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This Ain’t the Same Old Story Your Grampa Used to Tell… Well, Sorta

The same few stores have been told since the beginning of time. 

Protagonist wants romantic love.
Protagonist is on a “coming of age” journey.
Protagonist wants redemption. 
Protagonist wants justice. 
Protagonist wants to right a wrong. 

So, why do we still fall in love with the “same old story” or the seventh installment of a tired soap opera series set in outer space? Because of nostalgia, because we relate, because of the relationships, because of the variables that happen along the journey. 

You think you have nothing to say or nothing to teach or your story has nothing of value? You’re wrong. There are so many variables in your story that will bring to light an interesting and unique cast of characters and obstacles that only you know how to overcome. It’s practically inevitable that there will be some incredible teaching moments and inspiration derived from your story. 

No more holding back. We have lots to learn from you. 

Taking Back Your Power by Changing the Narrative

One of the best ways to take back power or to learn to wield the power within, is to tell your story before someone else does. Don’t let them define you. Tell the narrative you want others to notice. What story do want your actions to tell? Your speech? Your thought-life (which, will then manifest action)? Your clothing? Your expenditures? Your choice of friends, advisors, and confidents?

What is the through line (“story-arc” or even “thesis” if you will) that connects each of these components of your life? What does the whole story look like, so far? If you don’t like it, or pieces of it” then you, the storyteller, get to change course, to put the protagonist (you) back on the course you’ve always envisioned. And if you’re stuck in your “writing,” don’t beat yourself up. All storytellers get writer’s block—and all the good ones pick up the quill on a consistent basis whether or not they feel the writing is going well. Keep working. Keep writing. Keep up the hustle. 

The Trouble with ‘Little White Lies’ and ‘No One is Gonna Know’

“All that is necessary for bad things to happen in this world is for good people to do nothing…” is a quote I gave to some middle schoolers last week during an anti-bullying presentation (I may have ripped off Edmund Burke with that quote… shhh). 

Most people don’t intentionally let bad things happen, at least not the big ones—an assault, cheating, or taking a life.

My beef is with “sins of omission,” or things that may be on the fringes of “evil,” or selfishness or convenience. Things like: 
  • Intentionally buying a diamond from a known dealer in blood diamonds/diamonds that have caused war or exploited indigenous or local populations 
  • Pushing past the elderly, pregnant, or disabled while exiting an airplane (I’m on flights nearly 100 times a year and I’ve seen it happen all too often)
  • Stiffing the delivery guy or undertipping the waiter 
  • Using copious amounts of plastic bags when paper is available (there are heaps of floating bits of plastic in the Pacific Ocean and several others)
  • Littering or defacing public or private property 
I know some of those things are inconvenient. Life gets in the way. You’ve got to take your kid to a recital, you want to save money, the cat has to go to the vet again, the newest season of Better Call Saul just came out on Netflix (#bingewatch). I’m right there with you. I get it.  

That one seemingly tiny action that you take outside of your creature comforts—taking a shorter shower, or helping the old lady across the street when you’re in a hurry—it may seem minuscule. But when millions and billions of “minuscule” actions are added up, the results can save lives, offer hope, move mountains, and even change the world and the course of humankind. 

We’re all in this together as a species and as creatures who, at their very base, want very similar things.

They’re not Listening, They Don’t Care, They Aren’t Concerned with what I Want

If you’re not getting what you want from a friend, a colleague, a partner; then change the way you ask. 

If you change the way you ask, reframing what you want with respect to the idea that the other person gets something out of the deal as well, you may come closer to finding a solution to your needs.

If you’re still not getting what you want (after numerous yeoman-like attempts), it may be time to move on. Moving on isn’t always a sign of weakness, it’s about setting boundaries and making sure your needs are met. You may be able to find what you need elsewhere. 

You only live once. You might as well do it while learning about yourself, others, who is in your corner, who isn’t, and how to maximize your experience while on this planet. 


