Learning to Love Yourself

The 3rd top Google Autofill Result for "how can I learn"

Activation Energy

A newsletter to provoke thought, to inspire, and to catalyze action.


Getting Started…

A few days ago while listening to a podcast with guest Adam Robinson, founder of the Princeton Review amongst other companies, I learned that one of the top autofill results on Google for the words, “How can I learn…” was love myself.

Try it yourself…

This definitely struck a chord with me as over the past few weeks I’ve been asking myself the same question.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Loving oneself is a life long pursuit.

The expectation of having everything figured out at the age of 21 does nothing but induce anxiety, negative thoughts, and inaction. Instead accepting my current state and acting on the small impulses that make me whole is much healthier and sustainable.

  • We have an unconditional amount of self-love yet we rarely choose to accept it.

Kids know this intuitively and express it in their actions. As we become older we’re much more self conscious of insecurities and feel the need to meet the expectations of society and those around us. If there’s something we can learn from young children, it’s to accept the unconditional amount of self-love we all have.

  • Defining what makes me whole drains out all the noise leading to inaction.

The following, in no particular order, contribute to making me whole. In other words, the things I currently do and will do for the rest of my life in some way.

  1. Create and sustain meaningful relationships.

  2. Build a product or service at scale and capture some form of value from it.

  3. Stay intellectually curious and physically healthy.

  4. Invest in (with time or money) creators (artists, engineers, entrepreneurs) and the ability to create (education).

How am I doing these things now? Ask me, next time you see me!

After learning about the loneliness epidemic in America, I’ve decided to make a video next week about learning to love myself. Although, I know I don’t have all the answers I do believe I can make a dent with this newsletter and a video that offers perspective.

If any of you have an idea or suggestion of how you’ve learned to love yourself please share in the comments or message me personally.

I’m looking forward to hearing your answers! 🙂


Providing a Catalyst

Every week I’ll share key insights from a conversation I had learned a lot from in a series called, Providing a Catalyst.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a multitude of conversations with different people.

This week, I’ll mention the 1 conversation that led to 40 more.

Around Thanksgiving, I sent this cold message to someone I’ve been following on twitter for some time now after reading one of his tweets.

This cold message led us to meeting up the next day… our 30 minute coffee meeting turned into 3 hours of talking about everything from technology to personal relationships. We got to know each other pretty well and kept in touch after.

This past week my new friend invited me to a ‘networking event’ with a group of 40 people (product managers, venture capitalists, software engineers, and friends of his).

The event was at a bar in the East Village. This setting definitely made me extremely uncomfortable. I was the youngest person in the room, I didn’t know anyone there, and I also didn’t have a full-time job at some cool tech company to talk about.

Once I started having conversations with people in the room and told them more about myself I began to feel much more comfortable.

I found myself around a group of people who thought similarly enough to me that they could actually challenge my beliefs and assumptions. I note ‘similarly enough’ because we weren’t all just repeating the same beliefs to one another instead we were having constructive discourse.

Here’s what I learned from my conversations…

  • Act upon your impulses at an early age before you get golden handcuffs.

A few of the people I talked to said they wish they knew what they wanted earlier on. It’s infinitely more difficult for them to leave a certain lifestyle they’ve created for themselves at the stage they are in life. Also, for many there are biological constraints worth noting… marriage/ having kids/ raising a family.

  • It’s okay to not have it all figured out. No one does.

Most of the people I spoke to said they were still figuring it out. The pressure I’ve been imposing on myself at this age is completely unwarranted as long as I’m acting and moving forward in the direction that I want to. (doing the things that make me whole)

If you’re curious about some of my more personal take aways… reach out! 😉


Lighting a Match

I hope something here inspires you to do something or learn something new.

