We used to be friends

We used to be friends

Dear Js,

Wow, that’s a big promise in today’s title. The meaning of life? Yup. It’s here. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. The key word of that sentence is “meaning”. As in, whenever life elbows you to the floor, kicks dirt in your face and pees on you, and you’re groveling and asking the universe “WHY” or “What does it all mean?” I’m going to leave you with a tip that will lead you to the answer every time.

But first, I am sad. Sad dad bad had. Your sister was crying because she had diaper rash. I picked her up to comfort her. Then, you threw yourself at me, pushing her away with your body because you wanted me to pick you up instead. I said I can’t. Mama said she’ll pick you up. You sat back, threw a little tantrum, then looked at her and said:

I want another daddy.

Parents are always tired. But tired is okay if before bed each day we can console ourselves, “it was worth it.” So when you said that to me, I just felt like checking out. That second, all my sleep debt caught up with me like I slammed my brakes in front of a truck and it plowed through me. I noticed my sore throat and every ache and sore muscle.

It’s not about physical fatigue. It’s about energy. Feeling tired only sucks when you feel you got nothing out of being tired. Like when someone is ungrateful for your sacrifices. That’s when I noticed how powerful your smile means to us as parents. You don’t even have to say thank you. When we see you happy, we always go to sleep thinking, “it’s worth it.” And we’ll do it again the next day.

Anyway, to gather myself, I gave you some time with mama. I took Julie to play in her room. She sat in my lap with bathtime monkey. Since she can crawl she usually wants to move, but that time she was calm and burrowed herself into a nest. Later, mama talked it over with you and you came up to say sorry to me. I hugged you and instantly, you were laughing and dancing again.

Until today, when you said…

“I want it to be just three of us.”

This time, you said you “want to put your sister outside so she can crawl away.” On one hand, we’re glad we’ve encouraged you to talk about your feelings and you can say whatever’s on your mind. On the other hand, you have a love/hate relationship with your sister that we have been working on. You are fascinated with her but you don’t like that she steals our attention.

You know, I realize I need to write more about mama. I don’t know if she is writing to you like I am, but this year, I’ll try to include her more in our letters. So you remember what she was like. Because so many things happen, and sometimes when you look at a photo, you can use your imagination… but your mom and I have many chats after you two go to sleep that I wish you could hear when you’re grown up. At least, I wish I could have with my parents – because as a kid everything is a mystery. But the reality is that parents are people too. And people are animals. Broken, fearful, frail and frustrated people who make mistakes, and struggle to navigate life. You look up to us because we are bigger and older. But we don’t always know better.

Speaking of struggles, here’s one update for mama’s biz. Remember the newsletter mama’s trying to start? A week after our meeting, mama dropped off the draft of the first month’s newsletter. Which, by the way, is a winning tactic. If you want to win a deal, talk is cheap. Show up with something real, preferably almost-finished, personalized with your client’s business name, picture, material, etc. When you drop something like that on the table, there’s “Wow, I wasn’t expecting this.” Then, by seeing something tangible, discussions erupt. It’s hard to discuss abstract ideas, but when you see it in front of you and flip through the pages, you can’t help but have something to say. The most powerful effect is loss aversion. When you show up with a finished product, the client knows that all she has to do is say yes, and she gets to keep it. But say no, and it disappears from her hands. There is a big difference between having something finished taken away from you, and being offered something you can’t see or touch yet.

The nice lady who owns the store wrote back:

First, I’m sorry I missed you on Monday. My husband had scheduled a meeting that overlapped the last part of the time you would have been there, which I kept planning to go down to touch base and then I ended up not being able to. Anyway, I LOVE what you dropped off. I will not be in this coming Monday, January 7. Could we plan to touch base the following Monday when you arrive at 10:00 (unless there are people to touch base with you).

