Day of Reflection – B04

In this video I talk about using the last Sunday of the month as a day of reflection. This is a day I choose to look back through the past year, at all the events of the year, and reflect upon the lessons they taught me. I also prepare to move forward into the future.

Original Script of the Video (not a direct transcript)

Hey, everyone! Welcome to this week’s episode of Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and I want to thank you again for joining me. This week is not an official season episode because it doesn’t fall into the series at the same point for everyone that’s going through this process or going to go through this process in the future. This one is based on the calendar, so I’m making it a bonus episode you can watch at the end of the year, every year. It regards the last Sunday of the year, a day I use for reflection. With the new year just a few days away, I wanted to go over what I do on the last Sunday of the year. I take this day to remember the past year, as well as get ready for the new year.

I know a lot of people, especially adults, believe that the new year is just an arbitrary point in time and that it’s nothing special. It’s just another day in life and nothing changes at an arbitrary point in time on the calendar. Although I do agree with that, in a sense, to me the new year is symbolic. When we were children, there really wasn’t anything special about the last day of school for the year, going into the summer vacation, yet we all celebrated, right? There really isn’t anything inherently special about most holidays, either. They’re just days we’ve chosen to celebrate something. The last Sunday of the year is just that, to me: a symbolic day, a personal holiday, a day of reflection and celebration, preparing for the new year.

Avoiding Work

As this is a holiday to me, I’m not dressed for work, whether professional or for this channel. This is how I dress when it’s laundry day. I’m wearing my favorite old hoodie, threadbare and worn and comfortable. I’m wearing my favorite, comfortable jeans, threadbare and full of holes. It’s mid-afternoon, approaching evening. I slept in half the day and I haven’t even showered. I’m taking the day off from studying the One-Year Success Plan. I’m taking the day off from reading new material, writing notes, or writing my book. In fact, the only reason I’m writing this episode and recording this video is so you can see what I do on this day and it’s importance to me. This is a holiday to me, meant to be symbolic of closing out the old year and preparing for the new.

Clear Your Mind

First off, clear your mind. The process that I go through at the end of the year is going to bring back memories. It’s digging up the past, and that can be a scary prospect. However, it doesn’t have to be.

The point is not to unearth skeletons or open scars. It’s to remember where those skeletons are buried and why they’re buried. It’s to remember how scars were created and learn from the way in which they were formed. This allows us to learn from our past, which is the only thing the past is good for: education. As you go through this process, focus on the lessons, not the events themselves. Remember that you are not what happened to you, you are how you reacted to it and what you learned from it. Focus on what you can learn from it and then let it go. Move forward into the new year with knowledge, not baggage.

But it’s also meant to remind us of the good times, our accomplishments, our hopes and dreams, and everything we do have. It’s meant to show us how far we’ve come, which is more important than how far we have yet to go. Open your mind and heart to the good in your life. It’s there we will find happiness.

Read Old Journal Entries

This is the day I go through my journal of the previous year. I read the whole thing. I read all my entries, every single one, from start to finish. It reminds me of what I’ve been through, all my accomplishments and failures, all the hopes and dreams I had, all the good times and the bad, and reminds me of the things I’ve forgotten over the past year. I reflect on all of that, focusing on the things I’ve forgotten, so that I can remember. You might remember events, emotions, feelings, or goals. You might be surprised at all the things you once thought were important and no longer do or may find things you still find important that you forgot. You might even be surprised to find that you told yourself that you’d pick something back up once you were ready and forgot to do so. As I go through my journal, I take notes on these important things.

Go Over Goals

Another thing I go over and take notes on in my old journal is my goal list. I look at all the goals I had in my journal and decide if they’re still relevant. I also decide if they should be added back into my list of goals or left to be forgotten. I have a long, physical list of goals from last year, but this year I’m going to do something different. I’m going to start a new collection in my journal, something I picked up from the Bullet Journal Method, for goals.

Instead of one huge goal list, I’m going to put an entry into my journal called Goals, or maybe Future Goals, and write down that goal when I decide that I want to add it to my life as a goal. I believe that this will add something important to my goals: a point in time at which I decided that that goal was important enough to consider. Whether I start working on it at that point is immaterial. This means I will probably start another new collection in my journal for each of those goals, maybe called Active Goals or probably named after the goal itself, which will help me track my progress on each of those goals.

My first main goal for this year, 2020, is to find my WHY. I’ve been reading all the books by Simon Sinek. In his first book, Start With WHY, he explains that most of us spend our lives doing what we’re supposed to be doing without considering the most important question: WHY? He proposes that, without knowing our WHY, we toil endlessly, unhappy, because we fail to realize what we consider to be important and work for the wrong reasons. In his fourth book, Find Your WHY, he shows how to go through a process to figure out what we consider to be important and refocus our lives on doing those things. I started this process in late 2019 and created a collection in my journal to track it. I want to make it an important focus in the coming year.

