The Power of Choice

Over the last two years I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand what I want out of my life. I’ve been doing startups since 2004. It’s been a tough road, both insanely challenging and deeply fulfilling. As I’ve grown, my values have evolved. I went from “I want to build a company so I can sell it for a lot of money” to “I want to help people live healthier lives” to “I want to live in a peaceful world.” That’s a big shift.

Consequently, I’ve come to realize that everyday I have a choice. I can choose to be guided by fear or I can choose to be guided by love. Fear is when I don’t do stuff that I want to because I’m afraid of how people might respond or that it won’t be good enough. Love is when I’m true to myself and follow my heart.

Fear creeps into our lives in small ways and limits our choices. It keeps us from connecting with other people. It prevents us from having freedom. We’re all familiar with fear of failure or rejection, but what about fear of success? As long as we’re not successful, there’s a lot less expectation and judgement, a lot less pressure. Fear comes in many shapes and sizes.

There’s nothing wrong with fear. Fear helps us see ourselves. The important thing is to not let ourselves be guided by fear. To love ourselves so much that we’re not willing to let fear hold us back from being the best that we can be. In that sense, fear is actually doing us a favor. When we can identify where fear is holding us back, we know exactly what we need to do to overcome fear: engage with it.

As a business owner, I encounter this all the time in the form of things that I should be doing but never get around to. Sure, I’m busy. But the truth is there’s a lot of stuff I could be doing to put myself out there. Like writing a newsletter. What I want most out of life is to help others be the best they can be. Of course, what that means is that I have to be the best that I can be. And in order to do that I need to be willing to confront my fears and overcome them.

That’s the power of choice that all of us have everyday. We have the power to choose to do what we want to do despite our fears. We have the power to choose to be who we want to be despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The greatest gift we have is the power of choice. I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, it can be really hard to acknowledge fear and then actually overcome it. But it’s possible. And it’s not as hard as you might think. Most importantly, it’s the only way to be the best that you can be.

Today, as you come face to face with the incredible power of your choice, what will you choose to do?

The Wisdom of Love: Start With Why (Skillshare Week 1)

This week, I’m taking my regular Skillshare class and turning it in to an online class. Although I’ve taught the offline version many times, this is my first time teaching an online class. I’m very excited to see how it works out. The class will take four weeks and each week I’ll host video office hours over Skillshare. I’ll be posting course material here each week.

This is a four week class that will help you understand yourself, what you love to do, what you’re good at, and how to be productive doing things that will make you financially successful. We’ll start out by taking a look at your long term goals the first week. The second week we’ll dig deeper to understand where your strengths are and what makes you happy. The third week we’ll get into how to actually manage yourself and get stuff done. Finally, the fourth week we’ll wrap up with some philosophy to bring it all together and apply what you just learned.

Lets get started…

Before we do anything, I’d like you to take out a piece of paper and write down all the things that have been on your mind today. This can be anything: a project you’re working on, something that has been nagging you, your dog, an argument you had, a facebook update you want to make, random stuff in your head, clothes you want to buy, etc. Just brain dump everything that you remember running through your mind today. Take about 3 minutes to do it.

Once you’re done, save the document. You’re going to need it next week so make sure you don’t lose it! This class will involve a number of written exercises to help you get perspective on yourself. So create a little file somewhere to put all this stuff.

Before you go any further, take a few minutes to read this blog post on the Wisdom of Love.

The most important thing you can figure out is why you do what you do.  What motivates you?  When you can get a clear understanding of your “why” you can begin to evaluate all the things you do based on that why. Watch this TED talk to understand how powerful this is.

It’s easy to get really busy but not accomplish anything meaningful.  You can also be very productive and still feel unfulfilled.  What we want to understand is why do you do the things you do and what is going to bring you the most lasting happiness.

EXERCISE: Imagine yourself on your death bed.  You’re looking back on and remembering the life you lead.  What stands out – what was most important?

(Warning: I’ve had people cry doing that exercise. If you did, that’s ok. It can be a little intense for some people, but it’s a good way to put things in perspective.)

In this session we’re going to explore what’s important to you by taking a look at your 10 year goals.

EXERCISE: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?  This can be as specific as where you’d like to be living in 10 years, what you’d like to be doing in your career, what kind of lifestyle you would like to have, or whatever is important to you.  As you build this list, keep in mind why you want the things you want.

Once you’ve put together this list, compare the items you came up with with what stood out about your death bed exercise.  Are the results aligned?

That’s it for week 1. Please email me if you have any questions.

See you next week and in the meantime… be awesome!

The Wisdom of Love


The Wisdom of Love is a five part series exploring the practical side of love as a philosophy for happy and peaceful living.

