From Fear to Flow: Michael Gervais on Mastering the Edge in Sports and Life

Picasso's "Guernica" masterpiece

Picasso’s “Guernica” masterpiece

“Everyday we have an opportunity to create a living masterpiece.” – Michael Gervais

“That’s what I’m f%&*ing talking about!” was not the typical conclusion of the presentations at San Francisco’s Wisdom 2.0 conference – where Zen teachers, such as Eckhart Tolle or Jon Kabat-Zinn, spoke on the role of mindfulness in the tech community — but it is a real example of the intersecting worlds that Michael Gervais and organizations, like The Mind and Sport Institute (MSi), journey where wisdom meets high-performance athletes.

When it comes to mastering the edge in sports, Michael Gervais is the man to talk to. Gervais just completed his finest masterpiece yet; a work of art comparable to a professional sports version of Picasso’s “Guernica,” which stands as an embodiment of peace. Gervais, along with coach Pete Carroll, supported the Seattle Seahawks in winning the Super Bowl while also mindfully transforming the organization’s culture as previously noted by ESPN. At Wisdom 2.0, Gervais captivated the crowd, not with stories of players using profanity to express breakthroughs, but by bringing to life a message that lives deep in the minds and hearts of elite athletes. Through his talk on performance psychology, sports became a metaphor that fluently reminded us of the purpose of life and how to achieve it.

Continue reading

How To Be A Huge Success

success-signIt’s really humiliating to ask for money from people.

When I was a venture capitalist I hated everyone who asked me for money. And I hated my partners who pretended like they had the ability to make important life or death decisions over people.

All we really wanted to do was make a lot of money for doing nothing and then get divorced and live lives of heathen destruction. Continue reading

Don’t Listen To Everyone With An Opinion: Deans Knight Capital Turns 20

Wayne Deans

Wayne Deans at his Vancouver office (Photo: Tommy Hump / CEO.CA)

If you’re in the investment business in Canada, you may be just a little jealous of Deans Knight Capital: it’s a super successful small company with savvy entrepreneur clients and a fun, friendly corporate culture. And if you’re a Deans Knight client, you’re probably a happy camper — the company has produced better than 15% average returns over the past 20 years.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the founding of Deans Knight Capital, co-founder and CEO Wayne Deans co-authored a book about managing other people’s money called Don’t Listen To Everyone With An Opinion. It offers twenty colorful (and explicit) lessons to commemorate the firm’s 20th year of operation. When I heard about Don’t Listen, I called Deans’ office to interview him. We set up a meeting; at his office, I was welcomed by Mr. Deans and staff. Energetic and self-deprecating in person, Deans symbolizes the idea that smarts, hard work and aligning yourself with the right people can pay off for people who come from humble beginnings.

Deans tells me he was raised poor in the outskirts of Montreal. He was a competitive kid, academically and athletically, and he didn’t take much for granted. “Most kids I grew up with wanted a new bike and a pair of skis. I wanted central heat,” Deans writes in Don’t Listen.

During the late 60s, Deans attended Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) because he couldn’t afford tuition at the more prestigious McGill. After his undergraduate coursework, he pursued an MBA from McMaster University in Hamilton and planned on getting into investing. But because he didn’t yet have the pedigree to land an industry job, Deans ended up at the Bank of Canada. He spent the next decade getting an “on-the-job PhD in economics,” and was told that if he worked hard and was lucky, he could earn his age for the rest of his career. But the advice didn’t resonate.

“I wanted to be a millionaire,” Deans told me enthusiastically in his upscale boardroom, overlooking Vancouver’s stunning Convention Centre and North Shore Mountains. “Earning my age wasn’t going to work for me.”

In 1980, after a decade of service to the central bank, Deans landed a corporate gig, working with Wood Gundy in Vancouver. He quickly became a top producer there, brokering profitable deals between Quebec companies and the BC Government. In 1985, Milton Wong of MK Wong and Associates convinced Deans to join him. Deans eventually became the firm’s president and led its equities investment group. There, at what was then one of Canada’s leading pension fund managers, Deans met Deans Knight Capital’s future co-founder Doug Knight, a debt specialist ten years Deans’ senior.

Seven years after taking the job, Deans left MK Wong, citing “fundamental differences of opinion”. Doug Knight joined him on his way out the door, and in early 1993 Deans Knight Capital become officially licensed to manage other people’s money. Their corporate headquarters took up all of 500 square feet in a small downtown Vancouver office.

