Woman running up steps


[nectar_dropcap color=””]S[/nectar_dropcap]till looking for success? Look no further. From this day forward, success will never elude you again. Your parents and teachers had it wrong. Your mentors don’t understand it. And most motivational speakers are way off.

It’s time to finally learn the truth about success.

You are successful

You already are. Right here, right now.

You don’t need to look for success, wish for it, or want anymore. You already have it.

Success is not something that is just outside your reach, and if you do just a little bit more, put a little more effort into it, you’ll have it.

No, no, no.

Listen to me. You’re already successful.

Let me explain:

You (and everyone else you know) have successfully, and consistently, produced outcomes or results in life.

You do this every moment of every day. There’s no stopping you from success (or anyone else). You’re successful by default.

Living like a bum? That was you. Earning $34,000 a year? You did it. Fat and overweight? Good job. Poor relationships? Killing it.

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Conversely, living like a king/queen? You did that. $1,000,000 a month in income? No stopping you. Fit, in shape, and vibrantly healthy? Boom. Strong, meaningful relationships? “What can I say?”

Look. Everything in the universe works PERFECTLY. Why? Because all natural things just work. They just do. Including YOU (last I checked, tu es naturel aussi, no?)

“But what about this cool invention I just made. It doesn’t work…”

“I’m still not making any money from my business. It doesn’t work…”

“I’m still a janitor. My career doesn’t work…”

Well, guess what? You’re successful at building machines that don’t work.

You’re successful at making a business that doesn’t make money.

You’re successful at being a janitor.

Wait. There’s more.

What is success anyway?

In the 90’s, I ran across the work of Maxwell Maltz. Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 50’s and 60’s and he realized something very intriguing.

maxwell maltz
Dr. Maxwell Maltz

Despite changing a person’s physical appearance through cosmetic surgery, like a nose job or removing a scar, some people would still ACT like the scar was still there.

They would still ‘feel’ the scar’s presence, despite what other people close to them said or even if they were staring at themselves face to face in a mirror.

This result was so commonplace that Maltz decided to understand this phenomenon so he could effectively address it.

No matter what physical changes a person makes to their exterior or physical appearance, until they changed their INNER world, then the real change they wanted COULD NOT take place in that person’s life, regardless of the ‘hard’ evidence or social proof.

Maltz determined that the critical factor in all of this was the self-image. In his eyes, the self-image was the missing ingredient as to why his patients could not experience the changes on the INSIDE.

If someone could bring their self-image into alignment with the desired outer change, then they could experience the total change.

A short parable in the bible illustrates this point. Jesus was explaining that you CANNOT put new wine in old wineskins because the old wineskins will eventually crack and burst, spilling the wine and losing it completely (any wine buffs out there that can verify this?).

In the example we used earlier, if someone has surgery (new wine) and they keep their old wineskin (self-image), then eventually there will be a crack in the foundation, so to speak. And all the good effort and external changes won’t matter.

The old wineskin (self-image) is just used to a certain type of wine because it’s been holding it for so long. It can only hold that particular wine, and no other.

Think about this

You can change your clothes, cut your hair, do your toes, say affirmations, and even win the lottery, but if your old wineskin remains the same (self-image), then eventually all that new wine would leak through the cracks and disappear.

The old “wineskin” (self-image) wants the wine (thoughts & beliefs) it’s comfortable with. And it will remain that way until you change those old wineskins.

And here’s the kicker: the self-image is your primary goal. It’s your real target. Your entire mind-body system are completely aligned with it, and work diligently towards however you see yourself.

Whether your self-image is “fat” or “healthy” it will work effortlessly to accomplish that particular self-image. It doesn’t matter whether your self-image is earning $34k a year or a million dollars a month, your mind-body works to achieve that.

Take a look at this:

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The airplane has a goal to get to Atlanta. The plane takes off, begins to move toward its target, and plans to eventually land in Atlanta.

But the interesting stuff happens in between the take off and the landing.

You see that the plane is “off course” probably 90% of the time. Maybe it’s higher than that. Maybe it’s lower. I don’t know. But I do know that the plane has to constantly correct itself due to air resistance, turbulence, or what have you.

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Same with a thermostat. It has a goal to keep the room temperature at 72 degrees. Regardless if it gets hot or cold, the thermostat will either turn on the heat or the air conditioning.

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The thermostat keeps its goal. It doesn’t change. Same with the plane.

What if the plane took off and it decided to change it’s goal every 30 minutes?

What if the plane really wanted to go to New York, but never changed its programmed goal of Atlanta?

How often do you change goals in mid-flight?

What does all this mean?

I finally realized why I wasn’t making a whole lot of money. I kept changing my goals to fit how I saw myself. I just didn’t realize it.

Put another way, I saw myself as an employee. I saw myself as earning a certain amount of money every year. Sure, I wanted to earn more, but I really saw myself earning much less than what I wanted.

Everything I did was congruent with my self-image, and so every result was a successful outcome. And I mean every single one.

If I had just made a decision to “change” my self-image to fit my new goals, I would have avoided years of frustration.

In the past, as you moved towards your new goal, what happened when you met turbulence or resistance? How did you deal with it?

If you are like I was, you went back to doing what was comfortable for you. Like this:

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It’s great that an airplane’s autopilot navigation system adjusts, adapts, and responds quickly and efficiently to air resistance, turbulence, and bad weather.