For a couple of years at Thanksgiving when I was a teenager, my family and the family we spent holidays with, all went around the room and said what we were thankful for. Being a pimply faced thirteen year old, naturally I resisted at first, but I went along with it because they threatened to take away my cranberry sauce (yes, I love it from the can #dontjudge). I wasn’t happy at home at the time—verbal barbs and abuse were thrown like grenades on the daily—and I thought I didn’t have much to be thankful for. I was sad, angry, and tired. But looking around the room, in that moment, I remember that I did have a roof over my head and food in my belly. And by verbalizing my thankfulness, it made all those problems seem slightly smaller—if only for a few moments.

I’m thinking we need to have mini-thanksgivings (batteries… and turkey not included)—a five minute “holiday” each day to check in with ourselves on what we’re thankful and grateful for.

Write it down, pray about it, make it your mantra, mutter it under your breath. But take the time. Remembering the good things in life, even if they are few in number at the moment, will help make the bad things seem a little less giant, and may even lead to you finding the space to eliminate one or more of the elements you deem negative in your life. 

People Who Disagree With You Aren’t as Dumb as You Think

The people who don’t share the same beliefs as you or who don’t understand you aren’t stupid. Yes, they may be lacking certain elements of education and the ability to think critically (I said “may” not “definitely”)—but they are doing what they perceive as fair, just like you.

Your finger pointing and shaming and condescending attitude will not bring the other person to your view point. But putting yourself in their shoes (empathy); even if you find that their shoes have holes, no laces, and are two sizes too small (maybe they feel the same way about their own shoes, too)—metaphorically speaking, of course; you have a greater chance of coming together on the one issue that you both care about. Find the common ground. 

Side note: I’ll admit that the argument I’m making is somewhat thrown out the window when the person across from you is trying to trample on another person’s human rights; and/or is a blatant racist, sexist, xenophobe, or engages in discriminatory acts. And as a straight, white guy it’s probably easier for me to say “find a way to work with that person anyway,” so I won’t even go there. 

We don’t have to hang out or invite to Thanksgiving everyone who you agree or disagree with. But we can treat people with civility, empathy, kindness, and understanding—even if we are the bigger person for doing so. 

Some of the best opportunities to learn come from those who don’t agree with us.  It can bring about self-reflection, sharpen empathy, and help shape new methods and methodologies to make change not only the way we want to see it but in a way that’s best for everyone. 

Haters Gonna Hate… But Don’t Let Them Define You

Tell your story. Speak up often. Don’t let others define you. Create the narrative you want to be known for: the sassy clerk; the empathetic, tattooed unicorn goddess; the crotchety codger with the heart of gold; the guy with bipolar who lives mentally well. 

If you don’t tell your story, someone else will beat you to it. You probably  won’t like what they say, and you never know if their fictitious version of your story will go viral. 

Perception vs. Reality

The story you tell yourself is often much different than the story being told in real time. Take a breath, ask questions of yourself and people around you who you trust to give constructive feedback, advice, or a space for you to think things through. 

It’s better to reach out for help, advice, or some coaching/mentoring then to have those invisible scripts play on repeat inside your head. Invisible scripts are rarely rooted in reality, and can be dangerous because they often lead to unrealistic expectations, good or bad. 

Harness those thoughts. We all have access to a dramaturg, a script doctor, and/or a writing partner. Best we take advantage of those resources on a regular basis. 

A Little Less Talk-y, a Little More Listen-y: How to Help Someone the Fastest Way Possible

One of the fastest ways to help someone is not to give advice, but rather to listen. We all solve problems differently, and often there are multiple solutions to a single problem. Your solutions are no less valid than mine, but my brain would never solve problems the way you would and vice versa. 

That means to help someone find their way, it’s best to listen and give them the space to create the solution on their own. While listening, you’re not looking for places to interject. You’re truly listening to their thoughts. After they’re through you can ask open ended questions like, “What do you think,” “Why do you think,” “I heard you say X, what do you think that’s about?” 

These are all questions that honor the other person’s intelligence and problem solving abilities. Once a person has the explicit and implicit permission to think on their own, they will find a solution much faster than when given advice that doesn’t make sense in their brain. 

And yes, it is okay to sometimes give advice when you see someone is approaching a cliff, and/or if they are in imminent danger of hurting themselves or others. But other than that, if advice is asked for and then followed; it won’t look completely like the advice you gave. It will be a hybrid of what works in your head and what works in theirs. 

