Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Axiom 100: Symbolism & Rituals

Here we are at the 100th Axiom. I can't believe what a long journey it has been to get here. 100 is a milestone, right? Or is it just another number? 

Turns out it's both, and this leads us to today's lesson:

Many things in our lives are symbolic or ritualistic in nature. A college degree, a wedding anniversary, a Christmas tree, our favorite meal. The value can sometimes either be lost in the symbolism, and sometimes the value is the symbolism itself. It often goes against common sense why we do the things we do. That is where the magic lies.

Know where to look, and when to look. There was as much value in the first Axiom as there was in this Axiom. The order of learning is both important and inconsequential at the same time. It is a paradox that you solve to achieve complete mastery.

As we wrap up this 100th Axiom I leave you with the thought that this is not the end, this is just the beginning. You can easily start over with the first Axiom and continue the journey again. However, we must move forward, and I will do so with a slight format change to this website...

Monday, October 23, 2017

Axiom 99: Listen More, Talk Less

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” -Stephen R. Covey

"It takes a great man to be a good listener." -Calvin Coolidge

I woke up this morning to an empty house. My wife and daughter are out of town. It was strangely quiet. Today I was going to be working at another one of our stores further away. I got in my car where I had a long drive ahead of me. 

About halfway into my commute I had reached a barren section of road outside of the city. I snapped the photo above and the silence hit me. Sometimes it is better to listen than it is to talk. On today's drive I just sat and listened.

I listened to the radio in the background. I listened to the sounds of the road. I listened to the fleeting thoughts running through my mind. The further I got outside of town the easier it was to just listen.

99 Axioms completed and I realize how important it is to listen. I had so much to say when I started with the very first Axiom. Now it is time for me to do more listening than talking again.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Top 10 Best Meals

There are certain meals I've had in my life that have been truly life changing. They are the places that I can't wait to go back to again. The list below ranks in order my absolute favorite places to eat. All of these places hold a special place in my heart and have a certain quality, experience, and panache that separates them from all the rest.

10. Papaya Mexican Grill (Arlington, Texas)

Papaya is true Mexican food that has a taste like no other. Every item I've had on the menu is fantastic, but the Churros (pictured above) are one of the best desserts I've ever had. The place has a comfortable, bright, and festive look that does't scream generic Mexican restaurant.

9. Katz's Delicatessen (New York City)

This place has been around forever and is one of my favorites. Pastrami, matzo ball soup, and a chocolate egg cream is my standard order. I've never been here with anyone that didn't absolutely rave about this place. From the moment the guy behind the counter gives you a hot slice of pastrami to sample you'll be forever hooked.

8. Jim's Steaks (Philadelphia)

The Philly cheese steak is one of my favorite regional foods. Out of all the ones I tried in Philly Jim's on South Street was the best. A Wiz Wit and a cold can of Yuengling is the things dreams are made of. The long line, the smell of the grill and company of good friends make this one hell of a spot to go eat at.

7. Gino's East (Chicago)

Out of all the Chicago deep dish pizza places I went to Gino's left me with a twinkle in my eye and a skip in my step. I still remember when I was walking out after the meal and someone asked me if Gino's was any good. I couldn't help but laugh and say, "you have no idea". The sausage and pepperoni deep dish is worth the hour long wait and I can't wait to go back next time I'm in Chicago.

6. Mandalay SF (San Francisco)

I went from "what the hell is Burmese food?" to having a religious experience with everything on the menu, especially the Mandalay Special Noodle. Mandalay, I'm thinking about you. I miss you. I can't wait to savor your fresh spices again soon.

5. Montgomery Inn (Cincinnati)

How could it be that the best BBQ ribs are in Ohio? I initially laughed at the very thought of even eating here. Boy was I wrong. Ribs and Saratoga Chips are a life-changing experience that will leave all other BBQ rib dinners as inferior forever more.

4. Franklin Barbecue (Austin)

The four hour wait for a lunch I will never forget. Truly the best brisket I have ever had the honor of eating. This heaven sent meal is further crystallized in my mind now that Franklin's is currently closed because of a fire. 

3. Di Fara Pizza (Brooklyn)

This place is nothing pretty to look at. It was a hell of a long way out of my way to get down to Brooklyn to eat here. However, this is the holy grail of pizza. You can never know what truly great pizza is unless you've eat here. Don't even mention Sbarro, Domino's, or even (dare I say) Gino's East in the same sentence - blasphemy. I was truly not worthy of a pizza like this.

