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My Must Read Book List

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.”

George R.R. Martin (1948 – )

Here’s a list of all the books that had a massive impact on my life and would bring tremendous value to everyone else too – in no particular order:

Laws of Human Nature (2018) – Robert Greene

This is hands down one of the best books ever written. When I read the title, I thought it was too ambitious to try to capture human nature in a book but Robert Greene was the perfect man for the job and he did it fantastically. Greene beautifully outlines the underlying forces that control our behavior and gives us the tools to recognize them within ourselves and others. After reading this book, I was given new insights on what really drives human beings and the pitfalls that we should be aware of as we navigate life. I was especially impressed and surprised with the chapters on narcissism and envy. Greene opened my eyes to how deep those two forces run in our society today and how dangerous it can be. I went to a book signing when it was first released and Robert said it’s important to read this book as as insight into ourselves rather than as insight into other people. I cannot say enough positive things about this book. Right now, it’s my #1 most recommended book for everyone to read. Buy a copy for yourself. Buy a copy for someone you really care about. Then buy another copy for someone they care about. This book is too important to skip over.


Outwitting the Devil (1938) – Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill is the O.G. when it comes to writing about success. OTD isn’t as popular as Hill’s best seller, Think and Grow Rich, but it shares many similar themes. The concepts that Hill uncovers in this book laid the foundation for a majority of my own personal development. Styled as an interview between an intelligent human and the devil himself, Hill captures how the devil is very much alive and well in our world — just not in the way that we think. Idle hands truly do the devil’s work. He cautions us of the dangers of being a drifter, the power of definitive purpose, independent thought, and hypnotic rhythm. A fantastic read for anyone who wants to get into reading and doesn’t know where to start. This book really helped me out when I first got out of college. It really gave me the tools to outwit the devil that I didn’t even know I was battling.


Tao Te Ching (~4th Century BC) – Laozi

This ancient Chinese religious text details the common principles of Eastern thought. A must read if you want to live well. The wisdom written in this book is timeless. The book itself is a practice of minimal necessary effort. So it’s a short, easy, but deep read.


Show Your Work! (2014) – Austin Kleon

This book is so great for creative types who have trouble putting their work out. It’s also great for those wondering how to get their creative endeavour started. It’s given me new and fantastic perspectives about creativity and what it means to make art. We should all strive to be amateurs – Sharing my art inspires others and contributes to the culture around me – No one artist or genius was created in a vacuum. This book has shown me countless ways to be inspired by and inspire others. It’s also filled with creative methods from so many unique creative types. If you want to unleash the creative side of yourself – read this book.


Lord of the Flies (1954) – William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a masterpiece. It’s about a group of boys stranded on an island and their attempt to govern themselves. Golding perfectly nails the complexities of the human spirit. He captures the everlasting struggle between our desire for order and tendency for chaos. This book is gripping and perfect for anyone looking for a good story. Even putting the themes aside, the plot is interesting and the characters are lovable. This was one of the first books that opened my eyes to the power of reading. For the first time, I saw that characters in a book can be as complex as people in real life. I used to think characters in books were just representations of the author, but Golding showed me that people can put enough thought and care into a book and create a literary mural that represents humanity.


The 48 Laws of Power (1998) – Robert Greene

I think about this book at least four times a week. This is the book that Andy from The Office should have read to truly win over Michael Scott. This was Robert Greene’s first book and it took the world by storm. He explains each of the 48 laws of power with examples from history of how each law can be used to one’s advantage and disadvantage. In his early days, similar to Benjamin Franklin, Robert Greene found himself getting the short end of the stick on many situations. He took his intense frustration and anger and articulated each and every trick that his superiors would use on him. This book helped me understand the power plays used on me in the past but the best part, is being able to spot the power moves others try to pull on me now. The world belongs to those who read.


Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732) – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin is one of my favorite people in history. He’s accomplished enough for 10 men and in Poor Richard’s Almanack he lays out his basic principles which set the foundation for his success. I love this book because the principles are so simple and, for the most part, common sense. It’s essentially a list of 670 nuggets of wisdom. Most people link the famous idioms “Early to bed and early to rise makes and man healthy, wealthy and wise,” or “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” with this book. One of my favorite quotes was “Keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep the.” It’s one of those books that you can go back to and always find something new. The best part is it’s free and you can probably read the whole thing over your lunch break.


I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Second Edition (2019) – Ramit Sethi

Yeah, the title is sounds scammy but it’s legit. Ramit Sethi goes over all the financial knowledge necessary to build an automated money machine that can help you live a rich life. This book gave me a solid understanding of financial fundamentals to take control of my own finances. Since I didn’t study anything financial in my formal education, it was really helpful to learn about credit card optimization, 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, Health Savings Accounts, Target Date Funds, stocks, and bonds. He even includes scripts to negotiate down interests rates, remove banking fees, and asking for raises. Admittedly, I read the book in two weeks and applied the principles over a four week period but by the end of it, I established my own automated money machine equipped with an emergency fund, multiple savings accounts and a retirement investment portfolio. However, the most important thing I learned from this book is that we can learn how to do anything if we decide to go out and look for the information. Investing my money and learning all the financial jargon seemed out of my depth, but this book showed me that everything can be learned.


On The Shortness of Life (49 AD) – Seneca

I first heard of this book from Maria Popova. She is a fantastic writer and runs a blog (there really should be a different word for what she does) called Brain Pickings. It’s a huge archive of the deepest ideas from an extremely well articulated writer. Maria recommends people to start with her post about this book. I read her post and loved it. Then I read this book and it changed my life. Seneca talks about how there is more time than life. So much more that we actually waste it. How much of our lives are spent trying to answer the question at a dinner party, “so what do you do?” We give most of our time to others and much of the time dedicated to ourselves is in the service of impressing others. It’s no surprised life is exhausting. The key is to take the time back for ourselves. Seneca suggests that if we were to give all the time we were allotted on Earth to ourselves then we would greet death with open arms. This book has given me a damn good reason to let go of the idea that life is short.


The 4-Hour Workweek (2007) – Timothy Ferriss

Oh boy. To be honest, I’m not sure where to start with this book. Read it. It’s literally a manual to escape the 9-5 and live like the new rich. This is the first book I’ve read from Tim Ferriss and I fell in love with it. Tim breaks down what it means to start and automate a business that gives you the money and freedom to live your dream life. Tim started a mega successful online business in his 20s which gave him a pretty solid fortune. However, he was spending literally all of his time working (specifically replying to emails). Tim, being the unique thinker he is, found a way to restructure his business to maximize his efforts and run his company with only a few hours of work a month. This book isn’t literally about cutting your workweek down to 4 hours, its about maximizing the output of the work so you can free yourself up to do the things that really matter. He has ways to increase productivity with lower levels of stress and effort for all types of jobs. Whether you own your own business, work for an idiot boss, or are looking for a way to escape the rat race, this book is a must read. He’s included little “life hacks,” mindset switches, and resources that you may need to start an automated business. Pair this with Ramit Sethi’s just as scammy sounding book I Will Teach You To Be Rich and you have the tools necessary to design and live out your rich life.


Mastery (2012) – Robert Greene

Robert Greene is a powerhouse and heavy hitter when it comes to writing damn good books. This book is a guide to mastering anything. Robert researched masters from all walks of life throughout time and found the common threads between each of them. He covers everyone from Mozart to Charles Darwin to Temple Gradin to Freddie Roach. My favorite person he writes about in this book is Benjamin Franklin. I love how Greene outlines Franklin’s journey to mastery in writing and social interactions. Robert goes above and beyond for this book (as usual) and takes things much further than the typical skill acquisition advice like the 10,000 hour rule or practicing every day. I saw Robert Greene at a book signing and he said that he writes books out of anger. When he wrote this book, he said he was angry that people couldn’t make things well anymore. So I like to think of this book as a guide to learning how to do things well.


The Art of War (~5th Century BC) – Sun Tzu

Perfect reading for learning war strategies on a battlefield. Also perfect reading for MBA types about to enter the business world. Also perfect reading for anyone who finds themselves in adversarial situations. This book is pure wisdom when it comes to war, or anything that can resemble a war. Sun Tzu’s philosophy on war is to win without fighting. Running in head first into a battle is a sure way to get yourself killed, lose resources, and cause long term damage to the state. It’s better to cultivate your defenses, fortify your plans, and only fight when you know you are going to win. This is a quick and short read. The Art of War was originally written for military strategy but that doesn’t mean it can only be applied in the literally battlefield. Much of our encounters and challenges we experience today are war-like and the principles discussed in the book are worth applying to other areas of life. I have a thing for books written mad long ago but are still relevant now. This was written around 5th century BC but the lessons have been true throughout time. Timeless books are the best books.


The 4-Hour Body (2010) – Timothy Ferriss

One of Tim’s main goals in life is to learn something once and never have to learn it again. To make this happen, he takes meticulous notes on his diet, work out, habits, etc. so when he sees a picture of himself years prior he knows exactly what he was doing to get the body he had. He also keeps journals too, so he can do a similar type of assessment with his mental health as well. The combination of his meticulous note taking, years of experimentation, and hours of consulting physicians has given us this unconventional guide to healthier and easier living. Similar to The 4-Hour Workweek, this book is about getting the maximum results for the smallest effort. This book is filled with Minimum Effective Dosages (MEDs) for fat-loss, muscle gain, better sex, better sleep, reversing injuries, and much much more. I highly recommend this book for anyone that wants a guide to the human body.


Letters From A Stoic (65 AD) – Seneca

This book came up in the afterglow of reading On The Shortness Of Life. It’s a collection of letters Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius. There are 224 letters and each one is on a profound topic. Reading these letters made me feel like I was getting to know Seneca personally. I love his humor and his unapologetic fanboy attitude towards Epicurus. What I loved the most about this book is that it explains Stoic philosophy within the context of something relatable which made it easy to see the usefulness of stoic practices. Wisdom is an art and this book is filled with it. Each letter is short but the ideas introduced will have you thinking about them for years to come. Every time I pick up this book it’s an absolute mindfuck. Seneca was able to articulate some of the most complicated thoughts I have ever had but never been able to say. This book was simultaneously a justification and condemnation of my perspectives and value structures and I love it. This book has wisdom beyond my years and I’m excited to see what else I’ll learn as I read the book with older eyes. This book has an extremely high reread value. Similar to Robert Greene’s The Laws of Human Nature, this is a book that you study – not read.


12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018) – Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

Let me start by saying if you haven’t checked out Dr. Jordan B. Peterson’s work – check all of it out. This is his 2nd book and it’s more than worth the read but diving into his hours of lectures on YouTube will really take you for a ride. Peterson is a clinical psychologist from Canada who taught at the University of Toronto and Harvard. He’s spent decades studying the world’s best thinkers and reading some of the most complicated and influential texts. And through those studies, he’s articulated the true importance of meaning and responsibility. This book is a small part of that perspective. It originally was a list of 40 rules Peterson wrote in response to a post on Quora: “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?” Peterson cut down the list to 12 and wrote this book. Peterson said that these 12 are not necessarily the most important rules, but they do make a cohesive narrative together.


Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (2016) – Tim Ferriss

Another Tim Ferriss masterpiece. Tim Ferriss is to me what Epicurus is to Seneca. Tools of Titans was written after Tim’s 4-Hour trilogy. The book was created from a plethora of interviews from The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim interviews the world’s highest performers about their habits, mindsets, and personal quirks that make them successful and put that in this book. He interviews everyone from Jocko Willink to B.J. Novak to Rick Rubin to Sam Harris to Maria Popova. Since there are so many people in this book, it’s easy to look up people that you already admire as well as discover new people to learn from. He breaks up the book in 3 sections (I love that it’s inspired by Ben Franklin): Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. My favorite chapters were in the Wise section, but that’s just me. There is enough information in this book to build empires and has an extremely high reread value.


Updated October 20th, 2020
The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer: The Wisdom of Life (1851) – Arthur Schopenhauer

Probably my favorite piece of work from the Great pessimist. I thought the title was too grandiose at first, but Artie delivered. This book truly contains the wisdom of life. There are some things he was pretty off on, but for the most part he was on point. He captures the beauty, rarity, and absurdity of life in a way that doesn’t play them up or down.

