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An Ivy League Education That Kicked My Butt in Only Two Days

Last week, I went to Yale University to take a two-day course on social and emotional intelligence at their specialized center of the same name. It was an incredible training that mixed lecture, improv, small group work and discussion, and taught us how to identify and reframe our emotions by taking a “meta-moment” (more on that… in a moment)

On the following Wednesday I had to take a series of planes, trains, and automobiles to get to my next destination. For starters, my Uber driver couldn’t find us, could barely communicate with us in intelligible English, and was a horribly slow driver. The airport was a hot mess of a confusing maze. And the people at Smashburger almost made me miss my flight. I wanted to throw my burger at the cashier and let out a banshee-yell.

What’s an emotionally intelligent brotha to do?

I had to take a meta moment: Identify your emotion while you’re going through it. Stop, take a moment. What am I feeling? How do I see my best self? How do I want to feel right now? How can I renegotiate my emotional state to move in the direction of how I want to feel?

I went from pissed to empathetic and ready to face the rest of my work, my day and the people I had to deal with, with grace.

Lashing out at your spouse, violence, drinking to numb the pain, throwing your burger at a Smashburger employee—these can be temporary reliefs, but they are shortcuts and have no long lasting effect on helping you become your best self. And they are detrimental to your longterm health and happiness. 

You are not your emotions. You are the sum total of the decisions you make based on how you choose to act because of the state of how you feel or how you let your emotions drive you. 

Find Your Passion, Find Your Purpose? Hell No. Find it in the Service of Others.

The best place to start with finding your life’s purpose is not a vision quest in the middle of the Gobi Desert searching your soul for your inner passion. Finding purpose is both infinitely complex and incredible simple. 

My favorite place to find passion, where I’ve actually found mine, and where many of my respected peers and mentors have found their passion is working in the service of others. 

While giving of yourself, you may:
  • Strengthen and deepen a gift or talent you’ve always known about
  • Discover a gift or gifts you never knew you had
  • Uncover your likes, dislikes, and aptitudes for certain types of work and service, and
  • You may even discover seedlings that grow into a tree bearing fruits of your passion that will feed you the rest of your life
At age twenty-seven, I discovered that my passion happens to be at the intersection of the arts, creativity, education, and social advocacy. After trying for many years (and somewhat succeeding) at the arts and creativity, it wasn’t until I added in elements of teaching and advocacy to my life and career that I found my own purpose in life. 

Have you found your purpose in life? What is it? Please share (I’ll keep it private).

Are you still searching for your life’s purpose? What kind of social activities or volunteering might you be able to get involved with? Please share (I’ll keep it private). 

Your Ideal Conditions Will Drown. Immediate Action is Your Life Preserver. What Will You Choose?

I’ll finally be happy when I get married.

I’ll finally get started on my passion project after I raise a million dollars.

I’ll finally be able to heal when my sister stops nagging me.

These are all examples of the ideal conditions to complete a personal objective.

Hell, I had my own ideal conditions in my late twenties—I’ll be able to be happy, be able to heal, and have a family after I make X amount of money, have Y amount of TV and film roles, and travel to Z places on a spiritual journey. 

But XYZ never happened because “ideal conditions” are fools gold. Happiness is a choice. Healing requires work. And following one’s dreams or goals is a commitment. None are achievable under ideal conditions—in fact nothing is.

That means to achieve anything, whether a more solid relationship, personal fulfillment, or a goal—you must turn a negative into a positive (rarely do these negatives show up alone. They are wolves who travel in packs). This is where the greatest personal growth lies. And anyone can do it—not just princes, billionaires, or revered shamans.

You want to be a beautiful rose? Not everyone gets to grow inside the botanical garden with proper food, nurturing, and other ideal conditions. Sometimes the only place for growth is the cracked old sidewalk in a broken down neighborhood with minimal sunlight and rainwater—far from anyone’s ideal conditions. 

If you’re waiting for the ideal conditions to speak up, to get started, or to heal—you’re never going to find them. It’s up to you to make the impossible, possible. And the time to act is now—and before you know it your preferred “ideal conditions” will seem unnecessary and a distant  memory while the hardships you face while working to achieve your objective will make you stronger, savvier, more resilient, and the warrior you were always destined to become. 

What’s holding you back? How can you achieve your objective without your “ideal conditions”? Leave me a response (it will remain private). I’d love to hear from you!!!

Put Down the Workahol and Take a Damn Break

From the ages of 19-29, I worked roughly eighty hours a week, rarely took vacations, and proudly wore my long working hours on my chest as a badge that said, “I work harder than anyone you’ve ever met,” like it was some kind of endearing quality that would make puppies and beautiful women flock to me in droves (note: nothing has ever flocked to me in droves except mosquitoes in the summer). 

The work I was doing was equal parts productive and mundane. Prepping for auditions, singing, waiting tables, bartending, looking up actors and directors on IMDB, and writing (albeit poorly in those early years).

As time went by, I started wearing more of an entrepreneurial hat and got better with the quality of work but not with my time. Eighty hours a week was spent on more classes, more projects, and finally I became quite successful with one project in particular and nearly let it take over my life.

I started speaking for a living and took on another eighty hours a week, presenting all over the world, writing, creating, podcast interviewing, book writing, helping people… until one day after four exhausting ninety minute speeches back-to-back, I realized I wasn’t helping or taking care of the most important thing I had—my brain, and ultimately myself. 

I loved my work but I hated my quality of life and how tired I felt every day. Working seven days a week, with no time off, little or no time for love, no room for relaxing travel or exploration—I was suffering from burnout. 

Hi. My name is Joshua… and I’m a workaholic. 

I had to redesign my life. I started building little breaks into each day to walk, exercise, meditate, rotate my work space, or to just eat a healthy meal. I would no longer work from 8am-9pm. Work started at 830am and ended no later than 630pm (baby steps, I know), and I would take at least one day off per week, sometimes two. And I would travel at least once per year for leisure. 

Three years later, I now take two days off per week. And those regular breaks in the day still exist. I got married in November (in case you haven’t heard me raging about it on this blog yet : ), and realized I could cram those 60-80 hours of work into 40ish (no more mid-day YouTube, or afternoon naps with my blankie). Oh, and I take roughly five vacation weeks of per year and just got back from my honeymoon, a stunning two weeks on the tropical Grand Cayman island.

No, that starfish is not my wife… we're just good friends—I swear
And for the past three years, I’ve noticed with regular breaks, I’m fresher and my brain is sharper and I am more in love with my loved ones and with my work. And every time I get back from a vacation, I feel a deeper connection to myself, my physical and mental health, and in my relationships. (Oh, and coincidently, the three years I’ve gone on long vacations, business has grown by 50%, 100%, and 15% respectively)

Life isn’t as sweet without stopping to take a look around while on this journey. We need breaks for brain rest and to remind ourselves that we’re human, we’re doing okay, and that we’re an integral part of the beauty surrounding us.

Regular short breaks are easy to plan into your day. If you don’t have at least ten minutes a day to just be with yourself—you don’t have time for anything. And if you don’t have the cash or time for a long vacation, day trips will do. Traveling on the cheap is always an option too (especially for me)—Air B&B, couch surfing, or airline credit cards that offer huge amounts of miles can be really helpful, too.

What are you doing to take breaks? Yoga? Regular walks? A badass vacation backpacking through the Swiss Alps? Please share with me (it’ll be private)—I’d love ideas and just to hear from you!