This recipe works for your children, your stubborn grandmother, a peer in crisis, and your students, but with one caveat. You have to be willing to alter this recipe in the present moment. This is no perfect process and you have to be willing to screw up the recipe a little, not get down on yourself for doing so, and continue to add spices to the mix until it feels and looks like you “got it right.” 

Oh, and yes, I get the irony of writing this blog post as a piece of advice. But as always with anything I write… take what you like and leave the rest. :) 

Workplace Mental Health - More than Just a Moral Objective, It’s Dollars and Sense

In early 2016, Jessica Leber of Fast Company made an impressively strong case for increased corporate investment—time, energy, and money—in mental health workplace initiatives. Leber's piece, entitled "Fixing Mental Health In The Workplace Requires A Lot More Than A Yoga Room" cited an alarming 2015 study from Harvard and Stanford University business schools which found that health problems stemming directly from job-related stress—ranging from long hours to the burdens of having no insurance and doing shift work—likely contribute to about 120,000 deaths a year and $190 billion a year in health care costs. Leber's piece also noted that depression alone is estimated to cost the U.S. $210 billion a year, half of which are workplace costs including missed days and reduced productivity and by 2020, the World Health Organization estimates that depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide.

Given what we know now as both employers and employees, why are we not working together collectively to change how we view mental health in the workplace? Michael Becker recently sat on an expert panel and spoke about the subject on behalf of the Stephanie Becker Fund, a non-profit organization that promotes mental health and physical health parity in the workplace. He said, “Emotional wellness in the workplace is a growing yet underserved need that is addressable. Improving emotional health in the workplace not only makes for good public policy, but genuinely benefits both employees and employers. While investing in emotional health represents an upfront cost for companies, doing so pays meaningful and long-term dividends, in terms of well-being, productivity, and ultimately profits.

In other words, focusing on workplace mental health is no longer simply a moral objective, but in a capitalist society (for better or for worse), it should be a fiscal priority, as well. Another 2016 article, this one by US News, cited a published study stating that every $1 spent by governments on mental health treatment generates an average net benefit of $4, representing an impressive return on investment.

Two companies that stand out as outlets to change the conversation and education around workplace mental health are: Docz and The Carson J. Spencer Foundation’s Working Minds program. Docz, who recently co-hosted a workplace mental health symposium with the Stephanie Becker Fund at the Microsoft Store in New York City, is a newly-launched digital health startup that revolutionizes the mental health landscape by making finding support easy and fast for those affected by mental health issues. Docz is a free and anonymous mobile community where one can ask questions or give advice to others. All advice is expert-verified and Docz is already being adapted to fit the needs of small, medium, and large scale businesses. The Carson J. Spencer Foundation’s Working Minds program provides businesses with the tools and resources to identify and respond to friends, family members, and co-workers who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings. These two early adopters are doing great work but we need more companies and non-profits to fill the void in making mental health a priority in a place where adults spend a great deal of their waking life.

Will making workplace mental health education commonplace be difficult? Probably. But it’s almost always difficult to get anything of importance off the ground—charitable causes, social justice movements, your old 1979 Chevy Nova (okay, scratch that last one).

As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve had to invest in my own mental wellness, in addition to the mental wellness of employees and even partners. This investment in my mental health has been a big reason why my company has been able to grow over 25% each year for the past five years. I’ve learned when to pull back with work, how to set boundaries and manage my self-care (both leading to greater productivity), and when and how to check in on employees to make sure they are physically and mentally well. Yes, in the short term, focusing on mental health takes time away from “selling,” “growing the business,” and “strategic planning.” But this single step back ensures that we can take two steps forward in a thoughtful, timely, and healthful manner.

Employers and managers in the workplace: your motto is perhaps, “always be selling”—and, as a business owner, I know this pressure all too well. But we need to amend that motto to include “always be helping” with respect to our employees. Physical help and healthcare have long been the focus because of a physical wound’s visible nature. However, psychological wounds and manageable stressors should also be included when we’re working to help our employees be their best selves inside and outside of the workplace. If you don’t have your (mental]) health—you don’t have anything.