I also think this book is great because it’s like a collection of blog posts Schopenhauer would have written if blogs were a think in the 19th century. I’ve already written things in my blog that I don’t completely agree with and I could imagine that if Schopenhauer wasn’t bounded by his time that he would redact some of what he said. When we write down what we know, we are sure to be wrong but I believe it’s worth it to capture the things we got right.

Schopenhauer is a thinker for the ages and I highly suggest this book is someone who wanted to check out his work. He wrote it later in his life so his words carry the wisdom of his past works and it shows.


Games People Play (1969) – Dr. Eric Berne

This fantastic book goes over something called transactional analysis which is the study of how humans interact with each other. Berne suggests that everyone had 3 primary ego states — Child, Adult, and Parent and those ego states communicate with each other. The “games people play” are dependent on which ego state is communicating with what and how they do so. For example, there’s a game refers to as NIGYSOB (Now I’ve Got You Son Of a Bitch) is a game played between one’s parent ego state and the other’s child ego state. I might do a post on the different games mentioned in this book (at least the one’s I’ve found most prevalent) sometime because it’s almost unbelievable how much of human interaction are simply games.

On top of the incredibly deep analysis of human interaction, he sprinkles in humor throughout the book with smart ass comments and witty names for the games. This is book spelled out many ideas that I knew existed, but couldn’t articulate for myself and having access to these ideas gives me a greater understanding of human interaction and a special peace of mind.


The Seagull (1896) – Dr. Anton Chekhov

This is the first play I’ve put on this list and admittedly, the first play I’ve read since my appreciation for literature blossomed. I read this when I was at a point in my life when I felt like I had to choose between pursuing medicine and being creative and I was shocked to discover Anton Chekhov, famed playwright/physician. I first heard of Chekhov in Robert Greene’s Laws of Human Nature and I was so blown away from his story that I had to check out his work.

This play is super short and can easily be read in a few hours. The characters are brilliant and the story is beautiful. It’s a fantastic dramatization of the violence that occurs when a beauty is misplaced. One of the ideas I took from this play was “beautiful creatures in beautiful places will lead to destruction if things are not in their right place.” Chekhov created an excellent depiction of the realities of true rage, the struggles of the creative spirit, and the dangers of not being seen in the hearts and minds of others.

This play also gave me insights into what I was feeling as a creative person. If a Russian playwright could perfectly write about a similar struggle and capture my feelings perfectly, then what I was feeling must have been universal and archetypal. This realization lifted a huge burden on me because I realized that what I was dealing with could be surmounted by man and didn’t have to crush me.

If we’re not careful, we can all be like Treplieff.


The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (2009) – Dr. Atul Gawande

I wouldn’t suggest this book to beginner readers, as most things written by doctors are long-form and operate at a certain level of complexity, but if you’re comfortable reading lengthy texts, then this is a great book.

I originally didn’t want to put this book on the list, but as I continued to write my blog and work with my students I’ve noticed how much this book changed my thoughts and actions. Any book that changes how I act and think on a daily basis for the better is worth putting on this list.

I guess that’s precisely what Dr. Gawande was referring to in the book as well — the idea that checklists are so easily overlooked, but also so effective.

Checklists are my primary go-to method for organizing the chaos and getting things done right. They are too simple and too effective to ignore.


Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (1959) – Dr. Carl Gustav Jung

This is the deepest book I’ve ever read. On top of that, Jung is the smartest person I’ve ever had the privilege of reading. He accurately sums up the most abstract and complicated ideas in a concise way that’s easy to understand. Jung believes that humans encounter the experience of the unknown in similar ways, through archetypes. These archetypes are patterns of behavior coded in us from millions of years of human evolution and are the same no matter what society we’re from. The archetypes give us access to the collective unconscious which allows us a greater understanding of the human psyche.

Jung puts this way better than I could and has been a MASSIVE contributor to everything I do. The way I teach and conduct myself in the world is informed through my knowledge and understanding of the collective unconscious.

He doesn’t go into as much detail as I’d like in this volume, but he touched upon his famed archetypal ideas in a way that provides a rudimentary understanding to those who aren’t familiar. He talks in depth (by not deep enough) about the Shadow, the Anima (Great Mother), the Animus (Judgemental Father), and so many more.

This is the only book (so far) that I haven’t finished yet, but I’ve gotten through a good chunk of it. It’s so dense and rich with knowledge and wisdom. I knew that I had to put this book on my list when I was just a few pages in.

This guy sees the edge of human knowledge and goes there. Jung is probably my favorite author of all time. Read this book and get your mind blown.


Man’s Search for Meaning (1946) – Dr. Viktor Frankl

This book changed me life and I cannot understate it’s value. Everyone needs to read this book. It details the horrors of the Holocaust from the perspective of Jewish psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Frankl. He is an incredible writer and captures such powerful images despite being traumatized himself. The images he describes were vivid and dark, but the lessons he learned about human beings are both beautiful and tragic. This book also outlines a method of created for his medical practice – logotherapy, which is based on the premise that meaning is our fundamental driving force as human beings.

This book is one of the most beautiful pieces of work ever created. Frankl showed us how people can really find meaning, even in the most hopeless situations. Meaning will carry us through any and all suffering.


Self-Reliance (1841) – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

This book is so dope. It’s written in a slightly outdated language, but the message is evergreen and powerful. He talks about the importance of self-reliance, giving to yourself, and the morality of only involving ourselves with the things which concern us.

In a weird way, this book was able to give me the reasoning I lacked to only concern myself with matters that concern me. I used to feel like I couldn’t act purely in my own interests, but this book has shown me that it isn’t only okay to act in my own interests but a moral duty, especially if my interests can make things better for me, my family, and my community.

One of the most amazing parts about it is that this was written while Emmerson was away from society locked up in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Then fast-forward almost 200 years, I’m reading it on an iPad in the comfort of my own bed. This realization had nothing to do with what he wrote, but it speaks to the power of writing. After I read this book, I was able to find the strength within me to write more vigorously and focus on myself and that led to incredibly important groundwork.


The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life (2006) – Thomas M. Sterner

Everything worth achieving requires practice and Thomas M. Sterner gives us techniques to develop the focus and discipline necessary to practice successfully. I’ve written an entire blog post based on the principles from this book that highlights some of the ideas that I thought were the most worth knowing.

Reading this book gave me a much-needed perspective on what it means to practice effectively. It’s so easy to see practicing as work, but after applying the methods Sterner talks about in the book, practice becomes a time full of meaning and purpose. Focusing on the process and intentionally staying present are highly underrated ideas that will bring out the best in anything.


The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business (2010) – Josh Kaufman

This is a fantastic book on business. Honestly, it could be THE book on business if there was one. It’s cool to see all the fancy business jargon wrapped up all nice and neat and it’s doubly cool to see a book that’s kind of like the book I’ve been writing but in a completely different field.

It’s been a huge influence on me and how I run my business and is a must-read for anyone who’s interested in entrepreneurship. It goes over everything from value creation from marketing to sales to finance to the mind to creating systems and so much more.

I’m constantly finding myself going back to this book. It’s full of amazing information that is extremely useful when starting a business, especially since I never had any formal training. I read it shortly before starting my 1st official company and while I was reading it, I knew that I was going to be going back to it for years to come.

Whether you’re an expert or a beginner in business, this book is a must-read if you want to be intentional about your business.


The Slight Edge (2005) – Jeff Olson

When I first read this book I didn’t think the slight edge could be true because of the sheer simplicity of it, but then I started trying it in my own life.

I think everyone should still read this book (obviously because it’s on this list), but the slight edge as a concept is pretty simple — small disciplines over time is what determines our life outcomes. The good things we do make our life better, the bad things we do make our life worse. These outcomes work on an exponential basis so over time, the successful win more often and the losers lose more often.

The slight edge really is what separates the successful from the failures. Olson says the slight edge is what’s the difference between a beach bum and a multimillionaire because he’s been both.

I’ve also seen Kobe Bryant talk about this being the reason why he was so much better than everyone else in the NBA. He kept pushing when everyone else didn’t. It’s probably a cognitive bias thing, but after I read this book I’ve noticed it in so many places.

Like everyone – this list is forever in a state of becoming.

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2022 Yearly Review: Losing to Win

“The only real test of intelligence is if you get what you want out of life.” – Naval Ravikant

Every year I try to track my life through monthly themes.

The process is relatively simple – I pick two weaknesses that I feel like need to work on and I give those two themes a little more attention each month.

At the beginning and end of the month, I write down my thoughts on the process.

I started doing this halfway through 2019.

I did it completely in 2020.

I missed a few months in 2021.

I only managed to do two months in 2022.

Funny enough, I felt as if I ruined my yearly tradition by not reflecting…but that is something I felt last year as well. This is a pattern I fall into. I noticed this when I wrote the following passage:

A painful anxiety throughout the year was knowing that I was going through my days, my most valuable days, with very little reflection. Perhaps I practiced reflection more than the average person I interacted with, but no where near enough that myself or my family deserved. I knew that I would have to write a yearly reflection, but I did not have my themes. I felt like since I was not keeping up with my old structure, I had lost the ability to reflect upon the year. How silly. But such a real struggle for me.

The most useful part of reflection is noticing these patterns in me that are clearly delusional and self destructive. So I recognize the pattern and move forward. Keeping with the reflecting as much as I can with the intention to extract value where I can.

This year I lost heavily. I had to let go of many things in order to win in the ways that actually mattered.

This year felt like I was in The Monkey Trap.

I felt like the monkey who won’t let go of the banana even if it means freeing themselves from a trap.

I was caught up in holding on to my goals and beliefs so tightly that I was stuck in a trap of my own creation.

I’m grateful to say that I have learned the value of letting go of my previous desires to obtain the freedom to pursue new ones.

This year I didn’t blog, make music, content, exercise, build business, play video games nearly as much as I wanted to, but I was able to do something more.

I was able to be a father and a pillar in my community. Both of which require more than I believed I could provide.

I was upset when I saw my streaks dying, month after month of not creating, not dedicating my time to myself – but then I would have moments when I’m with my daughter and I can see her getting older and growing before my eyes.

I realized that those moments are the most valuable and no matter what I was pursuing. Any earthly goal that I could conceive would be just to reach these moments that I already have.

I felt guilt because I have not accrued mass wealth, but that would have just been to spend time with my children anyway.

So this post will be a way for me to reflect upon another just as eventful and meaningful year.

All journal entries are in italics and my comments from today follow CM:

January – Vision & Patience

Beginning of the Month:

I’m trying to reflect, but it’s hard to find time. Any time that I do have to myself is usually when I am extremely tired. I’m still “cursed” with my need to be productive, so I’ve been keeping any progress I make in my head. For example, I only had a few minutes to write this reflect so I did the majority of the “reflecting” while I was desperately trying to stay awake feeding my daughter. After all, most of writing is thinking. But that got me realizing, that I do not necessarily need to have dedicated time to work on a project, I just need to dedicate my thoughts to it. That is what I’m trying to practice with vision. I want to be better able to tap into my ability to create and sustain a vision. Perhaps this will be able to give me the progress I so desperately crave. As for patience, this is a common theme for me. I want everything done yesterday, I don’t know why. I want all my business ideas and creative projects to be finished. If I work on patience, I will find what I’m looking for. At least, that’s the plan. Last year, being patient was exactly what I needed to be. Despite patience being a frequent compliment that I receive, I don’t feel like I am a patient person at all.

CM: This was an omen for how the year was going to go. I definitely not not find the time to reflect for a large portion of this year and I felt it weighing on me every day. Interesting how many of the thoughts I had then are similar to the thoughts I have now. Perhaps lack of reflection keeps us stick in the same loops, until we realize our way out of them.