Deans Knight managed money for the mutual fund industry in the mid 90s, but the duo dropped the model in 1999. “Mutual fund investors kept bailing after years of poor performance, and piled in during good years, which is unsustainable”, Dean explains.

Deans and Knight avoided the Dot Com boom and bust of the late 1990s, and instead preferred out-of-favour mining and energy firms led by managers they knew personally.

And they had some massive wins. They were early investors in Robert Freidland’s Diamond Fields, which soared from $.10 to over $140 in 1995. Deans Knight picked up shares in Lionore Mining in 1997, which ran from $.50 to over $27 per share when it was bought out in 2007. They even made money on Bre-X, the most famous mining fraud of all time, by selling their shares before the fallout went mainstream.

“When something is the ‘biggest ever!’ be careful,” Deans warns in his book. “When the head geologist falls out of a helicopter, pay attention,” he adds.

Still, Deans Knight never was solely a resource-focused investor. The firm was open minded and willing to consider any company in any industry. Their expertise also extended to high-yield debt, where Deans Knight was the first major investor to participate in the Canadian high yield market. Co-founder Doug Knight would roll up his sleeves and analyze debt contracts closely, especially for smaller companies whose instruments were just off of the radar of pension funds and other large institutions. Their generalist, “Know what you own” strategy has proved to be a winner.

“Investors should skip the readily available information and come up with their own,” offers Deans by way of advice. “If you can’t distill into one or two useful paragraphs why investing in a business is a good idea, then you probably want to move on to something else.”

As the Deans Knight model evolved, their clientele shifted to mostly wealthy entrepreneurs with net worths of “a few hundred million to ten billion dollars”. The benefits were obvious. Deans says his clients are themselves talented entrepreneurs and asset managers, who have helped immeasurably with due diligence and idea-flow throughout the years.

As a result, Wayne Deans values his clients immensely. He says he spends 70% of his time on the road looking at opportunities, often with those clients. At age 67, he has no plans to step aside. However, should he need to, he is confident his team can handle things.

And the people who work with Deans clearly admire him. “Wayne has this amazing ability to tell somebody what they’re saying is stupid without making them feel totally stupid – or maybe making them feel stupid but feeling good about it, knowing they’ve learned something,” commented Dillon Cameron, Co-Chief Investment Officer at Deans Knight.

One of Calgary’s most successful oilmen chimed in to offer Mr. Deans praise. “And there is the signature humour, warmth and utter lack of pretense,” said John Hagg, co-founder of Canadian Northstar Corp., and an early client of the firm.

1000 copies of Don’t Listen To Everyone With An Opinion are available by donation to the SPCA (Deans is a dog lover).

Tits up


Peter Brown, Honorary Chairman and Founder, Canaccord Financial

I came across a 2011 article about Canaccord Financial founder Peter Brown, and I particularly enjoyed the following excerpt:

In 1968, Brown and partner Ted Turton bought 51 per cent of a struggling Vancouver brokerage for $23,000. They soon ran into problems with an “irresponsible” financial partner who bankrupted the company, he said.

“We started in ’68, and by ’71 we were bust after having a bit of a good run,” Brown recalled in an interview at his office.

The young businessman took inspiration from a 17-page Time magazine essay -Millionaires Under 40 -that examined the attributes of several U.S. millionaires.

“They only had one thing in common -they’d all gone tits-up twice,” Brown said. “They were all resilient.

“Business is not big steps. It’s little steps, some forward and some back.”

Throwback: ‘Little steps’ took Canaccord founder to the top | Vancouver Sun

Also: Peter Brown Recommends Boomerang by Michael Lewis

12 or 13 Things I Learned About Life From Daytrading Millions of Dollars

I was a daytrader for many years and it almost killed me.

I made money by making profits on my own money and also taking a percentage of the profits for the people I traded for. I traded up to $40 or $50 million a day at my peak. I did this from 2001 to 2004.

I learned about daytrading but I also learned a lot about myself and what I was good at, what I was horrible at, and what I was psychotic at. Things that had nothing to do with daytrading. Continue reading

How To Find What You Are Passionate About


When I was ten I loved to write down who liked who. “David liked Joanne”. “Lori liked Jimmy”.

Then I would write down why.

“David would laugh every time Joanne would make a joke in class.”

I had a spiral notebook, about 8×11, and I pretty quickly would fill up all the pages and then start writing in the margins.