It doesn’t think about anything else, because it can’t.

But people can. And therein lies the problem and the solution.

Because you have the ability to imagine and have thoughts, you can continue the past or transform into something totally different.

And if you decide to set a new goal then….

How will you do that?

Because when barriers and frustrations are come up, what will you do if your self-image is at odds with what you want? When you meet with resistance, how will you deal with it?

Remember, how you see yourself is your primary goal. You accomplish your primary goal (self-image) every day.

You’re already successful.

So, the obvious next question is:

How does all this work?

Very simply, your self-image is literally how you see yourself. But a more accurate definition of self-image is a story you tell yourself about yourself. And you tell that story based on a two critical factors:

  • Your outer world, or physical environment
  • Your inner world, or psychological environment

Physical Environment

Whatever happens in your world, from the time of your birth until now, shapes who you are.

the story of how others (your parents, siblings, friends, teachers, etc.) interacted with you over time

the story of your environment and how much it influences you

the story of your place in the world, or your identity (politics, religion, etc.)

These stories spring from the most emotional experiences you ever had, forming much of your self-image between birth and age 7. Your inner narrative continues to be the primary influence in your life, regardless of who you are. Parents (or whoever raised you) stay with you longer than you might realize.

The formation of your self-image is pretty simple, though explaining the process might take a team of neuroscientists, psychologists, and anthropologists to explain it properly.

We don’t have time for the Superfriends to come together, so let’s go with the simplified version. You have a mind and body. Let’s start there. And that mind and body is influenced by its direct environment. Like so:

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You cannot exist without an immediate environment, so someone or something is always influencing or conditioning the mind to think, speak, and act in a certain way.

How important is your physical environment?

How do you change your self-image?

You’ve got two ways.


Too much. Too many. You too?

Too many women to choose from. Too many men to complement them. How do you choose?

Too many career options. Too many jobs that match your experience. Too many business ideas. How do you choose?

Too many things to do today. Too many things to eat. Too many places to go. How do you choose?

Too many great shows to watch. Too many documentaries to keep you informed. Too many movies you haven’t seen. How do you choose?

Too many books to read. Too many courses to take. Too many lectures to listen to. Too many conferences to attend. How do you choose?

Too many apps. Too many websites. Too many companies doing the same sh*t. Too much value extraction. Too much money thrown at companies that don't earn a profit. Not trying to choose.

Too many Facebook friends. Too many Twitter followers. Too much width. How do I choose depth?

Too many gods. Too many religions. Too many sects. Too many believers (atheists too) who know the way. Too much blind belief. Doomed no matter what I choose.

Too much violence. Too much hate. Too much blame. Too much rape. Too much killing. Way too much. Can I choose to end it?

Too much good. Too much beauty. Too much optimism. Too much love for the little things. Too much heart to KO fear. Too much clarity. Too much talent. Way too much potential. Too much appreciation for you. You bring too much to the planet.

You can't have it all. Time is short. Choose wisely. I believe in you. Yup, you too.

What changes?

[cs_content][cs_section parallax="false" style="margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;"][cs_row inner_container="true" marginless_columns="false" style="margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;"][cs_column fade="false" fade_animation="in" fade_animation_offset="45px" fade_duration="750" type="1/1" style="padding: 0px;"][cs_text]Nothing changes. Don't be fooled. Nothing changes. I'm speaking to information junkies. I'm speaking to people always searching for the latest information in their field. I'm speaking to you, from human to human.

Sure, technology changes, and continues to evolve. It might be good to stay up on that because it affects us all, but what about people? People don't change. Not really.


Selling hasn't changed. If you're looking for the latest tactics, the latest research, etc. you're wasting your time. Sales is about:

  • relationship building
  • trust
  • relevance
  • need
  • and maybe price

If you're going to sell something to somebody, then you're going work with those principles. No real need or problem? No sale. Not a relevant solution to their need? Bye bye birdie. No trust? Doubt they buy, but if they did, they're not coming back.

And a business is built on relationships, on returning again and again. If somebody doesn't return, do you have a real relationship? Do you have a business? Maybe, but it won't last.


Marketing hasn't changed either. I don't care what name you call it by: growth, consultative selling, inbound marketing, etc. It's still marketing.

First, create a great product. Everything starts and stops there.

Then educate your audience. Don't expect people to know the benefits. Break it down for them.

Then demonstrate how valuable it is. Give people a chance to use it if you can. Let them see a demo.

And you get the word out through as many channels (cheaply) as you can. Ads, word of mouth or reviews (best), social media, email, billboards (ugh), or whatever.

Have those principles changed after 100 years of modern advertising? Nope.


Have people fundamentally changed in the past 2500 years? Don't think so.

Ever since consciousness miraculously appeared 60,000 years ago, we have been making up our reality as we go.

Does it surprise you when five people witness the same event that there's five unique accounts of said event? It shouldn't.

Does it surprise you when there's one religion, say Christianity or Islam, and there's 1000's of sects or different views on said religion? It shouldn't.

Does it surprise you when entire groups of people think a certain way and a different group thinks a different way? It shouldn't.

Does it surprise you when people want to hurt or kill other people who don't see the world the same way they do? It shouldn't.

Does it surprise you when people look to leaders to save them from all the threats in the immediate environment? This has been happening for thousands of years.

And does it surprise you when those so-called leaders exploit those so-called followers for their own benefit? It really shouldn't.


