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.


We are the product of every experience we have ever had – both good and bad. Every hardship we have overcome has come to define us. Now, in our moment of realization, the conditions are perfect for us to realize what we are realizing and move forward with our transformation. By loving ourselves in the present we can find gratitude for everything that has made us the way we are – including any current challenges we might be facing.

Were things not the way they are, we might not be in a position to see things the way we do. By finding deep love for ourselves, we can accept ourselves exactly the way we are. Acceptance is not complacency. Rather, it’s an objective way of acknowledging our current reality as we engage fully in becoming the person we want to be from a position of love.

By replacing frustration with gratitude we free ourselves up to be the best we can be. Frustration is a form of expectation. When we’re frustrated our needs are not being met in some way. We’re operating from a place of lack because we want something different than what currently is. Gratitude allows us to appreciate the value of even the most frustrating of circumstances. Gratitude liberates us to be fully present in the moment and engage fully in making the best out of any situation.

Leading by Example

A few weeks ago, I was inspired by a story I heard.  My friend, Pierre, works with low income kids from rough neighborhoods.  A kid he mentors recently lost one hundred pounds by changing his diet.  Here’s the kicker though: he accomplished all of this on his own and his family thought he was crazy.  He did all the research, grocery shopping, and cooking himself.  All the while his family looked on and made fun of him.  Until they didn’t.

When they saw how dramatically he was able to change his life they began to change themselves.  He inspired them with his example.  He could have tried to change them.  He could have complained to his mother that she doesn’t feed him right and made everyone around him feel bad about the way they were living.  But he didn’t.  He saw that the only thing he could actually control was himself and his actions.  By taking control, not only was he empowering himself, he was empowering the people around him through his example.

It’s easy to lose sight of just how influential we are.  Humans are social creatures.  We are at once resistant to change and deeply influenced by those around us.  Human psychology works in mysterious ways.  When we feel like someone is trying to change us, we get defensive.  On a deep level it becomes about protecting our identity.  But when we see someone doing their own thing and rocking it, we want to be part of the fun.  The feeling is aspirational, because who doesn’t want something better?

I catch myself judging others in small ways all the time.  Whether it’s strangers on the street, my friends, my partner, or my parents.  Whenever I see myself having an expectation that someone else should be acting differently I try to examine my assumptions.  Even if I’m 100% sure that it’s best for them, most of the time the best way to get the message across is to have the wherewithal to be the change I want to see in the world.

Recently my mother and I had an argument about trusting people. I felt that it’s important to approach all people with an open heart, especially in business, and she disagreed. I spent an hour trying to change her mind and got frustrated in the process. When I got off the call I realized I was being ridiculous. The best I can do is lead by example and show that it’s possible to build a successful business career by being a trusting person. The same applies to everything else in my life – the best I can do is lead by example. I try to do this in small ways by working harder, spending less time on social media sites, buying less stuff, and being available to the people around me even when I’m busy. I recently realized that I was ordering small items from Amazon almost once a week. It’s not a big deal, but it seems wasteful to ship a book at a time so I’m trying to be more mindful of how often I order things.

There are so many things we can all do every day to create a better world.  We can buy and use less stuff, recycle, be generous, practice random acts of kindness, and find small ways to serve the people in our lives.  Instead of trying to change the world, how we can start leading by example?  By being the best we can be we create an environment that uplifts others and creates a better world for everyone.

Being a Peaceful Warrior

Sometimes I have long philosophical conversations with my mother. We talk about the nature of love and she often challenges my perspective. I’ve had similar conversations with other people debating the notion that love means accepting everything and giving people a license to walk all over you.

Accepting other people doesn’t mean letting them treat you badly. Love starts with loving yourself first. Loving yourself means being true to yourself. Loving others means serving them. This may seem like an oxymoron – how can you stand up for yourself and serve others at the same time?

Lets take a look at the difference between serving and pleasing. Often it’s hard to truly serve a person because we want some sort of validation or positive response. It becomes about making ourselves feel good. So we end up pleasing a person instead and this might mean letting them walk all over us.

Service is grounded in being honest and direct even when it’s uncomfortable to do so. Thus you are serving truth and genuinely considering the other person’s best interest. The fact is, every person’s best interest is always grounded in truth. If it isn’t, they are living a lie and that doesn’t serve anyone.

To live a life grounded in love you have to be a peaceful warrior. It takes great strength to always be honest with yourself and everyone else. It takes great strength to stand up for yourself and be truly selfless at the same time. Being selfless isn’t about giving yourself up. It is about being the best that you can be so that you can truly serve this world. Seeing that connection between yourself and the world around you is the foundation of love.