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It’s Not About Stoic WEEK, But Life

November 25, 2014 — 2 Comments

Here we are, with Stoic Week upon us once again.

This is exciting to me because thousands of new people will be exposed to philosophy for the very first time. I say that half-jokingly, knowing that many people including some who majored in it, think they studied philosophy in school. They didn’t–what they read about and did was an interesting intellectual stimulation but it was not philosophy.

Philosophy, as the Stoics saw it, was not abstraction. It was not theoretical. It was designed to help with the problems of life. And in Ancient Greece and Rome, the problems of life were quite real: murderous tyrants, war, plague, civil strife and banishments existed as very real and daily threats–alongside all the other things we deal with today like jealousy, injuries, greed, sickness, envy, and fear.

The Stoics developed a practical philosophy to make sense of this world, one designed to help its adherents thrive, succeed and live good lives. In my eyes, stoicism posits a very simple premise: We do not control the world around us; we control only how we respond. And so we may as well respond well–respond virtuously.

Stoicism, as passed down to us by Zeno, Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and a host of other ancients, is a tool for that response. Epictetus’s “handbook” was picked up by everyone fromJames Stockdale to George Washington. Seneca was widely admired by the Christians, Thomas Jefferson and the thinkers of the Enlightenment. Marcus Aurelius proved to be equally inspirational to writers like Ambrose Bierce and Robert Louis Stevenson as he has been for statesmen like Theodore RooseveltWen Jiabao and Bill Clinton.

What does this all mean? It means that whatever problem you’re dealing with this week–or in this life–stoicism can be of help.

A few favorites:

On Ambition:

“Ambition means tying your well being to what other people say or do.

Self-indulgence means tying it to the things that happen to you.

Sanity means tying it to your own actions.” – Marcus Aurelius

On Temptations:

“No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be good. Like the gold or emerald or purple repeating to itself, “No matter what anyone says or does, my task is to be emerald, my color undiminished.” – Marcus Aurelius

On Self-Criticism

“What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.’ That is progress indeed. Such a people will never be alone and you may be sure he is a friend to all.” – Seneca

On Other People:

“It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.” – Marcus Aurelius

On Distractions:

“Stick to what’s in front of you—idea, action, utterance.” – Marcus Aurelius

On Objectivity

“Don’t let the force of an impressions when it first hit you knock you off your feet; just say to it: Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test.” – Epictetus

On Success or Failure:

“To accept it without arrogance, to let it go with indifference.” – Marcus Aurelius

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” – Epictetus

On Fortune

“The wise man looks to the purpose of all actions, not their consequences; beginnings are in our power, but Fortune judges the outcome, and I do not grant her a verdict upon me.” – Seneca

On Endurance

“Life’s no soft affair. It’s a long road you’ve started on: you can’t but expect to have slips and knocks and falls, and get tired and openly wish–a lie–for death.” – Seneca

**

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to stoicism when I was 18 or 19 years old. Not during a week of practice and contemplation, but a week where I nonetheless needed it very badly. I was going through a terrible break up. I was stuck in this apartment with some roommates who I absolutely detested. I was in my second year of college, not sure in which direction to take my life.

chance encounter led to me picking up Marcus Aurelius and his wonderful Meditations. The wisdom in this book not only helped me with my immediate problems–helped me see some perspective about my romantic woes and helped me realize there was no reason to resent these people I was living with. But more importantly, it set me on an intellectual journey (going “directly to the seat of knowledge” as Marcus put it) that changed my life and set me on a course I never would have expected.

In the years since, stoicism has something that strengthened me in failure, comforted me in pain, gave meaning to events and cautioned humility and conservatism in moments of success. It helped me publish three books–one of which, I can proudly say, is about stoicism. How this all would have played out otherwise, I really have no idea. But what stoicism teaches is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is what happened and that we must be grateful for it–the goodand bad alike.

I am. I am so grateful for the windows and doors that stoicism opened. And I hope for everyone participating in 2014’s Stoic Week that you feel the same. And don’t let it stop after 7 days either.

