May 2014: Work on a Secret Project

Work On A Secret Project

Who wants to work on a secret project?

Hopefully, you do. Because that’s what this month’s experiment is all about!

I’m challenging myself (and you) to work on some kind of secret project this month.

The rules are pretty simple:

  1. Pick a secret project. (See some project ideas below.)
  2. Work on it throughout the month (I’m aiming for an hour a day.)
  3. At the end of the month, if you want to share your secret project with the world, I’ll host a big show-and-tell for anyone who participates in the experiment.

I think this is going to be a lot of fun.

Why should you work on a secret project?

Apart from the fact that secret projects are fun, there are some really good reasons to work on something without telling anyone about it.

Derek Sivers gave a famous TED Talk about Why You Should Keep Your Goals To Yourself.

There is compelling research dating back to the 1920s that suggests you’re more likely to reach your goals if you don’t tell people about them first.

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, now is the time to start. And “later” is the time to talk about it.

What should you do for your secret project?

It doesn’t really matter what you do for your secret project, but rule number one is that you don’t talk about fight club your secret project until the end of the month.

Here are some secret project ideas to get you started:

  • You could start a secret blog, or write a book, or build an online course and then launch it at the end of the month.
  • You could make a piece of art.
  • You could build a treehouse or a birdhouse or a bookshelf or something cool for your home. That’s right, I just told you to build a treehouse.
  • You could make a surprise present for someone you care about.
  • You could learn how to play a musical instrument, and then surprise your friends with a song.
  • You could teach yourself how to cook a really great recipe and then make a surprise dinner for your family (Boyfriends & husbands, take note). I suggest a recipe from Thug Kitchen.
  • You could start a new fitness program and not tell anyone about it (wait until your friends and family notice on their own).
  • You could use Duolingo or Fluent In Three Months to start learning a new language.
  • You could make a Shishi-odoshi fountain. (Bonus points for this one, because they’re super cool. – Tutorial here.)
  • You could even start a blog about Pictures of Hipsters Taking Pictures of Food.  (That’s a thing, apparently.)
  • You could think of something way better than these ideas. 🙂

You get the idea. This can be serious, or just for fun. There are no rules other than you have to spend time working on something, and you have to keep it a secret for now.

I’ve already decided what my secret project is going to be, and I’ll be revealing it at the end of the month.

I can tell you that I’m going to be making something, and also practicing a skill I want to get better at.

I’m also going to be spending at least an hour per day on my secret project. I have no idea what will happen, but I’m excited to find out.

I Hope You Will Join Me

If you want to participate, all you have to do is start planning and working on your secret project.

If you want to be eligible for the show-and-tell at the end of the month, leave a comment below and say that you’re in. You can join at any time during the month.

It’s ok to share this experiment with your friends and invite them to do their own secret project too.

You can also click here to tweet that you’re in. (I appreciate it!)

I can’t wait to show you what I’m working on…

Who’s with me?

The Ultimate Cure for Fear & Procrastination: Jump Without Looking

Cure Anxiety

Last month, I held a No Excuses Challenge here on the blog. It ended up being one of the toughest and most rewarding experiments I’ve ever done.

At the beginning of the year, I was floundering a bit. I wasn’t really making great progress toward my goals. I was making excuses instead. So, for two months, I gave up making excuses. I kept an Excuses Journal and every time I felt like making an excuse, I wrote it down. Then I ignored my excuse and took action instead.

A lot of my excuses fell into three main categories:

  1. I don’t feel like doing this now.
  2. I don’t know exactly how to do this.
  3. I’ll wait until later because ________ (insert lame excuse).

You know what those excuses have in common? They all contain a hidden lie.

Excuses are just little lies we tell ourselves. Here are the lies behind my excuses:

  1. You only have to do things you feel like doing in life. (False.)
  2. You have to figure out how to do something before you start. (False.)
  3. If you just put it off, you’ll feel like doing that thing you don’t really enjoy. (Ha! Nope.)
  4. Waiting is the answer. (Sometimes true, but usually false.)

Of course, it’s normal to have thoughts and feelings like that, even if they’re not true.

The truth is that we avoid what makes us uncomfortable. That’s how anxiety and procrastination work. We anticipate that something will be unpleasant, so we put it off and make excuses. Of course, waiting doesn’t make the fear go away. Over time, the fear grows, and your problems get bigger and harder to fix.

You can never solve a problem by ignoring it!

How To Cure Anxiety & Procrastination

The two best cures for fear and anxiety are:

  1. Making decisions. 
  2. Taking action.

Make decisions. Even if they’re wrong decisions. You can usually make a new decision later.

