Breckenridge Whiskey Barrels: Wallpaper Background

Breckenridge, Colorado is one of the best towns in Colorado.

It’s beautiful. It’s full of great things to do. It has a bunch of excellent food and drink spots. And, arguably, it’s home to one of the best bourbon distilleries in America.

I grew up not far from Breckenridge, and used to go up many times during the winters in order to snowboard. Nowadays I usually visit Breck with my family during the summer. And I’ve been hosting a small mastermind retreat there for the past 3 years in a row.

Earlier this summer as some friends and I were touring the Breck Distillery I snapped this photo of some of the stacked, aging barrels. It’s been my iPhone’s Home screen wallpaper for a while, and I wanted to share it for you to use if you’d like.

Download the full version directly here and save it to use as a device wallpaper on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone. Cheers!

Breckenridge Whiskey Barrels: Wallpaper Background

Start Your New Year’s Goals Now

The New Year is both a great and a terrible time to try and start a new habit.

It’s great because there are times and seasons during the year that are more conducive to starting something new. Spring and fall tend to be times when we take on new projects and goals. And, of course, the New Year also has its own momentum for starting fresh that we’ve even built into our culture.

But…

How many New Year’s resolutions have you started that just didn’t stick?

The reason New Year can be a terrible time to start a new habit is because so many of us overcommit.

Why Most New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Last

Many folks’ New Year’s ResolutionS involve too much change all at once.

The problem with too much change too fast is that it’s very difficult to sustain.

When you start on a new habit or routine, it takes a certain amount of activation energy to get going and build momentum. And, the greater the change, the greater the activation energy required to implement that change.

For example: It takes much less energy to go on a 5-minute walk each day at lunchtime than it does to go on a 60-minute run every morning before work.

Keeping things simple was how I was able to recently complete 365 days in a row of perfect activity on my Apple Watch. For the whole year my main focus was to make sure I did a 15-minute workout every day. Just 15 minutes every day. That was it. And everything else pretty much took care of itself.

What Change Do You Want to Make in 2020?

As you consider the New Year, what new routine or lifestyle change do you want to make? Or what routine do you want to build upon?

Start by doing this:

Implement the easiest, and most simple version of that change now.

For example:

  • In 2020 if you want to build a writing habit, then start now by writing for 20 minutes one day a week.

  • If you want to begin exercising, then start now by doing a 30-minute workout once a week.

  • If you want to begin eating healthier, than begin now by making one simple, positive change to your diet.

  • If you want to learn a new skill, then start now by reading one chapter in a book, one day per week.

Consider it a head start on your New Year’s goals.

By startIng small now then it will help you build momentum and confidence heading into the New Year.

And then, as you start the New Year, you won’t be starting your new goals from scratch! You will already have a few months worth of momentum and experience that will give you a huge advantage so you can continue that momentum on into 2020.

Start Your New Year’s Goals Now

One Question for Barrett Brooks: How Can I Be More Creative?

Barrett Brooks is the COO of ConvertKit. He writes fantastic articles about leadership on his website, and he’s on the Twitter.

I was in Portland having breakfast with Barrett, and I asked his advice to someone who is interested in improving their creative routine in life. Below is his answer (that yes, totally recorded and transcribed).

Barrett’s Advice to Improve Your Creative Routine

Exercise every day.

I’ve been tracking with a lot of folks who are creative people and they’re in the technology space, or in startups, and I hear so much about how anxious they are or that they’re feeling depression. Just mental health challenges.

And I can’t help but wonder how many of these people are exercising every day? How many are moving their body every day?

So I think about removing the things that are making daily withdraws from our creative energy, and doing things to replenish that creative energy instead.

That’s why I encourage people to get into an exercise routine. It doesn’t mean You have to go to the gym and hiring a trainer. It can be as simple as just going to play outside for an hour. But it’s important to do those things that will give space to think and replenish your creative energy.

Because it can be so easy to get into a pattern of check Twitter, do some work, talk on Slack, do this, do that, do that… And there is so much stuff going on that there is no space to be crative.

For example. The other night I was thinking about an article I just published: “Am I enough?

I knew the title of the article. But I was agitated. Because, though I somewhat knew the direction I wanted to write, I just needed enough space to think about what was it that I want to say in this article and how do I want to say it?

And I think in the end, I really did capture it. But to get over my mental hurdle I had to just stop for a minute. I had to step away from it in order to get the space I needed to think clearly about what it was I wanted to say.


Barrett’s advice reminds me of something I once heard that we often over-emphasize the importance of exercise for our physical health, and under-emphasize the importance of exercise for our mental health.

