About Me (TLDR Version)
Growing up, I saw things that fascinated, confused, and scared me. This was the catalyst for my lifelong search for answers and meaning. Now, I apply what I’ve learned in my own life and try to help others achieve greater levels of clarity so they can experience more happiness and less pain.
Overview (The Long Version)
Basically, I’m just like you. I’m going through my life experiencing all the pain and pleasure that comes with being human. I’m just trying to figure it all out. I’m a curious person and I love exploring the nature of things. But I’m also a puzzle solver. Only the puzzles I enjoy solving are the basic confounders of life:
- Why am I here?
- Does life have meaning or a purpose?
- Do we die when we die?
- Why we have to suffer?
- Why does inequality exist where some people have abundance and others have nothing?
- Why do people hurt each other?
- Why do members of various religions and philosophies feel justified in doing bad things in the name of God?
Those are some of the deeper ones, the universal questions. But in the process of exploring those, I also questioned some very basic daily-living type stuff like:
- Why was I not happy at times when my life seemed to be going well?
- How can I have less stress and enjoy life more?
- Why can’t I figure out my dream job or career?
- Why can some people lose weight on one diet and other’s struggle, even when eating the exact same foods?
- Why are so many people miserable or unhappy with their lives?
- Why, despite all of my effort, can’t I make enough money to breathe easy?
- Why does everything seem so edgy and stressed constantly?
- How have politics gotten so far off track where they’ve stopped doing what’s right for “We the people” and instead cater to big money?
Asking questions like these and constantly looking for answers, I’ve also learned a lot about myself, about people, and about behavior. I’ve done a lot of research and have conducted my own experiments and personal observations spanning many years and because of this, I eventually began seeing certain patterns, certain behaviors repeated, and started to understand the mechanisms behind them, the cause and effect.
It turns out that if you can stand back and take a broad enough view, the picture begins to look different. When you’re so extremely close to whatever issue or life challenge you’re looking at, you tend to only be able to focus on what’s presented right in front of you. But that’s not the whole story. With a little shift in your awareness or your point of view, things start to look different. And this new perspective give you more to work from.
Growing up, I saw things that fascinated, confused, and scared me. This was the catalyst for my lifelong search for answers and meaning. In my personal quest, I have obsessively explored my psyche, trying to understand who I am and why I think and act as I do. This has helped me reach certain understandings and has helped me see things in ways many people are too distracted to notice.
Now, I’m focused on putting all the pieces together so that I can create what I see as my dream life while helping others overcome the frustrations and guilt they experience in their daily lives. I’ve learned that I seem to have a pretty good intuitive ability to put things into words that help people understand their challenges better and give them the ability to make progress with it. And that is a deeply rewarding experience for me. So much of my life is geared toward helping people see things with greater clarity. I want to empower people so they can change their own lives. But enough about that for now.
My Hometown – The Big D
I was born in Detroit, Michigan and lived in the suburbs until I was about 31. Then I moved to the Lynchburg, Virginia area where I met my wife, Tammy. Actually, we met online through common interests and became good friends before I moved to Virginia. After moving to Virginia, we dated for about a year, then got married. And I love to brag about our wonderful marriage. We are still deeply in love and always feel like newly-weds. Trust me, I could go on at length about this, but I’ll stop here. 🙂
My Education – Sir Talks-a-Lot
I’m pretty good at communicating ideas. I think it’s in my DNA. Why? Because the only time I ever got in trouble in school was for talking. LOL Yeah, it’s what I do. I was a pretty average (sometimes below average) student through graduation from high school. Eventually, after moving to Virginia, I started dabbling with college. So I was already in my early to mid 30s. I probably took what amounted to a year and a half of college classes before I stopped going. The reason I stopped going was frustration and confusion.
I wasn’t frustrated and confused by my classes. I mean I was, but that wasn’t the issue. I had a 4.0 GPA, but I had to work really hard to maintain that. The problem was I didn’t know what I wanted to have as a career. I read books and blog posts about finding your dream career and every time I thought I found it, I would lose interest and go back to the drawing board. That’s what got frustrating. All the best tips in the world failed to produce a clear idea of what my dream career path should be. It’s really hard to invest so much time in school when you don’t have a clear objective. So I stopped going.