My second main goal for this year is to start Gratitude Journaling at least three times per week. I have already created a collection in my new journal to track this as well. I also plan on making a video on the importance of Gratitude Journaling as a bonus video sometime in the near future. As I’ve said in earlier videos, learning about something is important, but teaching it to someone else helps you use the information in a different way and deepen your understanding of the topic. This decision also helps me continue my main goal from 2019, teaching others what I’ve learned using this channel, into the new year.

Migrate To New Journal

To prepare for the new year, I migrate some of that information, gleaned from recollection, from my old journal to a new journal. My old journals are still there, but the feeling of having different “books” makes it feel clean and fresh for the new year. Starting a new journal is symbolic of a new, fresh start. You could do this with a new paper journal, if that’s how you journal. Mark the spine of your journal with the year, 2019, or maybe even 2019-1, 2019-2, and 2019-3. Keep those old journals and shelve them. You could pass them down one day. Someone may find them interesting in the future.

Or, if you’re like me, you could create a new “book” in your electronic journal. The journal app I use, CustomJournal, has a neat new feature that creates new “books”. If you’ve watched my videos on setting up and using CustomJournal, you will know that I already created this new “book” a few weeks ago and I’ve shown you how to do it. Just know that I will, from this point on, wait until this day of reflection every year to go through this process. I said in those videos that I believe that journals should not be used until the necessary point in time to use those journals. For you, today is that day. So start a new journal, whether the one you have now is full or not. Buy a new paper journal, if that’s how you journal, or create a new “book” in your electronic journal.

The information that I migrate includes things I forgot, as I stated in the first section, and goals, as I stated in the second section. By going over my old journal entries, I can see what I once found important and decide if I should pick them up in the new year. I can also look at my old goal list from 2019 and see what goals should be restarted and brought forward into the new year, or discarded, left to be forgotten. This is a practice based on mindfulness. It’s looking intentionally at those entries and analyzing them, with intention, before deciding on what’s important. This will allow you to be honest with yourself about what’s truly important in your life. Doing so allows you to decide and prioritize so that you don’t get overwhelmed by everything going on in your life.

Start Fresh

Make the decision to start fresh. Whether you believe that the new year is an arbitrary point in time or a personal, symbolic holiday, I encourage you to take some time to reflect, to let go of the past and move forward into the future. Realize that your past does not define you, that you have the opportunity to reinvent yourself, and you have the chance to become whatever you want to become. There is no such thing as fate. There is no such thing as destiny. We have the power to be whatever we want to be in life. We simply need to decide what we want to become, formulate a plan, and work towards becoming that which we’ve decided to become. If I can help you in any way, feel free to contact me. And, moving forward into 2020, I wish you all the best. Please continue to watch me shine.

Saving – The Road to Independence – S01E17

In this video I talk about the importance of saving and how it brings us independence from the financial servitude of living in debt.

Original Script of the Video (not a direct transcript)


Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and I would like to thank you all again for joining me. This week, I want to talk about saving. Living week-to-week or month-to-month is what I referred to in my last video as the modern day indentured servitude, if not modern day slavery. Getting out of debt and saving is the road to independence.

Update On Tasks From Last Week

Let’s take a look at the tasks from last week.

  1. Get your mindset right about money. Remember that it’s simply a tool.
  2. Stop buying things using debt. Make a commitment to stop using loans and credit cards to buy things.
  3. Know where you are financially. Get an understanding of where your money goes.
  4. Get some help. Find a financial advisor or a friend that can help you get things under control.
  5. Stick to the plan. Get back to zero and start climbing.

Comment on how you did or ask for help. I’m here if you need it.

Things I learned This Week

Saving is something I have never been very good at. Honestly, I have always been bad with money. As I said in my last video, I started living off debt at a young age. I took loans from my parents. I took loans from banks. I took loans from credit cards, which are backed by banks. I took loans from the government. Many of those loans, I’m still paying off. I am indentured to these groups because I owe money. This is not the way to live. These people have a certain amount of power over me because I owe them. Part of my life is lived in service to these people. Part of my work is solely done to pay back things I own or life I’ve already lived. I’m living in the past, not working towards the future.

Think about that. How much do you owe on debt? How much do you have to pay on that debt every month? If you bring home $2000 per month after all your taxes and benefits and such, assuming you get them, you’re basically making $12.50 an hour, after all is said and done. If you owe $125 per month on debt, you work 10 hours a month for other people. If you owe $250 per month on debt, you work 20 hours a month for other people. This isn’t utility bills. This isn’t dining out. This isn’t new clothes. I’m not talking about those things. I’m talking about things you owe for: things you’ve already purchased, life you’ve already lived. And, no top of that, you’re paying interest on it. Think about that for just a moment. Work you do is paying off things you’ve already bought, life you’ve already lived, and it’s benefiting other people, not yourself.