Take some kind of action. Even if it doesn’t go perfectly at first. You can always course-correct once your in motion.

When you’re paralyzed by fear. The cure isn’t to tackle the fear. It’s to tackle the paralysis. (click to tweet that)

The cure for inaction, is action. Just start moving.

How to Make Fear Irrelevant

I used to have a lot of anxiety. 10 years ago, I was afraid of all kinds of things, and my fears were holding me back from doing what I wanted to do.

So, I started to study how fear worked. I started to intentionally put myself in situations I was afraid of. I eventually figured out something really important that changed my life, and maybe it will help you too:

Your fears exist in the future. You can’t be afraid of the past.

Therefore, the key to conquering your fears is to take them out of the future, and put them in the past as quickly as possible. That’s why I asked you to list your fears. I’ll give you an example to make my point.

Every single mountain I’ve ever climbed has scared me.

Before a climb, I look up at the route. I read about the accidents that have happened to other people. I study the objective dangers, the avalanche risk, the rockfall risk, the weather report, the ice conditions, the route itself. How hard is it? What’s the crux like? Can we protect against a fall? How loose is the rock? Are there snakes? And on and on.

All these things are scary if you think about them in advance. There’s a very real sense of fear at the bottom of a mountain.

But once you actually start climbing, the fear starts to change. It changes because those scary questions start to have answers. What is the avalanche risk? It’s low today. How solid is the rock? It’s, um, rock solid. And it’s too cold for snakes.

When you actually start climbing, you don’t have time to be afraid. You’re too busy climbing. The fear just fades away.

Getting closer to the things that scare you will make them a lot less scary. That’s why I say the definition of courage is the simple act of going toward your challenges.

It takes about two minutes of climbing to erase 90% of your fears. The other 10% is the healthy fear that stays with you to protect you from making stupid mistakes.

Then, when you finish your climb and you’re back down on level ground, there’s nothing left to fear.

The mountain isn’t scary anymore, because you’ve already climbed it.

Why Excuses Are So Dangerous

When you make excuses in your life, it’s usually a form of procrastination. You’ll “get to it later” or you “have to wait until blah blah blah.”

You already know excuses are bad because they keep you from getting things done, but that’s not the most dangerous thing about making excuses.

The most dangerous thing about excuses is that they prolong your fear.

The longer you stand at the bottom of the mountains of your life, looking up at them, the longer you’re going to live in fear.

The way to keep your fear under control is to stay in motion. Keep making decisions. Keep taking action.

And if you’ve been making excuses for too long and your fear feels too big to act upon… there’s an answer for that too.

Jump Without Looking

I remember the first time I jumped off the high dive as a little kid. I climbed up the ladder and walked slowly to the edge of the board and looked down. Big mistake! It looked so high. I froze up and felt like I couldn’t jump.

Eventually I walked back to the other end of the board and closed my eyes. I knew the fear was irrational. I knew if I jumped I would be fine.

So, before I could think any more about it, I turned and ran and jumped off the end of the board without looking.

I’ll never forget the feeling when I swam back up to the surface. I LOVED the high dive! Even though, just 20 seconds before, I was terrified of it. Now it was my favorite thing.

Sometimes it helps to jump without looking. It’s like a shortcut to taking action. You skip the anticipation and anxiety and get straight into whatever scares you. You don’t give yourself a chance to hesitate or make excuses or chicken out. Of course, taking action cures your fear.

It might sound silly, but I use this technique all the time.

When I write an email I’m a bit nervous about, I don’t edit it, even when I know it sounds silly or a little bit crazy, I just close my eyes and click SEND as fast as possible. My goal isn’t to avoid sounding silly, it’s to set something in motion instead of flinching and hesitating. No one cares if I sound silly anyway. Everyone I know is used to it by now. 🙂

I do this when I don’t really feel like doing my daily workout. I don’t wait to feel ready anymore. I just put on my workout clothes and start my timer, knowing that in 10 seconds, I’m going to be doing pushups no matter what.

When I don’t feel like going for a run because it’s cold and rainy, I don’t give myself a chance to think about it. I just put on my shoes and and step outside. My goal isn’t even to go for a run, it’s to put my shoes on and walk out into the rain. The run happens on its own.

I try to say the things I’m afraid to say before I have a chance to talk myself out of them. I put on the shoes and walk outside. I pick up the phone and dial it before I know what I want to say.