One Question for Barrett Brooks: How Can I Be More Creative?

Photos and Takeaways From Atlanta’s Focus Course LIVE

A couple weeks ago I was in Atlanta for one of our live, public training workshops for The Focus Course.

Here are a couple of photos I snapped during the week.

The name badges, set out ahead of time.

Artsy photo of the venue, taken from outside the front door.

What it looked like for me to be reviewing my notes in my hotel room the evening beforehand.

My view from the front of the room.


One of the big, overarching pillars of the Focus Course LIVE is this:

To help folks (1) get clear on the vision they have for their work and life, and then (2) create the space they need in order to walk that out every day in the small things.

In short, the aim is to begin building habits that manifest the vision and values of your life.

Like this:

What is an important value in your life?

What would it look like for you to build it into your every-day life?

Here are some examples of aligning values with regular actions in your time and energy:

Generosity: Incorporate charitable giving as part of your monthly budget.

Creativity: set aside time each day to write / take photos / draw / etc.

Health: Adjust your diet; have an evening shutdown routine for better sleep.

Relationships: Schedule and protect intentional time with the most important people in your life.

Building habits around your values is a profound way to radically change your life.

It will help you to constantly focus on doing the actions that matter and that will lead you to the outcomes you want.

. . . .

All that said, our Atlanta workshop was so much fun!

It is such a joy and honor for me to walk people through this process. I absolutely love it!

And my team did great! Isaac and Joanna handled all the event details and logistics and have helped develop an event brand that is classy, warm, and full of the little details. Plus, our senior editor, Jeff Abbott, was able to come join us as well!

Isaac, Joanna, myself, and Jeff.


Our next Focus Course LIVE workshop will be in the Spring of 2020 here in Kansas City. I’ll share more once the dates are landed.

Photos and Takeaways From Atlanta’s Focus Course LIVE

I’m Blogging Daily During November

Here in the United States, November is known for three things:

  1. Thanksgiving
  2. Not shaving
  3. Writing a novel

Starting today — Friday, November 1 — I’ll be writing and publishing something every day for the whole month of November.

Though, instead of writing a novel in a month, I will be simply be focused on publishing something — anything — every single day. From photos, links to interesting things, articles, reviews, etc.

And apparently this is a thing.

I’ve already heard from several other readers who will be writing and creating daily this month as well. Which is awesome! And my friends CJ and Om are also both doing the same thing.

I’m Blogging Daily During November

A Small Observation About the iPad and Note Taking

A couple weeks ago I hosted my third annual Breckenridge mastermind retreat.

And I noticed something was different this year compared to the previous years: The most common note-taking tool was an iPad (with GoodNotes).

There were 11 of us there. And of the group:

  • 6 were using an iPad.
  • 2 used Macs.
  • 2 had a pen and notebook.
  • And one odd bird did not take notes at all (that I noticed).

Of the 6 on an iPad, only one had a 3rd-party keyboard (Brydge). The rest of us were using GoodNotes and an Apple Pencil.

A Small Observation About the iPad and Note Taking

Dam Foggy

Bull Shoals Dam

Over the summer, some friends and I went to Bull Shoals for camping and spearfishing.

After our first day there I noticed that in the early mornings and in the evenings the river would get a huge blanket of fog. So I spent part of my afternoon scouting out some spots that I wanted to shoot from. And then, once the evening fog rolled in, I would be prepared — knowing exactly where I wanted to be and what shots I wanted to get.

Here are a few of those foggy dam shots. I have some other shots of the river bank that I’ll post later.

Bull Shoals Dam

Bull Shoals Dam

Bull Shoals Dam

Shot with the Leica Q and edited in VSCO on my iPad Pro.

Dam Foggy

Here’s How I Hold on to Margin

First off, thanks so much to all the kind and positive replies to my story from Friday about the tumor they found in my wife’s eye.

It was not easy for me to write that story. But I wanted to share it because it hits on a deeper topic that I think is so important and timely right now.

As I wrote, the thing about Margin is that you can’t go get some in the moment when you need it. Because when you need it, you need it right away.

You either have the margin you need, or you don’t.

. . . .

The story I shared on Friday was a difficult example of how margin helped my wife and I make it through an extremely challenging time without being left completely broken in the end.

Today I want to share a few other examples of what it looks like for me to prioritize living with Margin in my life.

Time to read

The average American watches 5 hours of TV every day! Five hours! As much as I love Downton Abbey, I get more rejuvenation from a book. And so I choose to spend time reading each day. (And yes, I definitely do binge watch a show from time time time.)

