Atlas Smiled

March 7, 2015

13482497824_35da2e2555_kThe story of the titan Atlas is traditionally one of oppression. As punishment for his defiance of the Olympian gods, Atlas is imprisoned by Zeus, condemned to carry the sky on his shoulders for all eternity. He gets a brief respite when he convinces Heracles to carry the load, but is quickly tricked back into his chains. And so he stands, crushed by the weight of the sky, for all of his immortal life.

In some versions, Atlas carries the world itself, not just the sky, but the intent is the same: Atlas carries the world as a punishment. In this traditional depiction, he is shown groaning under the load, crumbling beneath the immense weight.

But there is another way to see the story.

At the Rockefeller Center in New York is a statue of Atlas standing tall, proudly bearing the load nobody else can shoulder, a regal being doing all he can to carry the weight of the world.

This statue celebrates the titan’s strength. He is not shown in chains, nor is he bowed beneath the globe. Instead, he gazes towards the future, with one foot stepping out, as if carrying humanity forward.

This statue is often associated with Ayn Rand’s book, Atlas Shrugged, though the statue was made long before the book was written. Atlas Shrugged is about those who bear the world’s burdens — the wealthy capitalists and industrialists according to Rand — walking away from the expectations imposed on them by the mediocre masses. (Rand, a Russian transplant to the US, was reacting to communism and was perhaps overly enthusiastic about capitalism). Thus, the image of those who bear the greatest loads and carry the weight of the world shrugging it off and retiring to form a perfect society.

I don’t think this version is much better.

The story I want to tell is one in which Atlas is a hero. He has the strength and the will to carry the world, and so he does, not because others force him to do it, but because he believes in living at his greatest potential and taking on the challenges worthy of his strength. He helps others by carrying them through their troubles, moving the entire world into a future of possibility and promise.

Even in my story, Atlas is an impossible ideal, but he represents something I think we should all aspire to: serving humanity at our greatest capacity.

If you are a genius at healing the sick, do that. If you are a brilliant game designer, do that. If you are excellent at working financial markets, do that. And in all cases, do it to make the world a better place, whatever that means to you. We ought to carry the burdens that our strength allows us to shoulder, to help others where we can. By doing this, we can lift them up.

And we ought to do it with no thought of thanks or recognition, but simply because it is within our capacity and concern to do it. We don’t have to work ourselves to death and poverty, but we shouldn’t hold back our gifts for want of reward.

In my version of the story, Atlas is happy to help because he is so powerful and so caring that the burden of the world is nothing. He was made to carry it, and it is his greatest pleasure to serve. He doesn’t turn his back on the world, shrugging it from his shoulders, nor does he buckle under a weight he resents as punishment.

Instead, he smiles and stands taller, so that everyone can be that much closer to the sun.


How to Find Mentors

February 26, 2015


As an individual, you can accomplish a lot, but no matter what, you will always be limited by your available time and experience. Being able to learn from other people’s experiences, wisdom, and skills is the key to fast-tracking your growth and capabilities.

The mentors who have gathered around me have been so valuable in helping me move forward, take initiative, and untangle the many complex problems I’ve faced starting businesses and creating positive change in my community. But I’m not the only person for whom mentors have been important.

Some of you probably know I’m a history buff, and one of my favorite kinds of books to read is biography. This summer, I read Titan, the biography of J. D. Rockefeller, this fall I read Jobs, and I’m currently about halfway through The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie.

These are all massively influential people who had far-reaching impact not only on their own times, but on future generations as well. And, even if they wouldn’t admit it (Steve Jobs, maybe), they all had great mentors. Rockefeller and Carnegie gushed about the generosity of their mentors, and Carnegie in particular spoke of his early employer as the ideal of businessmen. The men who helped Rockefeller and Carnegie take their first steps in their careers were remembered fondly by both men.

Mentors matter. They provide guidance when you are trying to figure out how to solve a problem. They provide motivation when you have to check in. They provide connections to their own networks as you are beginning to grow. They provide opportunity, often simply by giving you a place or a job to gain experience.

If you can get someone else to contribute a little bit of their hard-won experience to your own enthusiastic but naive efforts, you will leapfrog past many of the obstacles that slow others down.

In short, mentors are vital.

So, how do you go about surrounding yourself with a network of supportive people have both the desire and the ability to help you succeed? …Read More


How to Be Accepted as a Leader

February 17, 2015


“I’m the one chance you’ve got of staying alive.” – Clara Oswald, Doctor Who, Season 8, Flatline

Maybe you’ve run into this problem: You want to make a difference in the world by inspiring, motivating, and supporting the people around you, but you aren’t in charge. You don’t feel like anyone is paying attention to your ideas or giving you permission to start a new project that might take the business in a new direction, or even start a new company that would change the face of the town.

So you just keep on working at whatever you do, coloring in the lines, and dreaming about the day you get to take a stand.

This is a difficult place to be because you have great ideas and strong convictions, but you are afraid that if you take action on them, you will upset people. You aren’t sure if they are happy where they are, and even if they aren’t, change is always scary. You don’t want to be the one to bring that on.

But the thing is, while change is scary, it is also inevitable.