Now, it may have been your newsletter and chatting with your husband (which was awesome by the way) that inspired me (and your son is absolutely adorable), and I know it would be best to do a verbal interview but I’m excited about getting information from all of the folks that come and teach a class, facilitate a group, etc. The rest of the email is what I’m sending to everyone that’s involved in a class of some sort here (oh, I want to ask the employees to feel respond as well).

How about that? Mama wasn’t done. When we took Jules for her vaccine, mama intercepted the doctor who had been sending her referrals to thank her. The doctor said all her patients returned with good reviews and their problem solved, so she wants to refer more patients. She asked for business cards. Instead of fighting that battle, we’re going to give her what her brain wants. We thought about it a little, and I said to mama, “I have a sneaky idea.” Then mama finished my sentence before I could, “I know, it can say ‘Lactation Consultant for ________ patients'” Fill in the blank with the pediatric practice’s name, and maybe replace patients with moms, families, etc.

Look, daddy’s struggling too! We’re a family of strugglers, what can we say. I’m nowhere what I consider a success, so I want you to see what’s what’s on my plate in 2014 – the 2nd year of my “Make Miracles” project. I want you to see what we’re going for, and that any and all of these could fail:

Launch mama’s lactation consulting biz.
Launch local biz’ newsletter, to set up a media channel that mama has influence over.
Launch an online dance biz, for the guy who taught me how to dance, which unlocked the world where I found your mom.
Fantasy project – “Everything wrong with Social Media and how to fix it.” This started under the name “Subculture”; then I got too silly and woo-woo and it became the “Inn Between Worlds.” Now I’ve destroyed everything and rebuilding from zero, picking the best ideas from my experiments and distilling it down to simple simple simple and sticky. It’s new name is “Secret Campfire.”
Oh, also, I’ll be trying to turn a $7 billion Duopoly into a Monopoly, by murdering our competitor. Achilles is the Manhattan Project to kick it off, but I’m using it to infect management with the Pareto principle. The theme will be leverage (if you have similar resources, the way you crush your competitor is not by running faster or harder, but by using leverage as much as you can, everywhere you can.) I.e., systematically find and pound the 20% that gives you 80% of your results. Then I’ll say, Achilles is only one such tool to find the 20%. If you think this is good, wait til we apply this principle everywhere. I have a presentation with the VPs next week, on Jan 15th. I’ll let you know how it went.

Other than that, my routine includes reading and writing. Reading to keep expanding my brain, and writing (such as this letter to you) to keep my tools sharp.

But you know, it wasn’t always this way. A few years ago, I couldn’t even come up with useful things to do to save my life. By useful, I mean something that adds value to other people’s life, instead of something that only entertains me. I remember back to before I started my journey. I was frustrated. I knew I was good at what I did. I knew I was good at solving problems. I knew that if a problem was put in front of me, I could get passionate about the challenge and kill it. Even if it was a problem I wasn’t familiar with, I knew I was good at figuring how to learn what I needed to learn to solve it.

But my biggest problem was: I didn’t know how to put myself in a position where people would throw problems at me and reward me handsomely for solving them.

The lesson I finally learned is, no matter how great you are, as useful or valuable your skills are, the world doesn’t give a shit. It’s not up to the world to bless you with fulfilling work. You have to hunt for it.

But how? Come think this through with me. For me, the most helpful thing was figuring out how the world works. Not reading the news to see what’s happening. But understanding the cause of all effects.

When I started lost and frustrated, I tried to understand the world by learning about things like finance, economics, investing, etc. Groping in the dark really. Then I remembered something someone said to me, “the most important thing everyone needs to learn is how to Sell.” So I decided to study. The breakthrough came when Marketing led me to Psychology. Specifically, the psychology of behavior – what makes people do what they do.

Do you know why it was the golden ticket? Because:

Everything you see around you is a result of human action. If it exists, it is either because a human created it or a human decided to not to destroy it.

Every action comes from a decision. So if you understand how people make decisions, you automatically understand everything in the world. And the most powerful action of all is when we Buy. Because…

When someone needs to buy a solution, free-market competition guarantees that the world changes in the most efficient manner to service that need, in exchange for money. No other action evokes such ruthless focus and efficiency.

