Over the past year there have been different books, blogs, speeches, and podcasts that have made a lasting impression on me. I want to share with you the top ideas and advice that have stuck with me as we wrap up 2015.

Low Expectations, Big Goals

James Altucher talks about happiness in his books. He recommends having low expectations, so that you will almost always exceed your expectations, be happier, and achieve more.

This initially seemed very counterintuitive to me. But I think the important point is to differentiate between expectations and goals. How I understand his message is that it is important to have larger big pictures goals, but do not get bogged down by expecting to get to that goal in a specific way. Try to roll with the punches, but with the big picture in mind.

Hard Work

The way that Jim Valvano, the head coach of the NCAA champion NC STATE basketball team, thinks about hard work is novel to me. He said that the correlation between hard work and success is different than most people think of it. Hard work does not guarantee success. But there is no way to be successful without hard work. In other words, hard work is a prerequisite for success.

I feel like the message that I usually hear is that hard work = success. I like Valvano’s version better. Work puts you in the running, but you also have to be smart about how you work, be able to capitalize on opportunities, have the correct mindset, and get a little lucky.

Hell Yeah or No


Derek Sivers, the founder of CDbaby, talks about the way that he approaches new opportunities. If an opportunity does not elicit a “hell yeah” response from him, then he says no. By saying no to many opportunities, he is making sure that he has the time needed to really capitalize on the “hell yeah” opportunities.

It has taken me time to realize that there is a limit to the amount I can accomplish in a given day, and that taken on too much takes away from my ability to make significant progress in any one project. I am trying to have a deeper focus on the opportunities that I am most excited about.


I heard Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker, describe the way he starts off every day. After taking a “cold plunge” in water to awaken his body, he goes through a routine where he thinks of three different things that he is grateful for. He says that reflecting on what he appreciates allows him to remain happy through the day.

When I take time in the morning to write down three things that I am grateful for, it really affects my mood for the rest of the day. Focusing on the good things and great people in my life helps reduce the anxiety whatever else might be going on.


I just finished reading Steve Jobs’s biography. One thing that stuck me was his commitment to simplicity: simple interfaces and simple design. He and the Apple team would iterate over and over until they were able to reach the simplicity of Jobs’s vision.

There are times that I feel people try to make things more complex in order to make it seem more important. The book showed me that there is an art to breaking down and idea to its core and then communicating that core. Simple is better.

It is hard to believe that we are at the end of 2015, and that I have been writing this blog for over 7 months. I am excited as we enter 2016 to set big goals, but have low expectations; to work hard on some “hell yeah” opportunities; to try to keep everything simple, and to appreciate the journey.


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