Dear Kobe,

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On a day like today, I find it hard to believe that everything happens for a reason. To try and say that the planet will be better off without you alive – that this was supposed to happen, makes no sense. What you were able to accomplish in forty-one years of life is more than most will ever dream. 5x NBA Champion — 2x Finals MVP — 18x All-Star — 4x All-Star MVP — 2x Gold Medal Winner — Eerily now #4 in All-Time Points — Oscar Winner — That’s without mentioning every Lakers record that you hold after staying loyal to the same city, team, franchise, for 20 consecutive seasons. There’s no way I can wrap my head around what happened or, more importantly, why it happened.

Image result for kobe 1978 to 2020

Thinking about what you would have surely accomplished in the decades to come is gut-wrenching. But what you talked about most in retirement, and what you were most passionate about up until today, was always your family, Vanessa, and your four daughters. Trying to imagine what Bianka, Capri, Natalia, and Vanessa are going through is something that I will never be able to conceive. They had a father, husband, friend, and a leader pulled out from under their feet. We all lost an inspiration today. People say that life isn’t fair, and today I consider myself one of those people. There are far too many *what if’s* in all of our minds right now, playing out scenarios in which the unthinkable did not happen.

Image result for kobe dear basketball

As I sat down this morning to write an unrelated post, I was having a hard time stringing together more than a couple sentences at a time. My mind was off thinking about such insignificant tasks to the grand scheme of life: switching laundry to the dryer, prepping meals for the week, and if I were going to go out for a run or not. I forced words onto a screen in hopes they would magically turn into something I could post. Eventually, I gave up, drove home, and walked in my front door, being greeted with the news that I will never forget, a moment that stands still in time. TMZ had posted an article saying you had passed away. It didn’t seem real. It still doesn’t seem real. I didn’t believe it. Someone so invincible as you couldn’t just go like that. Without even a goodbye? There’s no way.

As minutes passed like hours, the reports kept coming. Suddenly I was faced with reality; this was really it. As I waited for you to tweet, post, or share something saying that you’re okay, I realized that the moment wasn’t coming.

Kobe Bryant's Inspiring Message To Daughters Shown As Final Note In Memorial Program

Now, as I sit, trying to gather my thoughts from this tragic day, I am still having a hard time writing. I am struggling to relay thousands of hours of memories into a few short paragraphs. There is no shortage of thoughts. Thoughts of sitting up on my kitchen counter, wearing my new Kobe’s, eating cereal and watching the recap of your eighty-one point game. Dreams of going to school and showing everyone that I was wearing your shoes. Thoughts of jumping up and down on my couch, trying not to scream and wake my parents after you willed the Lakers to back-to-back championships. Thoughts of the pointless debates where I was determined to prove that you were the greatest basketball player of all time. Thoughts of the shirts, jerseys, posters, blankets, and clocks that used to cover my room. Thoughts of driving six hours round trip to see you get a triple-double in Denver. Thoughts of you giving hope to a young kid, showing me that if you set your mind to something, you can achieve it. I never realized that having never met you, spoken to you, or interacted with you, you have had such a profound impact on my life. The only comfort I have now is knowing that even after your passing, you will continue to have these same effects on me.

All I’ve been able to think about today is that if this kind of tragedy can happen to you — an icon, a warrior, a legend, a superstar, it very well could happen to me at any moment. Our time here is finite, and none of us know precisely when our last moment will be. There are no guarantees, no matter how smart, how strong, how determined, or how beautiful you are, it can be taken in a matter of seconds. Saying that there is a reason for something as terrible as this, to me, seems disrespectful to you, your family, and your friends. I’ll never be able to understand why this happened. Now I have to come to grips with it. Maybe it’s all a part of the mystery of life. If someone had it all figured out, with no questions left to ask, what would be the point in living? Maybe the worst kinds of tragedies send shock waves to hundreds of millions of people to get over our differences, get out of our own ways, and to love one another unconditionally.

In your Oscar-winning video, Dear Basketball, you remind us to savor every moment that we have left, the good and the bad. To give each other all that we have. That no matter who we are, we will always be a kid at heart. You gave us lessons to live by, told through the medium which you were most familiar with. Basketball.

Image result for dear basketball quote

This morning I was not thinking about how fortunate I have been in my life. I was not counting how many things I have had gone right for me, and how lucky I am to have such great family and friends surrounding me. But tonight, I am thinking about how grateful I will be to wake up and see another day. Tonight I am thankful for what you have instilled in me, shown me, and taught me.

Tonight I just want to say thank you, Kobe.

You showed me that hard work does pay off.