End of the Month:

It’s hard doing these themes without having the themes in my face on a regular basis. Usually, I would have the themes written on a whiteboard in my room so I could see them, but just holding them in Notion isn’t the business. I didn’t check my themes for the entire month and tbh I forgot about them. However, taking the time to think about the last month and how I’ve worked on my vision and patience has shown me that I haven’t fell off the path completely. I’d like to think I’m improving when it comes to my patience. When I’m at work, I’m more patient with my students and with myself too. Sometimes I trip, but I like to think I’m getting a little better. When it comes to vision, I think it’s interesting that I chose it because I had a hard time maintaining the bigger picture this last month. It’s like I knew that I was going to be caught up in the rise and grind of being a teacher intern while getting my masters while doing the EdTPAs. It’s been tough, but every now and again I remember the vision and I keep chugging a lot….because what else can I do. It’s okay to feel the way I’ve been as long as I remember that it is all in service to something greater.

CM: Oh, I’ve been done with my Master’s degree for a while and I forgot how bad the grind was. This was a tough time. Every minute had to be planned and executed perfectly or the “house of cards” would fall. I’m so happy to be past that now. I was hyper aware of my streaks and reflection habits dying. It’s a shame that it got the best of me. EdTPAs were trash and a half.

February – Resilience & Gratitude

Beginning of the Month:

This month I need to work on my resilience and gratitude. Manly because the thought of improving either seems sickening. Resilience because I’m entering an extremely tough portion of my program: I’m working on the EdTPAs, while teaching, while working on my masters, while being a relatively new father. Plus, it’s not like I’m just trying to do all of these things in a half assed sort of way, I’m trying to be bomb at all of these. (Maybe except the EdTPAs). As for gratitude, even thought I practice it every morning, it’s been tough to be grateful for my circumstances. I’m sure I need a perspective shift, but I also feel like that doesn’t take away from the burden and rigor of what I am going through. Nonetheless, I’m going to work on my gratitude and hope my misery lessens. Maybe this is all just what it’s like to be a student again. I feel like I’ve been in grad school long enough to lose sight of the “fun” to role-play a student and battle test my ideas. I’ve been able to learn a lot, but it’s also taking a toll on me physically and mentally.

CM: Definitely true. What is funny about this post is I had a few people ask how to better practice gratitude throughout the year. LOL.

End of the Month:

nothing written

CM: This was when I clearly hit my breaking point. I stopped pretty much everything that I believed was worth doing. I was able to do some things over the year, but February was when it primarily stopped. I guess I did improve both of these themes now that I am reflecting on them in December. Even though I may pay attention to my growth and development more than the average person, I did not feel as if it was enough for me to have net growth over the year in these specific domains.

Since years are much longer than 2 months and I had quiet a bit happen this year that I want to reflect on a few key moments that stick out when I think back on what influenced me most this year.


This year I had an event that distinctly marked my transformation from my role in my childhood family to father of my primary family.

It was painful, but necessary. The loss of one life, to gain a new and better life. Since this is a public post, I am not going to go in detail. However, it was extremely important for me to go through this time. It showed me the importance of a boy accepting his responsibility to protect, provide, and become a valuable man.

It was also an experience to live out the wisdom that I have recently learned. The specific story escapes me, but the archetypical biblical story of moving out of tyranny to get to the promise land is as real as can be. After escaping tyranny, one would expect to get to the promise land, but that isn’t the case. You end up in a desert. Upon faith and perseverance, you can find a path through the hostile and barren land into the promise land where you can enjoy everything you have prayed for in your darkest times.

As unlikely as that story seems true…it is. It was the narrative that got me through the desert and into my promise land.

In the desert, I effectively was separated from my daughter, fell into homelessness, all while still working on my degree.

These were some of the darkest and challenging times of my life. Unfortunately, that itself is an extremely loaded statement. I compromised on many of my values and had to act counterintuitive to my intentions in order to move out of this space. I had to let go of my previous beliefs in order to move forward. The Monkey Trap again.

Fortunately, we were able to find and rent an apartment to give us stable shelter until we were able to enter the relatively highly guarded world of homeownership. (This was not something I knew was going to happen until mid December) This was not by accident. The timing was remarkable, but it was also after years of preparing for this.

After this dark time, I was reunited with my daughter.

Never again will I be involuntarily separated from her. Since she was so young, when she saw me again, I could tell I was a stranger to her. That was a heartbreaking experiencing. Thankfully now, she sees me as her secondary caregiver and trusts me to protect her when surrounded by unknowns. The pain parents feel when they want to be with their children but cannot is excruciating. I cannot imagine losing a child permanently.

On a lighter note, I was able to go on my first work sponsored strip to San Diego to be trained as an AVID teacher.

This was super cool to see teachers developing themselves to be the best educators they can be. Most were like this, some where there because their school mandated them to be. During the training sessions, I realized that my insights and perspectives were valuable even to the teachers who have been around the block a few time (20+ years of experience). I could even see the educators who were there because they had to enjoyed my insights. More evidence that I need to share my thoughts. Training teachers is something I am capable of doing despite my minimal of formal experience.

This was also lovely because I got to develop deeper relationships with my co-workers and take my daughter to the city where her mother and I met. Seeing her by the rooftop poolside was a sight I would have worked my whole life to see.

I finished my Master’s degree in Education.

This was no doubt extremely difficult. If I was any less of the man, or scholar, that I see myself to be, I would not have been able to complete this. This moment meant a few different things to me.

I used it as an opportunity to share my accomplishments with others to see who would be happy for me when I win. The results were surprising to say the least. The people who knew me the least were happiest for me. The people who knew me the most could not have cared less. Shocking and painful. Despite the negative emotion, I noticed that may be why I do not care to celebrate my wins.

This was starkly obvious to me when my students asked me why I don’t hang my degrees in my room. The honest answer was because I learned to not care about my accomplishments. At least, not a petty Master’s degree in Education.

Despite the other insights, this was an important step in legitimizing my claim to disseminate educational information to the public. I know I don’t need a degree for that, but my super-ego says I do and hopefully this prevents any subconscious blockages.

First escrow fail, second escrow succeeded.

Pretty much this. We were in escrow for condo which fell through. That was heartbreaking. I also see why so many people get turned off by Real Estate. It was an ugly experience for me, but I know RE Investing can be extremely lucrative if I can get the system down right. The second escrow for a bigger and better house is going through and is a much better experience than the last.

After the first deal busted, I was ready to not enter homeownership for years, if not decades more. But, we kept faith and perseverance and now we are ending this year with a stark juxtaposition for the beginning.

A new year of develop relationships with students and sinking my teeth deeper into teaching.

As a second year teacher, I was nervous when the school year started because I had to start over making connections with all the students again. I found myself missing my classes from last year because the connections made the job palatable. This year, I’m discovering 160 new relationships and it is just as meaningful, fun, and challenging as last year.

This job renews every year. It is painful, but rewarding. I still frequently get gifts and complements which is so damn gratifying I can’t put words to it.

I had the wonderful privilege of starting an Investment club on campus where I teach students principles of personal finance and investing after school. This has created a community on campus that has improved the experience of many of the students who participate.

I was able to be a judge for the science and engineering fair. As lame as it might seem to work extra duty on a Friday, I found it to be an important experience for me. I needed to witness more proof that I am clearly in a different place in society. The fact that I was called upon for my science expertise is mind blowing to me. Although that is exactly what a chemistry teacher is in society, but to see that it can stretch beyond the classroom was important for me. Especially being on a journey to prove to myself that I can adequately provide useful and valuable information.

I had my first date with Kyra after becoming parents.

I cannot express the importance of date nights for two people who are rearing children. In order to be a good parent, one must be a good partner. Spending quality time to rediscover and tend to the flames that started the fire is crucial for a stable and happy family.

Plus it was a lot of fun living like we didn’t have kids for a bit. (Funny enough, we spend most of the night talking about our daughter). We didn’t do anything crazy. We just saw a lecture from a professor. Classic Chris and Kyra entertainment.

The discovery of a lifetime – ANOTHER baby girl is on the way.

Everything from my Becoming a Parent blog post, but X2.

How beautiful it is to be blessed with another daughter. Especially when she is the result of love. I am so excited for the privilege and honor of raising up another beautiful and strong woman for this world. Lord knows we need it. I’m so excited to meet my little girl.

However, this was another Monkey Trap. I realized that I had to lose my expectation of having a son. It’s becoming unlikely that I will have another kid and I confronted the fact that I was addicted to the pride I had in my name. I had to accept that the impact I have on the world does not have to be associated with the name Mukiibi.

While this may seem trivial to many, for me it was intense and difficult to let go. I had to untangle the idea that my pride in my family name was tied up with the love I had for my father and that this pride was a large motivational force in my life. This pride was far more responsible for the majority of my accomplishments than the other qualities that I believed I had. Entertaining the idea that Pride being one of the seven deadly sins, but also the source of many of my accomplishments was difficult. Realizing it was true made me want to vomit.

It’s becoming more likely than not that the name will not carry on. Realizing this loss made room for the love that I will need to properly father my newest daughter, but also allowed me to use virtue and intention as guiding stars for my future endeavors.


Despite the challenges of the year, this has been one to remember. This year was pivotal to my life and my development as well as my family. This was the year so many of my dreams seemed within my reach. I’m excited to see what 2023 will bring.

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On Becoming a Parent

“The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents.”

Carl Jung

“Happiness comes from suffering. There is no happiness in comfort.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

In the last year, I had the fantastic privilege to undergo the transformation of a lifetime.

I became a parent.

When I found out I was going to be a father, I had a massive rush of emotions. At the time, I was absorbing as much information as I could so I could find something that resonnated with me.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt like if I can’t find my feelings in something external to me, there is a chance I could be losing touch.

I also had this buzzing voice of anxiety in the back of my head saying “if I can’t capture this emotion, then I will ruin my child.” (The first of many transformations)

I desperately wanted to find something that explains what I was feeling, but I couldn’t.

Everything I found on parenting, from books to videos to people, didn’t quite explain what I was going through.

The clichès like “everything changes” or “it will never be the same” wasn’t enough for me. I needed something that fully captured my experiences, or at least pointed to them.

Becoming a parent is a transformation that so many people experience and probably the most important transformation of our lives. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find something that explains this widespread and significant experience.

So I do what I always do when I’m frustrated.

Create.

In high school if I was feeling a certain way and couldn’t find a song that expressed my feelings, then I could write one.

Today I couldn’t find an essay, book, lecture, or anything that captures my experience of becoming a parent.

So I am going to write it myself.

I’m hoping this post does a few things:

1) ensure my sanity

2) helps other people in the process of becoming a parent. I hope others can find themselves in my experience and discover that they aren’t alone.

3) gives my kid(s) some guidance if (God forbid) I cannot give it myself.

(Another of many transformations) I realized that all my actions help create a world that my children will inherit. It is critical that I share my lessons and experiences in a way that is relatively easy to understand so that they may spend their finite time and energy blazing new trails while standing on my shoulders rather than relearning and unlearning pathologies through trial and error.

This first section I wrote during Kyra’s pregnancy. They included my thoughts and lessons in an effort to track my transformation.

Before the Birth

All my life I put pressure on myself to be a better person especially for my unborn children.

That was a common axiom that underscored the majority of my motivations for as long as I can remember.

Every time I went through a terrible experience, I would think “my kids will never have to go through this.”

An experience I’m sure many people can sympathize with.

Coming to Terms with Limitations

I have just discovered I am becoming a parent, and for the first time, I realized that I am who I am.

The person who will raise my children is the person I am now, in all my glory and tragedy.

This was wildly uncomfortable, to say the least.

I realize that this is the same with my parents, all parents. They were equally as flawed and broken when they had me. Children tend to have high expectations of their parents, and view them as godlike, especially in their younger years.

But I see now that they are just people, who have become parents.

They, like all other parents, are human beings with dreams unrealized and unresolved trauma yet to be discovered.

I had to confront all of my ridiculous standards and insecurities, and admit they were ridiculous.

I had to accept that I was not where I wanted to be in life and there was a good chance that my parents weren’t either.

This has given me a new compassion and understanding for all parents.

Becoming a parent has been a massive coming to terms with my own flaws and limitations.

It’s painful to know that my child will have to endure my sins and share in a life that I, reluctantly admit, am not completely proud of.

This truth often brings me to tears.

This life, for better or worse, is both of ours now. So I will do my best to move forward with the proper attitude and congruent actions. I will strive to create a life that I am proud of and happy to share with my child.