I mentioned how my family went to Disney World several years back. When we went, my plan was to use credit cards to pay for things on the road because I didn’t want to carry a ton of cash or traveler’s checks. My plan was to come home and use the money I had saved to pay off those credit cards when we got home. But, when I returned, I lost my job because my contract ended. Staring at unemployment is scary. I decided to hang onto the savings and live off of it until I found another job.

That span of unemployment lasted four months. I was let go right before Thanksgiving, which happens in the fourth quarter. At the end of the year, companies are trying to make budget. Many companies are laying off, let alone hiring. And almost nobody hires until first quarter budgets come out. Over that four months, despite getting unemployment insurance checks from the government every week, I chewed through my savings. When I finally did get another job, we were essentially broke. And what was still hanging over my head? All that credit card debt.

But I learned a few valuable lessons here:

  1. Stick to the plan. I could have paid off the credit cards, as I intended, and two things would have happened. My credit score would have been much higher and I could have used the credit cards to survive, if I needed them.
  2. Having that savings to live off of felt much better than living off the debt. If I could have chosen one or the other, but after all was said and done, I found that I much preferred watching my savings disappear than my debt rising.
  3. I should have peered further into the future and saved more. I knew my contract was coming due and didn’t have a replacement yet. I should have saved knowing this was coming and I could have paid for both the vacation and that span of unemployment.

So, what is saving? Let’s take a few minutes to go over what saving is and why it’s so important.

  1. Saving is self-determination – Saving isn’t an aggressive growth of resources. It’s slow, methodical, and constant. It’s deciding what we’re going to provide for ourselves in the future. It’s building a safety net.
  2. Saving is discipline – Saving shouldn’t be something we do when we have the money. It should be something we do with what money we have. Although there are several I could mention, there is one fundamental difference between the rich and the poor when it comes to saving: The poor spend their money and save what’s left. The rich save first and spend what’s left. Saving should be something we do first, immediately when money comes in. It should be a percentage of income taken right off the top and stored away. What’s left is what we should spend and live on.
  3. Saving is self-reliance – Our goal, you, me, everyone, should be to not have to rely on anyone else, whether that’s our loved ones, the government, or banks. Our goal should be to have enough savings, something to fall back on when things go bad, but also generating money in the background, and providing a steady source of income we can live off of. With that safety net, we can afford to live when times are tough, to switch jobs, to spend more time with family and friends, and to take time off. With that safety net, we’re in a position to help both ourselves and others.

So, what should our savings goal be? That really depends on who you ask and what situation you’re in. In my career field, many IT workers are contract. Those contracts are usually temporary. The idea is to work a contract, but start looking for a new contract when the one you’re on is coming to an end. I’ve found through experience that relying on contracts to get extended or turn into a full-time employment situation can bring disaster. I’ve have worked contracts I knew would come to a close and I have worked contracts that were considered ongoing as long as I wanted to work there and performed at a satisfactory level. Even with full-time employment, businesses go under, get bought, layoffs happen, not to mention just plain getting fired. I’ve been paid very well, but usually I’ve been paid below the level of service I provided. And, when employment has ended, I’ve usually spent some time unemployed and looking for work.

Although unemployment insurance does provide a buffer, it’s not enough to live on, usually. When I have been paid well, I’ve been able to store some away, knowing that I would eventually be unemployed again. This has allowed me to survive, sometimes quite comfortably, allowing me to focus on finding something else. However, during the times I wasn’t paid at the level I needed, I had to scramble for something, often taking anything I could find at any rate I could get. This only compounded the problem, forcing me to provide for my family living week-to-week and relying on debt.

My personal goal is to figure out my family’s budget, what we pay for necessities, living expenses, and a few luxuries, and know what that cost is. My savings goal is to figure out what that number is, multiply it by six, and store that amount of money away. My longest stretch of unemployment was seven months. If I had six months of expenses in savings, untouched at any other point in time, I could afford to be unemployed for that amount of time, living off of savings and the buffer of unemployment insurance, without changing the manner in which my family lived. That seems like a reasonable goal to me. It would mean that unemployment would feel more like a vacation than a source of stress and anxiety.

So, how do we save? Well, before we get to this, we need to do the steps from last week. We need to budget, knowing what we spend our money on, what we can afford to spend on and what we should let go of. We need to have an idea of where we are, what we could do to improve, and how we can get things under control. Once that’s done, there are five steps to saving money.