You showed me resilience.

You showed me how to never be afraid of doubt.

You showed me that obsession can be your best friend.

You showed me that by being your best self, you can inspire millions.

You showed me to never be scared.

You showed me that basketball wasn’t it for you, that family came first, and that writing and storytelling aren’t just for a select few.

Image result for kobe with books

You taught me that when you think you’re working hard enough, you can always press a little further.

You showed me that in forty-one years, you can leave a stamp on the world.

Kobe with his fans in China

Thank you for being a mentor, an inspiration, and so much more. Thank you for always giving one hundred percent. Thank you for being someone I always will look up to. Thank you for giving a young kid a dream. Thank you Kobe.

What I’ve Learned from Journaling

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Thanks to endless advice I have read and listened to — from dozens of people I respect, for the last two weeks I have forced myself into participating in a slightly altered version of a gratitude journal. Every night I have sat down and grabbed a notebook where on one page I will scribble specific times throughout the day that I felt genuine happiness, and on the opposite page I add times that I felt not so happy. I creatively titled these *happy page* and *sad page*. I’ve had to battle through one or two hand cramps from jotting down the various occasions throughout my day, but it has been well worth it. I’ve also learned a ton from such a simple activity, but what strikes me most interesting is the glaring difference I see when comparing the two pages I have written out.

For background — I am someone with no real knowledge of psychology, (unless you count a couple of books and podcasts) and highlighting these happy and sad moments in my day made me curious. I wanted to understand how and why our happiness changes over time. After a few Google searches and falling trap to YouTube’s auto-play feature, I unintentionally dug way too deep into a theory well known in the psychology as the Hedonic Treadmill, or Hedonic Adaptation. “A hedonic treadmill is the tendency of a person to remain at a relatively stable level of happiness despite a change in fortune or the achievement of major goals. According to the hedonic treadmill model, as a person makes more money, their expectations and desires rise in tandem. So the rise in income results in no permanent gain in happiness.” The ideology that we have a base level of happiness was derived from this popular study, which tracked the self-reported happiness of individuals who had recently experienced life changing events.

Rather than trying to explain the study on my own, here is the conclusion that I skillfully was able to copy and paste. “Study 1 compared a sample of 22 major lottery winners with 22 controls and also with a group of 29 paralyzed accident victims who had been interviewed previously. As predicted, lottery winners were not happier than controls and took significantly less pleasure from a series of mundane events.” While we can assume there were initially extreme emotional reactions from these events, the previous is stating that after some time the participants gradually either progressed or digressed back to the same base level of happiness.

It is easy to look at your own life and see major life events that have impacted you positively and negatively, but for most of us these events are few and far between. You become a new mother/uncle/grandma/etc →happiness levels (hopefully) through the roof. A loved one you were close to passes away →you experience sadness like never before. We are more likely to see small fluctuations in happiness daily/weekly/monthly, to a lesser degree than those life altering events. Having become enthralled with learning about Tesla and SpaceX after reading an Elon Musk biography, here’s a perfect illustration of the ups and downs we may experience, in line with the Hedonic Treadmill —and of course based around my recent obsession.

Eventually I was able to escape the theoretical hole (pun intended) I dug myself into and I took a step back to digest what I had been learning about. Now I believe the Hedonic Treadmill theory makes a ton of sense and holds true often, as the study and graph show us, but it also feels like a bleak and gloomy way to view the future. Is the study saying that we can never make lasting emotional gains? Or is it simply letting us know that one major shift in life will not make or break us. If it is making the assumption that no matter what you do in life you will eventually return back to this base level of happiness, there will be no motivation or incentive to improve your current conditions. Personally, I didn’t like the sounds of that at all — so having the unrelenting optimism that my mother forever instilled in me (thank you mom), I set out to cherry-pick information or a quote that would show the contrary. That we are able to create improvements in long-term happiness — as seen below.

“The very good news is there is quite a number of internal circumstances . . . under your voluntary control. If you decide to change them (none of these changes come without real effort), your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly.” — Martin Seligman

What we can certainly take from the Hedonic Treadmill theory is that our natural state of emotion is not euphoria. We all live on a giant scale of feelings and emotions (←sports fans click here) that is constantly fluctuating. What I am now aware of having tracked my emotions and what is surrounding, is how I am able to make decisions that lead to incremental boosts in happiness every day — and hopefully for the long haul.