For many years, I lived my life as if it is of little consequence and now I must confess, atone, and realize my potential. If I don’t, then it is my child I must answer to.

This is a game where I can’t pretend that I don’t care.

I do. Immensely.

Although this coming to terms with self is deep and intense, I have received wisdom, clarity, and compassion of equal or greater magnitude. I suspect, if a person is attentive and self-aware, then they’ll undergo a similar transformation upon becoming a parent.

Accepting Extreme Vulnerability

Part of this transformation is accepting vulnerability. This is vulnerability beyond any level that I have ever known. I knew it existed intellectually, but it is humbling to experience it for myself.

It’s difficult to accept this vulnerability, especially as a man. I’ve spent so much time and energy learning how to be “tough” and in the times that I grew up, that meant not being vulnerable.

Now, I must unlearn that nonsense and willingly accept that what I care most about in the world can be easily harmed.

I have to accept that I have an undeniable weak point.

When I was younger, I used to pretend like I didn’t care as a technique to limit vulnerability.

I tricked many people into thinking that I didn’t care about a lot of things, but most importantly, I tricked myself.

Now there’s no denying that I care. No hiding in the dark.

I have a theory that parents who abandon their children, specifically fathers, cannot accept this extreme vulnerability. The massive responsibility plays a role too, but I believe the vulnerability is more difficult to cope with.

It’s hard to welcome this feeling, but I must if I am to properly welcome my daughter.

I cannot both fully love my daughter and reject the vulnerability that comes with it.

The beginning of bonding starts with being vulnerable.

Accepting vulnerability makes you alive.

Unlocking New Levels of Will

I always had a sense that there was more that I had to offer than what I was already putting out. Most days I convinced myself that I was giving my all, but I always had a little voice that said I could do more.

Now I can say that that little voice was right.

I love breaking through self-perceived limitations, but becoming a parent gives me a whole new idea of what it means to push myself.

It has given me a new sense of what is possible.

It’s like in the hero’s journey, the hero must tap into a more profound strength that they didn’t know existed. Becoming a parent feels the same way.

No one will love this child as much as I do, and certainly, no one will sacrifice as much as I will for her.

Regardless, the tasks must be done which means they must be done by me.

No exceptions.

I feel like I captured my feelings relatively well in this journal entry that I wrote in February 2021, the month of discovery. I published this in my 2021 Yearly Review.

This month I was thrown for the biggest loop of my life and I lost sight of my themes for a while. Despite the turbulence, Leadership and Persistence have definitely been developed. The new information I got this month unlocked a new level of everything inside of me. While I was trying, half-assed I admit, to develop myself in leadership and persistence, this new jolt has given me everything I need to be an effective leader. Not just of a company, not just of my life, but of my family’s life as well. I’ve also learned how to push myself much further than my perceived capacities. I’ve accomplished things this month I never thought I could. Again I’ve been confronted with the impossible and again I contend with it. This time it is voluntary, and this time the stakes are high. In this case, I have accessed something much deeper than mere persistence. It’s like I have direct access to the fire of humanity inside myself. I am reborn. I was worried that I was going to lose my ability to write and be creative through the new changes, but now I see that staying connected to them in the midst of the chaos is what will enrich life further. I can see I am even more capable of what I was capable of before. It is almost like constraints allow us to access more of our potential, but only after a certain time. I don’t want to be too specific in this entry in case I make it public, but I’m happy with the developments I’ve made over the years and I’m excited to see where this takes me.

The bolded section of this entry really highlights what I was feeling at the moment.

Everyone has heard stories of mothers lifting entire cars to save their children.

Now I can see that those are not fairy tales, but testaments to the strength of the Human Will when fueled by the love for their children.

Excitment & Fear

I’m not sure which I feel the most. Excitement because I cannot wait to see and meet the combination of my love (Kyra) and myself. I desperately want to know which parts of each of us that she will manifest. I want to know her interests and personality. I want to know everything about her.

But at the same time.

I don’t want my life as a childless person to end. Honestly, I love only having to think about myself and I’m scared that I won’t be able to properly consider my daughter’s needs.

I’m worried that I won’t be enough for her. I’m worried that my blind spots are catastrophic and my trauma responses are unregulated. I’m worried that I won’t be able to properly provide and protect. I’m worried that she won’t let me love her.

I’m worried that I won’t be a good enough father.

I’ll flip between these two states multiple times per hour. It’s exhausting and vitalizing.

I don’t know which is more true but I do know that contrary experiences capture the complexity of the human-animal.

Pay Attention to Aims

If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that you get what aim for. To be frank, I didn’t feel like I was ready to have kids. (Looking back, I don’t think anyone feels ready to have kids. If they say they are, but don’t have kids or aren’t trying, then they probably can’t fathom the depths of their ignorance.)

I wouldn’t call my current lifestyle the ideal situation for having kids either.

But part of me wanted to have a family of my own more than anything in the entire world. I would say that the most honest and vulnerable part of me wanted this, and that’s what exactly I got.

If we’re honest enough, we can see that we make choices that lead us to where we want to go.

While I thought I believed I wanted a life of adventure, immense wealth, and travel, but my actions rarely depicted this.

I spent a ton of time developing my relationship with Kyra so that we can create a strong foundation to build a healthy and happy family. I spent even more time learning how to share ideas and becoming reliabile.

I’m sure if I was able to break down the hours of my life, I can see that I spent way more time watering this garden than anywhere else in my life. This is probably because the most authentic part of me was aiming for having a family of my own.

I learned to be extremely mindful of what I want and what my actions are working towards. If I’m not, then I get hit with “surprises.”

Funny enough, I would have many conversations with Kyra where I would complain that I was frustrated because the problems I had in my life weren’t “age-appropriate.” I certainly got what I was aiming for. Now I have all the “age-appropriate” problems I could ever ask for.

Looking back, I was so foolish for being upset about that.

The Death of The Boy

In order to become a good father, I must not be a boy. Like every young man, learning how to become a man has always been a high priority.

Now that I am a father, I have no excuse to act like a child…a boy.

The boy is not fit to be a father because he can only think of himself.

He cannot participate in asymmetrical relationships. Parenting, if anything at all, is an asymmetrical relationship.

I must voluntarily take on responsibilities.

I must be strong and formidable.

I must be reliable and trustworthy.

I must be honest, productive, and generous.

I must be selfless and patient.

A boy cannot properly take on this role without also causing destruction.

The first three days, in particular, were difficult. I felt the boy die within me and a rebirth of a new man take shape in my soul. This is as violent and majestic as a phoenix combusting and rising from the flames. I felt parts of my burn off and the tighter that I held on, the more it hurt.

I had to let go.

I had to accept that I was transforming, and it was permanent.

The death of Chris the Boy made room for Chris the Father.

Since I found out about the pregnancy, all the deadwood, so to speak, had to burn off. All the perceived ideas of who I am and who I want to be had to die. It’s not easy to let go of yourself, but in order to become a parent, it’s necessary. I’m sure this is partly why so many people, men, and women, cannot rise to the occasion.

Confronting Latent Insecurities and Fears

I feel like in order to transform I must overcome the challenge of becoming the worst parts of both of my parents, a fear that I’ve had for a long time.

I’ve seen many people mindlessly repeat the patterns they saw in their parents which produces the same results they had.

While my parents were far from the worst, they are plenty of things they did that I do not plan on repeating with my daughter. I’m not going to outline them here, but the generational trauma stops with me.

The Crushing Responsibility

I heard someone say that being a parent is a crushing responsibility, and in some ways it is.

But this is not a bad thing.

But one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the last few years is that responsibility gives life meaning. When we are responsible for something, we operate on a higher level. We become more resilient and can withstand conditions that would have otherwise ended us.

I have been given the privilege to take on the greatest responsibility, which comes with great access to my own inner strength, tenacity, compassion, and a richer experience of life.

This means I don’t have the luxury of wasting time anymore. I thought I didn’t waste time before the transformation, but now I really don’t. Wasting time makes everything infinitely more difficult with a child. It’s better to maximize what I have. Now I can viscerally feel every second go by. If that second is not properly used, then I am flooded by negative emotions.

While my hypersensitivity to time can be quite uncomfortable, this transformation taught me that we, as human beings, want and need to lift a heavy load. Perhaps I can even say a life that is easy to navigate is not one worth living.

Accepting the responsibility means that I am burdened with a certain set of problems, but set free from so many others. For the first time in my life, I am clear on what is important and what is not. Before the transformation, there was a lot up for debate. Nowadays, not so much.

After the Birth

These are some of the thoughts I recorded after my daughter was born.

Abusive Relationships and Parenting

I heard somewhere that being a parent of a newborn is like being in an abusive relationship. This is because people who are abusive are mentally infants.

I see many new parents who have a tough time dealing with non-reciprocal relationships, but I have been practicing non-reciprocal behavior for most of my life. I constantly felt as if I was giving more than I was getting and I learned to not let that breed resentment in me.

I learned to take on the perspective – if I’m not willing to do it without reciprocal behavior then I won’t do it.

This thought process has made becoming a parent manageable.

Attending to the needs of my newborn daughter is tough, but not unlike abusive relationships that I have had in the past. I must consistently minimize myself and repress my needs in order to meet the demands of the child.

In the past, this dynamic drove me crazy. This is appropriate because I wasn’t a parent. But now, I am not bothered at all by this dynamic because I know that it is appropriate for my daughter to act this way. She litereally is a child! However, it will be my responsibility to socialize her and makes sure she doesn’t act like this forever.

The Dark Side of Becoming a Parent

In the spirit of honesty, it’s not all nice. I was resentful of my need for security and sometimes I believed that having a kid was throwing my potential away. This was a belief that had to burn off quickly.

I realized it was a choice to believe things like that.

My mind can make up so many thoughts that aren’t necessarily true and I don’t have to believe them.

Honestly, it’s revitalizing to believe the contrary – becoming a parent is a goal that everyone should take seriously.

The darker side of becoming a parent is discovering how much a parent loves their child. Unfortunately, there are behaviors my parents committed that I cannot imagine repeating with my daughter.

Reflecting upon on much of my childhood, the question arises “How could a parent treat their child that way?” If they loved me as much as I love my daughter, how can they act that way?

Perhaps they experience the parent-child relationship differently.

Maybe I love my daughter more than they love me.

Maybe they are so unconscious, that they are living a life that they would not approve of.

Whatever the answer, I know I am afraid to find out.

These were questions I wondered often as a child but easily ignored. Now I think about them more often, even though I know it doesn’t do me much good.

One thing that is known, is that my parents primarily operated out of resentment.

I must be mindful of my resentments, especially so I do not accidentally project onto her. I need to be honest about when I feel like I do not want to fulfil my parental duties and deal with those feelings in a healthy way.

If I don’t, then I will create a world in which I will love her less.

The worst part is that no one else in the world will care for her like I do. This means I have to be extremely careful to notice when she does things that makes me dislike her.

If I can recognize those behaviors and stop them before they perpetuate, I can potentially limit the number of things she’ll do to make other people not like her.

This is not because I need the world to like my child.

It is because I want to world to open itself to my child and provide her with opportunities and allies.

If I cannot recognize when my child makes me dislike her, then I cannot help her regulate her behavior.

Children who cannot regulate themselves are quickly rejected from the communities and have a much more difficult experience of life.

Intense Magnification

Becoming a parent has accelerated the process of getting everything I want, but also magnifies the problems within myself. I feel as if the limits on life have been taken out. The happiness I can feel is more intense than what I felt before. The same can be said for suffering.

I’ve also noticed an increased tendency of being self-critical. I think it’s because I don’t want my unconscious pathologies to decide what my daugher’s life is. So I am incentivised to dig deep within myself to be better, be more.

I feel like I have a new access to emotions and a new understanding of asking for help. I used to never ask for help, but now I will let nothing get in the way of fulfilling my duties as a parent. Especially pride, which is a sin I frequently grapple with.

This magnification has also appeared in my relationship with Kyra, my daughters’ mother.

It feels like we are a family now.

We’re constantly improving and learning how to better cooperate and negotiate. Although that does not sound romantic, those are two critical pillars of our relationship and it is what keeps us growing stronger every day.

