Anyone who’s attempted the impossible, or even the improbable, has most likely been confronted with a healthy dose of skepticism. Maybe from the media, from rivals, acquaintances, but possibly from those more personal like family, friends, or mentors. Whoever wielded it, and however it was wielded, there’s no denying that when already attempting a difficult challenge, deep-seated skepticism can cause even the most confident to experience a shiver of doubt.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a raw-raw speech. I don’t even know what you’re about to take on, who the hell am I to tell you you’ll be fine? I have no idea. No, instead what I offer is a small window into the mind of someone telling you, you can’t.

Every human is unique. Not just to the extent that we come from different parts of the world, speak different languages, and raised with different values. But even two kids who grew up as best friends on the same block their entire lives are still going to be completely different. They’ll be different because they see and analyze things in their own way, and take a different lesson out of the same experience. Leo Tolstoy once said that two people are ensured to never see the same thing in the same way. This diversity has benefitted our species greatly. It’s what drives ideas and innovation.

But the other side of the coin rests on our complete inability to see ourselves through the lens of another human. It’s impossible. I wasn’t there to experience what you did when your grandfather died. I didn’t feel what you felt when you got accepted to that university. I don’t know exactly what it felt like to have your heart broken by your first love. These experiences, plus literally thousands of others have shaped the person you are, creating thousands of slight deviations from even your closest friend. And in turn they’ve been doing the same, living in a way that has created thousands of little lessons and deviations from you. So if two best friends who grew up on the same block spending most of their free time together have such different outlooks on life, can you imagine what a person 5 years older than you, who grew up on the other hemisphere thinks? No, you can’t.

It is for this reason, that when someone says you’re one in a million, they’ve underestimated you by about 7.4 billion. For better or worse, you’re about as unique as the DNA that courses through you. While we all may share 99% of our DNA, that remaining 1% ensures that none of us see and process the same event in the same way.

So how the hell, with this much variation, could someone possibly question your ability to complete a challenge? They can’t. All that person is capable of doing, the only thing their DNA is good for, is internalizing that which you are attempting, and making a quick assessment as to their chances of completing it. Once they have decided it’s impossible for them, they’ve decided it must be impossible for you too. But don’t be mad, it’s not their fault, and most likely you’ve been guilty of the same type of judgement many times as well.

Once I realized this was what was going on with the skeptics in my life, I realized and memorialized one very simple fact. Confidence doesn’t come from believing you can do something, it actually comes from not taking into consideration those who say you can’t. In other words, imagine a world in which everything you attempted had no precedent. Imagine you never knew how hard something was until you completed it.

So ignore those who believe its impossible for them, gain your confidence, attempt the “impossible” and succeed or fail. In the end it really doesn’t matter to me, hell I’ve got my own shit people tell me I can’t do, and it takes most of my energy to shut them out.


We are tasked with making thousands of decisions a day. That’s right, I said thousands. They may not seem like decisions, but the subtle decision to stay here and finish this paragraph, or get up, walk to the next room and use the bathroom has been one that I’ve had to answer in the back of my mind at least 4 times since writing this lesson. It doesn’t seem like a decision because you hardly know you’re making it. I need to pee, but it isn’t that bad, and I’m afraid I’ll lose my train of thought if I get up now, so, I keep writing.

Other decisions might occupy a little more of the forefront of your mind – do I cook tonight or pick something up on my way home? Are we going to watch a new movie tonight or reruns of The Office? And still, other decisions require your full attention – Do I stay another year training for the Olympics, or move home and start a career? Do we send our kids to private school or public? Do we continue with couples counseling or call it quits?

Decisions big and small, seemingly trivial, or potentially life-changing are being made all day, every day, by everyone. So if I have trouble deciding what to wear each morning, how am I capable of making thousands of decisions, big and small each day, without going crazy? Over time, your mind creates shortcuts for processing information, and it treats making decisions no differently. Our team physician and nutritionist, Dr. Ryan Lazarus would be talking about neuroplasticity and synapsis to describe these decision short-cuts, but for application sake it boils down to two words: Suffering and Sacrifice.