You might as well be the one to direct it and help people grow with it, rather than resist and stagnate.

So how can you get over the leadership hump to get others on board and make a difference? …Read More


The Everyday Hero

February 12, 2015


What does heroism mean to you?

For some people, heroism is about showing up for their families. Maybe you make a comfortable income, but getting home late and never having the chance to tuck your kids into bed makes you feel empty and hollow.

For others, it’s the other way around: you take care of the home and family, but you want to have a bigger impact in the wider community.

Other people want to feel heroic about their personal efficacy. They read about ultra-marathons and watch videos of acrobats and yearn to develop those skills, to test themselves.

Some want to learn how to be great at chess, or a sport, or they want to expand their skill set through education and experience. Others want to make a lot of money.

Or maybe you have a cause you believe in, and making a difference in that would make you feel heroic.

To me, it means supporting others in creating their dreams, believing in them, and setting an example of personal excellence.

It is having faith and taking action in support of the belief that anyone, anywhere, can realize their dreams and be historically significant in their communities and the lives of those they care about. It’s about empowering people, in whatever ways I can. When I started this blog, all I could do was share my story and hope it inspired. Then, I taught people how to create strong, energetic, vibrantly healthy bodies.

Now, I’m working on a new approach. It’s about helping people realize their heroism in their business and worldly affairs. There’s a lot of overlap with health and psychology, but I’ve come to the conclusion that money, finances, and how you conduct yourself in business are simply reflections of personal and social value (whether real or perceived).

The project is called The Everyday Hero (working title). You’ll probably see hints of it cropping up on my main URL, and when it launches, you can expect an invite. I’m not sure if it will supplant Warrior Spirit or coexist, but there will probably be some inconsistency with WS posts while I’m getting TEH up and running.

Everyone has their own definition of heroism, and all of them are worth realizing. My mission in life is to help them realize it.

What would your life have to be like for you to consider yourself a hero?


PS: If you would like to help out, let me know what you think of the name, The Everyday Hero, in the comments.

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I learn a lot from my mornings. They usually set the tone for my day.

For example, last week, I missed my morning run and meditation most days. On the weekend, today and yesterday, I managed to make those both happen. The difference was pretty noticeable.

Sometimes, I have to make a choice between getting work done and going out for my run. My first instinct is to do the work, but that’s actually not as significant an investment in my performance and my day as running. On days I run, I have more focus, more energy, and more optimism than on days I don’t run. So while trading the run for an extra 30 minutes of productivity in the morning might seem like a good idea, it actually costs much more than 30 minutes of productivity. It decreases what I do throughout the day, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Running and meditating have been more useful than productivity tricks in helping me grow and take on the wide variety of challenges I am facing lately. I’ve basically discovered that running is one of the most effective things I can do in the mornings. It’s one of the best uses of my time, even (especially) when I’m feeling overwhelmed with too much to do. Taking a short run actually helps me get more done than if I just buckled down and tried to just do the work.

As the Zen saying goes, You should meditate thirty minutes a day, unless you are very busy. Then you should meditate an hour.

Certain habits are like that. They aren’t productive in their own right, but they make us much more effective in everything else we do.

So my challenge to you is to think about the little, seemingly extraneous things that you do that actually have a very important impact on your overall ability to do good work in the world. Some places to start looking:

  • Personal care: exercise, diet, sleep, hygiene (a shower and shave can do a lot for your sense of efficacy)
  • Treats: a particular cup of coffee, a craft beer in the evening
  • Personal expression: clothes, grooming, color scheme (maybe it really matters that you have a blue notebook), accessories (my hat makes me feel heroic)
  • Tools: do you love your MacBook so much you get more work done just because you get to use that shiny laptop? I take meticulous notes in all my meetings now because I love to use my nice pens.
  • Leisure: when you make time for your favorite video games or sports, you can bring yourself to your work with more engagement, so that hour playing Call of Duty isn’t really wasted
  • Environment: a favorite cafe, certain office furniture, a particular park, music, light, noise levels, a good chair

Make sure you dedicate time and money to these things. As long as you don’t go overboard, they really are an investment in yourself because they do make you more effective.

Just because we take pleasure in something doesn’t mean it is a wasteful indulgence. Good tools are a pleasure to use, but they are also great at helping you produce good work. A well-earned treat at the end of the day can be a motivation to work hard. Leisure time can provide the opportunity to unwind, shifting your brain from focused mode (great for problem-solving) to diffuse mode (great for creativity and opening up to new ideas).

What makes you more effective? Can you make more time for it so you can bring even more engagement to your work?


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smallfishbiggoalI woke up this morning and looked out on a winter wonderland. Snow had been coming down all night, and it was falling in tiny biting crystals that stuck to everything. Very pretty, very cold, and very wet. The sidewalks were covered in snow.

“I guess I’m not going for my morning run,” I thought.

Then, I stopped myself and asked a different question: “Can I go for my morning run, in shorts and a shirt as usual?” I’d run in cold weather before, but not in actual falling snow.

I honestly didn’t know the answer to that.

I decided not to make assumptions about my limitations and just give it a shot. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. …Read More


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