Mostly Positive Responses

Most people said congratulations, which could mean they either see me as fit to be a parent, or they feel compelled to congratulate me.

Either way this helps me feel like I could handle this, although approval from the masses isn’t a solid foundation.

I’ve become more aware of people’s judgement, or envy.

As sad as it is to say, some people aren’t genuinely happy for me when I share what probably is the best news in the world. I try to live my life by being around people who are on my team. I test that I like to use is sharing good news. If they’re happy for me, then they’re on my team. If they aren’t, then they’re jealous or a possible enemy.

This is a great time to know exactly who will be on my team.

I’m keeping my family close to allies, not enemies.

Constraints are Crucial

Many people see having children as synonymous with “sayin goodbye to freedom.”

Poor thinking.

Life already has constraints and we typically define our lives by our constraints, so I say that it is better to have constraints and a well defined life rather than not.

Yes, there are freedoms I’ve lost, but there are privledges that I have gained. I believe it is a great trade.

I Want Her to Grow Up

When my daughter looks at me, I can see so clearly what I want for her.

I want her to be excited to grow up and fulfill her potential.

I’ve seen too many adults that make me feel like growing up is dreadful.

Why is it dreadful to become more wise, knowledgeable, and capable?

Maybe because most adults don’t try to inspire. Perhaps she can.

Godwilling, I can be an example for her.

My Relationship with Time has Changed

Becoming a parent has taught me more about valuing my time, scheduling, storytelling, patience, and time management more than anything else ever could have.

Free time is an unbelievably powerful force. Having kids makes this clear.

I’ve written many parts of this essay in the middle of the night on my phone while I’m holding my daughter (because she won’t let us put her down)

-Currently she’s 8 weeks old and sleep from 6pm-12am if I’m lucky-

If I am awake I must USE the time, not spend it.

I wish I understood this to the level that I do now, but I know that I could have only reached this level of understanding through actually becoming a parent.

Becoming a parent is deeply discovering consequences. Everything has a cost, and parenting puts that right up in your face.

I have also channelled a greater capacity for patience.

There are times when I want things to speed up, but she is a reminder that nature takes it’s time and happens fast enough.

I remember wanting the pregnancy to speed up. Then I wanted the labor to speed up, and the infant stage, and the toddler stage.

I desperately want to see what my daughter will be like as an adult similarly to how I felt wanting my video game characters to be at full power.

I’ve learned that dropping that tendency and enjoying what I have in the moment is how I get what I will miss when we are older.

I’ve learned that I will get to those points in time, but right now is a moment to soak in as well. I think of this when she is screaming and crying, but also when we are playing.

So many parents tell me that they miss the days when their children were young. Hearing that gives me the patience to take a breath and enjoy the stage she is now.

The Great Hope

Once more, life is full of the genuine wonder and excitement that I once had as a kid.

Except now, the feelings aren’t as overwhelming. I notice that same curiosity of wondering what will actualize from new potential.

I’ve heard that becoming a parent is the opportunity to have the best relationship I could ever have in my life.

Ever.

I didn’t believe this to be true, but after spending time with my daughter I see that it is.

But I also know that it can be destroyed.

The love a child has for their parent is instinctual and as the adult, we can either foster it or destroy it.

I am aiming for the best relationship anyone can have with anyone.

So far so good.

Balancing Control

There’s a growing urdge to control the environment. I feel like if I can’t, then I feel like a bad person.

I had a higher tolerance to urdge before becoming a parent, but I’m not able to tolerate it as much as I used to.

Finding a balance of understanding how much I need to control the environment versus how much I need to control myself is difficult.

For me, becoming a parent puts me in a psychological position where I must play the “parent” role as referred to in Berne’s Games People Play. I felt like if I could not control the environment for my child, then I am a juvenile. As rediculous as that is to say, I could not shake the cognitive dissonance.

Over time I’ve learned, and am still learning, how to find that balance between controlling myself and controlling my environment.

New Relationship to Ambition

I’ve been thinking about the morality of ambition. I’ve always seen it as a good thing, but I feel like I am at a point in my life where being too ambitious is counterproductive.

For a while I wanted to so desperately cling to the systems and habits I previously built. As if those systems were me. I grew more upset every day that I missed my goals. I had to discover that I am working on the greatest project I have ever taken on and will ever take on – it’s imperfect but great.

All of the endeavours that I could ever undertake are not as important as this.

I want to keep aiming up, because that is something that I do believe is absolutely good.

But I don’t need to aim as high and as a result, I can dedicate more to being a better parent.

So In Love

There is no sweeter sound, no more infectious rhythm, than my daughter’s heartbeat.

I’m always thinking of her, especially when I’m not with her.

She get’s cooler every day.

Every day her movements are more and more refined. It’s astonishing.

All of her accomplishments make my heart sing. Ever single one. Even the small ones.

I’m happiest when I’m doing boring things with her like laying down or feeding her.

I love playing with her and helping her develop. There is nothing more gratifying and satisfying.

I was worried that I would get stuck with “some kid,” but she continues to impress me. She constantly reminds me that I am not dealing with “some kid,” but that she is someone who is so much likely that I cannot even begin to understand.

The best part is that she lets me love her. Admittedly, I was worried that I would love her so much and she would not care at all. That fear could not have been further from the truth. She lets me love her in a way that no one else can and that’s enough to bring a tear to my eye. Even at a young age, I can tell that our bond is strong.

Joining the Human Race

I wrote about this in my 2021 Yearly Review: Joining the Human Race. Becoming a parent has given me a compassion and love for the ineffectiveness and ineffcientness of humanity.

My engineering training has taught me to seek and destroy inefficiencies, but becoming a parent has taught me to love them.

Our inefficiencies hold the most joyful and gripping moments of life.

Humans are messy, slow, and riddled with mistakes. That’s what makes us human.

This is not a bad thing.

Do we need to strive to be better? Yes.

Do we need to see human error as wrong? Absolutely not.

Discovering this has given me a new perspective on dealing with people. This is a perspective that was difficult to genuinely believe before becoming a parent.

Children Bring Out the Best in Others

I had a student who brought a gun to school. Before I knew, he saw me in the hallway and asked me about my daughter. He genuinely wanted to know how she was. It felt as if he truly cared for her, perhaps he did.

I found out later that he was armed and he was expelled. He didn’t want to hurt anyone, he just want to look cool in front of his friends. Seek love and acceptance by providing value, not fear. The bottom line is…becoming a parent softens everyone.

Becoming a parent has helped me see the softer sides of all people. I get people smiling in my direction and walking near me as opposed to looking at me with suspicion or hostility. A stark contrast from my experience as a single 6 foot tall Black man, where I usually get the more defensive or hostile side of people.

We had a saying in healthcare: kids are the great equilaizor.

This meant that no matter who you are, seeing a sick or hurt kid will hit you emotionally.

That is true with just every day interactions. People love seeing children and they always bring out their loving side. Kids always level. the playing field.

It’s magical.

Rediscovering the World & Discovering the Future

Loving my child is like rediscovering the world.

Seeing her learn the simple things from using her hands to looking at shapes is amazing. I watched her look at nature for the first time and it was miraculous. I hope more experiences like this are to come. The world is interesting and full of life again.

Loving my child discovering the future.

The world I am leave behind needs to be better for her. She also needs to learn that she needs to do everything she can to make the world better as well.

For a long time, I lived for myself. For the first time, I see how I am just one part of something much bigger. I am part of the force that builds for the future. This means the choices I make are extremely important.

No More Room for Cowardice

There were many fears and insecurities that I had to confront while becoming a parent.

I could not let any of them stop me.

Fear and insecurities are excuses that people use to act like cowards.

When I am fulfilling my duties as a father, there is no insecurity. I am the security. I must become the security.

What is peculiar, is that I had so much insecurity when I would do things for myself. I was just letting myself be a coward. Because I could afford to.

No more.

Last Thoughts

Becoming a parent is both terrible and wonderful, much like the rest of the human experience.

However, I can say that the experience of becoming a parent is something that everyone should take seriously.

I have a theory that if someone were to strive to be the best parent they can be, then they will unlock the most rewarding game humans can play.

Becoming parents makes us human. It is what we are made to do.

Many modern people think otherwise because they have been tricked into thinking that there are other games to play that are more satisfying.

Becoming a parent is the best game we can play. It gives us access to the best experiences.

But only if we do it well.

2021 Yearly Review: Joining the Human Race

“Is it not possible (even though it may not always deliver us from the terrible situation that we find ourselves in) that we would all be more able to deal with uncertainty, the horrors of nature, the tyranny of culture, and the malevolence of ourselves and others if we were better and more courageous people?”

Jordan B. Peterson (Beyond Order)

Every year I try to track my life through monthly themes.

The process is relatively simple – I pick two weaknesses that I feel like need to work on and I give those two themes a little more attention each month.

At the beginning and end of the month, I write down my thoughts on the process.

I started doing this halfway through 2019.

I did it completely in 2020.

As much as I wanted to do an entire year, I missed two months simply because I forgot. In October, I had the wonderful privilege of welcoming my daughter into the world. (Easily, the best experience of my life.)

Unfortunately, I was already overloaded and reaching near my maximum capacity. I just started a job as a chemistry teacher in a pretty rough school and I was working on my Master’s and teaching credential at the same time.

As much as I wanted to keep up everything I was doing, the transition got the best of me and I missed two months of recording and reflecting on my themes. I ended up dropping a lot more than just recording and reflecting on my themes, but that’s for another post.

At first, I thought that because I missed the two months my entire yearly review tradition is ruined. But then I realized that I was making an excuse to relieve myself of the responsibility of admitting that I wasn’t able to achieve what I wanted, picking up the pieces, and continuing on.

So I asked myself – is there a way I can turn this loss into something beautiful?

The answer of course is yes. Dare I say that the answer to that question is always yes.

This year, I will reflect on my themes as usual, but for October and November I will reflect upon the events that created so much disarray, but much more fulfillment.

All journal entries are in italics and my comments from today follow CM:

🛠 January – Organization & Presentation

Beginning of the month: I ended last year trying to organize myself and my life so I can start this year extremely productive. Turns out that once I started to open that box, there was so much to unpack that I’m going to need another month. Organizing this way will help me stay on top of my current complexity and add more later. I also felt pretty guilty about spending so much time organizing so making it the theme for another month will (hopefully) let me off the hook and I can keep diving in. As far as presentation is concerned, I feel like I’ve spent enough time incubating and cultivating and I need to start sharing (or as Seth Godin says shipping) my work. Art isn’t art until it’s been shipping and I’ve been stopping myself bc nothing is in its final form, but I need to get over that. First, I need to prepare my work so it is functional, useful, and most importantly something I can look on with pride. I’ve met too many people who could benefit from the work I do and I’ve been selfishly keeping it to myself. The unveiling is near.

CM: Looking back, I can see that Chris before he was a parent, had a lax sense of time. That guilt I felt for wasting time was properly founded. Ever since becoming a parent, I see how much of a luxury time is. I did start showing my work to people this year, specifically my students. Things are moving, just much slower than anticipated.

End of the month: This month has been a fun one. I revived my interest in social media and I’ve taken a few more steps to focus on presentation. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but I’m much further. The progress this month in each of these domains has been measurable, at least I feel like I’ve made solid progress. I didn’t revamp my website like I wanted to, but I’ve been putting that on the back burner because I’m finding that I may need to put a similar kind of energy elsewhere. Focusing on organization again has helped me dive deeper into database creating. I’ve taken it much further than just with Notion. I’ve been able to tap into my engineering training and build spreadsheets for the new business I want to start. My ability to organize and present turned my failing business model into a profitable one and now all I need to do is execute. I know I’m usually pleasantly surprised by the improvements I make by doing these themes, but this one was insane. My new systems for journaling, creating, task managing, and now budget optimizing are so valuable to me and I’m so happy I focused on these two this month. Hands down the best call of the year so far. I want to continue organizing in a way that values presentation, it’s so important.

CM: Wow. Looking back at this, I can still agree. The time I spent organizing this month was pivotal to my survival later this year. That task manager I built helped me survive as a first-year teacher, dad, student, etc. Plus those builds I made for the business are now vital tools we use every day to make the process easy. I can see that organizing and having systems in place, help brace us for the intense winds of life.