Every time you are making a decision, no matter the importance, you consciously or subconsciously weigh, how much you will suffer and what you will have to sacrifice. For small, seemingly insignificant decisions, weighing these two variables is done subconsciously, but as the decision becomes more critical, the consideration of suffering and sacrifice becomes more apparent. And what is the measurement of each of these variables? For each individual there is an amount of suffering and sacrifice that we are willing to endure to pursue what is important or interesting to us. But once one or both of those variables crosses the threshold which we are no longer willing to endure, then it is time to quit, or to pivot to a new goal. The complicated part of all this is that thresholds for suffering and sacrifice are different depending on the parson – and even within an individual – are constantly changing based on what’s going on with the rest of your life. Below is an example.

Let’s say that I am actively recruiting you for my next trans-ocean rowing race, and you are deciding whether to accept the invitation to the team or not. Assuming, for the sake of this example, you are not an ocean rower, the first thing you begin to consider is the suffering. Your suffering to both train for, and complete this adventure will be immense. Even if you are a great athlete, because you’ve never trained or crossed an ocean, you will have to change your normal training routine to something unfamiliar. You will be sore. You will get in the boat for training trips and get beat up, your hands will be blistered, and your body riddled with salt sores. You’ll make rookie mistakes, no matter how much I teach you, and you will come out of those training sessions beat up and in lots of pain. This will inevitably lead to emotional suffering as a result. You will second guess yourself, and have large bouts of insecurity. You’ll be scared of the ocean, the weather, and all the elements that come from taking weeks to cross a large body of water. You’ll endure sleepless nights of wondering if you have what it takes. All of the above falls under suffering.

In contrast, my suffering will be far less. I’m trained for this type of race, and have the experience to give me confidence. Where you have blisters, I’ve developed calluses. The sore muscles you have are trained up for me, and I sleep like a baby each night knowing that I certainly have what it takes. My suffering threshold for ocean rowing is high, and in this particular scenario, the suffering I will endure will not get close to exceeding it. Your threshold, however, is much lower and you may find that while training you constantly creep close to it, or even exceed it at times. But now let’s talk sacrifice. Here you will find the tables to be turned in your favor perhaps. Again, for the sake of this example, let’s assume that you are single and otherwise unattached. You have a good job, but one that is either supportive of you taking this journey, or a job that you would not be sorry to have to let go if given an ultimatum. Financially, you have plenty in savings so to take this time off would not be a burden to you, and you have no other major obligations in the foreseeable future that would prohibit you from not only taking time to train properly, but to also be away and unreachable for over a month.

In this example, my situation is quite different. Not only am I married, but I have an 13-month old at home, our first. We have friends willing to help, but overall we live away from our families and therefore have a hard time getting childcare when we need it. In addition, I own my own business, and this particular race happens to leave during my companies’ busy time. That means we will have to turn away business while I’m gone, cutting into our profits and limiting some of the things we had planned as a company this year. The last time I rowed an ocean, I was married but without any children, we lived closer to our families so my wife had more emotional support while I was gone, and that particular race left during our companies’ slowest month of the year.

Just by virtue of my new family situation, and race timing, the amount of sacrifice, or what I’d have to give up in order to row this ocean, is incredibly high. Less time with my wife and son, less time toward my company, and the money I will have to give up as a result of this. The threshold for my sacrifice has lowered, and I’m already reaching what I’d be willing to give up. You, on the other hand, have a high threshold for sacrifice and don’t see any situation coming into play that would put that at risk.

In this example, we both have some serious consideration. On the surface, most would expect that there’s no way I would quit the team, but would probably not be surprised if you decided to bail. However, once you and I start on our respective paths toward analyzing and testing our suffering and sacrifice thresholds, we may find that while you have decided that the suffering is worth the glory of getting to row and ocean, I have decided that the opportunity cost of being away from my family and business is not. I have stepped down as the captain and asked someone to take my place. In this example, if either one of us decided that one or more of our thresholds was more than we were willing to endure, this would be considered a healthy quit. We both weighed what we’d have to suffer and what we’d have to sacrifice and made our decision based off of that, instead of simply saying, “I can’t”, and quitting as a reaction to something being hard.

Lastly, I will reiterate that healthy quits, as seen from this scenario can surprise those not intimate with the suffering and and sacrifice that an individual is weighing. We hear people retiring in their prime, or changing careers and think they must have gone mad. From my experience, those people are usually the ones who make intelligent quits, and we must not be quick to judge just because they have deprived us of their talent too soon.


