Killing the 7 Motivation Murderers

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I spent almost all day unmotivated to do anything. I moped around, slowly fed the dogs, slowly shoveled eggs into my mouth, avoided any productive task. Then I remembered that I could motivate myself. I busted out my Motivation Toolkit and dug up that energy reservoir that was waiting to be tapped.

Motivation is talked about too much. It seems like twice a year there’s a scientist that comes out with the new secret to motivation that will forever keep us motivated to do the things we want to do. You buy their books every time and read the motivational message about the secret to motivation. Damn they’re motivating! You’re excited all the way through the book! “HELLO WORLD! I AM MOTIVATED!”

Then you wake up the next morning extremely unmotivated.

You don’t want to get out of bed. You don’t see the point in moving on. You eat too much sugar and crash into immobility. You stop caring about your passion.

Sometimes being unmotivated is just ‘meh’ and sometimes it’s the deepest, darkest corner of hell. Either way, nothing is being built. We’re builders! If we go too long without constructing something then we die.

At a certain point you get motivated enough to go read something motivating. That works for a second, a minute. You soak in every single one of the greatest motivational ideas in the world.

Then you exit the Window of Motivation and realize nothing happened. You read everything about motivation – you know all there is about the thing, why isn’t it hitting you!?

You didn’t do anything.

Without action, knowledge only leads to frustration.

You don’t need to go read lists of “50 Ways to Motivate Yourself” or look at pictures with exciting quotes on them. You don’t need to find the perfect Tumblr picture to find that motivation. You don’t need to read the right book. You don’t need anything external to get motivated right now.

You don’t need this blog post.

I’m going to show you my 7 Motivation Murderers and then I’m going to give you the tools I use to kill them.

We can often get to where we want to be (in this case, a motivated state of mind) by taking away what’s holding us back. We simplify our situation to open it up to where we want to be.

By the time we’re through here you will have a heightened awareness for those things that are killing your motivation and you will have a set of tools to eliminate them immediately.

This is a long post so go ahead and skip to the Murderer currently tormenting you. Here is the list of them in order: Ingratitude, Envy, Impatience, Overwhelm, Inaction, Loss of Meaning, and No Skin in the Game.

Enjoy and Godspeed!


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. – Melody Beattie

This guy is a bitch to shake. Every day I have to kill him. When Ingratitude is around it’s hard to get anything done because it’s stuck in the past. All it sees is everything that isn’t here that ‘should’ be. When I do finally get some work done it’s with a grudge and so it sucks. Work becomes a grudge instead of a source of optimal experiences.

If this single Murderer is killed you will have done enough. If you can live in a constant state of gratitude your life is going to be rosy as hell. Imagine feeling grateful all the time! That’s like falling in love with life. Amor fati!

The godfather of lifestyle design, Tim Ferriss, once said that making a list every morning of the things you’re grateful for is the single most powerful thing you can do to make your life better as a whole. This is coming from a guy whose expertise is in finding the most potent piece of any system.

Becoming grateful for your life – as it is right now – is the most important thing you can do to productively move forward. It’s easier to work towards making money when you’re grateful for the money that let you eat (read: live) today.

How do we cultivate this? Make lists! I would be a piece of shit if I just recommended you make a gratitude list. Every fool (and non-fool) has already done that. I think I’ve found some unique ways to find gratitude that you’ll like.

1. Make a list of things you’re grateful for. Let’s get the standard out of the way. It works. If you sit and write all the things you’re grateful for right now then you’ll see that feeling of gratitude begin to deepen. You’ll feel better about what you have right here and right now. You’ll begin to see that your situation isn’t so dire. It’s important to break past the point of being obvious. Make a list of 50 things you’re grateful for and you’ll find appreciation for things you never would have noticed before. One Thanksgiving I made alist of 500 things I was grateful for and it blew me away how easy it became after realizing how many awesome little things there are in our world.
2. The things surrounding you right now that you’re grateful for. We are constantly surrounded by things that are making our life possible, comfortable, or better in some way. Right now I see an amazing machine that I can type thoughts into a spread to thousands of people in a blog constructed on the internet. There’s my phone sitting right next to me that’s speaking to a satellite in space right now. There’s a book of poems, Antifragile, Mastery, and The 4-Hour Chef all written by authors completely dedicated to great knowledge. There are an assortment of pens and paper that I can use when I want to stop looking at a computer monitor. My fingers are healthy enough to type these words out to you. My brain is functioning enough to make them worth reading. What’s around your screen? Your eyes seem to be working well. Maybe you’re in an office paying you what you need as you plan your great escape. Maybe you’re at home in a couch designed by someone to be comfortable to you. Maybe your air conditioner is working well. Maybe it’s the heater.
3. Make a list of lists of things to be grateful for. Create a list of categories of things to be grateful for. What relationships are you grateful for? What people in your life? What are the best moments of your life? What skills are you happy you have? What books are you happy you read? What habits are you happy you have? Make your own list – then dig in and expand them!

4. Make a list of the worst happening to you right now. Then find the good in them. I know, this doesn’t make any sense at all. Aren’t we trying to starve Ingratitude? Wouldn’t this be feeding it? Well, if we stopped at the first part we would be, but the second part brings us back up into gratitude. What are the worst things that have happened to you recently? Did your partner cheat on you? Did you lose a bunch of money? Did you get food poisoning? Did you fall into depression? Did you forget to sign up for the StartupBros newsletter? Did somebody flake on you? Did you get rejected? Find one miniscule things about each that ended up being a good thing. If you need to go back farther to get more perspective then do so. It’s hard to say, “I’m grateful that I lost money in my business.” It’s easier to say, “I’m grateful I learned X about my customers, in the long run it will be worth having lost X because of it.”

5. Write a “thank you” note. It doesn’t even need to officially be a “thank you” note. Just write a letter (or email) to somebody with a sense of gratitude. Maybe it’s writing to them about a recent meeting you had while holding the idea of gratitude.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. – JFK

6. Saying “Thank You” to nothing. All of these things are designed to do one thing – make you feel grateful. It’s not always necessary to target your gratitude though. You can just feel grateful for no reason. This is the end-goal anyway. When you can feel grateful for no reason then you have found amor fati. Your default state is a love for your fate. That’s a place worth getting to.