🧭 February – Leadership & Persistence

Beginning of the month: This month I want to focus on my leadership abilities and boosting my persistence. I’m about to start a new company and I want to make sure this one runs well. No one is going to ensure that but me so I will need to tap into my leadership abilities and enhance them if I want things to work out. I’m starting to see that I need to have an extremely clear vision and I need to be able to enroll other people in that idea and that all comes with leadership. Like Elon Musk said, organizing people better gives you access to more spending power. That’s what I’m looking for. As for persistence, I know I’m going to be dealing with some intense days and I’m going to need to be able to persist through those rough conditions, but also I’m going to need more persistence if I want to sell lotion to an extremely complex society. I’m hoping this month will bring these traits out of me in a way that allows me to keep improving later.

CM: I was so unsuspecting.

End of the month: This month I was thrown for the biggest loop of my life and I lost sight of my themes for a while. Despite the turbulence, Leadership and Persistence have definitely been developed. The new information I got this month unlocked a new level of everything inside of me. While I was trying, half-assed I admit, to develop myself in leadership and persistence, this new jolt has given me everything I need to be an effective leader. Not just of a company, not just of my life, but of my family’s life as well. I’ve also learned how to push myself much further than my perceived capacities. I’ve accomplished things this month I never thought I could. Again I’ve been confronted with the impossible and again I contend with it. This time it is voluntary, and this time the stakes are high. In this case, I have accessed something much deeper than mere persistence. It’s like I have direct access to the fire of humanity inside myself. I am reborn. I was worried that I was going to lose my ability to write and be creative through the new changes, but now I see that staying connected to them in the midsts of the chaos is what will enrich life further. I can see I am even more capable of what I was capable of before. It is almost like constraints allow us to access more of our potential, but only after a certain time. I don’t want to be too specific in this entry in case I make it public, but I’m happy with the developments I’ve made over the years and I’m excited to see where this takes me.

CM: Reflection is so important. It keeps me on the path, and I need to stay on it more than ever because my daughter needs me. This is the month I found out I was going to be a father, and I learned that I have a hell of a lot more in me than I ever imagined. I didn’t mention the pregnancy directly because we weren’t telling anyone yet. But I’m very happy that I caught my feelings about the moment when I had them.

🐢 March – Stillness & Planning

Beginning of the month: This month I need to learn how to be still. I tend to spin out of control and I destroy the order I work too hard to create. When I come from a place of stillness, I obtain access to intentionality and I can craft the world in my image. This is more crucial than ever. More depends upon my ability to pay attention and sublimate, both of which are accomplished through accessing stillness, Internal stillness. On top of that, I need to develop my planning abilities. I have too much to get ready for and not a lot of time. This month I can spend working on how to plan, while developing a plan so I can keep my boat afloat, so to speak. I was worried that I would not be able to get everything done, but I can see that by using the practices I’ve been learning I can overcome anything. Take uncertainty and turn it into order through stillness and planning. Fear will shrink with understanding. I always have a moment to regroup.

CM: I still believe this is how I got myself from spinning out of control to actually designing my world. I remember a lady saying that my chances of teaching in a classroom this year a 0%. Hah. Turns out I was right – at least that is what it seems to me. Approaching the world from stillness helps to craft the world in my image.

End of the Month: This month has been a wild ride, but I feel like the stillness and planning have seeped in a little deeper. After spending almost $2,000 on Sione, I realized that I can create cheaper prototypes if I just took the time to plan every little detail. Everything can be thought of first before a single action is taken. It is not just with creating prototypes for business. It’s also the case with trading, packing, eating, everything. Taking the time to plan in stillness gives me an opportunity to properly use my prefrontal cortex. I’ve even been able to quell some of my anxiety. Maybe it’s because I went in on this whole job thing (getting a job with Nanobiologics, taking the CSETs and CBEST, and hitting Sione harder) might have helped, but I do believe part of it was because I was intentionally trying to plan in stillness. Practicing these themes helped me fine-tune more “rich life” stuff for my future as well – planning and stillness give me an opportunity to improve and reflect which allows me to improve current lifestyle choices. For example, Kyra and I took a vacation to Palm Springs and spent a significant amount of time preparing food, grocery shopping, etc. Since I was practicing these themes, I realized that I could make things better by planning. Lost resources are a result of poor planning. So next time, I want to schedule grocery pick-ups in the destination city where I am vacationing so I can just drive to the store, pick up exactly what I want, and move forward. Eventually, I want to have an assistant do that. These themes were fantastic and I’m definitely going to do it again in the future.

CM: That prototype lesson was an expensive one, but an important one. Moving forward, I will be able to do proper product launches without spending insane amounts of money. So many little lessons came out of this year.

⭐️ April – Endurance & Faith

Beginning of the month: I’ve noticed that I can’t do anything for as long as I’d like, or as long as I used to. That needs to change. Especially now, when stakes are getting higher. I can’t afford slippage due to a small attention span or lack of endurance. I need to be able to do things for longer stints of time, not just so I can be more productive, but because I feel like it’s what’s necessary for success in the domains I’m in. The second theme isn’t so much a characteristic or quality that I have, but I do believe faith is something I need to pay more attention to. Faith is a necessary component when doing something difficult or different and often I feel as if I am not capable of doing those things. Faith is the necessary first step before anything else. It’s what fuels initial action and keeps me going during hardships. I feel as if I need to exercise more faith in myself and the things I’m pursuing. I need the faith to know that I’m not in over my head.

April 20th: I’m feeling like I always find myself on losing teams and I’ve spent this period of time trying to bet on myself. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I have the time to do that anymore. I need to get on a winning team. I need to be a star player. One of the two. I only really feel like I have control over one, and it’s being a star player, but that’s exhausting.

CM: There was a lot of uncertainty during this time. I had no idea if my other ideas would be enough to sustain a family and it didn’t seem like I was going to find a teaching job. That faith was critical though. I see why faith is a pillar in all world religions. It is truly the first step in changing your life.

End of the month: This month was tough. I know for a fact that I just did some things just purely because I was trying to “prove to myself” that I have faith. My faith in things is constantly being testing and because I don’t have faith in many things, my endurance takes a hit. I never get a chance to develop my endurance because I don’t believe in anything enough to stick with it. This month I finally paid enough attention to realize how much energy I dedicate just to “keep the vision” alive within me. When I was younger, I used to think that was the challenge, but now I see that I just have a problem with having faith. This also makes sense, because I like to know things and to be able to predict and faith, by definition, means to hold a belief without knowing for sure. This did give me an interesting lens through to see the month. I noticed certain phrases and quotes would stick out to me, perhaps because my orienting reflex is attuned to “faith and endurance” or maybe it’s because of divine intervention. One quote was something like “It’s easier to say in motion than to start” and that is something that’s been buzzing in my head the entire month. Some crazy things did happen though – I ran my first 3-mile run and I PR’d again this month. I don’t know how much I can keep doing this, but I know it’s a direct result of me testing my faith in my physical abilities and my desire to develop my endurance. I also wanted to take down the Sioné website and I felt like the entire lotion idea was silly, but in time Uncle Jr ended up saying that he would be the biggest fan in the lotion works. He was the last person I’d expect to enjoy the lotion. He said he sees multi-millionaire potential in me. I’m glad he can see that too. I bring this up because it’s something I lost faith in. I actually felt on some level like my themes didn’t apply to that portion of my business. But, it does. I learned that faith is necessary and if I can’t keep it, there are more things it’s costing me like my endurance. A lot of what I believe makes me weak stems from my lack of faith. I’m happy to have learned this and I’m excited to see what happens moving forward.

CM: Thank God I didn’t. The things I staked my faith on this year, Sione and teaching, are the things that were foundational to my ark, so to speak. There were a lot of small events that gave me just enough juice to keep going. Crazy.

🔎 May – Awareness & Integrity

Beginning of the month: This month I’m going to focus on awareness and integrity. I want to tap into a deeper awareness of myself and my surroundings. I want to be able to pay attention in a higher capacity. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m not paying attention to the most important things, maybe it’s just hindsight haunting me. But regardless, I want to be able to pay attention and notice things better than I do now. I’m hoping it will help me unlock part of what’s keeping me down. Additionally, I want to work on my integrity this month. Integrity as defined as I would back in 2014. Being in integrity is a state of being whole and complete. It’s an intense state, but it’s also peaceful. It requires intense responsibility and….awareness!, but I know it would be nice to have things whole and complete before things get really crazy this year. I want to define some of the things I want to strive for this month, just so I know. All commitments to myself will be kept. All commitments to others will be kept. My workspaces will be orderly unless they are in the process of creating. My calendar will be respected and updated. My conscience will be obeyed. These are high ideals, but I think they are worth striving for.

CM: Little did I know that I would spend the next 5 months trying to do exactly this. haha! I wish I could tell myself that I make it out perfectly fine on the other side.

End of the month: This month, the themes weren’t as present and forefront as they have been in the other months. I’ve paid a little bit more attention to integrity and I might have been doing better in maintaining integrity with my things. I say might have because I haven’t been really been paying attention. That being said, I have been trying to maintain some of the entropy that builds in my environments and digital spaces. I think spending just a little time and making things nice so they can work FOR me later instead of AGAINST me. If I don’t keep up with the maintenance, the systems I have put in place become sources of stress. Keep thy house and thy house shall keep the becomes more and more relevant as I get older. I have been using my awareness to tap into more than what I normally pay attention to. I’m using my awareness to illuminate new pathways and the fire inside me from becoming a new parent helps me walk down these paths. Overall, this month wasn’t too crazy but I do think my themes helped keep things relatively organized.

CM: Still battling with this today. I am doing better though. My environment is slowly becoming more conducive to my life. Slowly.

🦄 June – Gratitude & Consistency

Beginning of the month: I want to practice gratitude and consistency because I’ve been terribly inconsistent. I’m worried that my inconsistency is ruining my life. My streaks app is becoming some of a hassle and it’s annoying resetting everything all the time. It’s also difficult to constantly make new rules so I’m “rigging the game to win.” I’ve taken this too far and now I don’t even know if I’m playing the same game anymore. My hypothesis is that I am not consistent because I am not grateful. Although I practice gratitude every morning, I believe I lose sight of it because I don’t act consistently. If I was truly grateful, I would see the moment in front of me as an opportunity to “get the bag” as Jordan would say. I’m hoping this consistency is good practice for fatherhood as well.

CM: The slippage was just beginning, consistency a common challenge for me this year. I’m just now grappling with this breakdown, 6 months later. haha!

End of the month: I did better with gratitude. I had some slip-ups, but the pressure is starting to really turn on. I feel like my age and my accomplishments aren’t matching up and it’s messing with my ability to stay consistent. I suppose I’ve been consistently procrastinating and avoiding making music, but I wanted to be consistent in the practices that I deemed positive and good. I don’t think my hypothesis is correct regarding consistency and gratitude. I suppose there is a connection, but what’s blocking my ability to be consistent is much deeper than that. I did spend some time trying to clean my space and optimize for consistency, but that’s taking longer than I expected and it’s starting to feel like another way of procrastination. This month was rough for my themes to be honest.

CM: I really started to lose my grip in June. The craziest part is that it was going to get much harder.

🌆 July – Patience & Faith

Beginning of the month: I’ve been having a tough time picking the themes this month. I sat on it for a few days and I’m settling on “Paciencia y Fe” from In The Heights. Love the music, hated the movie, to be honest. But Patience and faith are going to be the themes I’m going to call upon this month. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been patient enough and it’s been making me really upset. Things aren’t looking anyway that I’d hoped, but perhaps it’s not my time. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions, looking at it from the wrong angle. Perhaps I still need patience and faith. Perhaps I’m not at the end, or even the middle, but still at the start. I need to believe in patience and I need to keep the faith so I can move forward at all. Admittedly, I’ve lost faith and it probably has been showing. Hopefully paying attention to this will give me that little push I’m looking for.

Side note: I’ve also been reading Kierkegaard and faith is a big theme that I noticed he liked to talk about too. Same with Jordan Peterson. They both talk about faith in the context of the Biblical Abrahamic stories and I feel like I could take a lesson or two (or three) from it.

