CONVOSPARK BLOG

A Few Words on Gratitude

Monday, November 30th, 2009

gratitude

I still have a turkey hangover…You know that feeling of being in a constantly satisfying daze?  And no, I am not alluding to any extracurricular activities.  Anyways that is besides the point.  After having a wonderful Thanksgiving full of family and friends and away from my computer; it was much easier to take a step back and reflect on what I am grateful for.  I look at all the wonderful people around me, the incredible area I live in, my health, my mind and everything else that makes up my life to this point and am amazed at how lucky of a person I am.  Giving gratitude on Thanksgiving is assumed, however I sometimes get caught up focusing on the  things I don’t have instead of giving gratitude for the things I do have.  I don’t have enough money, I have not had a successful startup yet, I am still not in Paris…this misappropriated thought structure can lead to negativity in all aspects of life.  Instead giving gratitude allows one to feel the roll over effect of positivity.  And a positively charged mind can do amazing things.  It may seem hokey to pass out thank yous like handshakes, to thank your parents for what they have done for you throughout the years or to count your blessings each and every night; however small acts such as those can help shed an egocentric mindset that stunts personal growth.  The next questions is: what can I do to give gratitude that will allow me to evolve as a more fulfilled human being?  So in the spirit of Thanksgiving I have put together a short list of ways I will give gratitude from here on out.

  1. Smile, greet and/or thank anyone who you pass by on the street, chat up at a register or see at the gym.  Basically, treat each daily occurrence with gratitude no matter how small.
  2. Actually tell people close to you that you appreciate them and why you appreciate them.
  3. Whenever your mind creates a barrier…count 3 things you are grateful for…then proactively overcome the barrier.
  4. When you are not happy about where you are in life.  Take five minuets to writer out some of your past and current accomplishments.
  5. Smile more.
  6. Tell more people that you love…that you love them.
  7. Greet every new day with excitement.

The life I live is an amazing one; it’s extremely powerful that I recognize that.  What are some ways you give gratitude?

Unlimit Yourself

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

status-quo

Two memorable things happened last week:  I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Carlos Miceli, called “Ignore Reality” and I had a long and deep conversation with my younger brother Matt.  Carlos explored the realm of the completely irrelevant.  He took a look at the statistics, assumptions and boundaries that our society manipulates in order to keep the status quo the status quo.  In school we were told the A student becomes rich and successful, the jock gets the girls and the dumb kid is doomed.  Our entire life we are conditioned to accept this, wave the white flag and be content with whatever comes our way.  At 22 I almost fell into this trap…luckily I recognized something was terribly wrong and now strive to be someone terribly different.  So when my brother called me and needed help to get out of his rut, I was strangely excited.  He wanted to start moving forward but couldn’t figure out how.  While speaking with him, one thing I immediately noticed was when I suggested some possible options there was usually some initial excitement that was almost always followed by a “but”.  My brother is bright, athletic, good looking, charismatic and a leader yet he has trouble getting past the limitations he  imposes on himself.  So with the little wisdom I have, I suggested him to think beyond those limiting thoughts and think “what if”.

“What if you can do whatever you want…what would you do?”

I came to a realization that many people are governed by limiting factors (not the bio term).  Limiting factors which develop in each of us overtime due to over exposure to mediocrity.  These are some of the most dangerous agents in our lives.  They are agents of  restriction, fear and complacency.  They are the thoughts in your head that tell you, “you will never get that job, they only hire Ivy League grads” or “she will never go out with you, she’s way out of your range.” They hold you back from where your heart wants you to be.

So start to challenge assumptions that you have never thought of challenging before.  If something is one way, ask yourself why and find out why.  If you think you can’t do something just go do it.  Take actions which will help you break away from what limits you.  Simply put…unlimit yourself!

Strive to be an outlier…remove yourself from the statistical data.

PS) This is NOT an endorsement for Metro PCS (your welcome FCC)

Working Hard, Playing Hard is Old Age Thinking…There is a Better Way

Thursday, October 8th, 2009
Photo by Pink Moose

Photo by Pink Moose

I just got sick a couple days back. I was exhausted followed with a pinch of body aches. I knew instantly what the cause of my demise was this time around. I was over thinking…my body was telling my brain to slow down and empty out. So I took the next day off “work” (sort of); and tried my hardest to give no light to the over consuming thoughts of client relations, web clutter, launching BlackTop Hoops, emails, personal commitments and all things that take over my brain the majority of the time. That morning, I got a text message from my girlfriend’s mom that read:

“This is the real secret of life, to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” – Alan Watts