The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Pick your weapon and slay Ingratitude before it drowns you in an unproductive, stress-inducing swamp of suckery.

Gratitude and motivation are close. As soon as you’re grateful for the things around you it will become easy to motivate your actions. Remember while you do any of these exercises that the whole point is to feel grateful. If you’re not feeling it then it’s useless. Notice what happens to your motivation when Ingratitude as been slain – it’s right here.


Hatred is active, and envy passive dislike; there is but one step from envy to hate. – Goethe

When Envy has you in it’s grasp you’re blind to everything you have (and, OMG – ungrateful! – you’ll notice a lot of overlap in the Murderers) or you see it as worthless. You are only aware of the greener grass that’s never on your side of the fence. The most peculiar thing is that once you get to the other side of the fence the grass is pretty dull and you discover you left your own green grass in search of somebody else’s. Most people die without realizing that they were the ones coloring the grass. They were the ones killing the grass they stood on by neglecting it and, in most cases, shitting all over it (not in a fertilizing way).

I’m envious every day of those people who like they’re having more fun. I’m envious of those people who are smarter than me. I’m envious of Nassim Taleb that he has developed a mind that is so great he could produce a book like Antifragile.

We love to make stories. Humans thrive on the narratives we create. Sometimes we don’t treat ourselves well in our stories though. We assume that a highlight somebody shared represents their entire life. We assume that their creation is better than ours because they have talent we could never have. We assume people like them because they were born likable. We want their things, their partners, their experiences, their lives.

Envy will make you forget that the only life worth living is your own.

Indeed, it’s the only life you will ever live. Envy poisons desire so that we can’t trust it. Envy will focus your energy on being a victim of ‘not having’. Envy will take so much of your attention that you forget to do what’s important. You forget to see the progress that you’re making and so you lost motivation. How can you be motivated to build in your own life when it’s so hopelessly inferior to those lives?!

Envy is dumb. Let’s kill it.

1. Notice your reactions to the successes and failures of others. If your friend scores a win and you cringe, you’re envious of them. If they suffer a loss and you feel relief, you’re envious of them. Be honest with yourself. “I would never!” Yes, I know. Me either. Let’s detach a bit. Look at people in the news. How do you react to bad things (the only things reported in the news) happening to people? How do you feel when you see a car you want driving down the road? If you admire the car that’s fantastic. If you admire the car and then find a dig on the driver it’s not. Who are the people you like to hate on?

When you spend time being envious of people for having more (money, peace, happiness, perspective, intelligence, ‘time’, family, anything) than you then you certainly aren’t focusing on creating more of that into your own life. When you notice your reaction to others you can begin to shift it.

2. Kill Facebook. Facebook is a place for people to go and yell about the highlights of their lives. It’s great, I love sharing things I’m doing with friends and family that wouldn’t otherwise know about it. By spreading my ideas on my Facebook page I find friends who connect with me on different levels than I normally would have. It’s a great tool.

But it’s a tool and should be treated as one. As humans we need to be careful to use tools to make our lives better.

Facebook is a dangerous tool because it’s a breeding ground for Envy. Your friend that’s married with a kid and a fulfilling career won’t stop posting about it. Your other friend who has seen the entire world has you convinced your a loser for not being in all those places. That girl who is partying with every celebrity in the world won’t stop typing in caps about poppin bottles. Everyone seems to be on a a grand adventure while you’re alone at home.

Understand: Facebook is a highlight reel.

Monotony doesn’t often make it to the front page (unless it’s ironic). Of course we are going to tell people about the most exciting things in our life. To test this I just looked at the photos of myself on Facebook and was amazed at how adventurous my life is. This is what I found:

-Visiting my baby niece in Seattle.

-Holding a bird at a zoo (is it weird I think this is adventurous?).

-Directing a film in a donut shop.

-Wake boarding in Maine.

-Me talking on TV about politics.

-Me at a friend’s book launch.

-At an exclusive beach in Rhode Island

-In Boston

-At the top of something in Yosemite

-Trecking around Europe with my sister.

-Tracking around Europe with Will

– A road trip across the US .

All this happens in a couple pages of photos. And it’s exciting! It triggered all sorts of great memories. But by no means is it representative of how I spend my life. If my Facebook album “Photos of Me” were to represent how I spend most of my time right now it would be 70% of me in St. Petersurg, FL doing one of three things: reading, sitting at my computer typing and clicking into the Internet, or experimenting with something I read. That’s pretty much what I do. Then I sleep the other bit. And it’s awesome. I love reading. I love experimenting with ideas and then bringing you the results. It’s in no way what my Facebook looks like though.

Realize that everyone manages their Facebook the same way. Correction: most people do. Some people think it’s the perfect place to yell about their breakup or some other fight they’ve gotten in. Thanks for not being on of them. But go look at your Facebook page. Look at the photos of you. What a life! You’re as exciting as those Kardashians I keep hearing so much about! You’re a jetsetting culture-icon hobnobber of massive scale!

I once had a friend in college tell me, “My goal is to make it look like I have the most epic life imaginable” as he handed me the camera to take a picture of him being absurd. At first I was taken aback. Then I realized that he was just being honest about the game that everybody is playing – consciously or subconsciously. Instead of having the best experiences possible people want to make their somewhat experiences look like the greatest things in the world.

Going back to the original idea: Kill Facebook. I have done experiments where I killed Facebook for months at a time and it’s been amazing. A few of the benefits:

I read more books. When Facebook is gone it’s easier to stay away from the black hole that feeds can create.

I was more focused on productive work. I didn’t have that distraction of, “I wonder what they’re up to” to steal my time.

I stopped being envious of my friends. I wasn’t bombarded by the highlights of everybody else’s lives to make me feel worse.

I felt free. I didn’t feel obligated to report anything to Facebook.

I made stronger connections. When you’re forced to email people you get a stronger connection to them than commenting or “Liking” their stuff.

I’ve gone as far as killing the Internet for months at a time. That means only essentials – email, WordPress, Wikipedia in certain circumstances. It’s great, but killing your Facebook is a huge start.