CM: I usually try to not repeat themes, but I remember things were looking pretty bleak for a while. It’s just what I need though! I need to remember this time in my life in case I ever encounter another time I am feeling helpless and hopeless. “Perhaps I’m not at the end, or even the middle, but still at the start.” – a possibility that I intellectually knew could be true but I didn’t believe it could be.

End of the month: I was at the start. Talk about a miracle. I got a teaching job and it took all the patience and faith I had. I felt like I was cutting it so close this year, but I just needed to give it time. I had more interview offers than I expected. I even turned some down! Plus I’m at a school that I believe I fit pretty well in. Perhaps it’s luck, perhaps it isn’t. I learned that faith is a tricky beast. It’s so easy to not have it, but it’s so necessary for everything. If you want a better life, you need the faith to take the first steps of a long journey. Now that I’m at my “big boy” job, I can see a whole new future in front of me. It’s easy to lose faith when we’re in a tough. It’s easy to believe that life will always remain bleak. But if we can do the harder thing, if we can choose faith, we at least have a chance for something better. And if Fortune smiles upon us, then we may be able to move to where we intend. This month is proof that is true. This month has changed how I see faith forever. Paradigm shifting.

CM: I’ve been keen on keeping possibilities open after this month. Anything is possible. What I am convinced to be true, isn’t necessarily true. Beneficial or detrimental. I had to keep faith that my plan could work…and it has been. Incredible. For the first in my life, things were going exactly as I wanted them to. It’s given me the necessary confidence going into fatherhood.

🎒August – Prioritization & Balance

Beginning of the month: This month is crazy. My first year as a teacher has put me in a position where my work truly never ends and there are consistent deadlines. While I tried to adopt this lifestyle into my creative outlets and I’m familiar with how this does, I never felt the pressure like I do now. I can see that the only way I’ll make it through is clear prioritizing and execution. As long as I hit the priority tasks, I can keep my head above water. That being said, I need to have balance in my life too. I can tell the balance is starting to escape me, so I need to be a little more intentional with incorporating balance into my life.

CM: Adjusting to teaching was so hard. Everyone says being a first-year teacher is brutal, and they are 110% right. Teachers should get paid more, it’s not a job that anyone can do and it requires an extremely specific skill set. I can say now that those first few months gave me much-needed experience that is difficult to refute and fruitful to my creative projects.

End of the month: I’m learning to balance and prioritize better. I’m not sure if the school year just chilled out or if I’ve gotten better at these skills. I’ve learned to set hard time deadlines or hard accomplishment milestones to mark the end of the workday. Sometimes it’s tough and leaks into the weekend, but I supposed that’s the nature of the beast. I know for a fact that I need to keep practicing this skill and I can see my life getting better as a result of that. Prioritization and balance are two meta-skills worth exploring. I can tell that even just paying attention to these two skills I’ve elevated my performance by years. Psychologically it makes things easier too. I feel like running helped me get used to pushing through mental barriers to reach goals. There’s always a point when you want to quit and my relationship with running helps me choose to keep going at least a little bit further than I thought.

CM: I think it’s so cool that all the lessons I’ve learned in every part of my life help all the other parts. Looking back, I believe that I got better at the skills. The school year didn’t chill out, it just kept getting more and more intense.

🏗 September – Restructuring & Compassion

Beginning of the month: I feel like all the systems I’ve developed have been neglected and the only thing that’s been carrying me through the never-ending stream of chaos and novelty is my knowledge of how to develop systems to manage the chaos. As a result, there are insufficiencies in everything. I was planning on only dedicating a day or an afternoon to restructuring but I think it’s better to give it a month. Hopefully, I can get myself back to a place where I just need to “press play” so to speak. As for compassion, I feel like it’s easy for me to hold myself to tough standards and as a result hold others to tough standards as well. It’s easy to dismiss others’ shortcomings as either incompetence, ignorance, laziness, or malice, but I cannot so easily justify my own. It’s easy to accept that other people make those choices, but it’s not easy to accept that I make those choices because I don’t believe I do. I cannot say that about ignorance. And so I’m going to experiment with compassion and see if I can faster restructure my life having compassion for myself rather than contempt. I’ve found that holding contempt for my “lower” self sufficiently motivates me, but I do feel tired and I need to rest and stop thinking. Maybe these things are connected, maybe not. We will soon find out.

CM: I was stressed and overwhelmed this month. In some respects, I still feel like I’m picking up the pieces from earlier this year. I didn’t have an end-of-the-month reflection for September. This was the beginning of the “dark ages” I’ll call them. Even looking back on this journal entry, it was hard to identify exactly what I was saying but one thing is for certain: things were crazy for me.

A meditation on the major events of 2021

The original plan for this year included:

Finishing my book. Launching my courses. Launching my first physical product. Releasing original music.

Kyra was planning on starting medical school as well as her book.

Instead, Kyra got pregnant.

I’m hoping to capture my experience of becoming a parent in a future post.

This was the craziest and most productive year of my life. If you know me intimately, you would know that that’s really saying something.

When Kyra got pregnant, I had to stop and prioritize. All the plans I had were incongruent with becoming a father, mainly because they all take so much time, energy, and attention.

Admittedly, I was extremely stressed. I cried for 3 days straight and went through a transformative emotional experience, which was in part what motivated me to want to start writing my blog post on becoming a parent. Another motivation for that post was that I had no where to really look to explain what I was feeling. Part of that experience was captured in my monthly theme for February.

Despite the emotional experience, I also knew I needed to provide a level of stability that I have never been able to access before. I found myself completely in chaos. When I have too much chaos around me, I have a hard time creating and sticking to routines. I dedicated 150% of my attention and energy to finding a way to provide the kind of stability necessary for raising a child.

This led me to a bunch of crazy places – all dead ends. (day trading, e-commerce, consulting, etc.) All of these things could theoretically sustain a family, but not at the level that I was playing. However, I did learn that I can use all of these things over time to create serious wealth. I just need a solid foundation to build upon.

I reached out to a mentor who told me about schools in neighboring school districts have a science teacher shortage and there is no reason why anyone with a science degree shouldn’t have at least a 50k salary with full benefits. Some people see a salary as a death wish, but it has its uses – that is a post for another time.

I told him that I didn’t have a credential and the baby is due in November. Then he told me about the intern programs and that changed everything.

Turns out, you can work as a teacher with a full salary while getting your credential if you come in as an intern teacher. Now that I’ve completed about half of my program, I see that it’s actually a fairly common way for teachers to get in the classroom. At the time, I had never heard of anything like this.

This section isn’t going to be about all the steps of becoming an intern teacher, but I did have to jump through several hoops to get to where I am now. Maybe I’ll write a post on how I became a teacher, but I think it’s useful to reflect on the events here.

I had to take out student loans again…I really did not want to take out loans to pay for the program, but the ROI is hard to ignore. I took out 30k in loans to get access to a 56k salary plus benefits. It pays for itself.

Emotionally, it was difficult to pull the trigger on taking the loans but it’s what was able to kick off a wild adventure, to say the least.

However, there was more there for me than just a salary.

Getting a traditional job wasn’t ideal, but maybe I could turn this into something where I am still able to work on all the things I’ve been planning.

Working in a classroom gives me an opportunity to put my ideas in front of live students and get feedback. Plus, I can develop the muscle of writing lesson plans and planning curriculums. PLUS, I add to my education credibility as a teacher.

I immediately signed up for the CBEST and CSETs. At the time I didn’t know if I was going to get a math or science gig so I signed up for all of them. I spent about $400 in tests. I felt like I had no time to waste so I took them all within a 2 to 3 weeks with the exception of the CSET calc test which was taken a little later. I wanted to take them early, just in case I failed I had time to retake them…I later learned I didn’t need to take the tests, but they were an experience worth having.

I figured since I tutored all the time I would be able to take these tests no problem, that was true to an extent…a few days before each test, I took some practice tests and did some active recall just to make sure I was in good shape.

All of these tests turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated…this was the first sign that being a teacher was going to be more difficult than I was expecting. The first practice test I took was for math and I got a 40% on the test. I was also shocked to see so many concepts that I never heard of.

This was my chance to use all of these study techniques and student success skills that I’ve been writing about for myself.

I studied and used every technique that I knew – I passed all of them super quickly and on the first try…reminds me of when I took the FE, but with a lot more pressure. Except for the calculus math test, that was surprising and humbling. All teachers are wicked smart and there is not enough credit given to our teachers, especially the ones who have passed the CSET in their respective subjects.

Next, I enrolled in an online credential/Masters of Arts in Education program. I found a school that gave me the flexibility I needed.

This was also humbling – I always saw myself as someone who was going to go to an Ivy League and do great things, but my life took very different turns.

This experience taught me that it’s much better to find the spaces and places in this world that align with my values and give me access to the life I want rather than picking some prestigious institution and forming my life to their standards.

I was able to do everything from my laptop and if things got too crazy then I could always take a leave of absence. I’m proud to say I didn’t need to do it, but it was nice knowing that I could. This was also a great opportunity to put on the student-hat one more time and battle test all of my study skills and student success strategies for myself. I learned from my experiences in high school and college, I’ve helped many students, and now I get to try it out for myself after doing relatively more intentional research.

I’m hoping to get my grad school experience documented some how in the future, there’s been a lot that I’ve learned through this experience that didn’t necessarily get from the curriculum. [For example, it probably helped me be more compassionate towards my students this year because I’m also a student too.]

So far, I’m proud to say I have a 4.0 GPA in my graduate program and while I was expecting it to be easier than undergrad, it’s still been challenging.

I had to job hunt and interview with so many schools – I was nervous when it started getting closer and closer to the school year but eventually, I interviewed at a high school, was offered the job immediately after the interview, which I accepted.

Teaching is an entirely different blog post – life-changing for sure. It took a few months to get the hang of teaching there, and thankfully I was able to get my footing by the time my daughter was born.

This year was also filled with renovations and constantly working to get my house, and my life, in order for when the baby comes. We changed everything.

My daughter was born on October 28th, 2021. One of the best days of my life, probably the best day to date. When my daughter was born, I felt a rush of different feelings but one of the most memorable was the immense amounts of compassion that I had for all people. For the first time, I felt like I was part of the human race. I am connected to all people in a way that I never knew existed.

The newborn state was one of the most trying times of my life. 0-2 months was intense, mainly because I already felt maxed out from being a first-time teacher, working on my credential and master’s, and NO SLEEP. Sleeplessness made this time extremely hard, my decision-making was compromised and I couldn’t stick to my systems.

It was stressful, and like any stressful situation, I shorten my time horizon. I stopped looking at my life on a macro scale. I zoomed in and just focused on getting through the next hour.

I did this for 2 months.

Now, I’m trying to slowly introduce my routines back into my life. Things are still changing so quickly, I feel like the world that existed before working as a first-year teacher, grad student, and becoming a father is different than the world I’m in now. Maybe I’m just different, maybe it’s both.

🎄December – Vulnerability & Courage

Beginning of the month: I’ve missed the past two months. I was hoping that I could maintain everything while becoming a parent, but I could not keep it up. I’m learning that as a father, my actions matter more than ever so I’m getting back on the horse and paying attention to the systems I’ve developed to build myself into a better person. Starting with the themes – this month I’m trying out vulnerability and courage. One of the biggest realizations of becoming a parent is accepting the vulnerability that comes with having a child. After spending my whole life trying to make myself tougher, I discover that strength comes from accepting vulnerability and having the courage to not let it destroy you. Additionally, I need to have the courage to do a bunch of things to build a stable and fruitful world for Myla. I need the courage to start asking for what I need and relentlessly pursuing what I want. While those seem like simple things, I’ve had immense trouble being able to do those things and I see now that the price of omission is expensive and painful. Not being able to ask what I need and not being able to pursue what I want leaves me weak and I have to make up for the sins in payment that always resembles time away from my daughter.

CM: These are great lessons that I hope I can continue to call upon in 2022.