Death hasn't changed. Physical death comes closer to all of us each and every day. For some, it comes faster than others.

Because of environment, some are born in extreme poverty or in the middle of war. No choice when it comes to parents.

Because of what people do to their bodies, pouring the worst chemicals into their bodies posing as food and drink.

Because of what people don't do with their bodies. They don't move around. They don't explore their limits.

But there's another kind of death. The death of potential. The death of love. The death of beauty. The death of innocence. The death of purpose.

These deaths are more profound. They turn optimism into cynicism. They turn gratitude into greed. They turn a child's mindfulness into automation. These deaths are the worst because, ironically, they still live amongst us.

It's not good or bad. It's just the way things are. Some things change, yes. But most things, especially human nature, not so much.

There's tremendous opportunity here. To grow as a species, to change against our very nature, and to really live life.

Let's accept that responsibility. Let's go.[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]

How Bernie Sanders wins (even if he loses)

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his political season entertains like no other. We have Donald, Hillary, Ted, Ben, Marco, Bernie, and good ol’ Jeb. Donald’s version of truth telling is blowing everything up (including his own brand).

presidential candidates 2016

Hillary is a shameless panderer. Ted is deplorable, but at least he believes in his schtick. Marco is an establishment puppet. Ben is still gathering his thoughts, and Jeb spent the family jewels (roughly $130 million) on four delegates before dropping out. That’s borderline criminal.

It’s embarrassing to watch professional liars fall all over themselves for votes. But what might be more embarrassing is how much the average voter still believes in these so-called leaders and the political process. And that leads me to Bernie.

Let’s face it. Bernie Sanders is a longshot to become president—but even if he loses, he can still win. And by ‘win’ I’m not talking about some weak consolation prize such as the Vice Presidency or pulling Hillary more to the left than she’s already comfortable doing.

Bernie's election defining statement is an historic moment in our country's history. This is no exaggeration. Citizens all over the world should take notice.

If his message is taken to heart, people can reclaim the power they were so eager to give away. They'll exert more influence over their lives and communities—resulting in a win for Bernie (even if he ‘loses’).

I’ll explain.

Bernie's Magic

So what are the magic words?

Here's Bernie, from his interview on the Axe Files podcast with David Axelrod, Obama’s former campaign manager:

I don’t have any illusion that I’m going to walk in — if there is a Republican House and a Republican Senate — that I’m going to walk in there and say, ‘Hey guys, listen. I’d like you to work with me on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.’

It ain’t gonna happen, I have no illusion about that.

The only way that I believe that change takes place…is that tens of millions of people are going to have to stand up and be involved in the political process the day after the election.


Hold up. “After the election”?

Is anyone else hearing this?!

If you pay close attention, you’ll notice he says that he 'can't do it alone' at least once in every in-depth interview and every stump speech. I just sit and marvel each time I hear it.

Why is this so damn important?

Because Bernie is out to murder the current brand of leadership everyone is consumed with. The kind where one person comes and saves the world ‘if you’ll just vote for me.’

Do you really believe that ONE person can fashion an entire country in their vision?

Do you really believe that ONE person is capable of keeping their insane promises without lots and lots of help?

Do you still believe in the old brand of leadership that produces a new savior that you should get behind in every election cycle?

Has someone EVER transformed an entire country using their charisma, good looks, and their 'roll up the sleeves' work ethic? In the history of our planet?

No. You know why? Because it's impossible. And every election cycle, people fall for these false promises. It happens every time.

In Bernie's interview with Killer Mike, Mike picked up on this point and emphatically stated, “You seem to be the only candidate that wants a smarter constituency.”

In fact, he had to say it twice. Why? Because it's not normal political rhetoric.

You just don't hear politicians say things like this because they want you to believe THEY have the power to change things, not you.

They have the capability to make things happen, not you.

Sure. You can vote. That's what you can do. Just shut up, vote, and watch 'em go.

Look. You can have an awesome country if you vote for me. You can have it all. Health care, low taxes, whatever you want. Just vote for me.

I'll take care of you.

I'll take care of your family.

I'll take care of the economy.



Bernie's delivery

[x_pullquote cite="Killer Mike, during his interview with Bernie Sanders" type="right"]You seem to be the only candidate that wants a smarter constituency.[/x_pullquote]Throughout the interview, Mike continues to toss the Senator fat softballs to knock out of the park, once and for all.

Instead of blasting the door down with a thundering stomp, Bernie politely knocked, offering milk and cookies.

Look. It’s not that his message isn’t strong (it is), and it’s not like this interview wasn’t powerful (it was), I just don’t believe Bernie’s delivery came across as the game-breaker it really is.

Imagine Bernie shutting down every future interview, every speech, every fundraiser and saying, “Wait a minute. Do you understand what I’m saying? Do you really get it? We’re not leaving here until YOU get this…”

Still, Bernie’s message struck me because I’ve been waiting for it. I just wish someone would call out pandering politicians as the false leaders they really are. In the future, I wouldn’t be surprised if some ambitious politician steals his line to nab votes from unsuspecting voters.

Still, Bernie presents his strategy for massive change courageously, but will people get it? Then reality hits me:

Does anyone care what happens after elections? Do I even care? Not really.

In fact, most people don’t. People go back to their routines. Some are happy. Some are sad. Some are upset. Some give up. Some move to another country. And some decide to do something about it.