Maybe you “need” Facebook. Then limit your usage of it. Try setting an hour at the end of the day to do all your social network stuff. I use StayFocused ( to limit my use of Facebook and Reddit to 20 minutes a day. Pick your biggest time-drains and cut them off for yourself.

Oh wow that went longer than expected.

3. Focus on your work. There are always people who are better than you at the thing you’re trying to do – or at least more well-known. There are people producing work inferior to yours making more money than you. As a writer, it can be tremendously difficult to read a masterwork and then go back to your own work.

While writing this I’ve been reading Robert Greene’s Mastery and it threw me into a feeling of helplessness. I’m eons from approaching his ability to so concisely and powerfully express the inner workings of achievement. It’s difficult at times to realize I don’t want to be Greene and I could never be. I haven’t dedicated two decades to deconstructing what makes a Master, he has. Instead, I can let his brilliant way with words make me work harder on this post to make it the greatest thing I can make right now.

Every person is at a different place in their work. We rarely realize that the exact place we are in our work is our most valuable asset. In that way I have been able to transform my paralyzing Envy for Greene into a driver for my own work.

4. Realize that Envy is separate from it’s chosen object. If I am envious of a millionaire’s money and subsequently become a millionaire then my Envy will be pushed onto billionaires. Even billionaires envy the wealth and power of other billionaires. This is possible because Envy tricks us into thinking that it wants something in particular. It will never be satisfied though. Envy is a feeling in itself that tricks you into believing that the next step will make you happy. It doesn’t work like that. You’ve seen this in your life time and again.

The goal isn’t to never want anything again, the goal is to notice your envy and see it for what it is. When you’re feeling jealous of a person because of their car or wife then notice it and realize that taking his wife and car isn’t going to get you where you want to be.

Envy is no fun at all. It’s the thing that tricks you into thinking you’re never enough. It tricks you into wanting everything but the things you have. It makes you want all the talents but your own. Envy will have you think that some other person is doing it all right and you should feel bad about yourself because you haven’t done what they have.

If I’m Envying the intellect of somebody else I can’t think of anything creative. If I’m Envying the things of others my own belongings will go unused. If I’m Envying the life of somebody else then I’m wasting my own.


If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life. – Oscar Wilde

Some people find impatience a virtue. “Wow, he really gets it done now!” But if you’re driven by impatience then burnout is just around the corner. If you’re impatient you won’t take the time required to make anything worthwhile.

Being patient does not mean that you have no sense of urgency or that you can’t get things done quickly – you must! Impatience is the insidious thing that creeps up when we hurry. Impatience is what makes us fumble the ball because we’ve already moved on to the next task. It’s what causes us to half-ass work.

When I’m rushing out the door – Impatiently leaving – I’m guaranteed to leave the tickets to the show or my keys. When I’m Impatient completing a task it will definitely suffer. Quality and Impatience can’t coexist, it just doesn’t make sense. You can’t be doing your current activity well when you can only think of being done with it or, worse, the next activity.

Impatience scatters our brain and disorganizes our thoughts because it’s scared of the present. It’s scared that at every moment you should be further along. You should have that other task accomplished. You’re right here though.

Even as I write this I have a feeling of impatience. There are other projects that need my attention, Imptatience is creeping in to divert my attention to those things. But I see it, take a breath, and remember that this is the only task that matters now.

Don’t lose motivation to the unorganized rushing mind of Impatience.

Here are my favorite techniques for killing Impatience:

1. Have a map. I was getting Impatient with every task I was doing. This was just yesterday. When you work for yourself there are always an infinite amount of things to do. There are endless to-do lists that only get longer – and there are multiple lists like this for every one of the endless projects underway. It’s madness.

Unless you write it down. Right now make a list of every project you’re working on. Now break every project into tasks. Now map each of those tasks on a shared calendar (I use Google Calendar). This might take you twenty minutes or it might take two hours. Either way it will be well worth the time.

When you have your tasks planned then it’s easier to focus on the current one. It’s easier to forget about that project you’re supposed to do later when you have actually scheduled time to do it later.

2. Focus on the current task. The most important step is this one. I think some ancient sage said that. If you find your mind wandering while working on a current task then notice it and bring your mind back to your task.

When an idea pops in your head and won’t leave take a break to record it in your phone or on paper. When you get the idea out of your head it’ll stop bothering you. This is one of my favorite things to do. I have notebooks (digital and physical) full of papers of mostly terrible ideas that let my brain be free to do whatever it was supposed to be focusing on at the time.

3. Faith in the Process. If you’re practicing a skill and at a plateau then you will suffer severe Impatience. It will make you doubt everything about your abilities. If you’re an entrepreneur and have suffered several failures then Impatience will begin to whisper in your ear that it’s not working, that you aren’t cut out for it. Oftentimes people listen and quit.

This is why it’s imperative to work with a process that you know works. If you’re going to attempt something difficult you will experience severe growing pains. There will be moments where you feel like an impostor or that you aren’t ‘cut out’. Impatience has tricky ways to make you think you’ll never make it.

You have to have faith in the process that you’ve chosen. Focus on this step. Learn from your failures. If these aren’t possible now with the process you’ve chosen then adjust your process – but do it carefully.

4. Study the Masters.  Anybody who has achieved great things has had to fail a lot first. Quentin Tarantino has to go through of eight solid years (almost an entire decade, and that’s short in comparison to others) of nothing working out. The entire time he just kept plugging away, getting better, deepening his knowledge, and learning from his failures. Then “out of nowhere” he made Reservoire Dogs and became every movie-lover’s hero.

5. Take a break. Sometimes we get impatient because we’ve been stuck in a task for too long and our brains are getting pissed about it. Take a break. Go for a quick run or (very) slow walk. Go watch an episode of South Park. Do something unrelated to give your brain 20 minutes to stop thinking about the same damn thing.

This story of massive failure before success is universal.

Remember this when you’re impatient after six months of failures. Study your own personal hero and remind yourself that they probably went through the same frustrations. The key is to keep going.


I’m getting impatient again. I want to type faster and I want my ideas to come better and faster. They’re better than last week which was better than the week before. I better keep going. Right now is going to make next week even better.