When I look back into my notebook now, it becomes obvious that these moments I’m writing down on the *happy page*, are all repeatable actions that I can choose to do over and over and (yes) over again. Nearly everything that boosts my level of happiness in a day is an intentional action that I had complete control over. By taking note of what makes me happy, I can choose to incorporate these in my daily life. Cooking, rock climbing, playing pick-up basketball, FaceTime with friends and family. Looking at the entirety of the list, I am actually not writing anything on this page that was a purely a result of circumstance.

However…on the opposite side of my notebook, the *sad page* tells a much different story. Nearly everything on this side was a product of circumstance outside of my control. This list included: roommate leaving out dirty dishes, rainy and cold on the weekend, coworker not listening to a story I’m telling, random guy in a Prius cutting me off. Let me rephrase this: I was not expecting any of these things. I was hoping for better situations, and when I was let down I was becoming upset for for things outside of my control. I have been stressing over circumstances that even if I attempted to change them, the end result would be the same.

Stress is created when the reality of our world does not meet our anticipated model we created in our head.

Since beginning this process of journaling, I have been attempting to become more aware of those situations out of my control that are affecting me negatively, and letting them pass by. I have learned that to add more mood boosting activities into my daily routine, to not leave my happiness to happenstance. For example: While I am generally happy in the mornings, I do not wake up on Cloud 9. If there is someone out there that opens their eyes in the morning and is instantaneously cheerful, I have yet to meet them. We are all human and can agree that getting out of a comfortable and warm bed (especially in the winter), frankly sucks. When I wake up I know that I am at, or below, my base level of happiness. But by choosing to act onactivities from the *happy page* in the morning, like coffee and light reading, this helps boost my happiness and unfolds into a great start to my day.

There are far too many happenings in my day that I’ve let pass by, without ever giving a second thought to how they constantly affect my emotional well-being. Until now I’ve never take a step back to view how I respond to everyday events. Without this journaling experience, I may have never become aware of some highs and lows in my own life without writing down these times day after day

Maybe We Shouldn’t Aim for the Stars

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Most everyone has had to painfully sit through a lecture from a teacher, manager, or self-help guru, explaining different strategies on how to successfully set goals. Some of the more popular plans include SMART goals, Balanced Scorecards, and the creatively named— BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Different types goals and success plans can be found just about anywhere you look. Hypothetically let’s say you ask any ten people in your life whether they’ve had any goals within the last year, odds are likely everyone would say yes. We will always be surrounded by goals, sometimes of our own choice — finally getting that promotion, improving a relationship with a loved one, shedding a few pounds before the trip to Cancun. Sometimes they are dangled in front of us, in hopes to entice a specific behavior — such as meeting a lofty sales quota for the next month. It’s also known that we fall short of the reaching the vast majority of our goals (up to a 92% failure rate for New Years resolutions), leading to a loss of both morale and confidence. However, there may be an easy way to gain confidence and increase likelihood of accomplishing whatever it was we originally set out to do. It may sound counterintuitive, but start trying to set really, really, really small goals.

January 1: “I’m going to lose fifteen pounds before this summer.”

Sounds like a reasonable goal right? In fact for a lot of people, it probably is an extremely reasonable thing to do. Then after a full month of eating healthy and busting your ass at the gym, you step on a scale andddddd…you’ve gained one pound since you started all this hard work. But you stick with the program, grind out another month. You’re excited to see how close you are to your goal, you step back on the scale…only for it to tell you that you’ve lost a whopping two pounds in as many months.

What usually happens next in a story like the one seen above is complete destruction to the weight loss plan for the remaining months until summer. The wheels have now completely fallen off and it’s back to the La-Z-Boy, with Girl Scout Cookie and pizza boxes littered across the living room. Why is it that even when we work hard and push ourselves to uncomfortable places, we still lose confidence and feel defeated somewhere along the path?

Let’s say you want to try and learn ten songs on piano within the next year. This would check every box to qualify as a SMART goal. It’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable and Time-bound. Most would be able to make a case that it would also meet the requirements for a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. While a year may give us adequate time to learn ten songs on piano, three hundred and sixty five days also will provide many reasonable excuses that take priority over learning piano. Injuries, illness, travel, relationships — stuff comes up. We push things back. Sometimes we have to, sometimes it is easier to do so. Sometimes we work too hard too fast and end up despising what it was that we intended to do. We need to find a sweet spot, we need to see success. Find somewhere that is enjoyable, satisfying, and worth our time.

Big goals such as learning piano can be hard to wrap our heads around, especially if attempting to do something we’ve never done before. We may not even know all the small steps it takes in order to reach that goal. When we feel the slightest bit of doubt, or miss one day on a set program, thoughts start bouncing around our head convincing us that we are inadequate. It may constantly feel as though we are pushing tons of stone up a mountain. First we take a day off, then a week, then a month. Unfortunately, this can create momentum rolling right back down that steep hill, the wrong way.