2. Brindle Room (New York City)

I could tell you that this is the best burger in America but this would still not do this burger justice. Everyone I've had the pleasure to take here has been absolutely floored by how f*****g delicious this burger is. Your life will never be the same after eating this thing. You will dream about it, you will crave it, you will never, ever, ever, forget it.

1. Spago (Beverly Hills)

This place in my mind is still the pinnacle of everything done perfectly in a restaurant. The atmosphere is perfect. The service is perfect. Every dish is the most flavorful and well though out presentation possible. Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it is snobby. BUT, it's the best. I often say that the hole-in-the-wall places are the best, but when Wolfgang Puck personally hands you a dessert - game over.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Axiom 98: Stop Watering Dead Plants

Wasted energy and time can never be recovered. We so often fall into the trap of watering dead plants. These dead plants take many forms. Stop pouring all of your time and efforts into relationships and endeavors that have little hope of payoff. 

Every true success has to be a two-way relationship. I've seen so many business relationships fall apart because everything was a one-way interaction. Seek out those win-win relationships and avoid those win-lose relationships.

Concentrate on identifying where to avoid spending your time and effort. This will help bring clarity to the things your should be focusing on in life.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Axiom 97: The Biggest Potential Mistake People Make

Never judge a book by its cover. I know it is a cliche saying but time after time I am always reminded of how true this statement is.

Look beyond the surface. A great person might really not be so great after all. What looks like an awful product might soon be the next million dollar idea. That person that comes across as a bumbling fool might actually one of the most well-read and intellectual people you'll meet. You never know, so don't assume anything.

Many times at work I hired people thinking they would be great only to be disappointed in them. Other times people I wrote off ended up developing into fantastic employees. All through the process if I had negative assumptions I kept them to myself. I never wanted to burn any bridges.

The lesson here is simple: Leave your mind and your options open. You will be surprised. Things are not how they always appear.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Axiom 96: The Path of Success

"First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination." -Napoleon Hill

"Change is the end result of all true learning." -Leo Buscaglia

"One repays a teacher badly if one remains only a pupil." -Friedrich Nietzsche

To imply a person is successful implies they have conquered one subject or another. A path that involves just three phases: ObservationEducation, and Mastery.

Observation is the first phase. It is when a person is on the outside looking inward. It is a state of knowing what is only on the surface. For example, It could be someone that has no musical training in awe of a guitar player at a concert. Everyone must make a decision (conscious or unconscious) if they wish to go beyond this first phase into the next phase.

The next phase is a phase of education. It is where a person goes deeper than what is on the surface and starts actively learning. The romanticism from the observation phase starts to fade and the hardships of practice appear. To continue from our previous example, it is where a person was so inspired by a concert they went to that they decide to buy a guitar and start taking guitar lessons. This is the phase in which most people end their quest.

For the few that continue on their journey the final phase is mastery. It is where someone takes control of a craft and remolds it in their own likeness. It is a complete cycle and return of that original romanticism from phase one. In our example it is where someone practices and learns the skills of playing guitar to the level that they use that skill to changes the lives of others. Whether it be playing a concert, writing music, forming a record label, starting a guitar manufacturing company, etc.

The subject is irrelevant, but the three phases on the path to success are always the same.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Axiom 95: Methods & Results

"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him." -David Brinkley

"If you look really closely, most overnight successes took a long time." 
-Steve Jobs

When you're seeking success it's normal to examine the success of other people. We often use the success of others as a measuring stick or a blueprint for our own path in life. However, it's important to differentiate the difference between methods and results.

For example, you might see two incredibly wealthy people. You might assume their wealth is a result of some successful methods they used in life. However, one might have been born into wealth and the other born into poverty. In this situation you have the same results but two very different methods to get there.

In another example you might see two very poor people. You might assume from their lack of wealth that their methods in life are useless. However, maybe one of them has sacrificed wealth in the near term because they are working on something that could pay off big in the long term. Again, the results don't always reflect the methods in real time.

You must look at results and the methods they used to get those results for a clear picture. Only then can you apply what you learn to your own journey in life.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Axiom 94: Always Do Your Best

"Do the best you can in every task, no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time. No one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom." -Sandra Day O'Connor

At age 16 my very first job was sacking groceries at a national supermarket chain. It was by no means a job I really wanted. It was the only company that I applied with that called me back. The pay was low ($4.40/hr). The schedule was erratic (I'd work various shifts from 7:00 am to 1:00 am throughout the week), and the work was physically exhausting.