  1. Schedule It – Use the day your paycheck comes in. In fact, do it whenever any money comes in. Make it a habit that, whenever you receive money, paychecks, birthdays, Christmas, tax returns, anything, you save part of it.
  2. Pay Yourself – Save first. Make it a habit to take a percentage of whatever income comes in and stick it in savings. My goal is to eventually save 10% of everything I make. Right now, my budget can’t afford that, so I’ve started with 1%. It doesn’t sound like much, and it’s really not. But I’m starting to build the habit of doing it and it’s what I can afford. Eventually, as I pay off debt, I will start diverting more to savings.
  3. Have A Goal – Like I said earlier, mine is six months of expenses in savings. I’m nowhere near that right now, but it’s something you build over time. Don’t look at how little you’re saving. Look at how much you’ve saved. Whether it’s a small amount or a large amount, if that number is growing at all, you’re progressing.
  4. Don’t Touch It – It’s for emergencies only, like unemployment or illness. Have this savings first, then start another fund to save for purchasing other things.
  5. Invest – Once you get your initial safety net savings and you start to save for other things, don’t spend that percentage you used to build your safety net. Take a portion of that money you’re using to save for other things and start to divert some of it into investments. Put your money to work to bring in more money. Talk to a financial advisor about ways you can safely invest to bring in more income.

Tasks For Next Week

So, that’s really your tasks for next week. Start analyzing this process, your budget, and what you can do to start saving. Then, start putting that plan into action. Again, it’s not about the amount, it’s about the habit. Over time, small improvements become large changes. And, although the feeling of being out of debt is incredible, the knowledge that you have a safety net in case something goes wrong is unparalleled. Do it for yourself. Do it for your loved ones. Do it because you want to be free. 


And, until next week… Watch me shine.

CustomJournal App Tutorial: Journaling My Way

Using Custom Templates I Created and Methods I’ve Learned to Journal

In this video I talk about the custom templates I’ve created for journaling, how I use those templates to journal, and the different journaling methods I employ.


Hello, everyone, and welcome again to the CustomJournal tutorial video series, bonus episodes from Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and I would like to thank you all for joining me again. In this episode I want to show you the different custom templates I’ve created for journaling. I will also go over the different journaling methods I use, and how I use these templates to do my journaling. This video is going to be a bit longer because there’s a lot to unpack here. I thought about splitting it into two videos, but I couldn’t find a decent place to make the split. So, let’s get to it.

Because this is December, I’m going to start by creating a book for 2020 using the Books feature, and then set up my journal for next year. We will begin by setting up the Bullet Journal features that I use, then work through my daily journaling process, and then I will show you the other journal tools I sprinkle through my journal throughout the year.

Real quick, if you’ve never heard of Bullet Journaling, I recommend you take a look at This was transformative in my journaling process. While I don’t use all of it or use it all the time, I do use parts of it daily. Bruce Lee has a famous quote that applies here: “Research your own experience. Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”

Hopefully this video will give you an idea of how I journal and give you some ideas to make your journal more effective going forward. If you want to use any of these templates, you can go to my website,, and see the templates I use. Later in this video I will show you how to download and import these templates into CustomJournal.

First, the new book in which to start journaling in 2020. I’m going to do this real quick, since I explained how to do this in the last video. And, there you go. Now I’ll open my journal, go to January 1st, and start adding new templates.

BuJo Templates


The first template I add on January 1st is my Symbols template. This is a list of symbols I use in my journal so that anyone reading it could interpret the symbols I use. These symbols are basically the standard Bullet Journal symbols, with a few exceptions. Instead of crossing out an irrelevant task, for instance, I change the symbol to a tilde to show the change in status.

If you don’t like these symbols, want to use different or add new symbols, you can always edit this template. I will go to the template editor so you can see how it’s built. It is simply a banner module and a text module.


The second template I add on January 1st is my Index. This is a list of important pages in the whole journal, sorted by date, so I can easily find the collections I use in my journal. This, again, is a standard Bullet Journal practice. I will open it up in the editor, so you can see how it was built. As you can see, there are a few entries that are standard. These are going to be the same in every journal, so I placed them there in a Text module. I have the Symbols, as well as the Index listed on January 1st. I get that these are both visible on this page, but it’s about the practice, the habit, not the visibility.

I also list Monthly Logs on the first day of every month, symbolized by the XX for the month number. And I list the Daily Logs on the first of every month, symbolized by the XX for the day number. Yes, I do these date listings sort of backwards because I think in computer system date stamps: year, month, day. Underneath that, I put in a question box that simply states “Collections”. For this, I left it at one response and turned on the ability to add additional response lines. This way I can list a collection and then do the two digit day and two digit month for each entry.