My Morning Routine

November 22, 2014 — 8 Comments

My routine via MyMorningRoutine.com.

What is your morning routine?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten comes from Shane Parrish at Farnam Street. It’s simple: If you want to be more productive, get up early.

So I get up around 8:00am and I have one other simple rule: Do one thing in the morning before checking email. It could be showering, it could be going for a long run, it could be jotting some thoughts down in my journal, it’s usually writing. Most mornings I try to write for one to two hours before I start the rest of the day (and the to do list I made the day before).

I shower, get ready and head downstairs to my office/library and sit and write. I recently got a Philips Hue light that helps with my vitamin D and regulates my rhythms. Then I eat and get on with everything else. The way I see it, after a productive morning where I accomplish my big things, the rest of the day can be played by ear. It’s all extra from there.

How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

Routines are an iterative process. You add and adapt it over time. I have been doing some version of this specific routine for nearly five years. It’s gotten me through three books in three years as well as dozens of projects for clients big and small.

How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

The no email in the mornings rule is probably the newest change. It has also had the biggest impact. Why? Because it means you’re not starting the morning behind the ball. Instead, you start with wins.

Specifically with writing, it allows me to approach it fresh and clear headed. The last thing you want when you’re writing is the specter of 46 UNREAD EMAILS looming over you. That doesn’t lend itself to existing in the moment well.

What time do you go to sleep?

Midnight at the latest.

Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

iPhone alarm. Not a big snooze button guy. I wake up at a time that works for me and if it didn’t I would change it. I also try not to pointlessly stay up late.

How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

It depends on if I go out or cook with my girlfriend.

When I lived in New York, we would go out and work together most mornings at a restaurant. Sometimes I do that when I am in Austin. But here I have chickens so usually we check the coop for eggs and cook something up. My office is right next to the kitchen so I am in and out of it anyway. I try to generally eat paleo/slow carb so it’s eggs, bacon, avocado usually.

Do you have a morning workout routine?

I tend to work out in the afternoon—usually sometime between 2-4:00pm.

I’ll run on the lake in Austin, or swim in Barton Springs. If it’s a CrossFit day, I’ll go to the early evening class. When I travel though, my schedule is not as much in my control so I go for a long run in the morning, say from 7:00-8:00am or 8:00-9:00am, and then start the day knowing that however it turns out, at least I got a run in.

How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

Without email to check, there is very little reason to check my phone in the morning besides maybe my calendar—but I try to do that the night before.

I don’t keep Facebook on my phone and I don’t use any apps with alerts. The idea is that the phone answers to me rather than the other way around.

What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Writing, that’s the real work. I find that showering and getting ready first helps me prepare and face it professionally, so I suppose that is part of it too.

What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water. Usually Topo Chico, which is a Mexican sparkling mineral water that I am addicted to. No coffee for me. No protein shakes.

Sometimes my girlfriend will juice or make a smoothie but that’s pretty sporadic.

On days you’re not settled in your own home, are you able to adapt any of your routine to fit in with a different environment?

Almost all of it, except the walking downstairs to my office.

I travel a lot so I’ve built my routine to be as resilient as possible and as location independent as possible. In some ways, I’m more productive on the road—excepting the writing.

What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

I feel like I am playing catch up—or worse, that I am not in control of my own life. I don’t like that. It defeats the purpose of achieving success.

Applying Growth Hacking to a Book (and to getting ahead)

October 14, 2014 — 9 Comments

I just put up a 5,000 word breakdown of the campaign for Growth Hacker Marketing for the New York Observer. If you haven’t read the book, but are interested in becoming a writer one day, I would encourage you to check it out. I think the book is in some ways a new model for how to develop an idea and an audience and then ultimately create a successful and lucrative product out of it. And that’s leaving out the fact that the book was satisfying and enjoyable to write.

