How to Make Big Decisions

how-to-choose

When I was a kid, I had a hard time making decisions of any sort. It’s the stuff of family lore, and I am regularly reminded of how often I’d come to tears over having to choose between chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Fourteen years as an entrepreneur has sharpened my decision-making abilities, but that doesn’t mean every choice is easy peasy lemon squeezy.

We all face the tough choices from time to time. The ones with no easy answer and no certain outcome.

How do I handle my suddenly rebellious teenager?

Which job offer should I accept?

Is it possible to make ends meet if I stay home with the kids? [Read more...]

What Your Busyness Really Says About You

glorification-of-busy

“If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: ‘Busy!’ ‘So busy.’ ‘Crazy busy.’ It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint.”
The ‘Busy’ Trap – NYTimes.com

Yes, yes, a million times yes.

As I’ve written before, taking the drug called busyness is an effective way to feel engaged in life. But although it’s easier to stay busy than to slow down and make hard decisions about what kind of story you really want to live, the end result is not very satisfying.

I love this post by Andrea Scher about her refreshing new mantra: I’m actually not that busy.

Warning: if you measure your level of importance and value by how busy you are, there’s a pretty good chance the story you’re living sucks.

And yes, this is a reminder to myself as much as anyone.

Work Is Not The Villain

key-lime-state-of-mind

Many people dream about winning the lottery so they can quit their soul-sucking job and go spend their days lying on a beach, sipping margaritas and soaking up rays.

Only one problem. [Read more...]

Shake it Up

Etch-A-Sketch-HOF

Andre Cassagnes, the dude who invented the Etch-a-Sketch, passed away last month at the age of 86. An electrical technician, Cassagnes came up with the idea in his garage when he peeled a translucent decal from a light switch plate and found pencil mark images transferred to the opposite face. Initially dubbed the Telecran, the toy was renamed L’Ecran Magique, or ‘The Magic Screen,’ and made its debut at a toy fair in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1959.

Funny thing about Etch-a-Sketches.

Using one is ridiculously easy. But making anything worthwhile with it is really, really hard. The cool thing about the Etch-a-Sketch is how easy it makes it to start over.

Which makes the Etch-a-Sketch a lot like life.

Living is pretty easy, thanks to the fact that your brain, heart and lungs put much of it on auto-pilot. Making your life into anything worthwhile, however, is hard. Harder than spending an hour on Facebook or watching a Golden Girls marathon. But God, the dude who invented life, also made it pretty easy to start over.

Each new day is an opportunity to start again. With a clean slate and a new optimism.

Sure, you may have messed up yesterday in grand, spectacular fashion. It may not have turned out the way you would have liked. Maybe you got lazy, lashed out, fell down or said something you regret.

That’s ok. Today is a new day, a chance to try again.

Shake it up.

You Should Have a Mid-Life Crisis Every Week

If it means reassessing your achievements in terms of your dreams and, if necessary, instigating a desire to make significant changes in core aspects of your day-to-day life or situation, then you should have one at least once a month.

It’s the best way to stay out of the ruts that lead to a story you never intended to live.

life-moves-prety-fast

The Art of Collecting

roadster

During childhood, we tend to collect two things: toys and memories.

When I was a kid, I collected toys like Star Wars action figures, baseball cards, and Nintendo games. But I also collected neat memories of building snow forts in the front yard, picking strawberries at my Grandma’s house, and weekend getaways to the Holidome (with its glorious indoor pool).

Toys can be sold on Ebay for cash money — sometimes a lot of it — but memories? Those are priceless.

Interestingly, it doesn’t change all that much when we get older; we’re still collecting toys and memories.

Our toys are more expensive now: custom-built homes, iPads, designer shoes, Kitchenaid mixers, big screen TVs, sports cars, etc. But the memories — the things like Pajama Runs, Barbarian Spaghetti dinners, and surprise weekend trips to an indoor waterpark — they’re still as priceless as ever.

Turns out that the happiest people in the world spend their money on memories rather than toys.

I am fascinated by a concept put forth by Laura Vanderkam in her book, All The Money In The World. Using the amount of money typically spent on fancy engagement rings and weddings, Laura calculates how many date nights, bouquets of flowers, and hours of babysitting and housecleaning that money could buy over several years. She argues that these things would create more long term happiness and serve a couple better than a big ring and wedding.

We can use our time and money to collect toys or memories. We can do a little of both, sure, but for best results, make sure you’re being intentional about it.