Future Log

The third template I add to January 1st is the Future Log. It should be noted that, although this is on January 1st, this will be the only entry for this template in the whole journal. It’s meant to give an overview for the year at a glance. Again, I will open it up in the editor, so you can see how it was built. This is a list of question modules with the month being the “question”. Each Question module is set to one response with the ability to add additional response lines. This gives me the ability to add a two digit day on a line and then an important event scheduled for that day in the month. These should be only the very important things that are scheduled, not a daily thing. Again, this is a standard Bullet Journal practice. It gives you a great overview of the year.

Monthly Log

The fourth template I add to January 1st is the Monthly Log. This one, I will use on the first day of every month. Let me open it up in the editor so you can see how this was was built as well. Just like the Future Log, this is a list of Question modules where every day is the “question” in the form of a two digit date. I did make this template with 31 days, because some months have it, but when I get to a month with 28, 29, or 30 days, I enter a series of Xs into the line to block them out. Again, each Question module is set to one response with the ability to add additional response lines. This gives the ability to add a symbol, like a task or an event to each line, and then a short description of that task or event.

This template is sort of like the Future Log, but I allow myself more entries here. All entries in the Future Log do appear on my Monthly Logs, but not all entries on the Monthly Log appear on my Future Log, so I’m kind of doubling up. I often put things like birthdays and holidays on here so that I can see them when I try to get an overview of the month to come. I spend more time looking at this than I do my Future Log.

This is how I set up a new Book to be my bullet journal. I know this makes the entry for January 1st long, especially since I haven’t yet added in my daily entries, which we’ll get to in a minute. Because of this, I have asked the developer to look into the ability to add an Index page to each Book, which would allow me to put these entries on a page not affiliated with a date. But, until he figures that out, this works well and is consistent. I suppose I could put these entries on December 31st in the new book, but I don’t like the idea of looking to the last page of last year when trying to move forward into the new year.

Daily Templates

Now let’s look at the templates I use every day to journal. These templates are the majority of my journaling process because I use them nearly every day. I’m not actually going to add these to January 1st yet, because this isn’t January 1st. I believe, as part of the practice of journaling and an exercise in mindfulness, entries should not be added until you’re ready to fill them out. So I’m just going to open the rest of my templates up in the editor so you can see how each of them are built.

Daily Log

First up is the Daily Log. This is, again, a standard Bullet Journal practice called Rapid Logging. In each day, I put a list of important things, tasks, events, etc. into my Daily Log. Tasks that are completed get their symbol changed to reflect that. Tasks that are not completed are migrated to the next day or a day on which they’re scheduled. They are not erased, they are copied and have their symbol changed on the current day. This forces one to be mindful, to decide whether the copying and symbol changing process are worth it. If a task isn’t worth the hassle, it’s marked irrelevant and I stop copying it. This keeps me in check, keeps me mindful of the tasks and events to which I commit.

Again, this is one Question module with no actual “question”. The Question module has one response and the ability to add additional response lines. This is because I don’t know how many tasks, events, etc. that I want in each Daily Log. When I mention in videos that I journal on my phone throughout the day, this is the template that I use the most. It’s my planner, my schedule, my task list, pretty much everything I use during the day.

Stoic Reflection

The next template is one I use most days, but not all. It’s called Stoic Reflection. This is not a Bullet Journal practice, but one from the practice of Stoic Philosophy. The idea is to ask yourself three questions:

  1. What went well today?
  2. What didn’t go well today?
  3. What could I have done differently?

During reflection, asking yourself these three questions allows you to analyze yourself and how you could improve. Small improvements daily make for large changes over time. This process has taught me a lot about myself and what I consider important. I have used this process to improve myself over the past six months or so.  It has been invaluable, so I try to do it most nights when journaling before bed.

This template has three Question modules, each with the question listed, one response, and the ability to add more response lines.

Memories of the Day

The third template I use daily is my Memories of the Day. I actually showed how to build this one in the last video. This is where I mind dump. At the end of the day, right before I go to bed, I use this module to write down a synopsis of my day. Not every detail or every event, but enough that I can go back and remember the important parts of the day. Going back through my old journals, which used to be made up of just this entry, has been enough to evoke emotion or trigger memories from events that happened months ago that I had forgotten. This is why I said this is the basic form of journaling in the last video and suggested that everyone start here. If you take one journaling method from this video, this is the one I recommend.

Again, this is simply one Question module with one response with no ability to add additional response lines. Very simple, yet very effective.

Tracking Templates

The next three templates I made are only used when I need them. They are for tracking different things. The first of the three is kind of like a digital bookmark, meant to keep track of where I am when I stopped in a class or book. The second and third are part of collections I use for Bullet Journaling.