In other words, I had written The Bible.

I knew, or thought I knew, the tiniest flareup in our infantile hormones as soon as it happened. I was documenting first love.

My inspirations: Judy Blume (from “Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing” to “Forever” to “Wifey”), William Goldman’s “Boys & Girls Together”, and, of course, Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” (where the future could be predicted by statistics, an area of SCIENCE I was sure I would master when the time was right).

Not to mention I was a spy. So throw in “Harriet the Spy” and “The Great Brain” and a little mixture of James Bond (wasn’t my favorite at the time but still an inspiration).

And of course, I’d read the gossip columns in whatever papers my dad brought home. Who was kissing who?

I read biographies of Howard Hughes and began to stop cutting my fingernails so they would grow so long the girls in my class would ask me how I did it.

Howard Hughes was very private, charismatic, and eccentric. Judy Blume and William Goldman were all about boys kissing girls. Isaac Asimov had that predictive thing going on, Kitty Kelley gossiped, James Bond was a spy.

So I, of course, was all of the above. And ten years old.

I’d hide the words I was writing very theatrically so the people trying to lean over my shoulder could never see. They HAD to know what I was writing. Because it was about them.

I was writing the book I wanted to read.

Until one day I peed in my pants.

I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I had to leave my notebook alone. I ran to the bathroom and didn’t make it in time. I peed in my pants.

But it was too late. I dried myself. I ran back to the classroom.

I was ruined.

Everyone was reading my magic notebook. Everything that kept me mysterious and cool and knowledgeable and a WRITER and the one in the middle of every fact, truism, law that governed the miniature social interactions in the small circle of mini-humans I had known all my life.


Everyone was yelling at me. “GROSS!” Lisa would say. Jeff was crying at his desk because I kept track of how many times he cried at his desk. Lori was denying everything about Jimmy. David was denying everything about Joanne.

And I was betrayed. My best friend, Robert, had opened the notebook first. When I gave him specific instructions to guard it with his ten year old life. I suspect he is dead now since I can’t find him anywhere.

Mrs. Hilge finally had to stop the class and ask what was going on. Everyone was yelling at her and she did one of those adult, “ONE AT A TIME!” things.

The judgement came down: I was not to bring that notebook into class ever again. It was “over”.

So do it right now. Write down all of the things you were interested in when you were ten. I bet a glimpse of them can still be seen today in what makes your heart flutter. In what makes your brain gasm and gasp.

The seeds of our lifelong loves are planted right at that intersection of puberty and adolescence. The overlap of childhood fantasy and adult reality.

This wasn’t the first time I had written things down and it wasn’t the first time I wanted to entertain and excite the people around me.

And it wouldn’t be the last time I lost good friends and people felt disturbed and upset by what I had written.

But it was the first time I considered myself a writer.

And 35 years later, despite the often very painful diversions off the path, I still am.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet To Reinvent Yourself

reinvent yourself

Here are the rules:

I’ve been at zero a few times, come back a few times, and done it over and over. I’ve started entire new careers. People who knew me then, don’t me now. And so on.

I’ve had to change careers several times. Sometimes because my interests changed. Sometimes because all bridges have been burnt beyond recognition, sometimes because I desperately needed money.

And sometimes just because I hated everyone in my old career or they hated me.

There’s other ways to reinvent yourself. Take what I say with a grain of salt. This is what worked for me.

I’ve seen it work for maybe a few hundred other people. Through interviews, through people writing me letters, through the course of the past 20 years. You can try it or not.

A) Continue reading

What To Do When The Federal Government Shut Down Tries To Come Into Your House


One time the Federal Government Shutdown came into an apartment I was sharing with a bunch of roommates. It tied us all up and blindfolded us and made us do things to each other. It made us call it “Ted” but I don’t really know if that was its name.

Another time I was riding my bike home from school and the Federal Government Shutdown blocked my way. I turned around but the Federal Government Shutdown was also on the the other side.

It took my Schwinn bike, tied me up, and made me do things to myself.

Those are the primary things you NEED to know about the Federal Government Shutdown. I should explain what I don’t know about the government shutdown.

I have no idea what they were debating that led to the shutdown. Nobody does. It’s a conspiracy!

I don’t know.

I also don’t know anything else about the Federal Government Shutdown because there is absolutely NOTHING that affects the lives of anyone I know.