I’ll leave you with a great quote from Laura: “Life is basically one giant memory. Creating good ones is a good use of cash.”

Indeed.

Art: “Roadster” by Jason Kotecki.

Your Golden Ticket is Waiting

Bloop
I created this painting last year for the inaugural Escape Adulthood Summit. We used the metaphor of a fish escaping from a fishbowl as a theme. Every group’s table featured a real live goldfish as a centerpiece. And each team used things like noodles and egg cartons and glue to create a “vehicle” their fish could use to escape. The t-shirts everyone received were emblazoned with a depiction of the Bloop! graphic above. And after two days of laughing, thinking, playing, sharing, and eating yummy things, I presented each of the attendees with a print of this image.

It’s something I think we can all relate to. It certainly applied to our decision to even host the Summit in the first place. For too long, Kim and I assumed an event like that would happen years from now. When our kids were older. When we had a bigger tribe. When we had more money we could afford to lose. In order for the Escape Adulthood Summit to become a reality, we had to escape the confines of our preconceived notions and self-limiting beliefs. [Read more...]

Easy Bake Ovens (for Boys)

easy-bake-oven-for-boys
When I was a wee lad, I asked for a kitchen set for Christmas.

My Mom denied my request, informing me that kitchen sets were for girls.

My disappointment gave way to hope the following year, however. While engaging in my favorite late fall pastime — reading the Sears Christmas catalog that arrived by mail — I was overjoyed to see that within the very pages of that fine, authoritative publication was the kitchen set of my dreams…and it was shown being played with by a girl AND a boy. I rushed to show my mom the the incontrovertible evidence. [Read more...]

Freedom I Can Wear

i-am-dressed-upFor years, Jason has been teasing me about my wardrobe around the house. I am the Mismatch Queen. “Homeless” is how he puts it, and I laugh — we both do. I DO HAVE matching comfy clothes. My mother-in-law faithfully supplies her three daughter-in-laws with cute new pj’s every Christmas Eve. (Thanks, Linda!)

And yet, when I enter my closet to “get cozy” (as Lucy puts it), I walk away looking like I am colorblind.

Why? I’m not sure.

But, I’ve come to the conclusion recently that “why” is the wrong question. [Read more...]

Lesson for Building Snow Forts (and Other Things)

snowfort-kotecki
I loved building snow forts when I was a kid. For those of us who grew up in climates with frosty winters, it was a classic childhood pastime.

After a big snowfall, it was it was easy to start visioning what sort of fort you would build. Your imagination kicking into high gear, you’d think about building two levels, with windows — and turrets! — along with a few secret passageways and, of course, extra thick walls to protect against enemy snowball attacks.

Here’s the thing: no matter how grandiose your plans, you always start out with a plain, untouched pile of snow. And if you caught sight of the neighbor kids’ fort — the ones who got started a few hours ahead of you — it might be easy to get a little jealous. I mean, they have a freaking moat. And is that a snowball CATAPULT? [Read more...]

Set Up a Life You Don’t Need to Escape From

Quotation by Seth Godin.

I don’t covet vacation days. I don’t work for the weekend. I don’t need alcohol to alter my reality.

I can’t imagine ever retiring. I have the best job ever, how could I ever retire from doing it?

I have a life I don’t need to escape from.

Of course, setting it up took a long time. Nine years, to be exact.

That’s how long it took after Kim and I got married to build this business to a point where we could support ourselves, buy a home, have kids, and say no to most of the work we didn’t want to do. Nine years of trial and error, amassing debt, and watching my younger brothers build houses and start families while we sweated it out in a crappy apartment with no air conditioning and a monthly grocery budget of about $100 a month.

How did we do it?

We just decided.

A long time ago, we decided that we were going to do whatever it took to create a life we didn’t need to escape from. There was no backup plan. We had faith that God didn’t put us on this earth to bury our talents in a job that sucked the soul out of us.

Once you decide, the rest is easy, because no matter what obstacle presents itself, you’ve limited your options to just two: give up or keep going.

Once you’ve decided, the choice is clear.

The Seasons of Life and a Stress-Reducing Secret

I became a father a little over four years ago. Before that, my wife and I had been married for eight years and worked together on our small business. We were used to working long days, coming and going as we pleased, and eating out at nice, quiet restaurants. We used to have a Cheerio-free backseat in our car. But now we have two kids, which practically makes me an expert at parenting.

An expert at knowing how little I actually know about it, that is. [Read more...]