End of the month: Just like all the months before this one, I am happy to have taken the time to develop these themes. While I’m not as developed as I’d like to be, I’m in a better place than I was. Most of this year was spent running around frantically trying to find acceptance of myself so I can be a proper foundation for my daughter, and these two themes are at the heart of that. I’m learning to love my vulnerability and be unapologetic about my courage. This year was huge for me, and while I felt like there were times when all my creative pursuits were dead in the water, I learned that the human-animal loves a challenge. The human-animal needs challenge. And in those trials and tribulations, grows more to call upon when creating. So many times I felt like I was going off course, I was actually going deeper than I could fathom.

CM: Reflecting on this year showed me that reflecting on my year is crucial for my mental health, but also how I get most of my internal gains. All of the best lessons I’ve learned this year (and the ones that I attribute to my survival) have all come from serious reflection. This was a beautiful year, and I hope I can keep the growth going in 2022.

Categories
Education Lifestyle Productivity

First Principles Thinking

“I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. [With analogy] we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there.”

Elon Musk (1971 – )

First Principles Thinking is a powerful mental model for creating non-linear outcomes.

Big thanks to @SahilBloom for sharing these ideas on Twitter.

First Principles Thinking is how people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates make good, long-term decisions without needing to know everything about a complex situation.

It requires a willingness to ask hard questions.

It also requires a willingness to answer hard questions.

First Principles Questions

If you’ve read my post on The Importance of Questions, then you’ll know that I believe questions are the keys to unlocking the knowledge to get whatever we want. Access to everything we want is locked up in someone else’s head, and questions are our keys.

If we can ask the right questions, we can get anything we want.

That being said there are some questions that we can ask to get us primed for First Principles Thinking.

Here are a few of those questions:

What is the problem I am trying to solve?

We waste a lot of time and energy trying to solve the “wrong” problem. If we can identify exactly what it is we need to do, then we can eliminate a lot of that waste.

Focus is powerful when applied correctly.

Identify the right problem, before trying to solve it.

What do I know to be true about this problem?

Write down everything you know to be true about the problem. (Don’t just run through them in your head.) Writing them down allows us the judge the ideas accurately.

It wouldn’t help to include things about previously attempted solutions too.

Why do I believe these “truths” to be true? How do I know they are true?

Clearly identifying the source of our beliefs is key to understanding the beliefs. It also allows us to analyze our thought habits on a deeper level.

It’s crucial to be ruthless in their validity and integrity. If we lie to ourselves here, we won’t be able to make sound decisions later on.

How can I support these beliefs? Is there real evidence to support them?

Find hard, tangible evidence that proves these beliefs to be true. If you can’t find it, or the sources aren’t reliable, then you’ve learned something about those beliefs – they’re shoddy.

Are my emotions clouding my judgement and reasoning?

Emotional decisions typically produce bad (and expensive) outcomes. Remove the emotions from the process. Emotions have a place, but not when making long-term, complex, and important choices. Intentional and planned decisions are what’s needed to push things beyond what they currently are.

What alternative beliefs or view points might exist?

Acknowledging and understanding other viewpoints is a skill that cannot be cultivated enough.

So much lies beyond what we understand. Everything has something to teach us.

Seek out other beliefs. Embrace them. Let them enrich you.

But also, evaluate them on their merits. Ask the same fundamental questions about them.

What are the consequences of being wrong in my original beliefs?

There’s risk in everything, even what we already know. It’s important to understand the stakes and manage risk. Otherwise, the downsides can wipe us out unexpectedly.

We have to know what will happen if we’re wrong.

First Principles 101

First principles starts with questioning our beliefs.

Asking the above questions will us help drill down to the fundamental truths of a problem and ultimately identify a better solution. (Assuming there is one.)

If this starts to seem like we’re thinking like insatiably curious children, then we’re on the right track.

Let’s start with some definitions:

First Principle – a foundational assumption or proposition. It’s foundational in that it cannot be deduced from other assumptions or prepositions.

First principles are like elements. They can’t be broken down any further.

First Principles Thinking – a problem-solving technique that requires breaking down complex problems into their most basic, foundational elements.

The main idea is to take a bottom-up approach; ground ourselves in foundational truths and build up from there.

Typically, when we encounter difficult problems, our inclination is to rely on base-level assumptions that we’ve been told are true, or believe to be true.

We do this because it’s quick and easy, but also because those ideas have probably been true in the past.

This leads to unimaginative, linear solutions that just mimic what has been done before.

This is known as “Reasoning by Analogy“. It leads to solutions that are the same as something else. It has its place, but it’s not great for solving complex problems in need of imaginative solutions.

“Reasoning by Analogy” is a great rule for dealing with problems in which speed is paramount and novel solutions aren’t the goal.

Solutions are to problems like foundations are to houses.

If the foundation is unstable, the house will collapse. If the foundation is sturdy, the house will stay up.

First principles help create a sturdy foundation.

Elon Musk & Space X

Let’s check out the case of Elon Musk and Space X to see First Principles Thinking in action.

Complex problem: how to send a rocket to Mars.

First logical step: obtain rocket.

Musk, as rich as he is, discovered that buying rockets wasn’t a feasible plan. He found that they go for a whopping $65 million each.

Now now the complex problem is getting more complex and we’re further from the solution.

It’s time to apply First Principles thinking – let’s start with asking why do rockets cost $65 million?

The answer to this question is pretty much – because that’s how they’ve always been built and how much they need to cost. Tradition essentially.

Not exactly an iron clad answer.

But now we know that we can think of rockets in an entirely different way.

Time to ask even more basic and fundamental questions – What is a rocket made of? What are the value of these materials on the open market?

Musk finds out that rockets are made of Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys, titanium, copper, and carbon fiber. All of which cost about 2% of a typical rocket.

Musk decides that he can build his own rockets, for much less than $65 million.

Rather than accept the truths that he’s been told about rockets, Musk grounded his problem-solving efforts in First Principles.

Today, Space X has rockets that are safely delivering humans to and from space and the dreams of colonizing Mars are closer to being realized.

Methods of First Principles

There is no set way to establish First Principles.

However, there are a few methods that work pretty well. One is known as Socratic Questioning. It’s a technique where we use systemic questioning to drill down to fundamental truths.

Some questions that can be used for Socratic Questioning are as follows:

Why do I believe this to be true?

How do I know this is true?

How can I support this belief?

What alternative viewpoints might exist?

Question everything. Never stop asking why. Become an endlessly curious child.

The world is already full of unimaginative, copycat solutions and this only leads us to predictable linear outcomes.

Using First Principles Thinking is difficult and time consuming, but it’s also a solid path to conjuring creative solutions that lead to non-linear outcomes.

Aristotle defined First Principles as “the first basis from which a thing is known.”

The world’s greatest thinkers and problem solvers use the same methods when solving complex problems: grounding themselves in first principles and building a solution from there.

Categories
Education

Origins and Influences of Western Education

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

Aristotle (Greek Philosopher)

People who want to do well in school usually feel that way because they’ve been told that it’s the primary route to doing well in life.

Performance in school is usually measured by grades and those who get A’s are considered the cream of the crop. It’s no surprise that students tend to fall in love with A’s.

I know plenty of students who will do anything for the A. It’s so prevalent in society, I was able to make a profitable tutoring business based on this need with little business experience and marketing. Some students genuinely needed help, most just want the A. My tutoring is what helped me pay for college, as well as inspire my writing.

Those who are interested in a fancy career, a nice house, and respect from others are the most likely to fall in love with the A’s. Mainly because they believe that having the A’s will get them a fancy career, a nice house, and the respect they desire.

However, sometimes it doesn’t work out like that.

Sometimes people who succeed in school, fail at life.

And other times the people who failed in school, succeed in life.

The Issue with Curriculums

There are many reasons for this, but I’m going to start with the school curriculums.

Most curriculums were created for students to succeed in The World of Academics, not reversed engineered to help students succeed in The World Beyond.

The typical school curriculum is not tailored to The World Beyond and the skills needed to succeed within those curriculums are not necessarily the skills we need in everyday life.

Many students pick up on this well before they enter the job market, and educators have to dedicate a lot of energy to prove they’re teaching relevant information. Students are asking me at younger and younger ages why they have to learn what they’re being taught in school.

The worst part (in my opinion) is that as time goes on, more of the curriculums become harder to justify.

Origins and Influences of Western Education

To understand why this is the case, we’ll have to look into what influences these curriculums and why are they even being taught in the first place. After all, all institutions were brought about through tremendous effort and intentionality, and to carelessly denigrate an institution without understanding its purpose or origins increases our chances of undoing valuable work.

The education system has roots in the Industrial Revolution back in 1760. The West had a massive transformation turning their textiles, agriculture, and handcrafts into large-scale factories with machines ran by factory workers. Since there was a high demand for factory workers, the school systems were designed to educate as many people as possible with the goal of employing them at the factories.

At the time, this was a great thing. Factory jobs provided people with a higher quality of life (believe it or not) and were highly sought after. Nowadays, most people get higher education specifically to avoid those kinds of jobs.

We can still see echos of this influence just by looking at a typical school schedule:

  • Start in the AM.
  • Take your 10-minute break roughly 2-3 hours in
  • Back to work
  • Lunch around the 5th hour.
  • Work again
  • Go home.
  • Repeat.

It’s just like working at a 9-5. Just like working in the factories. (Except breaks and lunches were monitored in the factories.)

It’s not like this system wasn’t good. It was wonderful at the time. It was effective and helped launch the Western world into the marvel it is today. We would not be here without industrialization.

Without industrialization, we wouldn’t be in the Information Age – when not knowing something is a matter of choice.

Today we have the ability to learn anything at any moment and talk to anyone in the world at any time. We can know almost everything that everyone else knows in mere moments.

But the education system hasn’t been updated for this. There have been small improvements here and there, but not enough to address the issues that many students are dealing with today.

The same teaching methods are practiced year in and year out and are becoming exponentially irrelevant, especially with the growth of accessible technology and information.

There are almost no efforts to teach students more effectively and efficiently.

There have been some curriculums that are updated and more tailored to today’s dynamic and complex world, but traditions from the industrial revolution carry the most weight.

The industrial revolution wasn’t the only influence on our education system. The content which is taught has a long line of historical influence that worth’s paying attention to also.

Much of today’s school curriculums are based on the curriculums of medieval monasteries, the ideas of 19th-century German educationalists, and the concerns of aristocratic court societies.

This is why the underlying assumptions of most school curriculums are that:

1) The most important things are already known.

2) What currently is is all that could ever be.

3) Being original is dangerous.

Wrong Messages

Students are implicitly being taught that the only way to go about life is to ask permission and beg for acceptance.

Ask permission to use the restroom.

Ask permission to answer questions.

Ask permission to work at a job.

Ask permission to make money.

Ask permission to buy something.

Ask permission to make something.

Ask permission to live.

Too many people believe that you aren’t successful until someone else has given you permission to do something.

So many people believe that they’re limited by the income approved by their “boss.” Many people think their boss intrinsically knows their value and compensates them accordingly.

Too many people believe that we cannot create opportunities for ourselves.

We’re taught to deliver on expectations, not change them.

We’re taught to regurgitate ideas instead of originating them.

We’re taught to respect people in authority, rather than honestly contemplate the possibility that no one else really knows what’s going on.

There are liberating perspectives that can enrich the experience of our lives. If we search further than what our current systems are spoon-feeding us, then we will find a new and beautiful world where we can exercise our will to our fullest expression.

Critical Targets

Now, I’m not just bashing the education system with no respect or regard for its miraculous achievements. It’s incredible that we have an institution that educations its young so they can go out and be enriched and powerful.

However, there are cracks and imperfections, and given the nature of a youth’s education, the consequences are not trivial. School teaches us so much, except for two critical subjects:

How to Work – how to choose the right job for us and work in a way that doesn’t take away from our lives.

How to Love – how to form satisfactory relationships with others and ourselves.

A great education trains us to:

read well – this way we can learn and expand our understanding

write well – so we can learn to think and communicate powerfully

think critically – to think about thinking and see past the obvious

develop our characters – which determines our opportunities

build our best selves – so life is worth the pain

There is a huge need for a reversed engineered curriculum that allows students to develop skills needed for The World Beyond. Something that shows students how to be outwardly obedient, but inwardly independent.