I can’t let Impatience rob me of the creativity available to me now. I can’t let Impatience for this thing to be done ruin the quality of the thing! So I’m refocusing. I’m going to go play with the dogs and when I come back I’ll have the patience of a saint.


Usually once a week Overwhelm takes over my entire life and I can’t do anything. I get pretty much zero done on days of Overwhelm. There’s no motivation to do anything when there’s EVERYTHING to do!

I’ve sat in bed for hours thinking about the amazing amount of things that needed to get done. Then when I got out of bed and found my way to the computer I was so overloaded with tasks that the only thing I could do was go look at Facebook. Then it’s time for dinner. Then sleep. But I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about the EVERYTHING that I didn’t do today.

What a cycle!

Overwhelm comes from us putting too many projects on our plate then losing track of them.

These are the ways I get out from Overwhelm:

Rome has grown since its humble beginnings that it is now overwhelmed by its own greatness. – Titus Livius

1. Subtract. Most problems can be fixed by taking something away instead of adding something else. When there are too many plates spinning then they’re all more likely to come crashing down. How can you simplify your life? What responsibilities can you get rid of? What trips can you get out of? What websites can you stop visiting? What mediocre books can you stop reading?

2. Organize. This goes back to the first recommendation to escape Impatience: “Have a map”. Organize your life so you can see all your major activities – professional and personal – on a single sheet of paper. When it’s all in front of you then it becomes much easier to digest. Break every project down into pieces small enough pieces that you understand everything that needs to be done to complete the thing (or at least get to the next step).

Schedule time to complete every one of these tasks. You’ll instantly see your overwhelm dissipate.

3. Lower the bar. One of the most universal feelings of our generation is, “I should be doing more.” Nobody is happy with where they’re at. There’s a massive gap between where you are and your ideal place in life. Same with everybody else. It’s not a bad thing to want to have ambitious goals but sometimes those goals can actually get in their own way. If you’re just setting around feeling bad for not having reached your goal then you probably won’t be working hard to get to it.

Lower your bar a little bit. Give yourself a little leeway and realize that you’ve been doing a lot of the right things. The goals were probably harder than you thought. You can still get there but it will take more work. Remember: Patience!

Overwhelm is one the most insidious Motivation Murderers but also one of the most straight-forward to get rid of. If you are paralyzed by being Overwhelmed then you have to externalize your life. Get all your activities somewhere you can see it. This isn’t a one-time deal.

Just like your desk, your mind needs to be cleared constantly.

Burnout is the kissing cousin of Overwhelm. If you are Burning out then “Subtract” and “Lower the Bar” are imperative. You have to get some rest before your creative mind is destroyed totally. Take a break. Quit your job and do something lower-stress for a while. Exercise. Ease up on yourself!


The longer you spend in Inaction the easier it is to sit there. It’s comfortable to get ideas and think about them long enough that it’s exciting to tell people about – then you lose motivation to make that idea a reality. Notice what happens to your motivation when you spend a day not taking action – it’s gone.

This is a universal problem we face as humans. There are a million people online who post articles every day about how you will finally beat procrastination. You are promised magic bullets and methods that will completely eliminate procrastination in your life. Of course you are procrastinating by reading the article. Then you continue to procrastinate afterwords.

This is how you kill Inaction:

1. Action is everything. Inaction is killed instantly by action. Action is like a light turned on in a dark room of inaction. Every action you take, no matter how small, will build momentum. Soon you will find yourself in the habit of taking action and it will actually be HARDER not to act.

2. Lowering the bar: Part 2. Make it so easy to begin a task that you can’t not do it. A study showed recently that the best way to get in the habit of flossing your teeth regularly is to commit to flossing a single tooth. You make it so easy that you have to do it.

Once you floss a single tooth then it becomes amazingly easy to floss the rest of your teeth. Once you sit down and write the first word it’s easy to write the next thousand. Once you sit down and answer the first email it’s easy to answer the rest.

Trick yourself into beginning tasks by making the commitment so miniscule you HAVE to do it.

3. Appreciate the wisdom of action. Our best tool for procrastination is over-thinking and rationalization. Action is the only way anything gets done, but it also offers you a wisdom that’s not available through thought. When you practice something you get a true feel for it. When you do something new you learn things that you couldn’t have unless you tried the thing.

Before embarking on the journey of writing a book I researched quite a bit about the writing process but nothing could prepare me for actually doing the thing. You run into all the nuances of making a book when you actually have to make it. The same goes with everything else. Once you do the thing you will run into nuances and pre-thought knowledge that you can’t find in written text.

4. Don’t stop. For me it’s best to make progress every day. Even one day of inaction can create a resistance to acting. For exercise, do at least two minutes a day. For writing, do 50 words. You don’t need every day to be a big one but you do need to keep the motivation alive by keeping the chain intact.

Take action on your idea today. Even just a tiny one. You will begin to build momentum. That momentum will only grow and soon taking action will become a habit. You will no longer sit on good ideas and let them die, you will build them out and take them to fruition.

Begin now. What’s something you’ve been wanting to do forever? Get it shape? Do one tiny thing to be healthier today. Tomorrow do another. Soon you’ll be so far along you will have forgotten what that kind of inactive sloth is like.

Don’t let Inaction continue to rule your world. Don’t believe it when it tells you taking action is hard. Baby steps!

Loss of Meaning

If you feel like what you’re doing has no purpose then you are guaranteed to have zero motivation to do it. Without meaning we feel lost. And as we search for meaning we realize it’s not really there. Without the motivation to do something we can fall into the stagnation of an existential crisis or worse.

This is a huge problem for my generation and the one before. Our grandparents were proud to do their work because they enjoyed the work itself. We believe we need to have some overflowing passion for everything we do at all times and it’s causing a lot of people to fall into what’s being called the “Quarter Life Crisis” which is a lot like – you guessed it! – the famed middle life crisis. But we’re only a quarter way through our 100 year-or-so-probably-less lives.

People are getting depressed because they thought life was supposed to be something different. They thought they were going to go on adventures but instead they’re in a cubicle or selling knives – and those are the lucky ones.