I also wanted to give a quick update on the growth hacker apprenticeship that originated on this blog and is detailed in the post. After posting it here and some promotions from people in the community over 100 people applied (something I was quite humbled by). But here’s the unfortunate part: Most of the applicants never had a shot. This is something I have seen time and time again in my career, and something I’ve tried to write about in my posts about mentorship. Most of them never had a shot because they didn’t follow directions (for instance, I said put your idea in a single paragraph 300 words max, yet many people send me enormously long emails). Among the few dozen who at least took the instructions literally, the ideas weren’t remotely related to the content of the book. But most of the entries failed on both counts–ignored the directions, and the ideas were off. You can maybe skate by being sloppy, but no one is going to forgive the latter. I think what happened is that people saw an opportunity and got so excited that they, you know, neglected to come up with a real plan for taking it. Instead they just threw energy at it, or in some cases, threw some “crazy” at it.

I would have loved to give those people a shot anyway, but I could not. That’s not how life works. I ultimately ended up working with William Wickey and he did a great job. He was reliable. He was on top of it. He brought value to the table. He took my suggestions. He made things easy for me. He was trustworthy. He made it possible for me to do something new and special for the launch. And guess what? I’ve already referred him to two potential paying gigs. I am almost certain I will pass more work to him from myself and others in the future. He did it right, and I would encourage him to write about his thinking and process because I think it could provide some lessons.

Anyway, I encourage you to check out the article and of course the book. I really appreciate everyone’s support and hope writing like this is helpful.

Growth Hacker Marketing: Revised & Expanded is here! (My goat loves it)

October 1, 2014 — 3 Comments

photo (2)

I am very pleased to announce the revised and expanded paperback version of Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing and Advertising is out now. The expanded paperback (or ebook) includes a ton of new material and updates–it’s now got twice the content, has a bunch of updated stories and anecdotes, and explains the many lessons I learned with the book.

In a way, this book itself was an exercise in growth hacking itself. The first version was our minimum viable product and now that it’s been validated, we’re ready to go to a wider audience. You’ve been a part of that journey, having read the early version, given feedback, promoted it, or seen me speak about the book somewhere along the way in the last year. So thank you, seriously.

I would love for you to pick up a copy on Amazon (UK link), iBooks, B&N, or any local bookstore and enjoy this new version. If you signed up for one of the promotions to get an early signed copy, those books on their way. However you get it, I’d be very grateful for a very quick review on Amazon. We crossed 300 of them last week.

At the very least, pass along a recommendation about the book to a friend or give it a tweet. I really appreciate your support and can’t wait for more people to enjoy the book.

Thanks again and let me know what you think of the new book.

**Note: The various promotional copies are either on their way or will be shortly. I am writing up the GHM case study based on the apprentice gig as well as some other articles. Stay tunes here for the info.

Growth Hacker Marketing Announcement & Giveaway

September 8, 2014 — 20 Comments

Last fall I teamed up with my publisher to produce a $2.99 mini-ebook called Growth Hacker Marketing. It was short—about 10,000 words—and was intended to serve as a basic introduction to the subject. The e-book was more successful than any of us had thought, and so my publisher has decided to publish a print edition, to which I’ve added a ton of new material and updates (it’s now over twice as long, has a bunch of updated stories and anecdotes, and explains the lessons I learned with the book)

But wait. I know what you’re thinking. Ryan, if I already bought the $2.99 version, do I have to shell out again to get these updates? Isn’t that kind of punishing the people who helped make the e-book succeed in the first place?

The answer is no. Because I am giving away a FREE copy of the revised and expanded paperback edition of Growth Hacker Marketing to anyone in the U.S. who has already bought the $2.99 e-special edition. Not only that, I’m going to be signing as many of them as I can. It’s my way of saying thanks and creating a “wow” factor.

All you need to do is fill out this form and we’ll send you a free book in the mail.  Only continental U.S. residents are eligible*. Offer ends Friday, September 19.

*I know this is unfortunate but it’s just not feasible any other way. And before anyone complains, I have to commend my publisher for supporting (and in some cases, actually coming up with) these ideas. Nobody else is allowed to do this and it’s awesome they’re doing this with me.

**Also for the contest posted earlier this month, a winner has been selected. Info to come**