Imagine if more people got involved in the political process after elections.

Imagine if people got fired up the day after an election, even if their candidate of choice didn’t win.

Imagine if people mobilized and organized ALL THE DAMN TIME.

Imagine if civics was sexy, and everyone was ‘doing it’, not just the radicals and power mongers.

It doesn’t matter if the media gets the magnificence of Bernie’s ‘day after’ strategy. It matters that YOU do. Why would the media underscore his call to action if, in the end, it ultimately diminishes their massive influence?

What matters is that YOU get this idea, that the phony illusion of leadership, as an all-knowing, omniscient savior is over. The old brand of leadership you grew up with is coming to an end. It has to.

We have to reclaim our power through action, assertiveness, and follow-through.

Who's responsible? Who's accountable for all this?

Look in the mirror.

Nothing has changed since the dawn of humanity.

It's on us. It's always been this way, but when will civic life stop being a spectator sport? Will we step up? When?

Because our lives depend on it.

Our children’s lives depend on it.

The future of the world depends on it.

If we get more involved, we win. Bernie wins, too. Even if he loses.


Still Here - A Tribute to Charles Jefferson

"Don't look at me..."

I think towards the man sitting next to me, as we soar some 25-30,000 feet up in the air. Tears overwhelm my eyes.

"It’s not fair."

Those are the only words that cross my mind.

“It’s just not fair,” I whisper to myself as I finally give in to reality.

Charles is never coming back, and I have to accept that.

I look out the window, watch the clouds pass slowly by, and tears fall uncontrollably.

Seattle, one day earlier

I’m on a ferry to Bainbridge Island. It takes about 30 minutes to cross, and the ride is usually relaxing.

When the sun is out, the Sound is breathtaking in a subtle way. If you’re not paying attention, you miss it.

Ferry Ride - the Sound

I’m on my way to see Charles and Cyndy, two people who have been influential in my life and work. Two people that are family to me.

In times past, I’d head over to talk about big ideas and how we could make the world a better place to live.

But not this time. This time is different.


I first met Charles and Cyndy at Cleveland High School back in 1998. I just started working in social services with homeless youth, and my boss asked me if I could attend a meeting there.

Cleveland staff were looking for alternative ways to reach “difficult” students. There were five of us in the room. I don’t remember what was discussed, but Charles and Cyndy approached me and told me about EHAS (pronounced ē-häs), their alternative program for students with challenges. I made an appointment to stop by and see their facilities.

EHAS was located down in the basement of the Madrona Church. I walked in and right away I noticed how comforting, really welcoming this place was.

The entire space was divided into sections. There was a classroom, a music studio, musical instruments, books, and various prints adorning the walls. It was a wide open space, and Charles welcomed me with a smile and asked if I was ready for the “dime tour”.

We all sat down, and Charles explained how EHAS worked.

Students would get suspended or expelled and be referred to EHAS. If students “cooperated” with the program, they would be reinstated back into public school.

What does “cooperation” mean?

I witnessed engaging dialogue about life, discussions about the nature of reality, politics, corruption, racism, self-empowerment, finances, building a professional network, and the power of the mind.

Charles talked about how music is the gateway, a universal language for the mind. After classroom discussions, there were some exercises, and eventually, youth would enter the studio and express what they learned through music.

Their teaching style brought the shy student out of her shell. Low self-esteem would dissipate over time and confidence would emerge in some who had given up. Some of the transformations were just flat out amazing.

At the end of every program, there would be a completion ceremony celebrating the students and their journey. Charles and Cyndy would explain the program to onlookers, pass out the music CD they produced in class, accompanied by a professional portfolio of their work.

Parents would marvel and share their perspective of their child’s journey and a Seattle Public School’s representative would speak. Some youth had probation officers who added their testimony, usually perplexed at the positive results themselves.

Through music, Charles and Cyndy reached hardened youth, and saw many of their students re-enter the public school system. But more powerful than that, their students left with a renewed sense of purpose.

Every person has a song

I remember Charles explaining what EHAS means, and it immediately stuck.


In Native tradition, the elders say that every person has a song. Everyone has a purpose. Everyone has a voice inside, waiting to be expressed in a way only they can do it.

Charles and Cyndy found unique ways to help youth find it within themselves.

I was convinced. I soon joined their board, and not too long after, contributed my time for spontaneous, pop-in workshops for students and curriculum development.


Charles happily played the game with youth. He had a great sense of humor and an infectious laugh. He also stuttered and would proudly declare it in front of students who suffered the same affliction to make them feel at ease.

Despite all the changes and new faces that came through those doors over the years, Charles always had his script down pat and adapted on the fly. As a jazz musician, Charles was used to improvisation, and it found its way into the classroom effortlessly.

He would start sentences with, "Once again," as if someone had violated a sacred principle and he had to retell the lesson. He also affirmed it when something was proven "once again."

However, there’s one phrase that will always be etched in my mind:

“We’re still here.”

He said it after Seattle Public Schools turned EHAS down for more funding.

He said it after getting low-balled on contracts despite the results they consistently achieved.

He said it while struggling financially after both he and Cyndy poured their heart and soul into EHAS over 18 years.

“We’re still here.”

It was a statement of defiance. You know that cockroach? The one that just can’t be killed, no matter how much you try? That cockroach would use this phrase.

“We’re still here.”