Progress Tracker

My progress tracker, as I said above, is like a bookmark. When I do work on a class, like Spanish or the Management class I’m currently taking, I will add this template to my entry for the day. I mark which class it was, that I completed it for that day, and where I stopped. This way, when I go to pick it up in the next day or three, I can quickly flip back in my journal and see where I need to pick up again.

As you can see, this template consists of a Question module with the question being “Tracking” and one response line with no ability to add more responses. This is where I write what class I’m tracking. There is a checkbox module with the word “Completed” so I can have the good feeling of checking it done for the day. And it has one more Question module with the question being “Stopping Point”. This is where I write which module and lesson I stopped on so I know where to pick it up again.

Book I Consumed

Book I Consumed is a module that acts as a review. Whenever I complete a book, I like to write my own short review of it. I don’t really review it as a book for other people. I just like to write down my thoughts on it so that I can recall what I read later.

As you can see, this template consists of a Question module for the title of the book, one for the author of the book, and one for thoughts. Each has one response line, none of which allow for more responses. Also included is a Rating module allowing for five stars. In this template I don’t allow half stars. I don’t think I’ve ever given something half a star. And, at that point, why not just do ten stars? Whatever, that’s not the point. You get the idea.

Class I Completed

Class I Completed is essentially the same as Book I Consumed. I think I even just copied the template and just renamed it and gave it a different color. But what I will say here is that both of these templates are considered Collections in my Bullet Journal. Whenever I use one of these templates in a journal entry, I go back to my Index on January 1st and add the date to the entry of Collections listed in the Index. This way I can look at the Index, see where I finished a book or class, and see all the dates. I can go to those dates and look at the reviews or I can just look at the Index and be proud of all the things I accomplished that year. I could see modifying this to have the date and the title of the book or class in the Collections list, but I haven’t decided on that yet. I may start that in the new year, but I’m not going to change how I did it in the past. Journals should evolve, not be edited… 

Tool Templates

The next set of templates are tools I use for different reasons. They are fairly different, but the tools I used to make them should be familiar by now. It should be noted that these are also Collections in my Bullet Journal, so they get added to the Index as well when I use them. I really just want to mention them because they are handy tools that can help you.


The Learning template I created takes a look at something I want to learn. 

This template is fairly simple with three Question modules, each with one response line and no ability to add more responses. It asks three questions:

  1. What do I want to learn?
  2. Why do I want to learn it?
  3. How will I go about learning it?

When I decide I want to learn something I want to look at it like a goal, which means it needs to be analyzed. I hate that I sometimes say I want to learn something, start learning something, and then get bored with it so I quit. It means that I really didn’t have a good reason for learning, not a strong enough WHY. So, I created this template so that I could analyze that WHY before I even get started. If it’s not a good reason, I don’t bother. But I don’t delete the template from the entry. Again, I don’t think journals should be edited. I went through the exercise and that should be reflected in the journal.


Deconstruction is a tool used to get to the root of a problem. It’s a tool I use, sort of like analyzing what I want to learn and why. 

Again, this template is fairly simple. It consists of a Question module with one response and no ability to add more. And then two Question modules, each with five responses, and no ability to add more.

The method is to state a problem, ask five consecutive why questions, much like a child, and then give five responses that will form your plan of attack. It kind of goes like this:

  • What’s the problem? I’m getting terrible grades.
  • Why?
    • I don’t study enough. Why?
    • Because I don’t have the time. Why?
    • Because I work two jobs to pay for school. Why?
    • Because neither job pays enough. Why?
    • Because neither requires special skills.
  • Form your plan of attack.
    • I need to learn better skills so I can get paid more.
    • I need to study more to get better skills.
    • I’m going to wake up an hour earlier to study.
    • I’m going to stay up an hour later to study.
    • I’m going to watch one less hour of TV a day to study.

Writing down goals and writing down what you’re going to do to achieve them significantly increases your chances of actually achieving them. It seems that writing down your goals is seen by your subconscious as a sort of contract and it will help you follow through.


I would say that the last template I use is Gratitude, but it’s something that I have yet to actually put into my journaling routine. But I have created the template. It’s a copy of the Memories of the Day template, which I already explained how to create. The purpose is slightly different, though. This is a practice of looking at the positive things in your life. And, if you do it right, telling yourself that you can’t repeat the things for which you are grateful, it forces you to look deep once you run out of the obvious and superficial things. Once you get past the “I’m grateful for my family” and “I’m grateful for the roof over my head” things, you have to start looking deep inside for things, and that gets hard. But if you keep going, you’ll find some really profound things. Again, I haven’t started the practice, but I have started thinking along those lines, and it really gets you thinking.