Because of that, I completely agree that Selling is the most important skill anyone can learn. Everyone in any profession ought to learn it. Colleges are criminals for graduating anyone without teaching it. It leads you to Behavioral Psych, which affects everything that makes the world turn. You will see the reality, and the connections between everything. And because you see these connections, you cannot help but see opportunities.

“You can only connect the dots you collect.” And Behavioral Psychology is where all the dots that make a difference in the world are.

The best way to get started is to read. But reading alone is useless. Read just enough so you can do. Then do. You only learn by doing, and you learn the most when you make mistakes. You’re not learning if you’re not making mistakes. So find things to do to make as many mistakes as you can get away with.

OK. I’m done preaching. This week in pictures:

Early glimpse of our future wrangling 2 kids. We went to the park the other day. You met a new friend your age. He mama was busy with baby sister so it was you two and poor me. Good news, no one got hurt.

Not sure if you liked her at first, because she wanted your scooter:

Then you became friends

Then you became friends

It's already happening...

It’s already happening…

Learning about leverage:

"Look, I'm a monkey"

“Look, I’m a monkey”

"Mama can you sit too?"

“Mama can you sit too?”


First steps:


Drinking brother’s water:

Eating cracker:

The solids are making poos explosive. Almost every diaper leaks.


Playing together:

"Me: Do you want to lie down next to Julie? You: Yea....."

“Me: Do you want to lie down next to Julie? You: Yea…..”

Areola-seeking missile – that’s what you’re like now, J2. Mama has learned how to nurse you in the car while you’re still in your seat. And you’ve learned to cry for it as soon as we move. This makes it more convenient as we don’t have clench our teeth through the entire trip while you cry. Mama discovered today that you’ve also learned how to find the boob in the dark. Mama would come close, wonder how she’d find you and next thing she knows, you’re latched. It’s too dark to see, so there’s some amazing baby skill we don’t know of at work here.

You like a ray of sunshine. You smile every time you see me that I sometimes feel like a loser for not being more special to deserve your smiles. Here’s how our interactions usually go every day: You will squirm out of mama’s arms, crawl to me hug for a few seconds, look up at me, smile, then stiff-arm push yourself away to play elsewhere. A few seconds later, you’ll smile at me and crawl back to me to do it all over again. I guess you love me but you want your space too.

J, you so funny…

“What do you want for breakfast?”
“Two books.”
“You can’t eat books for breakfast.”
“I want to read two books, then breakfast.”
“Cream cheese?”

“Come to the kitchen for your prunes!”
You ran from the carpet to the smooth tiles with socks on, yelling, “YAAAAY-”
Then *slip* vertical became horizontal. I had to laugh, because you did something amazing. You corkscrewed your body mid-fall, swimming your arm over so you ended up on your tummy. You could have easily bopped the back of your massive head. I wonder if it’s a reflex. You cried and looked at me. I said, “That was a good fall.” “Why?” You sobbed. “Because you fell and didn’t get hurt.” You stopped crying. I don’t know if you got it or you think I’m the meanest dad ever.

Holiday’s over. My office reopens tomorrow. That means these weekly letters of ours will no longer be so jammed with pictures and videos. Sadly we won’t get to do so many family things in the weekdays. We had a nice break, I think. We grew a lot together as a family this Christmas.

Happy New Year!



P.S. Julie & Kimi – I’ve been letting Kimi out of her crate more, now that

But Kimi has started sympathy crying for Julie too… ugh.

P.P.S. – some more pictures from the aviation museum last week…

"Brother, what are you doing?"

Brother, what are you doing?

Here I come!

"Here I come!"

P.P.P.S. – J, this week you declared that, “I’m a mouse, Tyrannosaurus, Clifford turtle.” And you speak in the third person, “Sometimes mousey doesn’t want to share things.”