It was always “we” to Charles. He and Cyndy were a formidable team. They were complimentary in almost every way. Charles trumpet, Cyndy french horn. Together, they were a complete symphony.

“We’re still here.”

I always felt a sense of hope after he said it. I don’t know why, but it was the way he said it. It was a rallying cry. It made me want to fight even harder.

“We’re still here.”

No matter what the struggle was, “still here” was a sign of optimism, yet full of rebellion.


I guess we all saw the signs. Charles would forget little things here and there. Cyndy talked about how his new prescription glasses never seemed just right.

“Oh, I guess they got the prescription wrong again,” Charles would sigh.

Things would slowly compound. I’d arrive for our discussions and he would greet me with a blank stare. Those stares got longer and longer over time.

Cyndy talked about times when they would drive to the store, and when she came back out, Charles would be sitting in the passenger seat -- of someone else’s car.

This was only the beginning of a difficult, trying Job-like ordeal for Cyndy and their family.

There’s no need to go into the details here. If anyone has ever experienced a loved one going through Alzheimer’s or Dementia, then you know how devastating it can be.

It wasn’t an easy takedown. Charles is stubborn and full of pride. He fought and fought, until he couldn’t fight anymore.

Soon, he was trapped behind blank eyes that came to life from time to time. His body soon followed, and now needs to be supported by a wheelchair permanently.


Can you imagine not being able to walk again?

Can you imagine your mind disconnected from your body?

Can you imagine not being able to do what you love? A jazz musician without his trumpet?

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it

Charles and Cyndy gave everything they had to others. All I could think on my plane ride home is:

They don’t deserve this.

Stories like theirs don’t end this way.

But that’s a fallacy. And that's tough to swallow.

In reality, the world is full of tragedy. People die in terrible ways everyday. Corrupt politicians and financiers exploit the masses with no consequence. Kids are forced to do things that are incomprehensible. Selfishness is the norm. And people who serve others, but barely scrape by themselves, die poor.

Life is NOT fair, nor is it meant to be. If societies can be set up to benefit certain people (and they are), and not others, there’s nothing fair in that. The truth is, Seattle Public Schools didn’t value the youth who slipped through the cracks as much as other students who had more "promise". The truth is, the "last" in class are the least valued as EHAS and other fledgling programs around the world continue to fight for those students.

“No child left behind” is a societal and political lie. For people who really believe in this concept, for the teachers and educators everywhere that tackle that responsibility, they are often overwhelmed with a tremendous burden with minimal resources and support.

The burden Charles and Cyndy hauled wasn’t fair to them, especially considering their compensation all those years. Especially considering the time and effort they put in. Especially considering the personal cost and sacrifice they made.

They bled for Seattle and its children. All their partners and funders, from the City of Seattle to the Paul G. Allen Foundation, have no idea what they gave of themselves. Sure, they could've dropped EHAS much earlier and fended for themselves, but they chose not to.

In the end, they couldn’t let go of all the troubled youth, even for their own benefit. They fought and fought until everything finally broke down. Until they broke down. And when EHAS closed its doors, it was without fanfare, celebration, or even a little dap of love.

They left quietly. Things fell silent. And all the lives they touched became a distant memory.

Not long after EHAS faded away, Charles’ reality began to unravel.

Still here

I’m visiting with Charles and Cyndy at the nursing home. Charles is present, as Cyndy and I catch up. Sometimes Cyndy interacts with other residents. She’s familiar to everybody.

I take out my phone and cue up my jazz playlist. We start with Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I place my phone on Charles’ wheelchair. “So what” permeates the room and Charles comes alive.

He has intermittent bursts of laughter, smiling, and toe-tapping.

Charles contorts his lips like he’s about to blow. I can hear his music teacher from long ago:

Don’t smile, pull back, pucker in the lips.

Keep your shoulders relaxed; not raised.

Play with confidence.

You must drive all fear out of your system.

Hit it hard and wish it well.

Cyndy reaches for his trumpet and hands it to Charles. Even in this state, Charles is giving his all to blow one last time.

I'm riveted.

Charles trying to blow one last time

We wait for trumpet sounds, but they don't come. Despite that, the mood livens up in the room for a few moments, and Cyndy smiles.

We both feel his presence.

Charles Jefferson is still here.


I saved the best for last. The love Cyndy has for Charles through all of this... there are no words.

The pain, the struggle, the confusion, all the sleepless nights, through thick and jungle thick... there are just no words to explain this kind of love. None.

Through all of it, Cyndy's still here, too.

I'm just in awe.



I wrote some of this post listening to 500 Drums, a piece Charles did back in the day. Charles had reverence for Native American culture (he had a bit in him, too).


He always had a way to make everyone feel included and welcome. He was quiet and to himself when he wasn't with Cyndy, but still had a presence about him.

I hope to see him again, soon.


It's been awhile since I posted something. In May, I made the switch from the nonprofit world to a tech startup based in Barcelona.

I write for Typeform, and it's been a great ride so far, and I look forward to more.

So I'll be back and forth between Spain and the States.

Until next time.


Language Codes

[dropcap]D[/dropcap]o everyday words contain hidden meanings? Are there hidden codes in language that can alter your point of view forever? Can the same word that keeps one man down inspire another to greatness?

Come play along...

Language Codes

Here's an exercise for you:

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To recap:

Authority - the elders, parents, teachers, politicians, etc. - are really just authors.