And as if it was sent from a bearded man from the clouds or an eight armed deity (whatever your cup of tea is) those words were just what I needed. It was a calming sensation that came over me, allowing me to realize that I was bypassing the fun in what I did and spreading my focus too thin. This realization grew stronger and evolved a bit as I was walking around my neighborhood and getting excited over the change in seasons. I thought to myself, “Why has our culture adopted the notion of working hard and playing hard as our modus operandi? Why has the possibility of work and play as mutually inclusive partners seem so farfetched?” That reminded me of what the networking extraordinaire and bestselling author Keith Ferrazzi, wrote is his book Never East Alone. He boldly states that “balance is a myth”. Instead people should strive to live lives that provoke constant excitement and passion. If you chose to be an entrepreneur you need to embrace the uncertainty while living for the possibilities, if you live the corporate lifestyle you should be fueled by results and be excited for shaking hands with the execs. If you live by this mantra, no balance is needed; you just live life and play!

I have seen “work hard play hard” culture in full force as a student at UC Santa Barbara and by being in sales for a long time. Living this type of lifestyle leaves people unsatisfied and constantly waiting for something better to come around. Everyone is working for the weekend…tru, tru. This mindset is destructive, which was made obvious by me getting sick. Every single day it has been work from 9am to 12am, just grinding and waiting until I get the results I want. Because of that, I rarely allow myself to enjoy the present moment. If you think about it, living about 1/3 of your life “working”, not truly enjoying what you do is absolutely insane!

To all those who have read this, ask yourself, am I living by the work hard play hard mentality. If you are, find a way to make work…play. There’s no reason not to.

Comfort Challenge #2

Monday, September 28th, 2009
Photo by: Sasha Wolff

Photo by: Sasha Wolff

Ok…so this is going to be a short and semi embarrassing blog post.

Yesterday, I was officially hoodwinked into doing something I thought I’d never do.  I went to the nail salon with my girlfriend and her mom and no, I didn’t wait on the couch and read People Magazine.  Instead I walked right in to the salon filled with overly observant women, defused the tension with a few awkward smiles and dipped my feet in the warm foot wash bath thingy.  I bet many of you are reading my this story and saying, “what a horrible example, he was getting pampered”.  Maybe so, but believe me, my face got more red than after 3 shots of Jack.  Ok, so what did I get from this experience other then a slight loss of dignity and perfectly trimmed cuticles?  I was given the opportunity to turn a situation I usually would whine about into an opportunity to make fun of myself and take the situation for what it was.  Yes, I was taken away from Sunday Football and my dear laptop while being tossed into a coliseum of judging female eyes…but I still had fun (I gotta admit the massage was amazing).

Without further ado, The Comfort Challenge is:

Take time out of a busy part of your day to go somewhere you feel completely uncomfortable at and find the joy in it! If you are a girly girl, go on a long hike without make up and get your hands dirty.  If you’re a web developer that hacks early into the morning with very little human contact, go to a tech meetup and shake hands with the panelist and other speakers.  If you’re in college, go to a party sober and alone and make some new drunken friends.  I think you get the picture.

Finding the joy in everything you do is attainable, never allow yourself to be convinced other wise.  Everyone should learn to take a step back from what they should be doing and do something they thought they’d never do.  You’ll learn a lot about yourself!

If a situation is uncomfortable smile and if need be…laugh at yourself :)

Practical Tips on How to Increase Focus and Achieve Impractical Results

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

vipassana-meditation

I am boldly stating that one of the biggest obstacles entrepreneurs face with their ventures, or any type of online work for that manner, is to maintain keen focus on a task until completion. Being entrepreneurs (or aspiring ones) we are innately inquisitive to a point where learning about new and exciting topics can be a detriment to our productivity. In my case, I can’t help but uncovering a trail of interesting links: like a blog article that will help me market my brand on social media, then clicking a link that will show me how to boost my person brand, then of course I have to check out the author’s Twitter… I can’t help but to follow the bread crumbs (Is that the phrase?). All these social platforms that aggregate, syndicate and pollinate web content helps make social media enthusiasts’ lives easier by helping them discover and share information that they find important. However, on the other side of the coin, they create easily accessible distractions that can help steer you off course.  How can you find a balance between information input and output?…Here are 5 practical ideas to help you get there while working online:

1. Map 0ut your milestones ahead of time:

This is a key to the success in any endeavor!  I typically break down my list to three month periods, monthly milestones, weekly items and daily tasks (read this article by Jun Loayza to figure out how to do this).  Make sure each milestone written down aligns with your core focus in some way.  If it doesn’t, that task is secondary and must not be completed until your core milestones are finished.  This will let you envision your path before you have to pull out the machete and blaze the trail.