Is Your Best Behind You?

“Peaked” by Jason Kotecki. Made on an iPad.

I don’t get people who say that high school was the best time of their life. Sure, high school had some great moments, but I could have done without the zits, the awkwardness, and the over-dramatization of trivial things. I just find it sad to hear people say the prime of their life ended when they were 18 years old.

Don’t get me wrong; I often reflect on the “glory days” of my past: playing second base for the varsity team in high school, the comaraderie of taking shop with fellow art majors in college, and the sweet, sweet freedom of the pre-kid days of marriage.

But those glowing memories are revisionist history. [Read more...]

7 Foolproof Ways to Feel Less Alive

Dear friend,

Do you ever suffer from that dreaded emotion of feeling alive? Are you always complaining about that spring in your step, the annoying perception of joy in your heart, or the gnawing sense that you’ve found your purpose in life?

If you ask me, no one should have to live that way, and it’s my mission in life to prevent these sorts of unfortunate conditions. Naturally, there are a host of things that will try and trip you up. Without even realizing it, you can find yourself feeling alive at no fault of your own. Here is a list — by no means is it exhaustive — of certain things you’ll want to steer clear of: smiling babies, as well as all puppies, bunnies and kittens, circuses, water parks, dolphin shows and magic shows, oversized stuffed animals, silly string, bean bag chairs, helium-filled balloons, and of course, Pop Rocks.

Besides all that, here some very effective techniques for turning your situation around: [Read more...]

It’s Time To Dream Bigger


It’s Time to Dream Bigger by Jason Kotecki. Made with Photoshop.

When we were young, we had no trouble dreaming big. There was no other way to dream. We dreamed big, often, and with reckless abandon.

But somewhere along the way, our heart got broken. A dream didn’t come true and it hurt like hell. [Read more...]

You’re Never Too Old


If you’re still breathing, there’s still story to be told.

Might as well make it a good one.

The Sellout


When you make the amazingly courageous decision to improve yourself, to say yes to bigger and better things for your life, you WILL encounter haters. They may even be people you consider friends.

Consider it a sign that you’re on the right track.

Keep going.

The Sellout by Jason Kotecki. Made with iPad.

Nothing Beats an Original

Have you ever noticed that you can always tell whether a child’s drawing was actually drawn by a child or an adult? Advertisements, signage, or product packaging will sometimes convey a childlike quality by including some elements supposedly drawn by a child. Much of the time, the drawing is done by a grown-up mimicking a child’s drawing. And you can tell it’s a fake.

Why is that? [Read more...]

It’s Time to Opt-Out

When you buy something online, during the checkout process, there is almost always a checkbox with an invitation to receive promotional emails of some sort. Sometimes you have to check the box to get the emails. Other sites have pre-checked the box for you, automatically assuming that you want their stuff. If you don’t, you physically have to uncheck the box — or opt-out — yourself.

If you’re not paying attention, you could end up getting a bunch of stuff you didn’t really want.

Too many people live life with their checkboxes pre-checked. [Read more...]

Intentional Magic

You know how they say you always receive more when you give? Well, I’ve seen this proven once again in my life and I feel über blessed. The first Escape Adulthood Summit has come and gone, and as I reflect on all of the preparation and the outcome, I cannot help but see two words rise above as my “lesson learned.”

Intentional. Magic. [Read more...]

You Can’t Have it All. So Choose What You Want Wisely.

Does the more time you spend with your family lessen the impact you can have through your career?

Since becoming a father, that is a question I have struggled mightily with. [Read more...]

Savoring Details (And a Reminder from Ferris Bueller)

One of Kim’s favorite words is “savor.” The dictionary defines the verb this way: “to have experience of, to taste or smell with pleasure, or to delight in.” [Read more...]

Las Vegas: A Reflection of the Adultitis Within Us

Las Vegas is stunning in its grandiosity, clever in its marketing, and is awash in über talented people and beautiful design.

Las Vegas is also a loud, bold, and damning example of how far we’ve come from the childlike hallmark of delighting in the little things. [Read more...]

What We Can All Learn from Comic-Con

Although it was my first time at Comic-Con, I’d been to San Diego several times. Apparently, my reputation preceded me.

I just returned from The Nerdpocolypse, aka Comic-Con, the world’s largest convention celebrating the popular arts. It is massive: 125,000 people completely take over San Diego, where it often takes you ten minutes to walk ten feet. [Read more...]