Time to exercise

I also prioritize my physical health. It rarely ever feels convenient to do a workout, but that hasn’t stopped me from working out every single day for over 300 days in a row now. I make the time for it because working out does more than just give my energy. It also helps me think more clearly during the day.

Financial Breathing Room

With finances, I living well beneath my means. I have a healthy emergency fund in place for my both my family as well as my business. It’s enough to keep us afloat for several months in case all income were to completely get cut off.

Less frustrated at my kids (hashtag the struggle is real)

My wife and I have three boys. They are 2, 5, and 7 years old. And they are exploding with energy and fart jokes (and real farts, too).

Our evenings of dinner time and bedtime are crazy! And it used to be that I would regularly find myself frustrated and short with my kids.

But a year ago, I noticed a lot of my frustration was beginning to dissipate.

In the spring of last year I chose to try an experiment by cutting back on my hours and responsibility at work. I gave up little bits of control over certain projects, and setting boundaries around how much I would work each day. Then, I filled that time with a focus on my physical and spiritual health.

After I had reclaimed margin at work and in my physical health, I discovered that I had also been able to calm down emotionally as well.

I wasn’t so on edge in the evenings. I had more patience. I could be more present in the moment, and honestly just enjoy my boys for who they are.

. . . . .

If you are at your limit, then you have no margin. You have nothing left to draw on in your times of need or overwhelm.

Margin is a choice.

And I choose a life WITH margin.

At times it’s not easy.

Which is why many folks feel that they just can’t do it.

Perhaps you see margin as a luxury you can’t afford.

You are counting yourself out…

…saying that you don’t have the margin you need in the first place in order to get the margin you need.

Not true.

And that’s what The Margin Course is all about.

You CAN restore breathing room to an overwhelmed and busy life, even when you don’t have the time.


If you want to get access to everything I have about Margin, you need to act soon.

Tomorrow — Monday, August 5th — is the last day to sign up before we close registration.

thefocuscourse.com/margin

Here’s How I Hold on to Margin

The Tumor

They found a tumor in my wife’s eye.

Earlier this year she went in for an eye exam to see if she could get Lasik. The doctor did a double take and asked if anyone had ever told her she had a freckle or something in her eye.

48 hours later my wife was at a retina specialist where they told her they found a tumor in her right eye.

She called me immediately after the appointment. She was surprisingly calm.

I was at home with our 3 boys. My 7-year-old was in the kitchen with as his mom relayed the news to me. I scooped him up, and we sat together. I just held him. Crying.

He didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t know why I was sad.

There was a possibility that the tumor could be harmless. But the doctor had said it didn’t look benign.

I was weak. I felt as if everything around me was suddenly made of dust — slipping out, slipping away, completely outside of my grasp and control.

My son and I said a short prayer for mommy’s eye. Asking God to make it better.

. . . . .

When they find a malignant tumor in your eye it usually means that it’s already too late. It usually means there is stage 4 cancer somewhere else in your body. A malignant tumor in the eye is usually a “secondary” cancer, showing up from something that has already spread.

However, it was difficult for them to know for sure merely by taking pictures of my wife’s eye. And they don’t like to biopsy a tumor that’s in your eye because of the huge likelihood of losing vision in that eye.

So they ran a dozen tests on my wife to try and find out if there was cancer anywhere else in her body.

Over the next 8 weeks, Anna and I spent a lot of time at hospitals, labs, and doctor’s offices. In 2019 we had our first visit to a cancer center.

Through all of it, my wife was so calm. Physically, she felt fine; strong. She was confident that her body was healthy. She knew that everything would be okay.

I, however, was a complete wreck. I went with Anna to every appointment; I couldn’t bear to be away from her.

I’d bring my iPad with me to the waiting rooms, hoping to get some work done while Anna had radioactive sugar water injected into her veins. But I rarely got any work done.

Most of the time I would just sit there. Mindlessly watching the people activity around me as I thought about how much I loved my wife. How much her boys and I cherished her.

There were times when I’d be driving down the road and a fleeting, tragic thought would pass through my mind. It would completely overwhelm me. Tears would flood my eyes and I’d have to pull over because I couldn’t see the road to drive.

Over the course of those 8 weeks, each test they did helped to fill in a piece of the puzzle. The CT scan. The PET scan. MRIs. Blood work…

And test by test, they slowly began removing possibilities of different cancers. There was no lung cancer. No breast cancer. No liver or thyroid cancer.

Finally, on a late Friday afternoon we got a call from our oncologist’s office.

They called to cancel our Monday appointment…

There was no need to see us on Monday because the results had come back from the last test, and there was nothing to be found.

