Don’t Tread on Me

I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids. She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. As if anxious to prevent all pretensions of quarreling with her, the weapons with which nature has furnished her, she conceals in the roof of her mouth, so that, to those who are unacquainted with her, she appears to be a most defenseless animal; and even when those weapons are shown and extended for her defense, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal. Conscious of this, she never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.

-Excerpt from an article attributed to Benjamin Franklin originally published in The Pennsylvania Journal, 12 December 1775. Click here for the full letter.

The rattlesnake’s warning is distinctive. If you hear it, you know to stop, to look around, and to go the other way if possible. The rattlesnake is a fearsome creature, but he is not mean by nature. Instead, he is quite considerate. Compared to the other poisonous animals in the world, he is the only one to give you a warning. He says, “Think carefully before you tread on me. I don’t want to bite you, but I will if you force me to it.”

For centuries, the British were one of the dominant powers on this planet. They felt they could go wherever they wanted, rule where the profits were greatest, and generally walk all over everybody else. The American colonies didn’t prefer the British tyranny and responded by raising the Gadsden Flag. It was a symbol and a warning: If you tread on us, we will bite.

If we choose to be no more than clods of clay, then we shall be used as clods of clay for braver feet to tread on.

Marie Corelli

The world has changed considerably since those days in the late 1700’s. Does this mean people have changed? There are still those who think the world is theirs for the taking. They have no qualms trying to control those they deem inferior. And if we allow it, then we are no more than clods of clay for their feet. Like the early Colonials, we are faced with a choice. Do we passively surrender our freedoms, or do we do as the rattlesnake? If we choose freedom over tyranny, then we must sound the warning and let the oppressors know we can bite. We can fight back.

Who Is Thinking?

Do you have an opinion that is not the same as the generally held beliefs of the masses? Would you consider your thinking contrary or against the grain of popular belief? If yes, then: good.

Well, somewhat good. Your opinion, if voiced, could come at a significant cost. You could get publicly shamed, silenced, cancelled, or even killed. Jesus rubbed a few people wrong with His voice, and He was crucified. Many of His early believers followed Him and was on the wrong end of government-sanctioned murder. If you upset the mob, the mob will find a way to retaliate. Such is the way of the dissenting voice.

What is the alternative? To have the same beliefs and thoughts as the rest of the world? You could. You could go on autopilot, do the same as everyone else, believe what they believe, , think like they do. Isn’t this unity? A part of the collective?

If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.

Benjamin Franklin

To think like everyone else means you have shut down your own ability to think for yourself. You have taken the easy route and have done your best to remove what makes you unique. You might think there is nothing wrong with this. You might be right. But what if the world’s way of thinking is wrong? What if the direction of the mob or Big Brother does more harm than good? By not thinking differently, by not using your voice, you have made yourself complicit in the harm.

In Franklin’s time, men stood up and spoke out against a government they disagreed with. They fought for their ability to think differently. Not just for them, but for all who come after them.

Feature photo by JD Mason on Unsplash

One Day, This Day

As the sun comes up, I face towards it, and like an Egyptian of antiquity, stare straight into its center. It is a beautiful blessing to look upon its face and consider how fortune has favored me. I am alive. I am well. As far as I know, all my friends and family, all those I consider dear to my heart, are also alive and well. We have survived to see another day. This is a blessing. The air we breathe, a blessing. The Sun with the power to create and destroy, a blessing.

In this moment, I think upon the day before me. Like the Sun, will I be light? Will I shine, and radiate, and be a blessing to others? What good will I do this day?

One day is worth a thousand tomorrows.

Ben Franklin

This day is all that matters. No would have, could have, or should have. Can I go to bed tonight with the knowledge that I did all in my power to do? If I wake tomorrow to see another day, I will continue to build upon this foundation created over a span of yesterdays. But if not, I am at peace. I did today, all that I could do.

Feature photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Growth and Progress

We hope for the best. Usually that means improving at something, achieving a victory, or being successful. To keep your hope intact, you have to grow. You have to make progress.

What can you do today to improve your tomorrow? Mind, body, soul. This is the trifecta you need to develop.

Mind: What are you reading? What are you learning? Knowledge. Understanding. Wisdom.

Body: Use it or lose it. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. The opposite is true as well unless you break the trend. Discipline. Temperance.

Soul: You have to train your heart. Courage. Bravery. Perseverance.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. –Benjamin Franklin

Path to Mastery

My son opens the new box of Legos. He is excited and can’t wait to complete finished product as shown on the box. Multiple bags of bricks come out of the box and then the instructions. The instructions. A book that can shoot upwards of a hundred pages depending on the difficulty of the project.

Maybe someday Alec will become a “master builder,” but right now he is still learning. When he was four, he put a few together but mostly watched us put it together for him. At five, a little better. Now at six, his build quality has improved and the instructions are not as overwhelming as before.

In those early days of building, the instructions were daunting. He knew he was supposed to follow them, but that was much easier said than done. The concept was there, but he lacked the execution.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. –Benjamin Franklin

The techniques I use for training associates in manufacturing were the same techniques I used in the Army and in retail. As a trainee, here is what you can expect:

  • You can read the instructions. In almost every organization, there is a manual. It will give you the basics (tools, conditions, etc.) of the procedure you wish to perform. It may not make sense, but at least it is something.
  • You can watch someone and try to emulate them. Watching an expert perform a task brings the instruction manual to life. You can get a sense of the rhythm, witness the skill, and pick up on any tips that the manual doesn’t cover.
  • You can read the instructions, watch a trainer, and then perform the procedure yourself under the trainer’s watchful eye. The trainers can guide and correct you. They can show you how to minimize wasteful movements and boost your productivity. Under their tutelage, you can in time become an expert yourself.