As my life has gotten exponentially busier in the last decade, I began to find myself desperate to cram as much quality time in with the loved ones who had suffered as a result of the increased demands of my professional life. So I planned shopping days with my mom, elaborate guided fishing tours with my Dad, sporting events with my Brothers, and golf outings with my closest friends. A free Saturday meant we could head up to Tahoe for a quick day of skiing, who was in? A free weekend meant a serpentine route through the Napa Valley wineries should do the trick. All this in an effort to squeeze out quality with my loved ones, and create memories with the little free time I had.

After years of chasing my own tail in this fashion, I felt tired, and no closer to the ones I was desperately trying to stay tied to. I complained about this to a friend of mine over a dinner I was hoping to be filled with quality time we’d never forget, when he sets his utensils down, cuts me off, and in as polite a fashion as one can deliver says, “You’re nuts Jay. All this talk about trying to achieve quality time with family and friends is chasing a specter (he used words like that). Quality time is a myth, and to look for it, is a waste of time. Time, we all know you don’t have. Instead, try focusing on quantity time.”

This all sounded too rational for me, and so I challenged him. “Quantity is exactly what I don’t have. I’m trying to make the best of the limited time I do have. So how am I supposed to produce more?”

“No one’s asking you to produce more. Just show up and be 100% present when you are there.” We talked some more and my friend indicated that quality time is produced from quantity time. Just showing up. In fact “quality time” isn’t usually even realized until after the fact, when one fondly looks back on how meaningful that experience with another was.

He further challenged me to consider my most cherished childhood memories. What were they? Were they the expensive trips to Hawaii or the time you got that one big toy you were begging for on Christmas? They weren’t. Instead they were Sunday breakfasts where my Mom would play Enya on her Sony cassette player. Giants games on Friday nights with my Dad at miserable Candlestick Park. 4:30 am car rides with my best friend Mike on our way to rowing practice in college. These were the moments that defined me. Moments carved, not from a desperate effort to make them meaningful, but from simple routine. They were special to me because those people were there, they showed up, and you could come to expect them, and look forward to the experience. That was what made important moments.

The last three years I’ve come to value and become manic about quantity time. Taking the earlier flight home to spend an extra night at home with my wife, even if she’s already asleep. Inviting my Dad over to watch the game while we catch up on the last couple weeks. Watching the Oscars with my Mom, and squeezing a little online shopping in during commercials. Inviting my brothers on one of my business trips, educating them further on what their big brother does all year. These are the moments that I’ve, not only grown to cherish recently, but so have my loved ones.

We’re all busy, but forcing moments to be memorable and indelible is a fools errand, and one I participated in for years. Instead, show up. Be there when you say you will, and be 100% present with that person when you are. Chasing the ghosts of quality time leaves you with nothing but a headful of foggy memories you can’t quite remember, instead of a heart full of moments you’ll never forget.


These days I give a fair amount of key-note speeches. I love telling my stories to an audience, and having them be able to see themselves in those stories. My favorite part of my talks are directly afterwards, when certain members of the audience are inspired to come up to me and share a quick anecdote about an experience they had that evoked similar emotions as the story I told. It’s amazing what personal stories people choose to share with me in that moment. Veterans of war, Mothers of loss, and conquerors of cancer have all found their way to me. Personal stories of happiness and sadness, hope and despair, all because they felt a connection to me during the 60 minutes of my shared story. I find this to be the most rewarding part of my job.

However, there is another group of individuals that come up to me from time to time, eager to share what they believe to be a similar identifier to both our personalities. These people are the more aggressive, type-A personalities that want to talk only of victory. In an effort to identify with me these individuals will say things like, “Like you, I never lose.” Or more often even, “I could totally identify with you up there, I hate losing too. It’s literally the worst thing”. For those that choose to share with me their utter hatred and unfamiliarity with losing, I politely nod, but am skeptical about their comments. When someone says they never lose, I believe that either they’re not telling me the truth, or they choose to disengage from life in a way that keeps them safe from failure. Either way, I can’t identify.

I have nothing in common with men or women who say they hate losing, or that they’ve never lost. I lose all the time. Not only do I lose all the time, but I am constantly putting myself in positions where losing isn’t just a possibility but a probability, and sometimes even an inevitability. To me, losing isn’t the worst thing. It’s not just part of life, but it’s a very healthy part of life, that is vital to individuals and teams that strive to be the greatest version of themselves. Losing gives you a benchmark, a place to reconsider from. You learn more in losing than you do in winning, because your injured pride is desperate to find the remedy and that opens yourself up to a true education. We don’t want to lose, but for anyone trying to win, losing is always part of the process.