No cancer!

Thank God.

The tumor in my wife’s eye was diagnosed as vascular and benign. A few months ago they did a cold laser treatment to cut off its blood supply and now all is looking well.


Those few months were perhaps the most difficult, challenging, and stressful of my entire life.

Fortunately, we had the margin we needed to make it through.

Financially, we were able to pay for all the medical costs of the tests and labs.

Our schedules were able to accommodate the massive interruptions without causing any damage to my business or our other responsibilities.

We had friends, family, and co-workers who were able to help us, listen to us, and be there for us as we navigated the unknown.

My wife and I both have a daily routine of exercise that helped us stay active. This was especially important for me, as I tend to get lethargic in the midst of intense stress.

These areas of margin gave us the capacity we desperately needed in order to make it through unbroken.

. . . . .

To be candid, this was not an easy story for me to write and share.

But you’ve seen this video, then you know just how important Margin is and how deeply personal and real this topic is for me.

In a couple days I’ll share another side to the story.

Because here’s the thing about Margin…

…You can’t go get some in the moment when you need it.

…When you need it, you need it right away.

…You either have the margin you need, or you don’t.

It’s why we built this brand-new course on Margin. Registration is still open until Monday. You can sign up here, and I hope you will.

The Tumor

On Margin

Over the years, I have gone in and out of so many seasons where I felt on the edge of burnout. Frustrated at home. Creatively dry at work. Freaked out about money. Etc.

Sometimes I’ll realize that I’ve unintentionally allowed myself to develop habits that pull me away from a life with margin. From things such as letting my spending slip beyond what is budgeted; to checking Twitter and email during any spare moment; or sacrificing my workout routine in order to work longer hours during the day.

I even have a disposition of taking on too many responsibilities, and then finding myself stretched thin. Something I talk about in the video at the end of this email.

To be blunt: A life without margin sucks.

Literally.

It will suck the air right out of your life.

When my life is low on margin, I can feel it.

I get anxious.

There is a heavy burden that I can’t put my finger on.

I will wake up feeling an urgency to do something and keep busy yet I don’t have a clear aim… I’ll feel afraid, frustrated, nervous, and I don’t know why.

I have spent years figuring out solutions to the challenges we all face related to focus, time management, and margin.

As I’ve examined my own habits, I have worked hard to create a lifestyle that is conducive to living with margin on a consistent basis.

It definitely fluctuates. But.. that’s the point.

Margin is what allows that fluctuation in the areas of our lives. That’s literally what breathing is.


Registration for The Margin Course is now open!

What you will discover in The Margin Course are the same tactics, ideas, and mindsets that have allowed me keep breathing room in my work life and personal life.

These are the things that have helped me recognize when I am lacking margin as well as the tactics I employ in order to regain it.

I cannot wait for you to begin.

On Margin

Behind The Scenes: Filming The Margin Course

Here are a couple of shots from the studio. These were taken about 3 weeks ago while filming the upcoming Margin Course that comes out this upcoming Tuesday the 30th.

We recorded all 19 videos for the course in a day and a half! I use a teleprompter app on my iPad to help keep me on track with the main talking points. Otherwise I will ramble and ramble.

If you look carefully in the second photo, you can see that my right foot is on a box. I’ve got an Apple Bluetooth keyboard there, and I use my big toe on the space bar to stop / start the teleprompter as I pace through the videos.

It’s July. So I’m wearing shorts (though you wouldn’t know that by watching the finished videos).

Here’s a screenshot from one of the final videos. That stack of books to the left of the frame, on top of the white bookshelf? Those are the main books we used as references when building the course. Can you guess what they are?

Behind The Scenes: Filming The Margin Course

View From the Top of Nashville

A few weeks ago I was in Nashville for about 24 hours to briefly visit an old friend and connect with a new one.

We had dinner at Bourbon Steak. A restaurant that sits on top of the JW Marriott in downtown Nashville.

Despite the name, the bourbon selection was unexpectedly average. But no matter! The steak was fantastic, and the view from the top of the city was incredible.

Shot with the Leica Q and edited in Lightroom an my iPad Pro.

View From the Top of Nashville

How to Restore Margin

Margin is the space between our load and our limit.

It’s the breathing room between that which we are capable of and that which we are responsible for.

In short, it looks like this:

Your total capacity, in any area of life, is the combination of your total load plus your total margin.

If you have no margin in an area of your life, then you are at your max and operating at capacity. Which is bad news bears and a recipe for burnout.