Sharing and Importing Templates

The last thing I want to go over is sharing and importing templates. You can find the templates I created to download for free at my website, Here, you will find a list of the templates I use, with basically a text transcription of this video, and download links to these templates.

Sharing Templates

Sharing templates is easy. When you want to share a template, find the template you want to share, click on the share icon in the upper right, and choose how you want to share it. To put them up on my website I used the used the option to send them to myself via Gmail. I then downloaded the attached image, copied the link in the email, and then added them both to my website.

I want to note here that I had a discussion with the developer about how this works. I was concerned about how the link looks like it goes to, but it really doesn’t. My concern was that templates were uploaded to his server without consent, but this is not the case! The link is actually data itself. CustomJournal, the app itself, interprets the  data in the URL in order to recreate the template in the app. It could say any other URL and CustomJournal would interpret this data and still create the template. However, if someone were to open the URL using their browser, it links to a page at that gives you instructions on how to properly import a template to the app. It’s very clever.

Importing Templates

Importing templates is even easier. If you receive an email with a CustomJournal template URL, just click on the URL. Just note here that you must use your phone. If you have CustomJournal installed on a Chromebook using the Android app integration, these links will not function properly. Once they’re installed on your phone, you can use the sync or backup feature to install them on your Chromebook installation. You will be asked how you want to open the URL. Tell your phone to use CustomJournal, not your browser, and it will be added to your Manage Templates section in CustomJournal. From there, you’re free to add it to journal entries! If your phone does not ask you how to open the URL, you probably have it set to always open URL links using a default program. You’ll have to change this until you get your templates installed.


So, these are the templates that I use and how I use them. Not only did I have fun creating them, they have turned my journaling experience into something I love to do. This not only includes the Rapid Journaling I do throughout the day to keep track of things, but also the mind-dump I do at the end of the night to quiet my mind. Using the tools and trackers has allowed me to have a record to analyze my life and helps me keep things in perspective. CustomJournal has been key to this transformation and I’m grateful to the developer for creating it and letting me be a part of its evolution.

CustomJournal App Tutorial: Getting Started and Customizing

In this video I talk about getting started using CustomJournal by taking advantage of the default templates and then creating your own custom template to create a journal entry that works exactly the way you want it to.


Hey everybody, welcome back to the CustomJournal Tutorial bonus videos from Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and I want to thank you for joining me . Today we’re going to go over using CustomJournal’s built-in templates to get started and how to create a custom template to create a journal entry that works to record exactly what you want in your journal.

Adding a Template

Getting started journaling with CustomJournal is easy. It comes preloaded with several default templates that are essentially all you need to begin. All you need to do is go to the day on which you want to add an entry, click on “Add Template”, find a template which you want to use, add it to your journal, and then fill it out.

The default templates are as follows:

  1. Five Minute – This is a simple template that looks at gratitude, goals, affirmations, and important events.
  2. My Sample Journal – This is a longer template that expands on the Five Minute journal, adds tasks, and some reflection.
  3. Food – This is a template that looks at food tracking.
  4. Gratitude and Review – This template looks at gratitude, Stoic Reflection, and mood tracking.
  5. Habit – This is a simple, habit tracking template.
  6. Weekly Review – This looks at reflection on a weekly scale, instead of daily.

To add a template to your journal, just go to the day on which you want to journal, click the pen icon in the center of the day scroll through until you find the one you want, and click on it. It will be added to that day. If you already have a template on that day, you can still add another. Just click on the three dot button in the upper right, click Add Template, scroll through until you find the one you want, and click on it. It will be added to that day.

Again, these templates are a range of journaling ideas that can get you started right away. Many types of journaling that I’ve come across are represented here. You can use any or all of these and you should be covered as a beginner at journaling. However, the power of CustomJournal is that you can use these ideas and customise a template to work exactly the way you want it.

Adding Images

Taking a step back from Templates for a moment, I want to quickly go over another neat feature in CustomJournal. You can add images to the journal entry. If you took a picture of something and talked about it in your journal that day, you can add an image of it. I believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, so adding images can be a great way to show what you’re talking about and spark memories when you go through them later. Just click on the three dot button in the top right, click on Add Image, locate the picture you want to attach, and then click on it. It will be added to that journal entry. When you wish to view that picture, just click on it and you’ll be able to see it full size.

Creating a Custom Template

Let’s get back to templates and start building a new, custom template.

The first step is to go into the “Manage Templates” section and click “New Template”. This will open up the editor with a completely blank space. In this space you add modules to the template.

The most basic method of journaling is long-form. This is just a space to write down thoughts and events of the day, so we’ll start there. To create this basic journal template, click on the Plus symbol, click on “Question”, and here we will customise it.

The top part here is a preview. You can see what it will look like as you build it.