2. Use Google Tasks or another ToDo List Service:

I use Google Tasks (a tool included with Gmail) to organize my weekly milestones.  I believe keeping this list in your peripheral is vital.  I say peripheral because having the list in the forefront  is time consuming in its self and will gives your anxiety when you glance at the empty check boxes.  This list will hold you accountable and keep you in check (no pun) while you are performing a task.  No lie, checking a box once you fully completing a task is strangely satisfying.  Check out this list of other ToDo list products if Google Tasks doesn’t do it for you. (more…)

Bad Advice: "Err on the Side of Caution"

Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Image by r0adki11

Image by r0adki11

Throughout our lives, we have all heard our fair share of advice.  Do this, do that, DON’T do that, you can’t do that (whoops, that was a statement), I think you get and feel the picture.  Far too many people (myself included) take advice from whoever will send it our way.  But where has that gotten us?  That is something very important we have to ask ourselves before we’re sure the advice you’re are taking is right advice for us.  The absolute best way to decide if the advice given to you is right for you, is to…

First: Look at who is giving you the advice and ask yourself, “does this person have the lifestyle or results I want”.

Secondly: Take a second to access the advice and really understand the implications it will have on your life before you put it to use. (more…)

How World Travel Makes You a Better Person

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
Two Friends at Machu Picchu

Two of my friends at Machu Picchu

As I was coming home from my Monterey mini-vacation this weekend, I was reminiscing about my world travel adventures that seem like so long ago.  The back packing, the exotic lands, the insatiable intrigue constantly runs through my veins as if I am a meth addict going cold turkey (heroin would have been too extreme).  It has almost been a year since my last international trip and strangely enough I tend to feel a sense of displacement if I am here for too long (no offensive, I love Monterey).  However,  I’m only 24 and at this point I have tallied 12 countries, countless unique experiences and 2362 mispronounced words.  I have to give the credit to my mom for making me realize the virtues of traveling at an early age (actually it was more like forcing me to travel).  If it wasn’t for that push I wouldn’t have seen my first naked woman at the age of 11 on a Australian beach or walked 300 plus steps up a steep hill, at night, in the rain, only to realize the only hotel in the small Italian village was not a hotel at all, but rather, a castle.  However, I believe the essence of world travel goes beyond ones’ unique experiences and instead represents the accumulation of those experiences into shaping one’s perspective.  I am sure you’ve heard, “traveling the world will make you a better person”…well here is why I think that statement is true:

1. Travel forces you to be fully present- Once you’re overseas, many of your  responsibilities, problems and other situations ceased to exist.  Many thoughts that make up your “everyday” day are not needed to fulfill your life while traveling.  Therefore, as Eckhart Tolle puts it, your “mental noise” is at a minimum and you are able to witness the true essence of what is around you (may sound corny, but true).  Process this for one second and ask yourself why is everything foreign more beautiful?  I want to say that most people (including myself) think that the majority of atheistic beauty in the world, have it be: architecture, landscapes, people… is far from home.  Most people will argue that things that are foreign are beautiful because they are exotic, rare, etc…which I agree with.  However, I think the real reason why we find beauty in things overseas is because we create a vast distance between the present moment (overseas) and your chronic thinking (home).  The freedom from your mind allows you to experience the true beauty in things that are typically labeled by your ever churning mind.  Simply put, it is easier to experience life in its purest from.

2. Travel helps you make unlikely friends- When you’re in your social bubble at home, you will probably notice that your friends are very much alike.  They speak the same language, have the same style, are interested in the same topics, so on and so forth.  When you are backpacking overseas you are pushed into a whole new kind of social strata, one which can be very unfamiliar.  Depending on if your mode of travel, you are often forced to create rapport with people just to get by or remain sane.  Therefore, you often create relationships with people from all kinds of different backgrounds.  The best way to make friends overseas is to find a common interest.  If they’re the athletic type start talking about soccer, if they’re of the opposite sex start talking about dating customs…not only will you be able to discuss a topic enjoyable to you but you will get a very unique spin on the topic.  Once the foundation is set, it is usually easy to branch off to more interesting topics of conversation and sometimes more interesting groups of friends.  If you can learn to make friends overseas, think about what type of interpersonal successes you are setting your self up for later down the road. (more…)

Why People Don't Make "The Jump" Towards Entrepreneurship

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
The guy in the top right corner has the right idea!
The guy in the top right corner has the right idea!

The other day I was driving to Palo Alto to a cool new meet up event called Enteresting and noticed something I always noticed but never fully absorbed.  I was on a two laned highway with far too many stop lights; and noticed that although there were two lanes, much of the time only one lane was being filled.  I caught myself thinking, “why isn’t anyone going into that lane?  It’s wide open, there must be something wrong with it.  I might as well just be safe and wait here with the other 15 cars and sit looking at break lights.”  I witnessed myself going into the, what I call “collective comfort zone” .  A state in which people may do something (or nothing for that matter) because everyone else is doing it.  In this case it’s looking at break lights while I could be moving to the front.  So what did I do?  I slowly steered my car to the right lane making my self the only driver in the lane.  I said to myself, “why didn’t I do that earlier?”.