So forget about losing for a second, and instead focus on the true enemy of your success. The absence of an endeavor or challenge that’s worthy of your efforts and passion is truly the worst thing. Failure to find that something greater than yourself is the true culprit behind your success as a human. Said simply, the worst thing is not losing but lacking purpose.

Matt Brown was a teammate of mine during our World Record Atlantic crossing, and an integral part of that success. Matt and I had a history, as we rowed together in Philadelphia after college, but before he joined Latitude 35, him and I hadn’t talked for years. I had always respected Matt as a tough and tenacious athlete. But that wasn’t the reason I called him one spring day in order to assess his interest in being the fourth and final teammate of our ocean rowing team. Social media had informed me that recently Matt had attempted to qualify for the Olympics in the men’s single, arguably the toughest event in rowing. He had trained for years in hopes of making it to the Olympics, but this year he fell short and lost in the finals. Matt wasn’t going to the Olympics. I called Matt because I knew him well enough to know he was in a dark place, not because he lost, but because he probably was unsure of what to do next. For a man of Matt’s caliber, that was truly the enemy of his success. I called Matt in order to offer him a purpose. It may have been the best decision I made that year.


We hear this cliche all the time – “life is short”. It’s usually followed up with some generic call to action like “make the most of it” or “live like you were dying”. Perhaps we might even get some Latin enthusiast imploring us to “Carpe Diem”. However it is used, and for what purpose, I find this cliche to be incredibly unproductive. In fact, I find it to be flat-out untrue. The truth is life, is actually incredibly long.

Now, one could make an argument that life, or 80 years as most people are expected to live these days, is in fact short when compared to the grand landscape of this planet, I would still insist, that although it may in fact be short (by your definition), that you actually don’t believe that it is. You still believe it’s long.

The proof that most, if not all of us, actually believe life is long, is betrayed by the simple fact that people aren’t generally pursuing their dreams. How many of us have become fluent in that second language we vowed to learn? How many of us actually quit our jobs to start that company we’ve been talking about for years? How many of us learned to play the piano as adults? What about reconciling a fallout with an old friend or family member? What about communication more with your spouse?

The good news is, what often times we refer to as laziness or unwillingness, isn’t. It’s simply a deep-seated belief that life is long, and you have all the time in the world. Conversely, what we often refer to as ambition, is nothing more than a deep-seated belief that life is short, and that time is scarce and finite.

This is why it’s been proven that inspirational speeches, movies, or fad diets don’t work, and are unsustainable. They treat the symptom – your feelings of inadequacy – instead of the cause – I’ll always have more time for it. You must change your belief first, then the actions will become easier as a result.

To become ambitious, you must first change your belief about time, before which you will be relegated to the sidelines of accomplishment.


Many people describe labyrinths and mazes synonymously. But in actuality they are very different. A maze is a puzzle. A race. A problem to solve. The objective is to successfully it’s over. You can move on to another one if you’d like, or never solve another maze again, but that maze is complete. A labyrinth, however is not a puzzle. It’s not a race, and there certainly isn’t any right answer. Instead, it is a journey. A journey of self-discovery, in where throughout the labyrinth you stop to analyze or reflect on certain aspects of your life. The same labyrinth can take two people very different lengths of time to complete, and neither won nor lost for doing so. The length of time is determined by how much time you choose to reflect, and how relevant the points of reflection are to your current time of life. The labyrinth is only complete because you reach the end, not because you achieved it, and the learning from the labyrinth should transcend the time spent in it. It is meant to be a piece of learning that you take with you, reflecting back on it when necessary for weeks, months, or years later.

Our current world and the society we are meant to thrive in, too often has us navigating our professional and personal lives as a maze. We simply must get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible, checking things off lists, and moving on to the next item. How many times have you qualified you day by saying, “today was a good day, I got a lot done”? What we should be doing is spending more of our time on this earth navigating our days as a labyrinth – being in the moment, having gratitude for the moment, trying to extend moments as long as possible by being present. We should be reflecting on our day, at least at the end of it, if not multiple times during it, as special or teachable moments present themselves. We should be learning from our experience instead of simply moving on from them. The greatest but most often over-looked teacher is experience. Everyday presents a wealth of knowledge through experience that we either choose to learn from or ignore. How may times have you qualified you day by saying, “today was a good day, I learned a lot” or qualified your day as long, but in a positive way?