FACT: It’s important to know that the government pays it’s debts during a budget shutdown. Most people don’t seem to get this.

But the government has to pay it’s debts, even if it means taking a blind janitor who has amazing super hearing and putting him to use at a copy machine that’s hidden in the secret 6th sub-level beneath Goldman Sachs offices to print up enough money to get it done.

I have no idea what Obama has said about the government shutdown or what any Senator or Congressman has said or what happens to government jobs or Obamacare or anything else. I have zero clue.

Because it’s not interesting and adds nothing to my life.

You may have hear this phrase commonly used on TV between smart people: “What will happen with the federal government shutdown?” Is Obama going to have to start a meth lab to pay the government’s bills?

Except it’s not anywhere near as interesting as Breaking Bad. I highly recommend people watch back-seasons of Breaking Bad. Ever since its ended so the newspapers needed something new to talk about.

Or watch Arrested Development (A+ for the episode where Jason Bateman falls for a character played by his sister Justine Bateman).

Here’s what you need to know:

Eventually the government shutdown will end with absolutely no result or consequences.

And during the government shutdown, the US will kill less people, which is a good thing. We’ll get back to killing people once the drones have enough money to fill up their gas tanks again.

The newspapers that predicted panic won’t apologize. They’ll just go onto the next panic. They have to or else they will run out of money. There will be a Federal Newspaper Shutdown.

I have no idea what the fiction writers at the top newspapers will come up with then.

Something truly horrible.

Whatever it is, it will try to get in your room. It will wear a ski mask. It will make the air turn poisonous. It will seize the money from your bank account. It will make brother on brother do things to each other. It might make Claudia beat me in ping pong.

I hope this time everyone is ready for it.

Lies We Tell Ourselves To Be Liked


It is not easy for me to be honest. I grew up thinking I had to lie to people to get them to like me.

I needed to somehow be someone I wasn’t in order to burn away invisible scars that I was sure everyone could see.

I thought I had to, for instance, get into a good college for people to like me. Or be a chess master. Or even have straight hair. Or get rid of my glasses. Or acne. Or have a lot of money.

These were all lies I told myself because I didn’t think I could be liked without these medals shining bright off my shirt.

Then there were lies I told others. I told the first girl I ever went out with that I once stole a lot of money from my parents and lost it all gambling on horses.

Then her dad came to visit and he heard all about my race track adventures. So he said, “Let’s all go to the horse track!” I had never even been to the race track before.

So we went and I had no idea what I was doing and it was pretty clear that I had lied to her, like I did on many occasions before that and even after that until there was nothing left of us.

The truth is: I did steal money from my parents. But I spent it all on going to movies and buying comic books and books about chess. And I would use the money to skip school and go into New York and hang out in Washington Square Park playing chess with everyone there.

Not an exciting enough story, though, to tell a girl who wanted me to confess all sorts of things to show her what an outlaw I was instead of a jewish suburban middle class kid.

Then there’s the lies I told as I went from job to job. Skills maybe I had 10% of but I claimed 100% of. A salary that I would enhance by a few thousand so when I got an offer I’d make a few thousand more. Titles I had at old jobs that never even existed.

Then later I wouldn’t tell people I was getting a divorce. Or losing a home. Or losing hope.

Why did I tell the lies to others?

I never thought I was good enough for anything. And I always wanted more of it. If I could just get to the 4th rung on the ladder, I was sure the 5th rung had my name on it.

And even though I was sweating, hungry, unhappy, scared, I knew if I just reached that 5th rung I’d be happy. That the prize was waiting for me there.

So I’d lie to get it.

Everyone would forgive me then. Everyone would pat me on the back and have a big meeting and all say, “we knew you could do it.”

Girls who had broken up with me would claim they were only testing me, that they were also waiting for this moment. They would be side by side with the bosses that fired me. The people who had ignored me. All of them together in a big party to celebrate me.

They would all be happy, laughing and slapping me on the back.

I wouldn’t believe it.

How did they all know each other? Here they all were – loving me, because now I had finally gotten to the point where I didn’t have to lie to them anymore.

But I never reached that rung on the ladder. And I never will.

I fell off the ladder.

A few months ago I had breakfast with the CEO of a company I once worked for. They had fired me and then withheld a bonus payment I had desperately needed.

But they had since changed CEOs several times and now I was meeting their latest CEO who had reached out to me.