I do this, not because I’m fearless, but because I really don’t like feeling afraid. So, I try to be afraid for as short a time as possible by cutting down the anticipation time.

When you jump without looking, you don’t have time to be afraid.

What Are You Afraid Of?

I once asked you to list your fears. I told you it would change your life in two minutes; and that’s true.

Today, I invite you to look at your own life again. What are you hesitating on? What mountain are you afraid to climb? Where are you holding back?

What fear can you take out of the future and put in the past, where it belongs?

There’s something in everyone’s life. Some area where you’re making excuses and holding back. I’m not judging, because I’m the exact same way.

But we have to agree upon the truth, that most of our obstacles exist in our mind. And the only way past them, is through them.

So, pick one scary thing, and do it today. Before you have a chance to think.

No excuses!

Oh, and if you like this post, please share it.

April 2014: Write Every Day – Round 2

These experiments are like little sparks.

Sometimes they grow into a roaring fire.

Write Every Day

I’m writing this with a giant smile on my face, and it’s all because of a little book I’m reading.

One of my friends wrote it with his kids; and if that wasn’t adorable enough, it’s a really entertaining story full of fun twists and turns. It’s called “Li & Lu and the Secret of Kite Hill.”

But it isn’t just the story that put a smile on my face, it’s something bigger than that. You see, my friend Bradley was once a professional writer. Ten years ago, he was living his dream of being a writer and he published a book.

But then something happened. Bradley decided to do the “practical” thing and start a web design business instead. His business has been a success, and he’s built a great life for his family. But it was clear that his old dream of being a writer was still gnawing at him.

Back in November 2012, Bradley and I were talking at a cafe in San Francisco. We were talking about what it meant to be a writer, and he said something really fantastic.

He said, “a writer is someone who writes.”

So, I decided to host a monthly experiment of writing every day. A lot of you joined me and wrote every day that November. Bradley joined me too. I think we even shook on it, like we were making some kind of promise to follow through.

About a week into the experiment, I talked to Bradley and could immediately tell that something was different. He was almost giddy. He had so much energy. Ok, maybe he’s usually like that, but I could tell he was turning back into a writer. He said he felt like “a writing machine” … he was unstoppable. Literally.

My challenge to myself was to write for an hour a day for one month. It was fantastic. I felt like I became a better writer, more confident, and even a better thinker. But Bradley took it to another level. He published something every day for the whole month. Then he kept going, publishing something new for 100 days in a row. Then 200 and 300 and 400 and 500 days in a row. He’s got a list of all the things he’s published since he started his amazing streak, and it’s currently at 551 days in a row!

I think it’s fair to say that Bradley is a writer again. Even if it’s not his main business, he’s still living his dream. It’s a part of who he is.

Back in February, he decided to focus his writing habit toward writing a new book with his two sons acting as co-authors an illustrators…  

As of today, it’s only three chapters, but the boys are actually helping me write it and give me ideas for what might happen next. Two boys, their father, and their dog are just walking home from school when their ball rolls into a cave in a public park. We’ll see what happens.

But the absolute lightning bolt of joy came when my 7-year old, after I read chapter three aloud to them (as well as my visiting family) said, “Keep going. I want to know what happens next!”

And they did keep going. The book came out yesterday, 10 years to the day after his first book.

Sometimes people ask me why I do the Monthly Experiments Project. Stories like this are the answer!

Bradley went from wishing he was a writer to being one. He created an unstoppable habit and published a lot of great things and worked on a really fun creative project with his kids.

It all started with one month, and I’m doing it again this month, and you’re invited to join me.

Join The Challenge: Write Every Day

If you want to create a writing habit, you should join me in this challenge.

You can structure your own experiment however you want. 

You can write for a certain period of time per day, like an hour. Or aim for a certain number of words, or you can be like Bradley and actually publish something new every day. It doesn’t matter what goal you set for yourself. In fact, it’s better to start with an easy goal than a hard one.

You could write in a private journal if you want to, or work on a book, or a blog. It’s up to you.

My goal is to write for at least one hour per day. I don’t have to publish what I write. It doesn’t matter how many words it is, or what it’s about.

My goal is simply to strengthen my writing muscles and create a consistent habit.

This experiment is really about discipline, creativity, fear and courage, setting goals, and improving your habits. For me, this is about being a better version of myself. It might sound strange, but writing can do that if you let it.

This is about making sparks for 31 days, to see what catches fire.

I hope you decide to join me! Click here to tweet if you do.

Fear & Hope. Failure & Success.