I have existential crises at least once a week. If you could be an expert at existential crises I would be one. Unfortunately, the nature of the thing doesn’t allow for a lot of understanding. There are ways I’ve found to get out of my own however, I hope you find them useful.

1. Adopt the craftsman mindset. Focus on your work. When you are worried about being passionate about something or whether is “means” anything you end up asking questions like:

“Is this what I’m passionate about? Why am I not feeling passionate about it right now?”

“Shouldn’t I just switch crafts again?”

“Does this mean anything to the world?”

“If the world is going to end anyway why should I even bother?”

“Is this pleasing to me?”

Notice the obsession with your own self in that mindset. Instead a craftsman focuses on the work he/she’s doing. When you adopt the craftsman mindset you end up asking questions like:

“How can I be better?”

“How can I provide more value for others?”

“Why did they respond that way to my work?”

These questions are centered around making better things for other people. For making other people’s lives better. The secret here is that you end up doing a lot more good for yourself by holding this focus.

This kind of thinking has deep roots in eastern philosophy. Consider the quote, “Zen is not to think about god while peeling potatoes, it is only to peel the potatoes.” (Paraphrasing.)

Try focusing on your work and getting better and notice how much better and more productive you become.

2. Meaning is created in work. If you find anyone with a deep feeling of mission and purpose in life you will find someone who loves their work. You don’t find meaning in a sentence or anything like that. You find it in the flow of work. After the initial stages of learning a skill you begin to be able to do it without thinking to hard about it. When you enter “the zone” you are in a flow state of mind. The people who feel most meaning in their lives are the ones who spend the most time in this kind of state.

3. Aim bigger. If you’re no longer excited about your work you may be playing too small. Somebody wrote a book called “The Magic of Thinking Big”, I’ve never read it but I imagine that one of the magical things about thinking big is how exciting is. It’s not very exciting to say, “I’m going to write a blog post on motivation”. It’s much more exciting to think, “I’m going to write a blog post that covers every one of my major Motivation Murderers that I can go back and reference whenever I’m feeling unmotivated.” Believe me, I was there.

StartupBros wouldn’t be exciting if we only wanted to make some money online. What makes StartupBros such an exciting thing for me is that we are aiming to disrupt the traditional course of education. I hate that so many of my friends think they must follow a prescribed path. I want to explore other options and show what’s possible. We’re entering a world where self-reliance is imperative and we need to face the scary ideas that presents.

Try bulking up your mission. It may help infuse every little task with a little more meaning.

4. Express yourself. It may be difficult to express yourself through your work – so find another outlet. Go paint or draw a picture or write a poem. Express yourself in some raw way that gives meaning to your life. It’s easy to forget about art when we’re focused on profits – and it could take a while for you to feel like your craft is actually an art – so sometimes you need to go to art directly.

5. Realize that your life already has meaning. Your life, right now, is already meaningful. You’re a part of this universe. You interact with people every day in one way or another and so you create relationships with them. Just by the way you carry yourself through the world your meaning is understood by the people around you. You are made of the same stuff as stars. You probably share molecules with a star that exploded millions of years ago. Your human body is a miracle in all that it can do. Your life is already amazing, sometimes you just need to take a moment and see it.


Notice that the answer is almost never to “find a meaning”. That’s not how it works. You need to focus on the things that create meaning. Creating meaning in your life doesn’t mean giving yourself a story that infuses your life with some purpose. Instead, it means that your actions create the meaning of your life.

Maybe one day later you will find your “aha!” moment of finally understanding your definite mission in life and maybe you won’t. The good part is that you don’t need to have a one-sentence mission to lead a meaningful life

No Skin in the Game

Do you know why poker games without money in the pot suck? There’s no stakes! You can bet like a jackass if you don’t have anything to lose – and you should! It’s the same thing with motivation. The less you need to succeed the less motivated you become to do so.

I’m not talking about mortgaging your house and putting your family in danger. You can get to pain long before then.

Earlier I talked about how Quentin Tarantino had to go through eight years of nothing working out for him before he made Reservoir Dogs. He attributes his ability to do this to the fact that he didn’t set up a plan B. Plan A was going to work or he would continue working in movie stores. It had to happen.

Some ideas to force your skin in the game:

1. Be responsible to someone. It’s easier to stay motivated when someone else is there to push you along. We all need support every once in a while. So share your deadlines with somebody who will slap you hard if you don’t meet them.

2. Set yourself up for pain. You need to set yourself up so it will hurt to not finish what you said you would. The website StickK ( can help you do this by using anti-charities. You set yourself up to donate to a charity that you hate. Would you rather not complete your goal or donate money to a charity for Nazis (or something slightly less terrible)?

You need to create an environment that supports action in the direction you want to go. One way to do this is to use the above tools to make it painful to not follow through.

Poor Health

If you are a physical wreck it’s nearly impossible to stay motivated. Greasy fast-food will not provide you with any kind of inspiring energy. Every time I go a week or more without working out my motivation plummets because I have no energy. The same happens when I eat terribly. Our brains need good food to work like we want them to. Our bodies need to be used in order to hold themselves in an energetic manner.

Get healthy!

1. Sleep. If you’re not sleeping well then you’re not functioning well.

2. Exercise! Even if it’s only five minutes, do something. 

3. Stop eating shitty.

4. Caffeinate. This one actually isn’t healthy at all. However, some days a cup of coffee is pure liquid motivation.

There’s nothing I can tell you about nutrition and health that you don’t know. You know your brain works better when it’s well fed, when you work out, and when you sleep well. You know what’s good for you. Respect yourself.

Epilogue: When Motivation Speaks

There are an infinite amount of things that are waiting to grab on and suck your motivation straight out of you. You need to kill them at every turn. Sometimes they come in the form of shitty people, sometimes they come as failures, sometimes they are something as sneaky as the absence of action.

Motivation feels great but sometimes being unmotivated is a tool.

I just wrote 7000+ words about how to stay motivated and now I’m telling you that it can be good to be unmotivated.

If you try to get motivated to really get into your job but you can’t. If you go through and try all these strategies I’ve offered up and still aren’t motivated then it’s probably time to switch things up. Your inability to get motivated about a certain project could mean that that’s not the project you should be working on.