It was around the time they withheld that payment that I realized nobody out there at all was going to help me. Nobody would be fair. This wasn’t a blame thing. Nor was it pessimism.

I just needed to pick myself up and it’s my own fault for not dealing with good people. For not constantly being creative. For not feeling grateful.

But in order to be around good people, I also had to be a good person, not an imaginary one.

I had to feel abundant without lying about it in order to have abundance hit me. Not in a law of attraction way, but just so I could sleep at night.

It was that simple. I had to stop using all the energy in my brain coming up with imaginary futures. The brain is too powerful and needs a lot of fuel to keep the lies going.

Better to use that fuel for being happy and good now than to make up futures and anxieties and regrets.

The CEO told me, “I heard you had a heart attack or a nervous breakdown a few years ago. That’s what everyone told me.”

I couldn’t believe what she said. To me I had just had the most fulfilling and successful few years of my life.

But to the people who knew me, to people looking in from the outside, it appeared to be a nervous breakdown, as every facade fell away. I had been buried in my lies and now I no longer was.

“No,” I told her, “I’ve been healthier than I had ever been.”

She repeated it, “Everyone insists you had at least a nervous breakdown.”

Maybe I did. But I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t broke. And I wasn’t down.


Did I Lose All Of My Money Because Of My Offer?


On June 3, I released “Choose Yourself!” and I put on the very first page an offer that has never been put in a book before.

I offered to pay people back if they proved to me that they bought the book and if they can also prove that they read the book within the first three months of the release.

Claudia thought I was crazy. She was even angry for a split second.

She thought I was going to go broke doing this. That a gazillion people would buy the book and want their money back and that because I was also paying the cost of what Amazon takes out and shipping, that I would lose money on every single book sold and eventually be unable to feed my children.

And I had no idea if she was right or wrong. I was scared also. But I didn’t want to tell her that.

The idea came from a Continue reading

How To Do What You Love


Martin Luther King nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 and he’s a buddhist monk and peace activist.

And when he was standing right in front of me tonight I was blown away by what he said.

We went to an opening for an exhibit of his calligraphy.

He looked like a child. He smiled like a child. He talked like a little boy. It was almost funny to look at.

Here’s some things he either said or drew that I learned from.

How to Do What You Love.

He starts his day with tea, he said. And he loves calligraphy. So he puts the tea in the ink and starts his drawing.

Funny, I thought. He combines the things he loves. But then he went further.

He said he imagined his father’s hand was on his when he drew, and that he loved his father.

And that all his ancestors hands were on his when he drew. And all his students hands and all the people he knew.

He showed a drawing of a circle. He said that the circle was made out of smiles.

He didn’t say “do what you love”. But he showed that if you love something, here’s how you do it.

You pour all of your love into it. You hold nothing back.

He laughed when he said that. But the woman next to me was crying.

Peace can only come from peaceful people.

Here we are on the eve of dropping more bombs on people in order to establish peace in a region that we know nothing about.

Peace seems hard, which is why I guess we never get it right. It’s not a fight but more like something that is shared.

Understand your own suffering.

Stop everything for a moment and really think about your own suffering, he said.

Your own moments of hitting bottom. This, he said, was how compassion is created. Compassion then cradles the suffering like a mother cradles a baby.

And this is then how you learn to have compassion for the suffering in others. The pain we all feel. The loneliness we all feel. The regrets and uncertainty.

Every breath is a miracle.

“It proves we are alive again!” and he laughed.

During the day I sometimes think my breathing is so shallow when I’m on the computer I have to stop to take a deep breath.

I just read in the book “Crazy Sexy Cancer” that how we breathe can help us battle cancer.

No mud, no lotus.

This phrase was on one of his calligraphy drawings.

The lotus flower is beautiful, but comes from the mud. Just as compassion often comes from suffering. The lotus shows the true value of the mud.

He started a small meditation by ringing a bell.

By coincidence, a company I’m on the board of is going on the Nasdaq tomorrow. I’m very proud of them.

So at 9:30 I’m going over to the Nasdaq and the CEO of the company will ring the bell to start the day’s trading for thousands of companies.

Both Thich and the CEO use the ringing of the bell to stop us for a moment. To start something new and amazing. It’s all connected.

I learn the same thing from both Thich and this CEO. Nothing can stop you when you pour all of your love into the things you do.

Five Things Entrepreneurs Should Never Do


I’m breaking all the rules.

I’m at a silent retreat for the week. No talking!