What to do if your spouse works too much

Navigating the razor’s edge is frigging hard and might only look feasible in hindsight. And while I’m generally skeptical of multi-millionaires dispensing advice from their retired perches, I found parts of Michael Ovitz’s memoir (aptly titled Who is Michael Ovitz) relatable. In this passage, the super-agent (and founder of CAA) describes advice he received at thirty-three (h/t @awealthofcs):

In 1979, when I was thirty-three, Ted Ashley at Warner Bros. took me aside and said, “I’m going to give you some great advice.” He grinned ruefully. “And, knowing you, you’re not going to take it. But here it is: I could have worked ten percent less, and it wouldn’t have made a difference in my professional success. But I would have been a lot happier.”

And now in retirement, Ovitz converts the percentage into actual years of his life:

I didn’t take it. I see now that I could have worked as much as 20 percent less, and it wouldn’t have cost me. If I’d worked even 10 percent less, across thirty years, that’s three whole extra years of life I’d have enjoyed.

This reminds me of the work of the palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware who chronicled the most common regrets of individuals on their deathbeds. She was struck in particular by one that “from every male patient she nursed:” I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Ware adds,

They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

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Why It’s Easier to Make Decisions for Someone Else

Upon reflection, these results should feel familiar. Think about the most recent time you asked for a raise. Many people are initially afraid to ask (employing a cautious mindset); however, these same people are often very supportive in recommending to others (such as their friends or colleagues) that they ask (employing an adventurous mindset). When people recommend what others should do, they come up with ideas and choices and solutions that are more optimistic and action-oriented, focus on more positive information and imagine more favorable consequences. Meanwhile, when making their own choices, people tend to envision everything that could go wrong, leading to doubt and second-guesses.

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The 'You Are Not Special’ Graduation Speech Is Just as Relevant Today

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principal, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that fell into your lap because you’re a nice person or Mommy ordered it from the caterer.

Watch the video here…

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Winning at the Great Game: My Interview with Adam Robinson (Part 1) [The Knowledge Project Ep. #47] {Podcast}

The Great Game is life. We play many games in life. The game of job, or career, or starting a business, or the politics game, or the education game. Everything is a game. Games suggest something that’s not serious, but of course games are intensely serious. If you want to find someone who is ferociously intense and focused, watch someone playing a game, especially something competitive.

Constitutionally, I’m an introvert, and so the revelation of 2016, into 2017 and now 2018, has been that the real magic is connecting with others. That if you want to do anything in the world, and this is as true personally as well as professionally, it’s all about creating a vision for others to join.

By quantitative measures, people should be happier, and yet they’re not. It’s the exact opposite, right? The irony is that we have material wealth undreamt of. The average person today lives better than the average king a couple of centuries ago. And yet — we’re not happier.

One of the problems with self-help books is they rivet your attention on exactly the one thing it ought not to be focused on: yourself. You look at any of the great religious traditions, and the great philosophers, and the great poets, they all had the same message of focusing on others, and being of service to others. I think the people who are going on search to “find themselves,” will never find themselves. You find yourself only in the midst of others.

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Can relationship anarchy create a world without heartbreak?

So the idea that everyone is unique becomes extended, and when every relationship is unique the possibilities are endless. Once we permit ourselves to question love, it appears not only ludicrous but authoritarian that the infinitely complex arena of human relationships would suit a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

It isn’t hard to see how relationship anarchy might alleviate heartbreak. It is widely accepted that having good friends to ‘fall back on’ helps to heal a broken heart. But in relationship anarchy, friends are more than insurance policy. We wouldn’t drop friends while ‘coupled up’, only to pick them up when sending out wedding invitations, or nursing heartbreak. Instead, we’d consistently honour all our valued bonds. If we granted our varied relationships more of the investment we usually grant disproportionately to one person, those bonds would likely become just as vital to our hearts’ health as any romantic or sexual partner.

Other interesting links…

  • I’ve started work on a new content series showing snapshots instead of highlights of those who have the courage to think for themselves. (See my FB for more info. if you’re interested)

  • I’m moving into a new place on campus Dec. 31st for the semester.

  • I’ve been re-connecting with a lot of old friends and am also making new friends.

  • I’m working on a side project that has something to do with ‘Netflix n Chill’ 😏


Thank you for reading this edition of Activation Energy.

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