is far from true. The reason this misconception exists, however, is because of the seemingly infinite web of influence which transcends genre, instrumentation, and even language. Music is, after all, a language of its own. It's also important to define the word "original". While not a direct copy or imitation, something that is original will always have elements of a predecessor. How well you can implement and disguise those elements in your own style is what garners true success.

Inspiration Infusion

One of the hottest musicians in the game today is producer-engineer-multi-instrumentalist Pharrell Williams. At one point in his career, an estimated 43% of all songs on the radio were produced by The Neptunes, Pharrell’s production duo. Pharrell is on record to state the reason he makes music to this day is because of hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest. While many regard ATCQ’s sound to be rap music, the influence of jazz cannot be denied. That rap/jazz fusion is ultimately what differentiated ATCQ in a musical sense, enabling their messages on social issues to be so effective. 

Everyone is Flesh & Blood

The examples are endless, and you don’t have to be an artist for someone to influence you. It can be as simple as a quote or a small action of another person to change your entire life, and propel you to the place you were meant to arrive. There is both good and bad in the world, and often it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose your way. At times like those, look to someone who inspires you, or who inspired the person who inspired you. While it may seem these trailblazers are other-worldly entities you can’t relate to, just remember that they walked on the same ground and looked up at the same sky as you do now. 

The Greatest Fantasy Football Comeback of 2014 (Maybe of All-Time)

The Journey Begins

Like any fantasy football tale, nobody is more excited about the victory and details of the story than the owner — me. With this in mind, I invite you to imagine yourself as the owner, and take a ride on this fantasy roller coaster...

On most roller coasters, the climb is what builds excitement (the draft, weekly matchup anticipation), the thrilling part is going down (gliding to victory), and the loops and swoops throughout are downright exhilarating (big plays and come-from-behind wins). The worst part of a roller coaster is the end (losing); the flat, slow moving trudge back to the entrance.

The first six weeks of my fantasy season felt like it was over before it started, like I waited in line for the roller coaster for two hours and was instead placed into a limbo of boredom and despair. Little did I know there was a climb in sight. Let me explain...

Draft Day (Oops)

I’ll begin with my draft. Instead of hashing out every player and my thinking behind drafting them, I’ll spare you the details and provide screen shots where relevant (see below). As you’ll quickly learn, my draft was less than stellar. Here’s a shot of my draft day season projection (I was projected to finish dead last, which is obviously impossible to predict, but it doesn’t make you feel good) as well as a shot of my roster after a Week 1 loss:

Some lowlights include taking Eddie Lacy with the 5th pick, who decided to take off the first half of the fantasy season. The next lowlights were Brandon Marshall in the second round, and Doug Martin in the third. Two completely terrible fantasy players, and one completely terrible NFL player — I think you know which of those two players I’m talking about. Pierre Garçon in the fourth round didn’t help my cause either.

The Losses Pile Up

As the weeks rolled by, my team continued to look worse and worse. I was stuck alone on this roller coaster, going one mile an hour on the straight and narrow path to fantasy wasteland while everyone around me was either in the midst of an enthralling climb or a glorious descent; everyone was having fun except me. 

I reached Week 7 with an 0-6 record. The average win-loss record at the time was 4-2 in this 10-team standard league, with only four playoff spots available. I’m not a mathematician, but the odds were not in my favor. In fact, even if I won the remainder of my eight games, which any fantasy player knows is a seemingly impossible task, seven other teams would have to post sub .500 performances to finish the season in order for my record to even clinch me a playoff spot. It was a terrible feeling, but as a hardcore fantasy football player, I was not about to give up.

Trades, Waivers, & Fortune

I knew the only way to turn my season around was to wheel and deal, pick up this year’s Josh Gordon (and the real Josh Gordon), and then get ridiculously lucky. I proceeded to pick up the then-suspended Gordon as a stash on my bench, along with the current Denver running back (Ronnie Hillman), and some guy named Odell Beckham Jr. The one positive thing about being winless is your waiver priority is pretty good.