As one final point of context, we’ve heard the cliche “it’s not how many times we get knocked down, it’s how many times we get back up”. Over the years I’ve found this to be a very unproductive cliche. The truth is, today no one really cares how many times you get back up. Resilience is important, but only if you have knowledge to go with it. There’s just too much competition out there – too many people who have grit, resilience, and talent in spades. So instead, when we do get knocked down, we need to spend more time on the ground, analyzing how we got there in the first place. Think about, talk about, and get comfortable with your failures, so that when you do get back up, you’re a harder, smarter, more talented target to knock down.

It is difficult to make each day a labyrinth, but it’s really easy to make each day a maze. Spend more time reflecting.


I remember my personal rock bottom. I was standing outside an old church in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The church was locked. It was the middle of the winter, it was cold and snow was on the ground. I paced slowly to keep warm and my weathered North Face jacket did its best to keep the winter from slicing through to my body.

I was waiting for a moving truck to come and meet me at this location. In an effort to make ends meet I had picked up a gig with a third rate moving company, that did small jobs. This particular job consisted of moving old dilapidated wooden chairs and benches from one church to the next. The other men working the job with me – my colleagues – were late to the site again. They usually strolled in thirty to sixty minutes late, smelling of liquor and smoke from the evening before, and I cursed myself for showing up on time, only to fall victim to their indifferent tardiness. I hated them, and they hated me. None of them ever offered to give me a ride out from the city, and I probably wouldn’t have taken one if they did. So instead, I took the R5 train from market street out to the mainline. I was now losing feeling in my fingers and toes, dreading the remainder of the day which would see me working with these degenerates while acquiring a chill that would take all evening to shake off.

As I struggled for warmth, gaunt faced and hollow-eyed, I thought about the last 48 hours – two days that were perhaps harsher and more biting than the air that surrounded me. Twelve months ago I began a robust application process for a career I believed I was made for. I began that process while still living in the warm embrace of California. Over those months I interviewed, tested, and ran through scenarios that saw me rise above 10,000 other applicants. I moved to Philadelphia and took on volunteer work – one last push to increase my chances of acceptance. I was that confident that I would land the position. This gave me very little time to make money to live on, and with no savings, I relied on this meager hourly wage and tips from the kindness of strangers whose new houses we moved them to. I was broke.

The final hiring process saw me and only seven others for the job. I spent a week competing against those other men and women, even though the employer said they’d take anywhere between all and none of us. Two nights ago I arrived late to the room I was renting to find a thin letter that was left on my bed from my landlord. The letter was from my hopeful employer informing me that while I was a very strong applicant, they would not be offering me a position at this time, but to please consider applying again in a year. Just like that 12 months wasted.

The following night, as I lay flat on my back on the floor of that small room, my friends called. They were going to a movie, and might I be interested in joining? They could swing by and pick me up in 15 minutes. I told them I’d have to call them back. Once off the phone, I quickly signed on to my mobile banking app to check my thin balance. My checking account consisted of $2.18. I’ll never forget that amount – two dollars and eighteen cents. It was literally all I was worth. I called them back with a half-hearted excuse as to why I wouldn’t be able to make it, my pride stifling the truth. And the next morning I arose from bed, the sun not up and frost hanging to the corners of the window pane. I needed to get to the train station to catch the R5 to the mainline.

And so here I was, cold, poor, and without purpose. My whole life I believed I was meant for greatness, but standing in front of this old abandoned church, anticipating what would be another miserable day, I looked the pillar of failure. I felt sorry for myself and began to verbally list all the ways life had abused me over the past two days. But then, like confession, the act of articulating my failures out loud released an unrecognized burden from me. I realized that this was my lowest point, my rock bottom. I had weighed myself and had been found wanting in a way I had never known. It brought me peace, and the purpose I felt I’d lost through a thin boiler-plate letter just two nights before, was now replaced with a much more vicious purpose of recovering my childhood self.

I had found where I stood, rock bottom, and that afternoon as my fellow employees took a break to smoke a blunt in the pews of that musty church, I sat alone, began to dream again, and betrayed the smallest of smiles.