My wife is two doors down. She said to me before we went silent for the week, “put your computer on airplane mode.”

It’s in a beautiful area. There are paths and trees and birds and flowers and benches to sit on with sprawling landscapes and blah blah blah. I like to stay in my room and write. And I break rules. I won’t open my mouth but I will break rules.

Don’t tell my wife.

A friend of mine has a startup. It’s a neat little product. He’s still in stealth mode so it’s not important what the product is.

But I thought of a company that could use the product and I like to help my friends.

I called the CEO of the company (before the retreat). They have about a billion in revenues and are very profitable. I said, “can you use this?” And I described something that I felt they really needed that could make a lot of money. The CEO said, “we would love this”.

The head of sales of the billion revenue company got all the data I needed to help my friend make a demo.

I called my friend, sent a spec of what I wanted, and said “can you make a demo of what this company needs.” He said, “absolutely. It would literally take minutes to do.”

Then he made the following mistakes.

To be fair, I wish I had had been as smart as him when I was 26 years old. One thing he’s done very well at is keeping in touch with me with a “Hi, hope things are well” every month for the past six years. But here are his mistakes.

1) He was late.

This was perfectly set up for the software of his company. A week later I had to remind him about what he said. He replied, “oh yeah, sorry.” And within an hour he had something to me although it wasn’t quite what I asked for (more below).

Why was he late?

2) He was focused on raising money.

He was busy building a prototype of something to show venture capitalists. I get it. Raising money is important. But don’t be an idiot.

A billion-revenues company is either a potential investor, a potential acquirer, a partner, a distribution channel, or something you can show off to venture capitalists to both increase your valuation and raise money. Or all of the above.

3) He under-delivered.

The first thing he showed me had four or five glaring mistakes that were either different than what I asked or things I didn’t think to ask because they were clearly not what the client wanted.

He tried too hard to fit his exact software with the data I was giving him.

If you have no clients and no revenues then it becomes your job to find clients and revenues — not make people use your product.

The client doesn’t pivot. You pivot.

There’s a big difference between winning at a hackathon and making money.

The hackathon culture that sprung up in the past two or three years by venture capitalists is bullshit. It’s not business.

As corny as it sounds, the reason I thought his product was good (with tweaks) and that this major company could use it was because it could actually help people live better lives and make more money. That’s how you know your business has value – when you provide greater value to others. Not because you win hackathons.

4) He didn’t solve his own problems.

The first version he showed me had some very basic problems. With a little thought he could have solved those problems. Instead, I outlined how he could solve them. He solved them and I was finally able to show them to the client.

Actually, that’s not true. He forgot basic aspects of my original spec (see “under-deliver”) and I had to remind him and he said, “Oops. Sorry.” And within minutes he had a new version. These aspects of my original spec were designed to protect the client from losing millions of dollars should they ever roll out my friend’s product.

5) He didn’t offer new ideas.

In the final version he showed me there were some basic things he could have over-delivered on to impress the client. They were very basic. He even said, “of course!” when I brought these features up to him.

It’s one thing if he were not already developing software for this business and he was a developer I was trying to contract. Then he might not know the industry. But he already had software designed for this very industry and it only involved seconds of tweaking for him to massively over deliver. And, I have to repeat it, a billion-revenue client was interested when he had no clients at all.

He’s clearly interested. He ultimately delivered and did everything and it was great. I showed it to the potential client and they loved it. Good things will come of this.

What do I get out of it? Absolutely nothing. Don’t be a fucking pig all the time and try to have your hand out. If you create value for others, then sooner or later value is created for you.

So, what should you do?

You will make a lot of money if you simply:

  • Deliver on time
  • Don’t focus on venture capitalists (the customer is your audience, not the venture capitalist)
  • Over-deliver (it is so easy to over-deliver and so few do it)
  • Catch and solve easy problems before the client sees them
  • Come up with new and continuing ideas so that the client views you as a partner and not just another bullshit vendor trying to scrape money out of them. Keep in touch with the client and see how you can brainstorm every few days or so to come up with new ideas for them.

It’s really that simple to make a ton of money.

Another very important thing: The site he is developing for this potential client is slightly different than his initial software. He had to tweak it to make it fit my needs. Always assume that you have no idea what your customers want. In 99.9 percent of cases, remember, the startup pivots and not the client.