Authors write, tell, and re-tell stories. They're especially fond of his-story.

Authors are making up the world just as we are. The only difference is, some people are making it up consciously, while many are unconscious of the stories they're telling to themselves and the world.

It's easy to forget that you're on the receiving end of a story when you've been trained it in all your life. Story becomes fact very quickly.

We're all trains traveling on the train tracks of life, but do YOU know where your tracks are taking you? Have you laid down your own tracks or are you jumping on the first tracks you see?

You know what they say,

"Stay on track, you're almost there..."


"Don't worry, you're just a little off-track, you'll get there..."

The question is, where is there? Where are those tracks leading you to?

Do you know where you're headed? How about your community? Your country?

Something to think about.


The Miracle of Feedback

[cs_content][cs_section parallax="false" separator_top_type="none" separator_top_height="50px" separator_top_angle_point="50" separator_bottom_type="none" separator_bottom_height="50px" separator_bottom_angle_point="50" style="margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;"][cs_row inner_container="true" marginless_columns="false" style="margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;"][cs_column fade="false" fade_animation="in" fade_animation_offset="45px" fade_duration="750" type="1/1" style="padding: 0px;"][cs_text][dropcap]I[/dropcap] wake up smiling this morning because it's a beautiful, sunny day. The window is open and it doesn't feel cold outside. I get out of bed and dodge a few walls on my way to the bathroom. Then I shower, get dressed, and head out the door to work.

I look both ways before crossing the street, then I jump into my Honda.

I drive to the main intersection and wait for cars to pass. A Chrysler mini-van drives by, and I get behind it. At the light, I sneak a peak at my phone, and see that I have plenty of time to get to work. As I'm waiting, I think about how all my decisions have been affected by one thing — feedback.

And it made me wonder. Life is an absolute marvel, but what would life be without the ability to try new things, experience the unknown, and somehow have the feeling that you're progressing in life?

And yet, how can one progress or gain mastery of something without the miracle of feedback?

Feedback brings life

Peter Senge wrote a book titled The 5th Discipline, including the follow-up The 5th Discipline Field Book. I read the opening chapter of the Field Book in the bookstore over 10 years ago, and it always stuck with me. Here's the excerpt:

Among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa, the most common greeting, equivalent to “hello” in English, is the expression: Sawu bona.

It literally means, “I see you.”

If you are a member of the tribe, you might reply by saying Sikhoma, “I am here.”

The order of the exchange is important: until you see me, I do not exist. It’s as if when you see me, you bring me into existence.

This meaning, implicit in the language, is part of the spirit of ubuntu, a frame of mind prevalent among native people in Africa below the Sahara. The word ubuntu stems from the folk saying Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu, which, from Zulu, literally translates as: “A person is a person because other people.”

If you grow up with this perspective, your identity is based upon the fact that you are seen — that people around you respect and acknowledge you as a person.

Not long ago, an internal consultant who had been raised in a rural village became visibly upset after a meeting where nothing much had seemed to happen. When a project where he had played a key part came up for discussion, his role was not mentioned or acknowledged.

Asked later why it bothered him so much, he said, “You don’t understand. When they spoke about the project, they did not say my name. They did not make me a person.”


When we acknowledge each other, we activate a feedback loop. When we don't acknowledge one another, does a part of us disappear?

A simple "hello" and a smile can work miracles in someone's life.

It's our way of saying, "Sawu bona. I see you. You exist."

That's the power of feedback. That's the power of responding to a stimulus, internal or external.

Remember, communication is the response you get.

If someone yells at you, what did YOU say to them?

If someone kisses you, what did YOU do to them?

If someone spews hate and discontent toward you, what role did you play?

Are you listening?

There are two types of feedback that we're all working with.

External and internal feedback.

[x_blockquote cite="Jimmy Dean" type="left"]"I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination."[/x_blockquote]

This quote speaks of external feedback.

You begin with a goal, make a move, sh*t happens, you make adjustments, and persevere towards the goal.

This kind of feedback comes from everywhere. Teachers give out grades in school. I smile at a woman and her look tells me whether she's interested or not. The crowd reaction I get depends on whether I make or miss my shot.

A wall tells me to go around it, objects on the floor ask me to step over them, and heat coming from the stove cautions me to keep a safe distance.

You're constantly receiving information (feedback) through your 5 senses, then you either correct course and keep moving forward or you give up on your goal entirely. Moving forward or quitting depends on two things: how difficult the next action step is AND how bad you want to accomplish that goal.

If you're highly skilled at dealing with feedback, you're likely to accomplish much more than the average person. Very likely.

If you're poorly skilled at receiving feedback, you're likely to settle for a life of mediocrity.

Internal feedback

[x_blockquote cite="Antoine de Saint-Exupéry" type="left"]"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."[/x_blockquote]

That's INTERNAL feedback. You know when you know something. You know when something is just right for you.

Internal feedback is instinct, intuition, or that gut feeling. It's accumulated experience. It's wisdom.

Sometimes the world seems right, but you know something is wrong. That business deal seems right, but the person behind it is all bad. Conversely, sometimes things look bleak, but something about this person feels right.

You're constantly getting signals and cues from your inner and outer worlds, but are you listening?

[x_blockquote cite="Paulo Coelho" type="left"]“We always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.”[/x_blockquote]

Your intuition tells you to approach him, but you're afraid of rejection.