Everyone’s rock bottom is different. For some it’s substance abuse, and for others a failed marriage. It may be the loss of a job, or perhaps the loss of a loved one. If you choose to participate in life, you can be assured that you will find your rock bottom. Perhaps even more than once. But life is not about avoiding those moments when you can’t fall any further, but realizing when you’re there. Because while being squarely on the basement of your life is never easy, I assure you there can’t be a better foundation to push off from.


I like to gamble. Not to the extent where I’m tempted to take my monthly mortgage payment and leverage it into an Aston Martin. But all the same, I enjoy the lights, the noise, the smell, and the seedy company of a gambling house. And I’ve been found to revel in the thrill of a wager won, and even the despair of a wager lost.

But whether in the loving embrace of lady luck or in the deathly grips of misfortune, I’ve found there’s a lot to learn from throwing the dice, turning the cards, or spinning the wheel.

The most important lesson learned was the analysis of the “gut feeling”. And what I’ve learned about that gut feeling is that there’s no such thing. Often times when people bet big or bet on a long shot, and it pays off, they immediately credit a gut feeling, or sense of the divine intervening on their behalf, as motivation behind the risky wager. But, the reality is there was no gut feeling, and there was no divine intervention. No amount of praying was going to fix those dice or change the face of that card.

But instead what I’ve learned that inexplicable feeling to be, is “hope”. Flashes of hope occur within us all the time, but never are your senses more alive to these flashes than when hanging on the edge of a die, or the flip of a card. Gambling heightens our sense of awareness to flashes of hope to the extent that we will make quick and seemingly irrational decisions based on it.

Now let’s leave the gambling house and travel somewhere a little more productive. Maybe the office, or the field of play, or even the bedside of sick loved one. Have you ever been the champion of irrational hope in those environments? Ever been irrationally optimistic about your team’s chances of landing that contract? Ever been the teammate spurring your fellow members toward victory in a seemingly impossible match? Ever sat face-to-face with someone you love and told them that you’ll get through this together? And meant it? If you have, then you’ve been a victim to these flashes of hope. And what a great victim to be, because these flashes, when shared with those feeling less than optimistic, can be exactly what the team needs to hear in order to take the next step.

When rowing 3,000 miles across the ocean, these flashes aren’t just helpful, they’re vital. Each member of both my teams, at multiple points in the crossing, showed signs of ridiculous, irrational, absurd signs of optimism. Flashes of hope that seemed so out of place, and so at odds with what we were up against, they become hard to justify. But let me tell you, when one of those flashes hit one of my teammates, the others were desperate to be led by them. Flashes of hope leverage human emotion in a way that makes the impossible possible. It allows us to gamble on ourselves against the longest of odds, only this time we’re not reliant on a die to tell us our fate. We rely on one another.

So stay sensitive to those flashes of hope, and when they come, go all in, gamble on yourself, gamble on each other, and watch as it pays off.


Do we all know the theory of entropy? The theory of entropy states that all things in this world, or even in the universe go from a level of low entropy, highly ordered, to a level of high entropy, highly unordered. Take for example a 400-page book, where you have removed the binding, leaving you with 400 loose pages. If you were to throw all those pages in the air and let them fall to the ground, chances are your book would no longer be in numerical order. Of course some pages would still be, but you would most likely no longer have a book ordered from 1 to 400. Toss them in the air again and the pages would most likely be in even less order. If you were to keep doing so you could expect the pages to continue to be in less and less order, in other words going from low entropy (highly ordered), to high entropy (highly unordered). However, there is a non-zero chance that on your 102nd time throwing the pages in the air, they would land back in perfect order from 1 to 400. But the chances of this happening are so slim, that if it were to happen, you would not think that it happened by chance but would assume that someone tampered with your experiment and ordered the pages themselves. In fact the idea that it happened by chance, most likely, wouldn’t even enter your mind. You would assume that there was some human or intelligent interference that made it so. The reason why we would be so astounded and confused is because while there are a dizzying number of combinations that see those 400-pages in less than perfect order, there’s only one combination that sees them in numerical order.