If you’ve ever watched any type of sporting event, you can quickly recall dozens of times that one momentum shift drastically changed the rest of a game. Falcon’s fans are all too familiar with this concept as we saw in the second half of Super Bowl LI.

Your team pulls way so far ahead that you have begun the champagne showers. Already making plans to go to the Super Bowl parade. Next thing you know after a couple of big plays it feels like your team is now now incapable of doing anything right. Your team is never able to regain control of the game and you end up looking something like this when it’s all said and done.

Rather than fighting momentum, work with it. Make it our friend as we complete many small goals in a week, rather than taking our chances at a few big goals — all of next year. (Click hereif you need a “rah-rah” clip illustrating a possible scenario of good momentum) Doesn’t it make more sense to set short term, achievable, frequent goals — in order to taste a bit of enjoyment along the road? These little wins, day in and day out, boost confidence and make us much more likely to gain some positive momentum in the uphill battle. Finishing many small tasks, whether they are related or unrelated to an overarching goal, help in becoming much more aware of what good momentum feels like. Here are a few examples of ridiculously small goals:

“Start for my high school basketball team” — Put my socks and shoes on correctly today. (borrowed from John Wooden)

“Get my life in order” — Clean my room twice a month.

“Write a book” — Write for at least 10 minutes three days this week.

Try it out today, take note of how it makes you feel. See if this is an idea that can be used long term in your work or personal life. This strategy may not work for everyone, but I have found it to be essential in assembling a path toward things I want to accomplish. Keep the dreamers mentality, but also understand and appreciate the need for momentum and confidence. Try making that big hairy audacious goal an achievable, tangible, logical goal — and see where this takes you.

Seek a Calling

Reading Time: 4 minutes

dariankrey – Jan 8 · 4 min read

Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Bill Gates. All wildly successful entrepreneurs. Often portrayed as some of America’s heroes, they have a celebrity type status leading to roles on tv shows and even making appearances in Marvel movies. We constantly see them being put on display as examples for how we should lead a successful and happy life. With intense work ethics and a powerful drive to win, they seem to have more in common than not. They’ve amassed fortunes building tech/software companies in which the financial result is a net worth so immense (combined net worth =~$315 billion) it would make LeBron James envious. Each of their lives have created inspiration and impacted the world in many positive ways, but the uniformity in their ventures has created a dogma that becoming an entrepreneur is a preferred path to take in life.

I’d tell men and women in their midtwenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.

— Phil Knight

For these business magnates aforementioned, it is safe to assume they are pursuing what we would deem a passion or vocation. Not one of them would choose to switch industries or jobs if they had the choice. For most of our young lives we are pushed to do what they’ve done — find our calling, a job that we find truly rewarding. The day after I graduated from a university with a business degree, this narrative changed and I was quickly pressured into making what I thought was a lifelong career decision. It was as if I was not only choosing for myself, but also for my retired self, forty or fifty years down the road. Of course I had a strapping two full years of internship experience under my belt and thought the only real way to success is to start a business, move to a new city and bunk it with some friends whose diets consist of ramen noodles and take-out pizza. Any route I chose outside of the start-up world seemed like a bit of a let down.

I believe that issues arise when we only allow for such a narrow window of career paths to be regarded as fulfilling. It is todays norm hearing friends and coworkers alike talking about how they are sticking it to the man and starting a new business venture from scratch. For many 20–30 year olds, they would rather be unemployed than having to admit working for a Fortune 500 company.

Never having to take orders from a boss and buying a ping-pong table that fits perfectly in between the bean bags in your office, what could be better? We are constantly being sold on all of the positive aspects of entrepreneurship having rarely seen a true depiction of how hard the work may be. If the business that someone chooses to start is in line with the long term vision for their life, then we may see the potent mix of passion and work that results in the Mark Cuban and Gary Vaynerchuck types.

But what about the firefighter that quit his job to open up a gym, only to find out that while he may love lifting weights, running a business that involves selling memberships can be a nightmare. Or how about a project manager that leaves a dreaded 9:00–5:00 job with a company where she loved her boss, coworkers and four weeks vacation time. What if now she is running a t-shirt business which never allows her to turn off her phone in fear of missing a sale, is unable to make her sons basketball game because of crucial meeting with a new manufacturer, and to top it all off hasn’t taken a vacation in over two years. These sacrifices are surely worth it if you are one of the lucky few who has figured out exactly what you want in life, but they may be unnecessary for those of us still trying to figure it all out.