Your gut tells you to go for the job, and that it's right for you, but you decide against it, rationalizing your lack of experience will somehow work against you.

Feedback is coming at you from everywhere. Again, are you listening?

Feedback deepens connections

According to George Anders, what's the most valuable skill to have in 2020? Empathy.

How can you empathize without feedback? And how can you get feedback from somebody if you're not in direct contact with them? It's impossible, yet empathy is lacking in every sector. People suffer as a result.

As organizations grow, they lose contact with the very people who can help them grow — employees, customers, and partners.

No contact, no empathy.

No empathy, no feedback.

No feedback, no adjustments will be made.

No adjustments made? See Kodak, Blockbuster, and Border's Books.

When you adjust, you also demonstrate empathy.

Sure, you can adjust based on analytics, data, and sheer manipulation, but it won't get you very far. Empathy seems like the obvious choice, but decision makers still don't get it.

Empathy is a culture. See Apple, Zappos, and Netflix.

Feedback is neutral

Most times, the feedback we get sucks and feels like a kick in the mouth.

To correct mistakes quickly, to address situations before they get out of hand, and to acknowledge the elephant in the room is not just critical to progress, it gives you an opportunity to find and express your humanity.

What good does it do anyone if get the message, only to ignore it?

What good does it do for you to see yourself in the mirror, notice those unwanted results, but return to the same routine?

What good does it do to look at your bank account, then continue with the same spending behaviors that keep you living from paycheck to paycheck?

What good does it do to look at your organization's subpar results, and continue the same behaviors that got you there?

See that dirt? Go ahead, sweep it under the rug. Soon a mound of dirt will pile up, waiting for someone to step on it, and *poof* everybody gets to taste it.

Feedback is neutral, it's not a personal attack on you.

Given what you're trying to accomplish in work or life, feedback asks you to change course, to adjust. Is that too difficult? Does the truth really hurt that bad? Indeed.

What if your quality of life was as simple as telling the truth about what you experience and then doing something about it?

Can you handle the truth?

Feedback increases engagement

I remember conducting a "feedback experiment" at the nonprofit I used to work for.

What would happen if we increased feedback for participants?

Could we accomplish more in one two-week workshop than we have in the previous ten workshops combined?

How will this affect long-term retention and engagement?

By gamifying the workshops — essentially increasing feedback using logged data — we outperformed the previous results by a factor of 10x. Sure, we measured outcomes better, but the quality of outcomes blew away past cohorts.

The lesson? Feedback is a powerful tool for individuals and organizations, and it's always right there, in your face.

Will you listen? Will you adjust and adapt?[/cs_text][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]

Conscious Taxes

It's the year 2036.

It's tax time again, and EVERYONE'S excited about it. You've been looking forward to this for almost 8 months because this is the first year in the history of the world that YOU get to decide where your tax dollars go.

Your decisions will have a direct impact on the immediate world around you, and after many decades of failed politics, poor economic policies, the people have finally wrested control over their communities and ecosystems. Politicians finally serve the people.

The Conscious Tax App

You register and sign into the Conscious Tax App for the first time, and you see all the money you were taxed for the previous year on the welcome screen:


With this amount, you can invest in any program, policy, or plan you would like, as long as it's given back to the community.  The #1 law regarding taxes is that you CANNOT keep it for yourself, although you can direct it to institutions and programs that serve your interests.

You can give some to the local military or police, infrastructure to keep roads safe, education and schools, healthcare, social security, or even that local politician that works so hard to make sure plans are implemented wisely.

You click a button that leads you to all local proposals, such as a new commuter train system, housing renovations, getting rid of pesky potholes, upgrading local schools and improving agriculture standards.

Every proposal submitted includes:


[icon_list style="color: green"][icon_list_item type="check"]Purpose (what problem does this solve?)[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]Plan costs[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]Benefits, which includes benefits to local ecosystem and surrounding cities[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]Timeframe[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]Negative outcomes (what negative consequences could result from this?)[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]The current funding progress (plans will be initiated once funding is complete - people vote with their dollars)[/icon_list_item]

[icon_list_item type="check"]There's also a list of consequences (some speculative, some based on previous maintenance costs) associated with a plan if it's NOT funded fully. (Such a list might include no electricity for 2 months, projected 12% increase in criminal activity, 8% rise in higher drop out rates in school, etc.)[/icon_list_item]


So, what will you do with your tax money?


It's a bigger responsibility, making decisions that not only impact your household, but your entire community. And what if every decision involving every tax dollar was transparent? Others can see where your tax dollars go, and you can see where theirs go. Everybody's values would be on display.

Would you support schools and education, building towards a long term vision of your community? Or do you use your money to fund immediate needs, like road and bridge infrastructure? Should you fund that arts program for youth? Or do you allocate funds to that innovative pure water project that might NOT work?

How do you respond if you're championing a cause that isn't getting the necessary attention (or funding) you think it deserves? Wouldn't you get MORE involved? Wouldn't you attempt to make something happen?

Wouldn't 'conscious taxes' make everybody a de facto politician, making people responsible for swaying and influencing others to vote for the 'best' worldview imaginable?

How would YOU create the best ecosystem humanly possible? A place where all community members have the potential to thrive, without institutional barriers.

I see a world where public debate and discourse would increase. Civic engagement would shoot through the roof. Wall flowers would hit the dance floor.