The most important thing you can learn to do is trust yourself. Our body gives us all sorts of signals that aren’t as clear as, “Quit this job with that jackass boss ya dummy!” but can be just as loud.

There have been points in my life where motivation dried up completely. I couldn’t muster any excitement for my job or the project that I was working on. After trying all possible routes of getting excited and still feeling numb about the work I was doing it became obvious: it was time to leave. 

It’s the scariest thing in the world to change your life in a dramatic way for no real “reason” other than you’re not “feeling” it. People may judge you harshly. You may judge you harshly. But if you learn to trust in it, that voice will take you to the places in life that matter more than any of the others.

That’s the voice that told me to start writing. It’s the one that energized me to begin working on StartupBros. Every time I’ve listened and jumped into the darkness I’ve been rewarded handsomely with awesome experiences and an infusion of energy that doesn’t come by following what others think you should be doing.

Listen to yourself. Observe your motivation. When are you most motivated? What activities are most motivating to you? What people around you motivate you the most?

Watch intently and support your motivation in any way you can.

Kill the Motivation Murderers and realize that the only person who could ever rob you of your motivation is you.

Originally seen here:

Big Disconnect: Kevin O’Leary Says 3.5 Billion People Living in Poverty is ‘Fantastic News’

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

I’m a bit conflicted here at “Uncle Kevin Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary’s comment here. Kevin O’Leary’s response to that the 85 richest people are worth the equivalent of 3.5 billion people living in poverty was that it’s “fantastic news.”

I initially was disgusted at the comment (still am) as it shows how seriously out-of-touch filthy rich people can be. It makes me sometimes be thankful that I need to struggle to pay bills as it “keeps me in check.”

On the other hand, he admitted at the end that he thought they were talking about rich people. Yes, it’s great that people can become as rich as they want to, but the fact is that there’s a disconnect between those that get rich and those that are so poor that they don’t even have socks to pull up to go to work. The comment Kevin made was a very self-centered one and demonstrates exactly how much empathy one has when being disconnected from reality for so long.

The day that bad stuff happens to him is they day he will (hopefully) show remorse, but he needs to be worthy of that wake-up call.

Related Story: The Rabbi, the Miser and the Silver Mirror

2935I am thus reminded of the Jewish story between the Rabbi, the miser and the mirror. In short, the Rabbi visited the house of a miser (who originally was a poor Jew). The miser, knowing the Rabbi from when he was poorer, greeted him warmly. While inside, the Rabbi commented on the window outside, where there were poor people collecting for money. Inside, his mirror showed only himself, which was the result of the silver backing. The Rabbi suggested that the only difference between the mirror, showing himself, and the window, showing others, was the silver. He then suggested taking the silver off. The person got the message and, after hosting a party for both rich and poor people, scraped the silver backing off the mirror until it was as close to glass as possible. He then mended his ways and became more charitable.


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You just have to appreciate this one.  Young people forget that we old people had a career before we retired……

Charley, a new retiree-greeter at Wal-Mart, just couldn’t seem to get to work on time.

Every day he was 5, 10, 15 minutes late. But he was a good worker, really tidy, clean-shaven, sharp-minded and a real credit to the company and obviously demonstrating their “Older Person Friendly” policies.

One day the boss called him into the office for a talk.

“Charley, I have to tell you, I like your work ethic, you do a bang-up job when you finally get here; but your being late so often is quite bothersome.”

“Yes, I know boss, and I am working on it.”

“Well good, you are a team player. That’s what I like to hear.”

“Yes sir, I understand your concern and I’ll try harder.”

Seeming puzzled, the manager went on to comment, “It’s odd though your coming in late. I know you’re retired from the Armed Forces.

What did they say to you there if you showed up in the morning so late and so often?”

The old man looked down at the floor, then smiled.

He chuckled quietly, then said with a grin,

“They usually saluted and said, ‘Good morning, Admiral, can I get your coffee, sir?’”

One of my favorite stories, ever!

Note: On a more somber note, I did a search on Google for “charley walmart army” and found that a Charley Albert Larsen, matching the story , passed away on December 22, 2010. The world lost yet another person with a healthy sense of humor despite his serious career.

I have become SNL’s Nick Burns the Computer Guy!!!!!

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Many of the older generation in the IT field remember comedian Jimmy Fallon when he was on Saturday Night Live (SNL). One of the skits he played was as Nick Burns the Computer Guy. Here are some clips:

You’re Welcome

Nick Burns with Jennifer Aniston

Snl – Nick Burns With Jennifer Aniston – Your Companys Computer Guy from Steve on Vimeo.

Nick Burns with Jackie Chan

Snl – Your Company Computer Guy – Nick Burns And Jackie Chan from Steve on Vimeo.

As hilarious as the skit is, sadly, I feel like I have become the very person I’ve dreaded becoming – Nick Burns, for two reasons:

  • I have been put under lots of stress from many different angles, not just IT.
  • Not only that, but when there are tight deadlines, I’ve displayed little patience for people who don’t get it the first 100 times. Some people just don’t get it, and some just like to have their hand held without first searching Google – you become their Google for everything so they don’t have to work so hard. It’s frustrating when projects needed to be done 2 weeks ago, you’re putting in 150% effort, and someone needs help for the 101st time for creating a hyperlink and meta tags after explaining and even diagramming it multiple times.
  • If no tight deadlines needed to be met, I could train with ease, but that’s not the case.

Do what makes you happy

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We are all on this planet for a very short period of time. If we cannot take the time to stop and smell the flowers, and let stress get the better of us, we may meet that hole in the ground sooner rather than later. It’s very important to have a healthy spirit. Most of the old-timers I know that live well into their 90’s share an upbeat attitude, which I don’t find to be a coincidence.

Speaking of old-timers, recently there was a 109 year old man living in Haifa, Israel who had a new nose surgically placed on him. Why? Because he had spent most of his life visiting the beach and eventually skin cancer got the better of nose. Not for nothing, though, the rest of his body was healthy and he was very upbeat about the proceedings, so at 109 years, the nose is a relatively small price to pay considering what can be medically done today. This man intends to revisit the beach once his new nose solidifies.