So most of my education after high school was either fueled by my many interests through specialty training. I have no degree, except from the School of Hard Knocks…GPA 4.0 at that school, too. LOL
My Work Life – Piano Lab
By age 20, I was self-employed as a piano teacher, which I did for about 10 years, until I moved to Virginia. Those years were very important in my life for so many reasons. It wasn’t because I was awesome at playing the piano. I always considered myself mediocre. But it was then that I learned two very important things about myself. 1) I loved teaching. 2) I was good at it. I’m not talking only about teaching students how to play piano, though I was good at that too. I’m talking about the process of teaching, in general. I love opening minds to new ideas in completely unexpected ways. The way I presented new ideas was to often come at it from left-field, where the student wouldn’t see it coming. Then it had a greater impact. But I should make something clear. For me, teaching piano wasn’t about teaching piano. It was about teaching life skills using piano as my methodology. I knew that in all reality, piano would eventually take a back seat to life, work, and adult obligations. So I used piano lessons to teach problem-solving skills, goal-setting, how to deal with frustration, etc. If my students were going to eventually stop playing piano or only for personal pleasure, I wanted them to have something else they could take with them through their lives. Something more meaningful and permanent. This was my personal agenda.
During my peak load of students, I was teaching about 50 lessons per week. Which was about 2 or 3 times more than what was normal for most full-time piano teachers at the time. This is an important detail because of how I approached teaching. The piano teaching experience was like having my own private lab where I could conduct experiments. Wait…wait…nothing creepy. I’ll explain. 🙂
Piano teachers have to deal with students who don’t practice. That’s probably the number one frustration for music teachers of any instrument. I reasoned that if this is a problem, there must be a solution. I began a hard study of motivation techniques and began experimenting with them. Most of the stuff I read was all the same type of stuff. Some of it worked for some students but not for others. With so many students, many of them of school age, I could try multiple motivation experiments at a time. And everyday (six days per week), multiple times per day, I would see the results of my motivation experiments. So with every young student, I began trying different incentive programs and token economies, (think brownie points), etc. This way, I could swiftly find what seemed to work and stop using what didn’t.
To make a long story short, I developed a program where the end result was many students were practicing every day for 30 minutes, but usually longer (with some students choosing to practice for 1 or 2 hours per day), and the parents didn’t have to fight with their kids to get them to practice anymore. I had cracked the motivation code…sort of.
Mental Health Warrior
There’s a lot of pieces to motivation, and I wasn’t done experimenting. I eventually got a job working at a private school run by the local health organization. It was a school for troubled kids with behavioral disorders. I received special training to learn how to physically, verbally, and emotionally manage them and keep them safe, while also providing them with better coping strategies. It was a very nurturing environment, but a tough gig. Angry outbursts were a daily reality. And as a mental health counselor at the school, I had to be there to manage that, along with the rest of the staff. It was a great program and all the staff members were invested in what we were doing.
While working as a mental health counselor, one of my jobs was to teach social skills every day for about an hour. But with this group of students, one hour was my formal time to focus on specific topics. But the entire staff was constantly reinforcing positive expectations and behaviors. That’s what the school was all about. One year, I was also in charge of physical education for the middle-school aged students. So I turned this into a social skills experiment, too. I created a social skills based fitness program. At it’s core, it was guided exercise time, but I found a way to reinforce listening skills, leadership skills and working as a team. Everything was designed to bring out their best qualities and teach better social skills every moment that I could.
Anyway, after about 4 years of that, I needed to step away. It’s an emotionally challenging job. You know the hardships that some of these kids had experiences. Many of them had gone through multiple traumas before reaching middle school age. And as much as I tried to leave work at work, I suffered, emotionally, knowing that this kind of suffering was going on in the world. It was time to move on.
From Computer to Art
I’ve had many jobs over my adult life, so far. Some others were as a Geek for Best Buy’s Geek Squad. I was a custom framer at Michael’s Crafts, and an assortment of other random jobs. But regardless of what job I had, I always seemed to have some other kind of self-employment going on. Ultimately, my dream life was to work for my self and to be able to travel. But I still had some obstacle that needed to be overcome.