Looking at the drawing, you can see that in order to increase the Margin in your life — the space between the top and the bottom — there are only two options:

  1. Increase your limit.
  2. Decrease your load.

Increasing your limit means expanding what you are capable of. Decreasing your load means reducing what you are responsible for.

If you do nothing then your margin will slowly fade away. Why? Because that’s how life works.

If you do nothing then over time your load will naturally expand and your limit will naturally diminish. Thus, eating up your margin.

And so, in order to restore and maintain your margin, you can focus on increasing your limit or decreasing your load. Or! Both!

It looks like this:

As you can see, there are a few ways you can increase your limit as well as decrease your load. Both of which improve your margin.

You’ll probably want to use different approaches for different areas of margin you are trying to increase.

For example, if you want to restore some financial margin through increasing your limit, you need to earn more money. That will increase your spending power, and, boom, you’ll have more financial margin. (Unless, of course, you take on more financial responsibilities at the same time… a.k.a. golden handcuffs.)

Or, if you want to restore physical margin through increasing your limit, you simply need to do things that will give you more physical energy. Such as exercise, eating smart, staying hydrated, and consistently getting a full night sleep.

And did you know that you can increase your creative limit through focus and deep work? Yep! By having regular times of focused work — being in the “zone” —then you will increase your mental capacity and strength.


You have five areas of margin that matter in your life.

We all do. They are:

  • Physical
  • Time
  • Financial
  • Emotional
  • Mental

Only one of them has a hard and unmovable limit in terms of our ability being to increase it. Do you know which one?

. . . . . .

Your time.

You will never be able to increase the amount of time you have available to you in the day. It’s a hard limit of 24 hours.

But good news! You can also restore margin to your life by decreasing your load. Reduce the things you are responsible for and you will be able to get back some margin.

Make more time in your schedule by saying no to certain tasks and responsibilities. Then, use that reclaimed time on other things that matter more to you. Which may include sleep and rest.

You can also reclaim time in your schedule by improving your focus and productivity. If a task takes you twice as long as it should because your not focused, then get your act together and overcome those distractions and diversions.

Financially, just about everyone knows that you can reclaim margin by cutting back on spending. Eliminate an expense and right away you have a more money in your pocket!

I love what Herbert Simon said: A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

You can restore emotional and mental margin by cutting back on novel stimuli. (Something we unpack quite a bit within the Margin Course.)

Stop cramming in more stuff. Let your life have breathing room.

Over the decades, we have gotten ever more productive at doing work. What used to take 40 hours, now can be done in 10 or 20. And so we piled on more work to our 40-hour week. And then we were able to compress that into less time. And so we added more.

These days it feels as if we are cramming 80 hours worth of work into a 50-hour week. Why? What’s the rush?

This is something Cal Newport and I discussed in a conversation about the three waves of productivity.

Productivity over the years has gone from a focus on efficiency, to a focus on intentionality, to, now, a focus on meaning.

These three waves serve one another. You need all three to get the true benefits. But it’s not until you get to the third wave that you start to see all the benefits. Where you’re able to be efficient with your time, intentional with what you are focusing on, and then clear about what your values are.

But you will never get there without margin.

Without any breathing room, you’ll be stuck fighting for efficiency. With little to no breathing room to focus on what truly matters.

And this is the sad irony. For many folks, their pursuit of meaningful work and a meaningful life is what led them to sacrifice margin in the first place.

Which means you must value breathing room in your life so you can embrace it, and use it to your advantage…

As I said earlier, to fight for margin is to fight for your values.


By the way…

The Margin Course launches soon! On Tuesday, July 30.

You’ll get access to 19, on-demand video lessons that share everything you need to know about why Margin matters so much, how you can reclaim it in your life, and how you can keep it (because that’s the real struggle, tbh).

As we get closer to the course launch, I’ll be publishing more info about what exactly is in the course.

There will also be be a very limited, first-come-first-served Margin Mastermind group. The Mastermind will be led by me and my team and will include three digital-live coaching calls with discussions, Q&A, and group accountability for a 5-day Margin Reset that we’ve set up. (If you already know you’re going to want to sign up for the Margin Mastermind group, send me a DM on Twitter. That will help me gauge the interest and I’ll be sure to let you know first when registration opens up.)

How to Restore Margin

In order to restore and maintain margin in your life, you’ll have to become comfortable with making trade-offs.

As I’ll talk more about tomorrow, there is a sad irony to many people’s lack of margin. You see, for many folks, their pursuit of meaningful work and a meaningful life is what has prompted them to sacrifice margin in the first place. And yet margin is the thing needed in order for us to live out our values.

Margin and Trade-Offs