This method for training goes beyond the workplace. Imagine using these concepts in grooming our children for adulthood.

  • You can tell a child what to do and hope they get it. This is like giving them the instruction manual. If your child can listen well, there might be a chance.
  • The child can watch you. In fact, whether you know it or not, the child is already watching you. You are the example. They will follow your example. If you sit around and complain all the time, guess what your children will do? The same thing. For good or for bad, you are the one they will emulate.
  • The best parenting advice I know: You tell them, you show them, and then you let them go through the experience while you watch them. It is active parenting. Your words match your actions. Their actions in turn are molded by their leader.

You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips. –Oliver Goldsmith

The next time you open up a self-development book, keep this training method in mind. It is good that you are reading it, but there is only so much you can get out of it. Depending on your retention level, the words will only take you so far. It would be better is to find someone, an expert, to emulate. Even better, find someone who can guide you as you go through the process yourself.

As you develop, remember it is through action that improvement is possible. In time, you are going to want to share that knowledge with others. Telling someone what you know will only be so effective. Living what you know and then guiding others in that knowledge is where the real mastery is achieved.

New Year’s Resolution: 10X vs. +10%

The New Year is upon us and for many people that means it is time to dust off the old spiral notebook and jot down some resolutions. I used to do this every year. My resolutions were nothing short of spectacular. My results by the end of each year, if I even remembered them, were not very impressive. I was more likely to digress than progress.

Last year was different. I don’t even think I set resolutions. I just did the work. Every day, week, and month, I was pushing myself to become a little better. In terms of productivity and personal development, 2018 has been my greatest year. Now 2019 is coming up fast and I wonder how much farther can I go.


A common theme I see these days is the idea of being able to 10x your life. There are tons of influencers that you can pay to show you how to do this. Imagine what a 10x improvement in your life would look like. I can easily picture the attractiveness of making 10x more money next year. That would be awesome. But can I make a 10x improvement in my body, soul, or mind? What does a 10x improvement even look like?

  • 10x faster in a 5K
  • 10x more weight loss
  • 10x happier
  • 10x more sex
  • 10x more stuff


I know, it is not as sexy as 10x. If I offered you a 10% improvement in life free of charge versus you paying for a 10x from a successful-looking influencer, you may be already reaching for your credit card. 10x is hard to beat, but is it realistic? And is 10x a one-time shot or can you go up 10x every year? I might be pessimistic, but personally I am shooting for a 10% increase.

What does a plus 10% look like?

  • A little more work, maybe an extra day put in every 10 days.
  • Running a 9 minute mile instead of 10.
  • Reading a bit more. I had a goal in 2018 to read 50 books. I only completed 36. A 10x’er might shoot to read 360, but I am going to modestly attempt to read 40 books in 2019.
  • 10% more sex. Your spouse might thank you for this, but he/she may try to curse you if you go 10x. Then again, you never know.

2019 will be the first time I take a 10% approach to my resolution setting. I’m optimistic about it, because 10% is really not that big. 10% is doable. If I can hit that number every year in almost every aspect of my body, soul, and mind, I would be ecstatic.

To those setting resolutions in 2019: I wish you the best of luck. May you achieve that which you set out to do, whether it is 10%, 10x, or somewhere in between.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. –Benjamin Franklin

Courage From Journaling

What are you doing to own your faults? What are you doing to fix them? Benjamin Franklin says there are few that have the courage to do this. How true this is, but what if there was a simple daily habit that would assist you with this courageous feat?

When I left the Army, I knew writing was going to play a large part in my future. I imagined being a novelist. I thought I had these great ideas, but the act of getting those ideas onto paper turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined. Not only was I struggling with writing, I was also struggling with my transition to civilian life. It turns out that my life and my writing were very similar. I drifted along aimlessly in a murky fog.

Dear Diary…

In my darkest times, I would grab a piece of paper and begin to write. Essentially, these were letters to myself. They began with a question or a statement about the problems I was facing. As I kept writing and thinking, potential solutions would come to the forefront. I became a motivational writer for myself. It was on those pages I would tell myself, “I could make it. I could survive.”

In the last few years, my journaling has become a regular practice, both in good times and in bad. In order to advance in my practice, I have incorporated some practical tips from Tim Ferriss, Jim Rohn, and even from some ancient Stoic Philosophers. So what tip am I working on now? It comes from one of Seneca’s daily habits. Seneca would take time at the end of each day and examine what he had done and said. In my personal quest to live a more virtuous life, this idea of examining my day seems to be the most beneficial. Doing so gives me the opportunity to look at and address areas needing improvement. Did I make the most of the day? Did I live up to my own expectations in doing what is right? Did I practice the things I love to preach?

Using a journal as a daily habit to identify and fix your faults doesn’t seem courageous. But the practice will make you more aware of your day-to-day activities. When you stray from the path, you might be quicker to correct your course and get back on. When you err, you will have the courage to own it and correct it.

How few there are who have courage enough to own their own faults, or resolution enough to mend them. –Benjamin Franklin

Said vs. Done

Faith that your actions will always speak louder than your words.

Faith that your hard work will pay off in the end.

To get the “well done, thou good and faithful servant,” you have to do the work. That line isn’t given out to the ones that only give lip service.

To the inventor who never gets into the workshop, the would-be novelist who never has the time to put pen to paper, and the kid that messes up but says he’s going do better next time:

Have faith in the truthfulness of Franklin’s words, “Well done is better than well said.”