Employers and managers in the workplace: your motto is perhaps, “always be selling”—and as a business owner, I know this pressure all too well. But we need to amend that motto to include “Always be helping” in regards to our employees. Physical help and healthcare have long been the focus because of a physical wound’s visible nature. But psychological wounds and manageable stressors should also be included when we’re working to help our employees be their best selves inside and outside of the workplace. If you don’t have your (mental) health—you don’t have anything. t

It’s Always Been Done Like This, So Let’s Bury Our Heads In The Sand… #Facepalm

Defending the status quo is probably easier to defend and take action on than say, doing what’s right based on the new knowledge one has.

Hanging on for dear life to “it’s always been done like this” or “it’s always been like this,” will eventually lead to a dead end that is difficult to come back from.

Being an early adopter of the new paradigm against the status quo isn’t easy at all, but if one sticks with this course, they will inevitably find people to bring along with them who will help shift the old “normal;” and eventually be able to create long term sustainable change (until we find something even better than this “new” status quo).

Side benefits to being a trailblazer: you may reap rewards such as an increased self-esteem, in some cases you may gain financial benefit (see: Zuckerberg, Musk, Branson), you prevent social injustice, and you will leave this Earth better than when you found it—one of the most beautiful gifts a person can leave behind. 

Eventually the status quo will change. Why can’t you be the spark who ignites the flame that will change and even save the world? It’s all under the realm of “possible.”

The Creative Art of Healing

Healing isn’t easy. We want to run, jump, jab, and kick just like we used to. But the wound or the injury isn’t letting us. We have to wait. We have to rehab. 

You break a bone and your body is searching for different ways to help heal. You work with your doctor. You test a little on your own. The recipe of all three isn’t always perfect, and sometimes it takes longer than expected because a few of the ingredients were off by a bit. But you do your best to make it work. And your body heals to the extent that it’s able, and you are for a good while at 50%, 75%, or 100% of your former capacity. Through it all, you are more than likely able to receive support from family, friends, a spouse, or colleagues. 

Why don’t we work the same way with our need to heal from psychological wounds, from grief, from trauma? The brain is an organ that changes in response to grief and trauma—in essence and actuality becoming wounded. Your brain and body are searching for ways to heal. And we need to, but often don’t, call on the support of a doctor or trained professional (sometimes because of the fear of being stigmatized, and sometimes the grief or trauma is too big at the moment to see anything else in the surrounding world). You might not test healing tactics on your own because unlike getting help for a physical wound with a first aid kit, we have no such thing as a first aid kit for our brains—and the recovery process for a brain injury is probably not talked about in the home like the recovery process for a physical injury. The recipe for healing from grief and trauma, pretty much doesn’t exist. To speak again in metaphorical terms, the only spice you have in the rack is a single bay leaf and you can’t figure out why what you’re tasting continues to turn out awful. On top of it, it’s anyone’s guess whether or not you receive support from family, friends, a spouse, or colleagues. Impatience. Heal faster. What’s wrong with you? Why are you making ridiculous decisions? And so on.  

There is no time limit on grief or the healing process. And by any means necessary you must search high and low for people, advisors, or fellow chieftains who are empathetic, kind, and unconditionally supportive of you and what you need during your healing process. 

One thing to remember: you’re doing okay. You and your body are tapping into the creative process, whether you know it or not, in order to heal. Pretty incredible and worthy of self-acknowledgement that you are doing your best, and that you are fighting one of the most difficult battles you have ever known. And even when it seems like you aren’t winning you have advisors and chieftains at your disposal to assist you—and you are a powerful and relentless warrior who already has everything inside to heal, to achieve, to be. Never forget that. 

Just Say “No,” — It’s More Than Just an Anti-Drug Slogan

We're taught at an early age to be agreeable and nice, and we tend to associate saying “yes” and making people happy as a good thing. But it’s not often that a person is taught at a young age that saying “no” is okay, you can still be agreeable and nice while saying “no,” and that saying “no” can be good for: a person’s mental health, opening up doors for something different or better, and healthy time management; just to name a few possibilities. 

If you make a promise, you better be able to keep it. There’s nothing wrong with saying “no” up front when asked to do something for someone else. 

It’s way more disappointing to deal with a broken promise rather than an honest “no” or “maybe, but not now.” 