My first trade came in that same week when I was 0-6. I made the trade with a team who was 4-2, who I would also be playing against in Week 7. I dealt Reggie Bush and Doug Martin for Drew Brees and Sammy Watkins. Today, this would look like an amazing trade for me, and a ridiculously bad one on the part of my league mate, but let me give you some context: 

He already had Jay Cutler, who was performing at a high level for his team (we all know how that turned out), while Brees had put up his worst fantasy season to date. On top of that, Watkins had yet to emerge, and looked like a bust. My league mate was ravaged at running back, so with Bush looking like a possible feature back of a seemingly juggernaut offense, and Martin’s potential still up in the air at the time, we made the trade. I then immediately went back to market. My goal was to get enough pieces to trade for a top 5 overall player. I also had to start winning. Luckily, in Week 7, I edged out my first win, as shown in the shot below:

One Trade to Bind Them

A few weeks and a few wins later, I secured my top 5 player. I traded Eddie Lacy, Sammy Watkins, and Drew Brees for Demaryius Thomas and Colin Kaepernick. Watkins had come on of late, Brees had just come off his best game of the season and still touted top-shelf name value, and Lacy was starting to look like a first round pick again. I was giving up a lot, but due to the surge of the Denver running back (I would later pick up CJ Anderson when Hillman went out), the ridiculousness of Odell Beckham Jr., and Tom Brady’s reinvigoration, I took the risk. Here’s a shot of the two trades that saved my season:

An Historic Surge to the Playoffs

From there, the trade deadline passed and it was up to me to make the right lineup decisions and waiver moves to keep my team winning, all the while hoping that the other teams in the league would lose enough for my ideal 8-6 record to even grant me a playoff spot. By the end of the season, I’d made a league-high 60 waiver moves. Even though Josh Gordon didn’t end up being worth the stash, hot pickups like Beckham Jr., CJ Anderson, and Mike Evans more than made up for it. After sticking with Tom Brady through his September awfulness, he shaped up to be a top 7 quarterback. Research, wise decision making, and gut instinct helped me go undefeated for eight straight weeks and end the season with an 8-6 record, just good enough to clinch the 4th spot in the playoffs. I suppose I had a little luck on my side too. Here’s a shot of how my season went:

"Playoffs?!"

Now that I had made the playoffs against all odds, I felt two things: first was pride that I had actually made it this far, second, which was much more potent, was a sick sensation in my stomach that the universe would eventually balance out, and luck would turn against me. Could Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans really keep putting up 20+ point games? Would I bench the wrong player? Would I miss an injury update and ruin my waiver domination? After all, picking up players to block other league mates from using them had been a highly effective strategy all season long. At certain times during the season, I had hoarded Andre Williams from a Rashad Jennings owner, Knile Davis from a Jamaal Charles owner, and Alfred Blue from an Arian Foster owner. I didn’t play any of those players at any time, but I was able to force other league mates to play worse players, potentially affecting their records in my favor. 

The Semifinals: A Glorious Slaughter

Considering that essentially every game since Week 7 was a playoff game for me, I was accustomed to feeling a little pressure to set my best lineup and do my due diligence to prepare for the matchup when the playoffs began. My team performed very well in the first round, and I was able to destroy a team who had ridden Jordy Nelson and Jamaal Charles all season. Those two key players didn’t show up for him in Week 15, allowing me to advance to the finals. You can imagine my relief; I was in the money (only first and second place got paid) and feeling more confident than ever before after just defeating the first seeded team in the league. I had been climbing to the top of the highest peak of this roller coaster fantasy season, and the finals would be the thrilling dropping point.

The Finals: The Odell Beckham Jr. Show

My strategy was simple: go with what got me there. My opponent was weak at the tight end position, so I picked up some potential streaming tight end options to block him from using them against me. From there, I started my studs. The finals began, and in what was a very lackluster fantasy day across the board in Week 16, my team edged out my opponent’s (thanks, Beckham Jr.), and I was victorious. Here’s a shot of the final matchup after all was said and done:

A Tip For Fantasy Players Everywhere

In the end, I learned two things about fantasy football. First, projections mean nothing. I know most fantasy analysts and hardcore players already know this fact to be true, but I feel that some fantasy players rely way too heavily on numbers that are based completely on… well…  fantasy. Nobody can predict the future, and if it were up to me, projections would be removed completely from all fantasy platforms. The second thing I learned is Odell Beckham Jr. is going to be my first pick on every fantasy team next year, no matter which position I’m in. Call it blind faith if you want, but right now nearly every Beckham Jr. owner is on a joyous ride on the fantasy roller coaster, while their opponents are not. Get your fast-pass to a winning season next year pick OBJ.