Many years ago, there lived a French woman, Jeanne Calment, who passed away in 1996 at 121 years of age. This was someone who still showered with special shampoo, donned jewelry, and drank good whiskey as well as swam frequently. If that’s not living it up to an old age, I don’t know what is!

So lighten up everyone, life is too short to waste. Do what makes you happy.

The Office Exodus – Jewish Passover – Slave Driving at Work

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Horowitz’s boss is a real slave driver. Written by Richard Rabkin.

We at Raise Or Praise appreciate how many of us work VERY hard for anything, let alone taking off for Jewish holidays.

Next year in Jerusalem, where Jewish holidays are celebrated and Gentile holidays are shunned.

“Giddyup Horsee! Yee Hah!!!”

Email Wars and Toxic Partnerships – End Both Now!

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Don’t you just love it when you’re involved in an email war with a BPCW (boss/partner/coworker) and are continuously CC’ing the client? My, the tension it creates!

Those kinds of situations should be an early indicator of a toxic partnership worth dropping like a hot potato. Work with harmony with your BPCW’s and partners and all will go well. The client and everyone else will take notice and appreciate you for it.

Tip: If it’s necessary to email or CC the client on certain issues, only do so when it’s absolutely necessary. The client generally has a million other things on his plate, therefore a quick read of your emails may brand you and your co-workers as complainers, and who needs to pay for that kind of service? The client only cares about results – that’s all he paid for, nothing else. Only contact the client in case of emergencies, and email the BPCW independently when doing the project. While this keeps the client out of the loop for a while, it’s much safer to not clutter up his inbox until the very end.

Drop nasty emails and toxic relationships with BPCW’s ASAP!

Internet Hell With a Caveman – Long Yet Hilarious

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Warning: Rant Ahead!

It’s usually disheartening to encounter the rare individual today that doesn’t know how to operate with today’s technological necessities. It’s even worse when such a caveman is mean and rude. The “caveman” I’m about to refer to is an owner of a well-known Barbecue and Grill place where he works, therefore I’m not disclosing any incriminating names or places.

Caveman #1: The Grilled Food Store-Owner

A number of years ago, when I had recently graduated from university, my uncle had approached me about a website opportunity for an acquaintance of his. This person was in the grilled/barbecue food industry, and was clueless about the first thing on how to operate a computer. At the time, the business lacked a computer, and for that matter, internet access. Their current business model revolved around two aspects: walk-in, paying customers, and a fax machine. Those that wanted their orders filled out took a form previously taken from the store, filled it out and faxed it to the place. It was indeed a primitive way to operate.

My uncle negotiated with the person, explaining that he needed a website to market to today’s generation. The fact that the owner had no computer, nor did he have the space to store one, wasn’t going to be an issue: the site would have a feature where a user submitted a form, and the form data faxed to his machine by using a custom fax-to-PDF method, which came through a 3rd party service. This site would cost approximately $1,000 for development. This was agreed on based on a handshake with no formal contract detailing what would be done – big mistake. Anyways, I then went to work, initially thinking that this was a lot of money (how wrong I was). Due to my inexperience at the time, I foolishly forgot about domain name and hosting registration costs, which for this person, at 2 years hosting and 10 years to own the domain name, came out to over $200 extra. I decided that, over the phone, I would pocket the costs and talk to him later about it.

I spoke with the owner a few times about it, and initially he agreed to pay the extra costs. Later on, he started to play dumb, repeatedly stating, after repeated reminders, that he “thought this was included in the cost” (which of course it wasn’t). To make matters worse, once the site was completed and ready for testing, he verified that the form-to-fax service indeed worked since he always “needed to find his wallet.” Also, since he didn’t have a computer, I had to print screenshots of how the site looked and fax it. When he complained that he wasn’t getting any online customers, I explained that he needed to market his website. In other words, he was looking for every excuse not to pay me (such manners). I guess that to him, I was a kid that he could withhold payment from as long as possible, and he being computer-illiterate, failed to appreciate the amount of work that it took to create the form and the Fax integration.

After not being able to receive payment from him, I asked my uncle, who initially arranged the partnership, to please pick up the money for me in exchange for a percentage of the pay. I don’t know what happened, but my uncle picked up two checks, one being post-dated for a later date, and mumbled to me that the person’s behavior towards me was just plain disgusting. Anyways, we exchanged monies and we let bygones be bygones.

Fast forward to a year later. I happened to meet a very nice girl, became engaged to be married, and naturally, was under a lot of stress in the process. Family, friends, where the wedding would take place, where we would live, where I would land a new full-time job should we move to location X, etc. Towards the wedding my nerves were shot (as was my bride’s), and naturally I was in no mood to be instigated.

All of a sudden, out of the blue, the owner of the site I built for a year ago calls me up and tells me, “I don’t like what you did! I paid for a service and it doesn’t work. All you know is how to take money.” I was understandably insulted because, in my mind, I provided a service on time that was tested, and payment came much later than it should have. Not only that, I doubted that he even ONCE went to the website. So, I blew up at him, screaming at the top of my lungs to get off my back, that I was getting married and already had enough pressures.

Apparently, the Form to PDF/Fax service failed to work for the online ordering form, but it worked for the main contact form. I decided to call this Form-To-PDF service, and found, to my chagrin, that level 2 support, let alone level 1, was indeed horrible. The people on the other line sounded like underpaid Indians who didn’t understand my question about Form to Fax. Apparently, in their online answer bank, they had tons of questions regarding emails/forms to PDF’s, and even Fax to PDF/email, but they didn’t have anything regarding a PDF that would do the reverse: go to a fax machine. After all, who operated with only a fax machine these days?

I tested the online form a few times, as well as the regular contact form. One worked, and one didn’t. In one of my testings, I submitted a mock email basically saying “Nu, I need more money!” The owner of the store, apparently disenchanted with me as well as having an “internet site,” as he put it, cancelled the form-to-fax service, rendering the form non-workable. When I called him about it, he told me, rightfully so from his end, that the service didn’t perform what his business requirements were. As a service, I disabled the form on the site, only keeping the “home” and “about us” pages intact. I also took on the hosting, using it for my domain names. Once the hosting package expired after the 2 years, I renewed it under my own credit card and as a service, hosted this person’s site for free.