For a short time, I worked at a residential work training program for young adults. They lived on campus and received work training so that when they graduated, they would be well-equipped for finding a good job doing auto repair, plumbing, welding, and many more. I was a Residential Adviser (RA) for a few dozen students, though there were hundreds of young men and women in this program.
While this wasn’t true for all students, it appeared that this program attracted older versions of the kids I worked with as a mental health counselor. There were anger issues, drugs, alcohol and general shenanigans that were constantly a source of trouble for all of us RAs. This meant more experimenting. I implemented another token economy and put the rules out there to the guys in my dorm. I used snacks and an assortment of other items all the students wanted, but couldn’t always afford. They often leveraged away such items in exchange for cigarettes from other students who seemed to always have a supply. I knew the game, so I played it to my advantage and immediately, it started working. I was even given an award for my service as an RA.
While the recognition was nice, I wasn’t doing it for that. I was further experimenting with motivation techniques. But more than than, I had to learn how to earn their trust and gain followers. There was a hierarchy in the dorm among the students. Some were easy to win over because I connected with them right away. Other, mainly the trouble-makers, were a lot harder. But I made progress there, but slowly. I never got 100% compliance, but the reward system was doing a good job of improving conditions of the dorm. But again, it was a tough gig. I was constantly on high alert. Students were good at creating diversions so a drug deal could go down or so some students could sneak alcohol in. Since many of the young men in my hall were court-ordered to be there, it was no surprise that some of them were the ones causing most of the trouble.
I eventually tired of playing that game and decided to move on. I accomplished some good things the short time I was there, but more importantly, I learned a lot by observing students and testing more motivation techniques. This was like a mini-prison environment. I did my thing, then I moved on.
I did a short stint at a children’s science museum as the assistant to the Operations Manager. I worked at a woodshop making custom wood furnature (something I always wanted to try), and eventually got a job in manufacturing. I worked in a metal fabrication plant as a cosmetic finisher. My very first job ever was something similar. Though it had been years since I had done anything like that. However, I picked up on the skills needed rapidly and was producing really nice work. My job was to grind welds off the metal objects we manufactured so that it would powder coated or painted. I did this for about 10 years. And in some ways, it was one of the coolest jobs I’ve ever had, but in other ways, it was one of the worst.
It wasn’t because I hated it working there. Most of the time it was good. But it wasn’t my dream career job. I wanted to create a life for myself where I would wake up excited to do whatever it was that I’d be doing. But whatever it was, I didn’t want to do it on someone else’s schedule. So in my dream life, I wouldn’t be working for someone else. And that’s partly why this was not a good job.
Here’s my philosophy about work. The best jobs are the ones you either love with a passion, or hate with a passion. Why? Well, if you’re lucky enough to have a job you love, you have what everyone is searching for but too few find. If you have a job you hate with a passion, you won’t stick around very long. That means you’re one step closer to having a better job. It’s the mediocre jobs that will cause you to die a long, slow death. Like I said, I liked my job. But it wasn’t what I saw for the vision of my life. So the whole time I worked there, I was trying to establish my own sources of income so that I could work on my own terms, travel wherever I wanted, and be financially free. The problem with having a good job that you don’t hate most of the time, is it’s far too easy to get comfortable and distracted by life. Next thing you know, several years have gone by and you feel like you’re no closer to living your dream life.
Mediocre jobs suck the motivation out of you because you don’t hate it enough to work hard at getting out. And you don’t love it enough to want to spend the rest of your work like doing that work. I feel most passionate and alive when I’m communicating ideas that wake people up and make them feel alive and passionate about their own lives. But I needed a better plan…and I found one.