While there was little, if anything, redeeming about my first job I still tried to do the best job possible. I had the mindset that the company was paying me for my services and I owed it to them to do the best job possible. My coworkers slacked off, worked at a mediocre pace, and did the bare minimum to get through the day. I always stayed busy, worked as fast as possible, and asked my boss for more work to do when I was caught up. 

Just as I started to lose faith that I was working hard for nothing I got promoted - again and again. Before I turned 17 I became a cashier (even though the company didn't even hire cashiers younger than 18). Then just before I turned 18 I was promoted to customer service manager (probably the youngest one in a company with thousands of employees).

I got promoted because I always tried to do my best at every job I was given. It wasn't from luck. It wasn't because I knew the right people. I never saw my current job as a dead end job. I always saw it as a step to something better and so should you. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Axiom 93: Don't Forget Your Roots

Don't forget your roots because they won't forget you...

Six years ago when I wrote the first Axiom on this site I knew one day I would start to run out of ideas I wanted to express. At 93 Axioms deep it is now a struggle to make sure I'm not recycling previous thoughts. This very problem is what led me to today's lesson. I went back to the first Axiom and thought about what the roots of this site were intended to be.

I had a business dinner with a gentlemen from Europe a few weeks ago that got me thinking. While he was explaining European culture to me and I was explaining American culture to him I realized how important the roots of something are. We are deeply influenced by our roots, for better and worse. The people we deal with are also deeply influenced by their roots.

It is critical that if we are to be truly successful that we understand our roots and the roots of what we are trying to accomplish. Our roots are like a foundation that should never be forgotten. This doesn't mean that you have to let your roots always influence you however. It simply means that you must have an awareness and an understanding of them.   

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Di Fara Pizza, the "Best of the Best"

I had been looking forward to going to Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn (1424 avenue J, Brooklyn, New York 11230) for a very long time. It's not exactly the easiest place to get to for tourists visiting NYC. Far from the glitz of Manhattan it's a relatively long subway ride out into the depths of Brooklyn. It's the kind of place that you have to go out of your way to visit, but it is oh so worth the effort to get there.

Disembarking from the subway train I was completely among the Brooklyn natives. No double-decker red tour buses or naked cowboys anywhere in site. At this moment I'm starting to feel sorry for all the fanny pack wearing tourists stuffing their faces with Sbarro in Times Square.

I got there a little after 1:00pm during the week and there was no one lined up for pizza. I had read about the long lines at this place but today I was treated like a VIP. I had the whole place to myself. 

I walked in to what amounts to a rundown looking building with a few tables and a decor that looks decades old. The pizza smell in the air was like a siren's song calling me in. I knew I was in for a damn good meal. 

I went for the "Di Fara Classic Pie". I figured this was probably the crown jewel on their menu. I paid up the cash (they are cash only) and sat patiently while my pie was created from scratch.

I took the first bite and knew from that moment on that all other pizza would never compare to this one. There is a reason that hundreds, maybe thousands, of people go out of their way to make a pilgrimage here. It is simply head and shoulders far superior to any other pizza you'll ever try. The pictures or descriptions of the flavors will never do this pizza justice. You just have to trust me.

I've been to Lombardy's and John's in Manhattan. I've eaten all the deep dish places in Chicago, but they pale in comparison to Di Fara. It is truly a pizza I don't feel worthy enough to eat.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Axiom 92: You Don't Have to Play by the Rules

Back in 2012 I was out of town for work for almost a month. It was the biggest job our company had ever done at the time. It was by far the hardest I've ever worked and the most physically and mentally exhausted I've ever been in my life.

Towards the end of my time away I drove a few hours off one weekend on an outing to Yellowstone National Park. I went into a little shop in West Yellowstone and saw the picture above for sale. There was just something about that picture that spoke to me at the time.

Now hanging in my office at home it says, "The Clearest Way into the Universe is Through a Forest Wilderness."

I bought it at the time because that quote taught me a valuable life lesson. I had been through the past few weeks of the hardest and most stressful work even, but there is no success without failure. There is no pleasure without pain. There is no learning and growing in life without first going through difficulties.

I learned from that day on I should look at problems as opportunities. No longer was I subject to the rules simply as a passive onlooker. Successful people don't play by other peoples' rules. They play by their own rules. Don't get stuck in the forest.