This is much like the dilemma of Generation-Y, we all have a yearning to move forward and experience something different from what our notion of conventional is.  However, even with an obvious climb in entrepreneurship with many leveraging the second generation of the internet, there are still many people Gen-Yers that remain stagnant in a place they don’t want to be.  There are many reasons why someone would not pursue something that excites them, such as: not having money, not understanding the field fully, legal constraints, not having the right team, not having a technical background, so on and so forth.  These reason for not jumping into entrepreneurship are more like excuses then anything else.  They are responses to a person’s fear of uncertainty.  And believe me that fear can be overwhelming, keeping a person in a cube for years.  I believe there is only one way to truly combat that fear, and that is to take action.  By no means will this cure your entrepreneurial anxieties or strike you with a stroke of genius, but it a necessary step in moving forward.  It’s not only a step but it’s a perpetual state you must be committed to remaining in.

In my case, when it came to developing the concept for BlackTop Hoops I knew it was always going to be ONLY a concept if I didn’t jump in the deep end with my blind fold on.  The entire Forrester Research team couldn’t prepare me for the venture was taking, and even in my thoroughly naive state I knew that.  So what did I do?  I sought out the most knowledgeable development team I could find and invested some of my hard earned money in spec’ing the website out and using them to help me iron out my concept.  Worth it?….ask me in 6 months.  Regardless, it made me fully vested in my own success, I took action and didn’t look back.  Although the project is still not fully off the ground, I have had some of the most rewarding experiences of my life building this from the ground up, and nothing more and nothing less than taking action got me here.

Moral of the story: when a lane is open it might be in your best interest to take it.  The fear that there may be something wrong ahead is always going to be there to some degree…but believe me, you will never reap the benefits of the open road if you don’t take action.

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Comfort Challenge #1

Friday, August 14th, 2009

comfort_zone

For anyone who has read the 4 Hour Work Week knows what laying on the floor in a public place is all about.  My personal choice was the stationary aisle at Target…but that’s besides the point.  A comfort challenge is exactly how it sounds.  It means doing something uncomfortable to make real life uncomfortable situations comfortable situations later…still with me?  Basically they are activities to help build self confidence and in some cases self worth.  I will be coming out with comfort challenges regularly for myself and readers to perform and discuss once  the challenge is performed.  So suck it up and jump into the deep end:

Your Comfort Challenge:

I will be completely open with this one.  Typically when I pass by someone who is homeless I feel a bit awkward.  I don’t know whether to give money, engage the person or just walk away and ignore.  Typically it is similar to being approached by a sales people with nothing to sell…and we all know how scary a “salesy” sales person can be.

With that being said the challenge is: to get to know a homeless person.  Ask them how there day is, find out something interesting about them and be completely present in the conversation.  I have had a couple of those convos in my life and I can say that each one has not only been compelling but pleasant.  Not only will this help cure your anxiety (if you have any) in those situations but it will allow you to make a quality decision on how to help a person (just like you would do with anyone else).

Please comment on this post and tell me how the comfort challenge.  I will make sure to do the same!

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A Life With No Walls

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

brenton

Last Friday was my first and last, last day of holding down a cooperate job…you still with me?  The last 5 months of my life consisted of a headset and three corrugated walls in which I threw up some pics of my girl and other places I would rather be (Paris, Cinque Terre, amongst others).  I called business people, investors and sales people and worked them towards a close every call, 80 or so times a day.  There was tea, lunch, HMO and other “perks”…but given all of that I thought about my project constantly.  Even when I was actually fully present in what I was doing in my 9-5, I was applying what I was learning to my 6-11 passion.

By no means was this a bad job!  It was actually a good job in which I worked along side some talented people and refined my sales skills far beyond what was comfortable.  However, it was a JOB and jobs although much of the time are necessary are at the same time painful when you have dreams.  The good news is that my project did not suffer and now I can dedicate much of my time and mind to developing my brand.

After reflecting on my short stint in the corporate world, I realized that I was constantly balancing between  conscious discipline and mind automation.  Thus, there are pros and cons of the corporate world…here are mine:

Pros

  • Steady Paycheck
  • Built in mentor system (sometimes)
  • Perks (benefits, 401k, coffee)
  • Social setting

Cons

  • Steady Paycheck-caped
  • Limited creativity
  • Bureaucratic regulations (not too bad at my job)
  • You’re in a cube!

I am not endorsing the reconstruction of the cooperate structure or our fundamental white collar lifestyles; instead I am simply stating that there are options.  Even in the state of economical turbulence where and how you work is still a choice.  Choice of how to live should drive us all!  Think beyond the norm and you will live beyond the norm.  As Tim Ferris says, follow what excites you.

-Brenton

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