Take the Extra Help When you Can Get it, No, Seriously

So, I'm about to throw down some #realtalk. My fingers are shaking as I type, knowing I'm going to disclose some personal information, but conceptually I shouldn’t be buggin’; worrying about what people will think. I know lots of people are in the same or similar boat as me, yet this is still something we don’t really talk about. There’s lots of reasons why: stigma, fear of being seen as “less than,” the idea that help shouldn’t come in the form that it does. 

Last week I started taking an antidepressant for the first time in my life. I was fraying around the edges due to some pretty gnarly life events from the past year. My coping skills are on point, and I know this. I was back in therapy. But the pressure from these life events of the past year, were too heavy even for someone so self-aware working in the field of mental health. 

But I’m cool with it. So far, it’s helping. I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Probably not forever, nor will I necessarily need to take this pill forever. But for now, it’s cool. 

I resisted this kind of help for so long. I probably could have asked for help in pill form 3-5 months ago. But I had to do it all by myself. Not a good coping skill (pick yourself up by the bootstraps, Josh! Um, no.).

I had to try something new to get the help I needed. So, I gave the self-stigmatizing voices in my head a little b&$^-slap and made the leap. 

Bottom line, take the extra help when you need it (in general—I’m not necessarily referring to a pill), and sometimes, take that help even when you don’t think you need it. It can be difficult to get out of your own way when you’ve been slugging along, day by day, trying your hardest to do the right thing for you and the people around you. But you’re also human and perfectly imperfect. It’s okay to take a breather, recalibrate, try something new with some outside help, get back on the horse and see if that new thing is working. And if the new thing, your new efforts aren’t working, reach out again for help and try something else you haven’t tried before. Life is but a rehearsal. There is no “perfect” and there are mulligans a plenty. And there are lots of people who’ve been in your shoes who haven’t necessarily been vocal about their issues as of yet. Take the leap. Help is in front of your nose. 

Some People Will be Unconvinced

So, I’m going through an ugly battle in the building where I live in Beverly Hills. Several of the other occupants think our family is the cause of some disturbance. Of course it isn’t and we have indisputable proof. I even offered to speak with the two disgruntled parties after they approached the landlord (one of these two parties never confronted me directly), did so, and was still met with aggression, lies, and phony platitudes. One man, no matter how much evidence we have presented, is not convinced and has threatened us with legal action and is making our lives hellish. 

But some people will never be convinced, right? No matter how great you do, how you speak, evidence you present, or the incredible changes you make in your life—some people will still hate you or be set in their own personal agenda.

Since we’ll never be able to change their minds, it’s better to focus on the people who support you, love you, care for you—and on the potential people who can and will do the same. 

Trying to convince the haters and trying to prove yourself simply won’t work for everyone. It sucks but it’s okay because we can’t control everything in our lives anyway.

The key to failure is trying to please everyone. Help yourself, then your loved ones, then your supporters. Those naysayers, the unconvinced, the ones who would love nothing more than to zap you dry or steal your sunshine—%^&* ‘em. Walk away or avoid them if possible, and pay them no mind. Their energy isn’t worth your time or the time it takes for them to poke unnecessary holes in the greatness you’ve built inside yourself. 

When Life Gives you Lemons…

You’re supposed to make lemonade, right? That’s the cliche on every Facebook meme, bumper sticker, and every well-meaning dime store self-help book. 

But as someone who has been through multiple life-changing tragedies and who makes “lemonade” for a living, I have to say — that cliche kinda pisses me off because making lemonade ain’t for everyone. 

You may not be good at making lemonade—but maybe you’re good at making lemon sorbet, lemon meringue, or lemon popsicles. Or maybe you need time to find the right recipe for whatever it is you’re going to eventually make. 

Finding purpose through life’s obstacles, challenges, and tragedies is the hallmark of what makes us human and what separates us from the beautiful animal kingdom. It’s how we move forward, how we connect, and how we even help the next generation. 

Take care, take your time (which means allowing yourself time to rest, and time to jumble the recipe until you find the one that tastes good), find and cultivate a healthy support system, and don’t let anyone tell you that you should have figured it out already. You’ll get there when you’re supposed to.