The Most Amazing Boxer Ever

I met an amateur boxer at a party a few years ago. He seemed like a nice guy, quiet, maybe even a little shy. We were making small talk, and I started asking him about boxing.

“So… how many fights have you been in?”


“Wow, that seems like a lot! What’s your win-loss record?”

“Believe it or not, my record is 0 and 86.”

“Oh… you mean, you’re undefeated?”

“No. Just the opposite. I have 0 wins, and 86 losses.[Read more…]

A No Excuses Experiment Update. Plus, 3 Lessons Learned from my Excuses Journal

You might remember that I started a No Excuses experiment back in February. Well, it’s time for an update. Actually, it’s past time, but more on that in a minute.

Overall, the No Excuses experiment has been a success. I’ve definitely learned a lot about myself, and also gotten a lot done in the last month.

I want to share some of the lessons I learned, and also some of my most common excuses.

Part of the experiment involved keeping an “Excuses Journal.”

The Excuses Journal idea was pretty simple. Anytime I caught myself making an excuse (even if I just thought about making an excuse), I wrote it down, and wrote down what I was doing (or avoiding) at the time.

This was extremely helpful and eye-opening, and I wanted to share a bit about what I learned from my Excuses Journal.

At the beginning of the month, I had impulses to make a lot of excuses. As you’ll see, I didn’t let these excuses stop me from doing what I needed to do, but it was really interesting.

I’m going to share the first three days of my Excuses Journal, and some lessons learned. Forgive the harsh language (I swear a lot in my own head, and I’m still learning how to be nice to myself). 🙂 [Read more…]

The Odds Don’t Matter. The Score Does.

Even before the 1920 Olympic Games began, everyone knew that France was going to win the gold medal in rugby. They were the European champions and heavy favorites. Most other countries didn’t even bother sending a team, because it seemed pointless.

The United States scraped together a team and sent them anyway. The American team wasn’t made up of professional athletes though. They were amateurs, but they were strong, tough and athletic guys.

The French press called them “streetfighters and saloon brawlers.”

One of them was named John Muldoon, my great-grandfather. [Read more…]

February 2014: No Excuses!

Hey Monthly Experimenters!

Today is February 1st, and I’m really excited to announce a brand new experiment we’re going to be doing this month. I think it’s going to be one of our best experiments ever, and I hope you decide to join me. More on that in a minute.

You may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve written about my monthly experiments here. In fact, it’s been way too long! Since I last posted here, I have actually done a few experiments that I haven’t written about yet, and I’ll share them in the coming months. I’ve also been working on a few exciting side projects that I’ll share at some point.

In any case, not sharing my experiments here these last few months has made me feel lame. The truth is that I had to shift my priorities and take care of some things that were more important than this project. You could say that I had good reasons to spend my energy elsewhere, but I still don’t feel good about not following through on all the things I wanted to do.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had made a lot of plans and promises over the last few months that I simply didn’t live up to. For the first time in my life, I actually got into a habit of not following through on things. Instead, I let excuses and fear get in the way of doing the things I wanted to do. Pro-tip: don’t do that.

Of course, when you make excuses, you don’t get things done. It feels terrible to let yourself down, and to disappoint others. Excuses just hold you back. Honestly, I think that’s the worst habit I’ve ever gotten into.

So this month’s experiment is about changing that habit for good.

Our goal is to replace the habit of making excuses with the habit of taking action and following through. That’s a habit that leads to success and is essential in reaching your goals.

For a whole month, I’m not going to allow myself to make an excuse about anything at all.

No Excuses

My real goal for this experiment goes beyond doing something for just one month. I’m actually hoping to create a habit that will last long after the experiment is over. Whenever you want to change a habit, it helps to keep things as simple as possible.

So, here are the rules for this month’s experiment:

1. No excuses.

This rule is pretty simple. You’re not allowed to make excuses for a whole month. That means, if you plan to do something, you just do it. No matter what.

  • You’re not allowed to cancel lunch with a friend just because it’s raining.
  • You’re not allowed to skip your workout just because you’re tired.
  • You’re not allowed to cheat on your diet just because you’re really craving fast food.
  • You’re not allowed to miss a deadline because you get sick. (Unless it’s ebola or something.)
  • You’re not allowed to be “too busy” for the things you want to do.

You get the idea. It’s not a new concept. You’re already used to not making excuses about a lot of things in your life. You wouldn’t make excuses about driving drunk or punching old ladies or not paying your taxes. You just do what you’re supposed to do. This experiment is about expanding that habit to everything in your life and accelerating toward your goals.