There is a philosophy which needs no scripture and no handbook. It does not require an expert’s opinion nor a guru’s teaching. It is a philosophy so basic that it is embedded in the heart of every human being. Its practice has the power to change the relationship we have with ourselves, each other, and the planet. This philosophy is called love.

PART I: Loving Ourselves

Loving ourselves means cultivating consciousness around our actions, realizing that the most valuable asset we have is our time and energy. In order to become mindful of how we spend our time we must become conscious of what we do with it and why.

In our day to day life, we make small decisions that shape the life we lead in a big way. We make thousands of decisions without a second thought and if things don’t work out the way we planed, we wonder what happened. Whether we get in arguments with loved ones, wish we were healthier, feel unhappy with our job, want more time to do the things we enjoy, or just get frustrated with ourselves, we can begin to change our lives by cultivating more love around our decisions.

If we’re trying to lose weight, we might find that cultivating love towards ourselves offers the positive reinforcement we need to stick to our diet. If we’re working on something, love can mean valuing our time so much that we’re not willing to let ourselves get distracted or discouraged. It can also mean that when we do inevitably get distracted or discouraged, we accept that that’s a normal part of being human and keep going.

Our time is the most valuable thing we have. Loving ourselves means caring about how we spend it. Simply by asking, what would I do if I truly loved myself, we can begin to change our life. Would I eat this food? How would I treat my body? Would I buy these things? How would I spend my time? What career would I choose? How would I treat other people? How would I treat the planet?

It takes practice to start asking these questions and digging deep to explore the answers. The point is that love, although difficult to describe, offers a certain compass that is readily felt in the heart. We may not always have a perfectly clear answer, but life is rarely black and white like that. What love offers is the opportunity to explore how a decision we’re considering can serve the highest good for both ourselves and others.

Each of us is unique and worthy of dignity. No other person has gone through the same life experiences that brought us to where we are today. If we consider that out of over six billion people, we are the only person that has experienced life the way we have, we might appreciate how truly amazing we are. Our unique perspective is the incredible value that we deliver to any given moment. Love gives us the reason to be the best we can be. Conscious action gives us the means.

The Heartbeat Philosophy

Every person is a monument to the human spirit.

I have always believed that if you pursue something whole heartedly everything will work out. Yet here I was in the middle of the desert overwhelmed by the weight of my credit card debt, reeling from a co-founder blow out, and feeling like I had put everything on the line and failed.

I was in Black Rock City having one of those moments that only Burning Man can provide – an absolute moment of truth. I was broke and living in my car on the streets of San Francisco. The start up which I had poured my heart into for the last three years was on thin ice and had one remaining employee – me. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got back to San Francisco.

The theme of Burning Man that year was Rites of Passage. In many ways 2011 had felt like a rite of passage. The year started with me feeling broken hearted from a break up, losing $40,000 through a unpaid loan to a friend, and moving into my car to save money. Here I was, eight months later, still hanging on to what life remained in Heartbeat by the edge of my fingertips.

In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl posits that a person’s sense of purpose is more important than any quality of life they may or may not enjoy. The meaning that we feel in our lives is the true determinant of quality. I would go further to say that following one’s heart, that which is most important to us, is what gives our lives true meaning.

That year in the desert I was having a crisis of meaning when a profound epiphany crossed my mind. I envisioned a world where human beings lived in harmony with one another – with no war and no poverty. A world where we treasure each other and embrace our humanity. As I experienced this flash of insight into the future of our planet, I felt from the bottom of my heart that what I imagined was actually possible.

I had never given peace much thought before that moment, yet here I came to believe that world peace is absolutely possible and attainable within my lifetime. By the end of Burning Man, I had set my mind on moving to New York City and finding a way to work on making the world a more peaceful place.

Coming back to San Francisco, I had a very clear sense of purpose and absolutely no sense of direction. My credit cards were all getting maxed out, I had failed at raising money for Heartbeat, and I wasn’t sure if I could figure out a way to align my startup with my new found aspiration. I think most of my friends thought that I had fallen off the deep end at Burning Man.

I spent a lot of time contemplating the concept of peace. What would it take for humanity to co-exist peacefully on this planet? I felt certain this was something more basic than humanitarian work, economic policy, or government treaties.

The conclusion that came to me was simple yet felt the most true. World peace starts with people doing what they love. When we truly love ourselves, we value our energy, and our time becomes more valuable than money. When our time is more valuable than money we’re only willing to do things motivated by love. And when we’re motivated for the right reasons, all of a sudden the reasons for engaging in negative behaviors dissolve. If every person on the planet could feel this way, the world would be a much better place.