What we should do is leave the door open that one day we might prefer a different type of work than what we do today. Maybe the accountant realizes he is better fit running a local restaurant or coffee shop, or the clothing store owner is better suited conducting research analysis for a large firm. If we are capable of finding tasks and projects that we enjoy and they also create income, (hypothetically) we will never work a day in our lives. For some this may be creating the next Twitter but for others it may be teaching at their alma mater. We are right in celebrating these brilliant individuals who are creating products that improve our lives — but we should similarly celebrate the beaming truck driver who has travelled over 500k miles in 30 years, seeing more parts of the country than we can imagine.

Why Habits Are the Most Valuable Piece of Your Life

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Charles Duhigg, author of the New York Times best seller, The Power of Habit proclaims “There’s nothing you can’t do if you get the habits right.” Many will dismiss this statement as an impossibility, quickly conjuring up dozens of ideas and tasks that they would never be able to do. While I do believe there are truly some things that may be impossible (perpetual motion, imagining a new color, expecting honesty from politicians), Duhigg’s statement still has stuck with me for the greater part of five years after having read this book.

We’ve all seen or heard of the posts and videos guaranteeing that if you do this one thing everyday for the next month or the next year you’ll be able to ___________ (fill in the blank— lose weight/make a million dollars/etc). Most of us will brush these catchy headlines off as click bait and cheesy advertisements, but what if we were able to look past the fluff and see how we can apply certain aspects of others success to our own lives? What if we mimic their behavior and see if the same habits that worked for the CEO of Company-XYZ would also benefit us?

Anyone with a calculator can tell you that if you sleep for an average of eight hours per night for your entire life, you will sleep for approximately 33.3% of the time you spend on this planet. Something lesser known is that many studies suggest somewhere around 40% of what we do in our waking hours is automatic behavior, executing habits deeply ingrained in our subconscious mind. Have you ever left your house and driven to work, the store, a friends house, and when you arrive you feel as though you can’t remember how you even got there? That is your subconscious at work — automating pieces of your life that you frequently repeat in order to save mental energy for other, likely more impactful, choices you will make later that day. Assuming the studies are correct, this only leaves an available 27% of our day to thoughtfully make decisions.

Habits can be incredibly hard to form, as anyone that started up a new workout regimen this year has likely already found out. Although difficult to form, the nail biters and fidgeters will be the first to tell you habits are also incredibly hard to break. So how long exactly would it take for us to change a couch ridden evening routine to an evening that incorporates a bike ride or yoga class? Likely it will take more than two months according to this data. Placing a time frame on exactly how long it will be until you are acting out of automation when lacing up your sneakers for a run makes tackling a new routine manageable. After a week, two weeks, or a month, when you are absolutely sick of weight training after work every night, you’re able to say to yourself “If I can just get through one more month, this workout won’t even be a decision any longer. It will take no more mental effort than slipping into a pair of sweats after I get home.”

Once a habit is in full effect, it feels almost as though you are wearing blinders to seeing anything other than the behavior or action you have created. For example: I have established a habit to drink a large glass of water after my lunch to fill my stomach up, rather than eating one of the free cookies left in the break room at work. It’s not that I don’t see the cookies when I walk by, I am very aware of how great one would taste if I chose to indulge. But after having pushed through two months of avoiding them everyday, when I look at the cookies my brains automatic response is “You don’t eat those. They might be for other people, but they aren’t for you. They are not part of what you eat in a day.” The same goes for how I’ve created a running habit over the last year. I set out my shoes, socks, shorts, t-shirt and jacket all the night before. Now, as I stumble my way through a groggy morning and a run doesn’t sound at all enticing, I see all my gear laid out and my brain automatically says “Put on your shoes. This is what we do. We run.” There is no back and forth of whether or not I should run because it’s too cold outside, running is now just another part of my morning.

After changing just one habit, no matter how big or small, it gives you a sense of control. It makes you assess other events that seem to just ‘happen’ throughout your day with a different lens. In the book The Power of HabitDuhigg compares changing a habit to a mental workout, the more you train mental muscles, the stronger your willpower becomes. What is so exciting about an increase in willpower, is how contagious it can be. “As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives — in the gym, or a money management program — that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything.”

As I have tried to change habits of my own, I have realized that you may not succeed the first, second or even third time. But if you have the persistence to continue to act on this new behavior time and time again, eventually it will stick. Thankfully this means will only be another 58 days or so until that New Years Resolution becomes an endeavor that you are likely to repeat for years and years to come.