2. Keep an “excuses journal.”

Living with no excuses for a month might sound like a great idea, but I also suspect it will be a tough challenge. We probably all make little excuses as we go about our days, and we might not even notice it.

One thing that is really helpful when changing your habits is to focus on increasing your awareness. If we start to notice our excuses more, we should be able to avoid giving in to them. So, I’m going to be keeping an informal “excuses journal” this month.

Anytime I catch myself making an excuse (even if I just think of making an excuse), I’m going to write it down, and write down what I was doing (or avoiding) at the time.

As an example, let’s say I plan to get some exercise on a given day, but 9pm rolls around and I still haven’t done my exercise. Maybe I’m feeling tired and I say to myself, “Ugh. I’m too tired to work out today. I’ll just do it tomorrow.” First, I’ll write that excuse down in my journal, AND then I’ll do my workout anyway.

The goal behind the journal is to increase your awareness, and start to recognize your habits and patterns so you can learn to avoid problems before they come up. I have no idea if the journal will help, but it seems like a cool idea, so I’m just going to roll with it. I’ll probably share some of my excuses and journal entries as the month goes on.

That’s it. Just two rules. No excuses for one month.

Want to join me?

What do you think about this experiment? Does it sound like something you’d benefit from?

Is there something in your life that you’ve been putting off or making excuses about? Some goal or task you want to accomplish that you could be making more progress on?

Whenever you give up your crutches, you get stronger. Anytime you cut something from your life (whether it’s sugar or coffee, negativity or excuses), you realize how big a role those thing play. At first, quitting something like this is jarring and uncomfortable. But if you push through that difficult phase, you can change your habits and “cure” yourself of those addictions. That makes you stronger and more independent.

I’m really excited to see what happens. I have a feeling it’s going to be one of the best experiments I’ve done for this project, right up with my Stop Working Late experiment that helped me stop being a workaholic.

If giving up ALL your excuses sounds too tough, you can always start by focusing on one area of your life at first. Maybe you want to stop making excuses about your work or your fitness or your relationships. It’s up to you. But I promise, if you join me and stick with it for a month, something good will happen.

I’ve got some posts and stories coming soon that I’m pretty excited about. So, stay tuned for that.

For now, if you want to join me, leave a comment below and let me know, or click here to tweet your commitment!

Let’s do this!

Lessons Learned From My 1-Month Juice Fast

Juice Fast Weight LossYou might remember that I did a 1 month juice fast back in February of 2012. It ended up being one of my most popular experiments, and also one of my least favorite.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it, and thought it was time I finally answered them.

Some of the answers might surprise you.

Why the hell did I do it?

This is the most common question I get from people who know me really well, and I suspect I did a juice fast for a really different reason than most people.

The idea of me doing a juice fast is crazy because I love food (and eat more) than just about anyone I know. I’ve been an athlete my whole life, and have always had an extremely fast metabolism. After a hard day of climbing, it’s not unheard of for me to wolf down two super burritos while my friends struggle to finish one.

“Second dinner” is a real thing in my house.

And in a way, my love of food is why I decided to do the juice fast: I thought it would be really really hard for me to do.

I had this idea that willpower was like a muscle, and I was frustrated that mine wasn’t stronger at times. I wanted to change that, and I figured if I could give up food for a month, any other challenge would seem tiny.

[Read more…]

The Time I Picked Up 2.1 Million Dollars

I took a breath as I walked through the glass door and into the lobby of the television network’s headquarters. I was 17 years old.

The girl at the reception desk was cute, and well dressed. I wasn’t. She smiled at me. I smiled back as I walked up to her. I had a spring in my step, but it wasn’t for her. I was on a mission.

“How can I help you?” she asked.

“I’m here to pick up a check,” I said, as casually as I could.

“OK. For…?” she started to ask.

“For TWO POINT ONE MILLION DOLLARS.” I blurted without thinking… too loudly and excitedly.

[Read more…]

How To Make Fate Happen

Something has been haunting me. I climbed a mountain a few weeks ago, and something happened that I haven’t been able to shake off.


In some parts of the world, when you get to the summit of a mountain, you’ll find a little metal canister wedged between the rocks.

Inside is something called a summit register. Usually it’s just a simple notepad and a cheap pen. Climbers who make it to the top will log the date, their name, where they’re from, and maybe include a drawing or a few thoughts.

I love to read what people write in the register. People turn into philosophers when they climb a mountain. The canister is like a present, filled with the wisdom of a hundred other adventurers. I can’t wait to open it.

[Read more…]