In a previous incarnation, Heartbeat had been focused on providing marketing services to fitness professionals. Having interviewed dozens of independent professionals over the previous year, I suddenly realized that they were all saying the same thing: making a living doing what you love can be really hard. The practical aspects of being a one person business can mean a person has to spend a lot of time struggling to do things that have nothing to do with their true passion. Wouldn’t it be amazing if a company took this idea to heart and focused on empowering people to be successful doing what they love?

Heartbeat is just getting started with a very small piece of the puzzle. We’ve built a strong team and managed to raise money from amazing investors. We’re working with independent merchants to help them connect with local customers and community. As consumers, when we do business with people that love what they do we support an economy based on a more conscious and sustainable way of life. The transaction takes on more meaning, and the experience becomes just as important as the product. All of a sudden we’re not just buying something, we’re supporting a human being.

Love is deep concept with many interpretations. I’ve come to settle on the definition that love is whatever brings us closer to peace. It is my belief that when we do what we love, we are more likely to be at peace with ourselves. When we are at peace with ourselves, we can be agents for peace in the world at large. Together we can heal the world one human being at a time.

Thank you.

Serving the Moment

I aspire to cultivate a deeper sense of service in my everyday actions. Service is the rendering of action for the benefit of others. The only way to truly deliver value to others is to be completely present.

On a deeper level, it comes down to serving the moment and valuing what I bring to each moment. In this life, is not time our most precious commodity? Everything else can be bought and bartered, but time alone affords no replacement. How I manage my time is the most important decision I can make.

For me, the key to managing my time well is starting my day in the right way. If I wake up at 6 am in a rested state of mind and complete my morning ritual I have a productive day. My morning routine is about four hours long and involves exercise, meditation, eating breakfast, as well as doing some inspirational reading, writing, and thinking. It’s a consistent process that I go through each day to set the trajectory of my day. Most importantly, it puts me in a proactive state of mind instead of a reactive one.

I have found that successfully cultivating discipline in the morning is a function of creating the right conditions the night before. Settings a plan for my day, preparing my clothes, preparing breakfast. I wake up and I don’t have to think. More importantly, I don’t give myself a chance to think about all the reasons I’d rather stay in bed or waste time.

If I manage my time properly, I can make time to enjoy time. I can be more fully present in each moment without thinking about the previous one or the next one. If I can be more present, I can truly serve.

In the broadest sense, serving the moment is about being the best that I can be right now so that I can serve others in the best possible way. Being the best I can be right now means having all of my attention completely focused on the present. Otherwise, I’m just selling myself, the moment, and everyone around me short.

Peace, Love, and Happiness

Peace, love, and happiness have a reputation for being touchy-feely hippy values, but aren’t they just basic human values?  Shouldn’t we all aspire to find love in our heart for ourselves and each other?  Doesn’t every human want peace?  And when you come down to what we really want from our lives, isn’t it happiness?

At its core, peace is a state of non-violence.  When that core is cultivated, peace is a state of harmony.  That peaceful harmony is the product of love.  Love has many definitions, but at its simplest it is acceptance.  It is whatever brings you closer to peace, both within yourself and around you.

Loving yourself translates to respecting yourself.  It means that you’re not willing to lie, cheat, steal, hurt others, or misrepresent yourself in any way.  When you can be true to yourself and accept yourself the way you are, you get to a state of inner peace.

Inner peace doesn’t mean that you are complacent and don’t push yourself to be better at the things you want to do.  Rather it creates the conditions from which your heart can best operate.  It removes the friction between you and what you want to do and when you follow your heart you’re more likely to be happy.

Doing what you love can be challenging.  Often it requires you to let go of fear.  Transcending your self-imposed limitations can be very uncomfortable.  It is through being willing to experience that discomfort – through being devoted to your heart – that you can rise to meet your full potential.

Being human isn’t easy.  You can embrace your humanity by making the effort to be true to yourself and recognizing how hard it can be for others to do the same.  We are all human.  We all struggle to find our way to be happy in this world.

Acknowledging this is the seed of external peace.  When that seed is planted you see the benefit in serving those around you.  You come to inner peace by loving and accepting yourself.  You find happiness by being true to yourself and following your heart.  Finally, you create peace around you by serving others and helping them do the same.

Serving others doesn’t necessarily mean doing charity work and volunteering.  It means serving the moment.  Every time you engage with another human being, ask yourself – how can I serve this person?  So often we think – what can I get out of this situation?  Inevitably we create a path to stress and frustration.  When you ask, what can I give to this situation, you create a path to mutual gain and peace.

Undoubtedly, modern life can feel more like survival of the fittest than peace, love, and happiness.  Ultimately though, you create the world you want to live in.  You decide what is important to you and the attitude you bring to every moment.  It isn’t about big decisions or completely changing your life, it’s about putting thought into all the little things that you do every day.  You have the power to be the change you want to see in the world.  It all starts with you.