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.

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.

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.

Winning Isn't Success


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.

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.