Anyways, with so much on my mind, I didn’t think twice. I married, quit my low-paying job, settled in Toronto, and moved on.

Caveman #2: The Owner’s Wife

3 years later – yes, 3 years – after becoming more comfortably settled in, the owner’s wife, who knew how to operate a computer only a little better than her husband (although that didn’t say much), called me and left me a voice message commanding that I teach her how to use the “internet site.” I tried calling her back twice, leaving voice messages, but she didn’t get back to me. One day, my uncle calls me specifically to request that I speak with the wife, as he wasn’t hearing the end of it. He met the wife and asked her what happened. She explained that there was “phone tag” going on. He asked her when would be an available time for her to speak with me. She said she didn’t know. He asked her if her schedule was THAT hectic, to which she replied “ohhh yeahhh….” like she had a million and one things to do and therefore something that SHE was requesting had to be put on hold.

A few months later, the owner’s wife calls me, demanding that I teach her in a matter of minutes how to operate a website, something that took me, well, a lot longer than 5 minutes to learn. Out of courtesy, I spoke with her over the phone for not 5, 10 minutes, but close to 3 hours! She called me out of the blue, without asking if now was a good time for me, and made life unbearable for me. I failed to mention that I had a 30 page paper due for graduate school the following week, and with work, I valued my time very much. When she had a million things to do, that was important. But when I had a million things to do, everything had to be pushed aside! She mentioned that she was ready to learn how to use the site if it killed her. Never mind if it killed me!

This wasn’t a “how are you” conversation. This was a “how do I move my mouse” conversation, literally. She wanted to know how to enter data into a JPEG (I’m dead serious), edit HTML files graphically by default, and with that amount of knowledge, wanted to know how to upload files and pictures to her internet site. I directed her to FileZilla, gave her the username/password to her husband’s site, and attempted to teach her to upload/download files. Simple tasks like locating her downloads location, her desktop relative to her filesystem in the FileZilla interface, etc. alone was a 1 hour chore.

I could have suggested a CMS (content management system) for her needs, but a) it was doubtful that she and her husband would have paid the extra money for it, and b) training someone who wanted to enter data into a JPEG how to use a CMS, long-distance no less, would have been just as difficult . One of her children, during the phone conversation, came over and was amazed at what the mother was doing, to which she nonchalantly replied, “well I’m speaking with a professional, so he’s guiding me what to do.” Well, to be honest, it was more like pulling a leash on a dog that decided to sit rather than walk!

Needless to say, it was hell. The conversation ended rather unpleasantly from my end, and I just asked her to email me the pictures she wanted uploaded. She was about to email me….. until she realized that she didn’t know where the attachment button was! Apparently, after 10 minutes of deciphering, it was found that she was using iGoogle for Gmail, rather than logging into the main Gmail interface. Her settings therefore didn’t permit her to upload attachments from iGoogle.

Again, it was hell. The next day I received some more emails with “do this for my website” kinds of questions. Again, I wasn’t paid for any of this. I’m telling you, where was this person raised? In a barn? The one thing she and her husband had in common were manners – the each lacked them.

Here are some of those emails (with names and places changed):

  • Thanx a ton for your time and patience.  Please remember to change my (FTP) name to BerkOWitz.
  • Did you get the email yesterday?
  • I want to also send photos thanx
  • Did you get the email yesterday?

I called my uncle and told him “uncle, uncle!” Nah, but close. I asked him what should I do? He replied that, get this monkey off my back, I should offer her the option to pay for my services in time stamps, and that she would have 30 days to decide until I choose to take the website down for inactivity. I sent her the following email:

Mrs. Berkowitz,

Per your requests yesterday, I went ahead and added the menu pictures to the site. On, you would go to “view menu,” then go to “Menu Picture.” Below that will appear a number of links where you would go to choose which menu you would like to see. As well, I’ve added the FTP user “mberkowitz” with the password “Berko123” (case-sensitive).

That said, I feel that now I must clarify that our 2 hour phone conversation yesterday was a courtesy one, as was the time in adding the pictures. Therefore, since there wasn’t agreed on, none of my time yesterday and today was charged. Moving forward, though, please understand that I must bill you for my consulting time. “Consulting” includes any phone conversations longer than 10 minutes, as well as any time uploading files/making changes. My normal hourly rate is at $XX per hour. What I can offer is “time blocks” in hours which you can purchase, and during those blocks my time is dedicated solely to maintaining your website as well as any other computer-related services I can provide over the phone.

If you feel that this rate is in any way shape or form unreasonable, or if you wish to go with somebody more local, then please feel free to try someone else. However please note as well, that for the past year and a half your website hosting package had in fact expired and that during this time I’ve hosted your website under my web host space (which I’m currently renting out, it’s not cheap) for free.

Therefore I am providing you 30 days to decide what to do. After this time period, should you not decide to use my services, the site will no longer be hosted on my server for free like it has until now. I can mail you the website files on a CD, if you’d like, but that’s about it. Otherwise, my offer still stands. If you would like to pay me online, I can accept Paypal. If you don’t have an account already, I can help set you up with one, but keep in mind that the time in doing so will cost extra.

Please understand that I don’t mean anything personal by what’s stated. I feel that my time is valuable, and that this is practically my means of livelihood. Why should I therefore work for free?



To which she replied:

Again I want to thank you for the time you gave for free. I really appreciate it. I will need to make some inquiries and figure out where I want to go from here. Thanks. Please do come in for a free meal when you are in the area. Thanks again.


That was that. I sent a few reminder emails, to which she didn’t respond. It’s one thing to not understand how to operate a computer, but to be rude, self-imposing, and expect this kind of service for free, is just Chutzpah and caveman-like. Good riddance.

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t ever start work without a contract, if anything one detailing what you will do so that you and the client can reference it at a later time.
  • Learn when to “fire” the client, be mean if you have to. Don’t let the client or his wife ever take advantage of your time or professional experience, which you have worked years to attain.
  • Work with clients that “want” to learn the industry, even though you’re being paid to be the professional and in charge. Some willingness from their end is extremely important.