Reality….Cold and Hard
This is actually a very long story, but the short version is, a few years ago (at the time of this writing), we decided that since we didn’t have kids, we were free to live anywhere we wanted. And since we both had online businesses, there’s no reason we couldn’t sell everything we owned, buy an RV, and travel around America and work on the road. The problem was, we had a house and a LOT of stuff. Plus, my business wasn’t making very much money, due to lack of development, which was because I was distracted by my okay job and life. Tammy’s business wasn’t doing so well, either. But she also had a regular online gig at the time doing contract work. So that proved she would make money and travel. Anyway, to fast forward a bit, we decided that we truly did want a life of freedom so we could travel. We ended up selling our house and a lot of our belongings and downsized two time over the next few years. Each time we sold more stuff.
Tammy started selling merchandise on Amazon and her business was doing really well. I was still not doing much with mine. I had come close to completing multiple writing projects a few times, but never got to the point that I was selling them. I started two blogs, behaviorandmotivation.com and quittingsugar.com and was getting my helping-people fix from those. But eventually, put them on the back burner and stopped blogging so I could focus on creating our dream life. But then we had a cold, sobering reality check. After looking at our finances, we were no closer to buying an RV than we were before we sold our house. In fact, we were worse off. It was beginning to look like our dreams of traveling and working on the road might never happen. I was shocked and depressed. I wanted to move on from my day job at the metal fabrication company and start creating my dream career and life. But now, it seemed I would be stuck there a lot longer.
The Clouds Parted
Then one day, something magical happened. Tammy texted me at work with a message that went something like, “I may have figured out a way to get you out of there. 🙂 I’ll tell you about it when you get home.” When I got home, she could barely contain herself. She was excited, but very hesitant. We sat down and she laid out her plan, which was to move to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where it’s cheaper to live and they have great Internet speeds, while we build up our businesses. I was ALL IN! We weren’t messing around with this. Within two weeks, we had purchased our one-way plane tickets and began selling off our belongings. At work, I put in a 3-month notice. We planned, sold stuff, got documents ready, and many other things you need to do for international travel when you’re planning to live in another country.
At this very moment, I’m writing this at my desk in my condo in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Tammy and I have been living here for about 7 months. We are working hard to get to establish income streams so that we can continue to live here for longer than a year. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but as of this moment, we’re both living at least part of our dream life. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. And I finally have time to work on unfinished projects that satisfy my desire to help people, while hopefully offering something good into the world. By selling ebooks, special reports, and many other information products, I’m hoping I can change some lives with my writings. And by doing so, I’ll also be helping to create the rest of my dream life.
Obviously, this is a snapshot of how I came to be living in Thailand. And how I’ve spent so much time obsessing over the answer to the questions of life. My life has been very positively impacted by the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’ve had some extreme challenges and faced some wild hardships as well as having experienced exalted states of consciousness through my quest for enlightenment. I will never be finished seeking answers to the big “why” questions, but I’ve already received enough answers that I am a changed person because of it. And I hope to pass on what I’ve learned to others. This is the next part of my life’s journey.
Want To Learn About My Products?
Soon, I will begin releasing various written projects and hoping to change lives as a result. I have just released a motivation special report about how to use a “Token Economy” to motivate a child or student, a classroom full of students, or even yourself. This is my first Kindle product for sale. It’s not very long, about 10 pages, but it gets right to the point. No fluff, just the essential information you need to get started motivating and influencing your child or students. This Kindle Special Report is the product of much practical experience and can work extremely well if you’re a parent, a home-school mom, or a teacher. But you can also apply it to yourself, as my personal example i in the special report demonstrates. Anyway, if you’re interested, you can check out my Special Report here:
If you are interested in learning about anything else I come out with, you can put yourself on my email list by subscribing in the sidebar on the right. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Some projects I’m working on are all geared to help you make your life better. A book that I’m currently working on is a 52-week program that will help you stick to a diet by helping you rewrite the negative believes and conditioning that are at the root of your failures. As far as I can tell, there’s no other book like it anywhere. Also, I have more on the way.
Beyond that, I have even grander plans that I hope someday I’ll be in the position to accomplish. But these are really big and will require help from many people. If it’s possible, I want to help people on a much larger scale. But for now, I have to keep working toward the financial and personal freedom that I want for my life. After that, the sky is the limit.
Anyway, you’re probably crazy for reading this whole thing. Feel free to drop a comment in here if you actually read the whole thing. I’d love to thank you for your bravery…or stupidity. LOL