Human interaction is what can actually reverse the process of low entropy to high entropy. Think of a beautiful painting. There is a non-zero chance that if you threw enough gobs of different colored paint at millions of blank canvases, that eventually one of those tosses would yield the Mona Lisa. But you could save a lot of time (and paint) by hiring a talented artist to organize the paint in a strategic way that would create a beautiful painting for you. This artist is taking disorder, and creating more order, also known as reversing the entropy theory and going from high entropy, to low.

In fact, if you are to look around, and consider for a moment all the things that we admire other humans for doing, you will find this is what we admire. Their ability to take chaos and make it something less chaotic, more ordered, and therefore quite beautiful. A quarterback that hits his receiver in perfect stride or a basketball player that’s able to sink three pointers time and time again. Musicians that string notes together in just the right way to create beautiful music, or a leader who is able to take a group of individuals with their own agendas, goals, and ambitions, and direct them toward impossible team efforts.

The reality is that building and leading high-performance teams is so difficult because you are doing just that. Taking something that has so many possibilities for disorder, and arranging them in the right way that it is ordered and productive. The end result of a beautiful painting, song, touchdown pass, or team effort may seem like low entropy at its finest, but I can assure you it was the fight against its natural inclination to become highly entropic that made the end result so amazing.

That is what leadership is all about. Discovering and implementing different ways to fight high entropy, and produce great teams.


Game of Thrones, as a show, may be one of the greatest equalizers of our generation. No matter who you talk to, everyone loves Game of Thrones. I once observed what I stereotypically assumed was a computer science geek working as a grocery store checker wax poetic to a muscle head customer about the intricacies of the latest Game of Thrones season. Ten years ago, this tank-top wearing lothario probably stuffed this pocket protecting future app inventor in a locker. But now these two couldn’t be more enthralled in their conversation. In fact, they were so enthusiastic about their newfound commonality, that in an effort to get out of Trader Joe’s before they started talking about next season, I began bagging my own groceries.

I’m serious when I say with the amount of common ground that seemingly polar opposites have found with this show, they should start making politicians watch it together before partaking in bi-partisan talks. They should make China watch it with the US before trade negotiations. They should make India watch it with Pakistan before they make decisions on the Kashmir, and they should make Putin watch it with, well anyone.

But full disclosure – I haven’t watched a single episode. All this observation is without any context for the greater plot of the show. How, do you ask, can a man who sees the obvious reaction to this show, not be in the least bit interested? It’s for that very reason that I abstain from even giving it a try.

I have no doubt that I’d love Game of Thrones, and would descend straight into binge-watching, should I allow myself a single taste of episode one. For a guy who grew up on movies like

Braveheart, Gladiator, Last of the Mohicans, and Rob Roy, I’m sure I’d be hooked. But here’s the reality of going down that rabbit hole. There are eight seasons of GOT, for a total of 73 episodes. At an hour each, that’s 73 hours of time spent to complete the series, and that’s if I do zero rewatching (which seems doubtful as apparently the complexity of the show is unparalleled). In the course of a lifetime three days of straight GOT viewing doesn’t seem substantial, but I think about what can be accomplished in 73 hours. At two hours a day of working out, that’s five weeks of hard-nosed training. A committed individual could be well on their way to learning a new language with that time. Maybe not fluent, but well on their way. 73 hours spent with your spouse or significant other could get you to know them on a deeper level. You get the picture.

And it doesn’t stop with GOT. Think of anything you spend time viewing. Sports, other shows, random Youtube videos, pick your poison. And it’s not just screen time. Books, for the sake of this lesson, can be a dangerous game too if we allow ourselves to be consumed by them too often. The point is, we watch these shows and sports, or read these stories, to feel good, to live vicariously through the characters we like the most. But at what cost? I’ll tell you, at the cost of being those people ourselves. We constantly use lack of time as an excuse for not being the people we want to be, so instead we choose to watch the people we want to be. Eventually, however, our time becomes nothing but watching others live the life we thought we were destined for.

Now, before diehard GOT fans pen nasty responses to this little thought, I’m not actually suggesting you deny yourself the thrill and entertainment of shows like GOT, or cancel NFL Redzone. I’ve obviously oversimplified this analogy to bring to the forefront a much more interesting way to look at how you spend your time. If we want to accomplish things, conquer our fears, or experience this world, we have to put down the remote or the book, at some point, and pick up the sword. Let’s see if maybe the next show made is inspired by your life. Is that really so crazy?

“Many people read books, few people write books, but fewer still have books written about them.”