The truth is, many people are disengaged from politics and policy making.

The truth is, nobody can pinpoint or know for sure where their tax dollars go - it's all based on what government tells us.

The truth is that a very small percentage of the population is involved in any form of civic engagement, let alone public debate - which is mostly left for the politicians and scholars.

Here, take a look at where your tax dollars are likely to end up:



This doesn't include Wall St. bailouts, senator's salary's and pension plans, nor all the wasteful spending that goes into a bureaucratic behemoth such as Washington D.C.

The question is, where do YOU want your money to go? To the military, and ongoing wars? Despite having the largest military in the WORLD, the United States spends an amount equal to the next closest 8 countries COMBINED.


Is this really the best use of our money? Maybe you think so, but I don't. I'd be fine if you decided to throw your all your tax dollars at the military. I'd like to choose where my money goes, and focus on taking care of many of the social problems we continue to experience.

Are your tax dollars really in better hands with the government? Wouldn't it be nice to see the connection of YOUR actual dollars to the BENEFITS you're meant to receive?

Instead of having a disengaged populace, don't you think the level of awareness regarding local problems/solutions would raise in communities with tax spending in the hands of people? Perhaps political corruption would cease as a result.

I don't have any answers, just a bunch of questions.

With a little imagination, innovation, and "conscious taxes", I'm sure we can do much, much better even if it's in 2036. I hope much sooner.

Perhaps one day we can log-in to the Conscious Tax App, and start directing the future of our communities and country.

I can dream.


Let go my Lego: The ultimate Lego productivity hack

"What are you doing?? Just start building. No more talking!"

It's November in San Francisco. I'm in a conference room somewhere in the Twitter building playing with legos with a colleague and other strangers looking to build their businesses.

Why are we playing with legos?

"That's how you're going to develop your business models," says our facilitator.

It may seem strange to you, but I learned a new way to look at developing new (even innovative) business models using legos. It takes practice, of course.

It's not as easy as it looks, but the surprising takeaway comes after our facilitator challenges us through another exercise. My colleague and I are debating a business idea, and we're going back and forth and our facilitator comes over and says emphatically...

"What are you doing?? Just start building. You build yours, and you build yours. No more talking!"

I laugh because I get it. Talking is just another form of procrastination, and overthinking something that doesn't need more thinking. Just do it, and let the answers develop through process.

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

-Mark Twain

Lego lessons in action

The other day I wrote Love Improv #1, a freestyle piece that developed in my head organically. I had a blank screen staring at me, and decided to apply lego lesson numero uno. I begin to write, and shortly after, another post is up.

Just begin.

Just build.

Just write.

Don't worry about how it looks. Don't concern yourself with the end.

Just go along for the ride. You'll surprise yourself where you end up sometimes.

Sometimes the best way to begin is to just begin.

Starting is the best productivity hack in the entire universe.

Imagine how much you could accomplish if you started wherever you happened to be, with whatever resources were available?

Finally, if you're worried about making mistakes, then you simply don't understand how anything worthwhile gets built, created, designed, or developed.

During our break, the facilitator offers us some food. As I head around the hallway towards the dining area, I see a big poster on wall that says:

make mistakes

Of course.


Diamonds Aren't Forever

"Can I have $150?"


"For a diamond ring. It's healing me."

(I think for a moment, before speaking)

I don't have a $150 to give you right now.

"How much can you give me?"

Whatever's in my wallet.

(I reach in and grab every bill and hand it to her)Here mom.

(She counts it slowly, deliberately.)

"Thank you."

Exit mom. Empty wallet in hand, I think about my mother. Despite her mental illness, she always finds a way to share something valuable with me.

For my mother, at this stage of her life, I'm not surprised that she believes a diamond ring could heal her. I see this kind of thinking from people everyday.

If I had a job, then I'd be good...

If I had a man/woman, then life would be fulfilling again...

If I won the lottery, then I could tell my boss to kiss my [insert body part here] and I can live an awesome life.

And yet, the person who gets the job, loses it months later.

The relationship that begins, soon ends.

The lottery winner squanders it all, and wonders, what happened? -- as they begin looking for another job.

Nothing wrong with this kind of thinking. The person who gets the job IS good - for a moment.

I'm sure the person who wants to be in a relationship badly would experience fulfillment - for a moment.

The lottery winner gets to tell their boss off and live an awesome life gets to experience that - for a moment.

Mom is stubborn and persistent. If she wants a diamond ring, she will have it, despite her physical and mental limitations. Nothing will stand in her way.

And I'm sure, she will experience healing - for a moment - maybe even longer, if the placebo is strong enough - but it won't last.

If there's anything meditation taught me (experientially, not theoretically), is that:

no moment lasts.

It's here and gone, just like that. Through meditation, I got to experience this phenomenon happening throughout my entire body.

Practicing meditation for long periods of time is a transformational experience, perhaps because the meditator gets to experience CHANGE as it happens from moment to moment, so the meditator naturally changes as a result.

Change. It's here, now. You don't have to wait for it. Expect it.

When you get your 'thing', whatever it is, that feeling WILL go away. This too, shall pass.

Nothing in the universe is permanent. Nothing.

So what will you do when your moment is gone? What happens when you get to your mountain top? What will you do then?

Unfortunately, mom will find this out sooner or later: diamonds are NOT forever.



...oh yes it will...