All you can hope to do is get close enough to what the customer wants so that they then notice you. If you look good and they ask you to dance, then you better be light on your toes or you will fall.

Now I better shut up.

Two Lifehacks That Will Get People To Like You


I’m taking a day off from writing about crying on the floor. I feel like I’ve written 600 posts about either failure or naked people.

Instead, I’m going to share two things I’ve done that have changed my life for the better and I don’t know anyone else who does them.

A) Get yourself 1000 $2 bills. You can get $2 bills by going to your local bank and asking them to order it from the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Reserve threw out all of their antique copy machines that were set aside for $2 bills. That said, they still have a million vintage 2003 (signed by John Snow) $2 bills lying around. If you go to your local bank branch and ask for $2 bills it will take about 2-3 weeks to get one thousand of them.


1) When you go to a place where you plan on being a regular, always tip 30% and do it all with $2 bills. Nobody is ever going to forget you and you will always be treated well. Plus people will fight with each other to be the one serving you. That’s a nice feeling. You don’t have to be rich. You just have to have $2 bills.

Note: DON’T waste $2 bills on tips for cab drivers. They are never going to see you again.

2) When you are breaking into a new scene, always use $2 bills. For instance, when I started playing chess for money at Washington Square Park I would always pay off with $2 bills but when I won I’d get $1s or $5s. Pretty soon, everyone was hoarding their $2 bills. My currency was flowing through the local economy. Everyone knew who I was. It was a shortcut to popularity because that’s how desperate I was for friends among a bunch of drug addict homeless chessplayers.

3) When I was dating, I would carry a thick wad of cash. A $100 bill on top, $2 bills filling out the whole wad. Time to pay for dinner, I’d bring out the wad (impressive), peel off a $100 bill (pathetic) and then amaze by tipping with non-stop $2 bills. “Where did you get those?” people always ask. Give a cryptic answer. “I do some projects with the government.”

Extra tip: it helps to go to the same restaurant the night before the date so everyone who works there is excited, anticipating what you will do.

4) Conversation piece. If you pull out a $2 bill people say three things: “what is that?”, “where did you get that?”, “they are so beautiful”

5) Because as far as money goes, they are beautiful. I love the back of the 2 dollar bill. So much detail.

Buy 100 waiters pads. I’ve written about it before but I can’t stress it enough.

1) It’s easy to write ideas. And the width is too short for you to put a lot of details or write a novel or whatever. It’s just for writing down ideas. I write at least ten ideas a day on waiter’s pads. Over the course of a year that’s almost 4000 ideas. I do it seven days a week.

2) If you are writing down ideas in a restaurant then the waiter thinks you are in the business and serves you faster.

Trust me, this always works. In fact, if I am getting poor service I just pull out my waiter’s pad, put it on the table, and suddenly everyone is very attentive.

3) At the beginning of a business meeting I pull out the waiters pad and someone always says, “I’ll take two cheeseburgers and a coke” and everyone laughs. It’s a good conversation starter.

4) It’s a good way of showing you’re frugal. When everyone pulls out their moleskin notebooks that cost $40 a pad you can say you paid 10 cents for your waiter’s pad. Frugality is great when you are trying to raise money.

5) I’m bad at remembering names. At the top of every page in the waiter’s pad are small shapes representing the different different types of tables. The shapes have numbers representing every sitting position. You can write down the names of who is at the meeting and where they sat.

6) they fit in your shirt pocket. As opposed to almost every other pad.

I tried to think of a third lifehack but I couldn’t. For 10 years I’ve carried around waiter’s pads and $2 bills every day and have had enormous success with both of them.

The key is you are inviting people into your universe. To keep them guessing about what might happen next. It’s a mystery! $2 bills and waiter’s pads are a good start.

Oh! And my special handshake. But I’ll save that for another post.

[Note on rewriting: first draft of this was 1041 words. Final draft: 773 words]

Making Every Moment A Work Of Art

Jeff Wall Sudden Gust of Wind

I called up my favorite writer, William Vollman, and told him I had AIDS. He had just written a book (this was around 1994) about a guy who went to Thailand who got AIDS.

I didn’t have AIDS. I wanted to somehow connect to Vollmann. I didn’t know anyone with AIDS. I didn’t know any writers. I just wanted to have fun. In retrospect, it was stupid.

He called me back a few days later and left me a message on my answering machine. I was standing right next to the machine but didn’t want to pick up.

He said in his foggy, slow voice, Continue reading