In customization, the first step is to add a question. Put in something like “Memories of Today”. This will be a writing prompt to let you know what the box is for. Additionally, this will use the Question Font settings from the Settings section. You can select the number of responses available, if you know how many of them you want in advance, or you can leave it with just one. If you might want more, you can use this setting here, “Allow adding additional response lines”. For now, let’s just use one response and see how it looks.

Hit Save. Then click the save icon in the upper right to save a copy. In this screen, type a name to call this template. Maybe “Journal” or “Custom” or something. Then you can pick a color for the template.

Remember in my first video where I talked about color palettes? The way I do it is to click in the center circle, set the hex code to #BDBDBD, which is my default, overall color, and then all the other colors in the palette are related to that color. You can then select from the color bubbles and it keeps the colors related and nice to look at.

Anyway, pick a color and then save it. Now, add it to your journal and try it out.

As you can see, this would make it sort of like a diary, allowing you to have one template that would provide a space to mind-dump for journal entries. This would be a great way to get started, practicing the habit of journaling. But let’s assume that you’re not happy with just a mind-dump and want to ask more specific questions every day to which to respond. For now, long press on the template you just added, click the three dots button, and then click Delete Selected. This will get rid of it for now.

Go back into the Manage Templates section, click on the right arrow until you find the template with which we’re working, and then click on it. This will again open the editor.

Let’s consider other things you want to journal. But, first, let’s create a heading banner to separate out the basic entry question we’ve already created. Click on the plus and then click on Banner. Let’s put in this box what we originally used as the question: “Memories of Today”. Then we’ll choose a color. I’m going to use the one we used for the template color, for ease of use. You can also change the color of the text, but I’m going to leave it white for now. Then click submit to save it to the template. Because I don’t want the banner below the entry box, I’m going to move it. Grab the orange lines on the right and drag it above the question box we created earlier.

Now, because this looks redundant, with the “Memories of Today” text used twice, let’s edit the question to be something better. Click on the question box and change the question to something else, like “What are the important things I want to remember about today?” When you’re done, click submit and save it. Then click the save icon again and save the changes to the template. Again, you can name it, change the color, and click save. This time, when you add it to your journal, it will have the changes we’ve made.

Now you can see how to create a template, add elements, customize them, save changes, and add templates to journal entries. This should allow you to create whatever journal template you want to create so you can journal exactly the way you want to. What I want to do now is look at all the other elements that are available to you in creating custom templates.

Modules for Templates


I’ve already covered the Question module, but I want to take a quick look at the number of responses option and the option to allow additional responses. If you click on the question we’ve already created you can see these. If you know you want to have three responses to a question, you can change it to three and there will be three lines automatically added. If you’re unsure how many you want, but know you’ll often want more than one, I suggest using the option to add more. Let’s change this back to one and select the option to allow more. Now submit it, save it, save it again, and we’ll add it to a journal entry. When you click on the first line and add something, you’ll see the option here that says “2…?”. If you click on that, it’ll add a second line. If you add more here, it’ll show the option to add another line. This is a great way to add more entries, like on lists and such. Back to Manage Templates.


The checkbox is just a box you can check and a field to add text. If there’s something you do every day, once a day, and want to make an entry to see that it’s done, just add some text to this box, click submit, and you’ll now have a box to track that.


Checklist is like a checkbox, but when you’re using it, you can have a heading on the list and add multiple checkmarks. Again, this is great for creating lists.

Multiple Choice

Multiple choice is like a checkbox, but you can choose from one of several options. This is great for tracking things like mood or how well you feel you did at something.


Rating is a module that allows you to add a rating system to something. I use this when I review books I read or classes I took. It can also be a great way to track things like water consumption or how many times you did a habit during the day. First put in what you want to rate or track. By default it is stars, but you can also choose to use a circle shape. You can set it to use half stars or circles, if you wish. You can also select the color of the stars or circles. And you can set it to use between one and ten depending on the rating system you want to use.


Text is a box that allows you to just put a block of text in your journal without wrapping it in a banner. This is great for things you want to put in there that don’t change, like quotes, instructions, symbol keys, etc. Just enter the text you want to use, choose a color for the text, and click submit. It will add it to your template.


I’ve already gone over banners, so I’m not going to cover it any more. Just know that these make great separators for the sections of your template and journal.

Moving and Deleting

Real quick, let’s look at what happens if you change your mind or make a mistake. If you put something in the wrong spot, you can use the three orange lines to drag them around. If you want to delete something, just drag it off screen.


The last feature I want to cover is Books. This is a premier feature, so be sure to purchase the premier version of the app if you think this feature could be of benefit to you.

When I recommended this app, my first thought was that it would be nice to have separate books for things like travel journals or project notebooks. If you were going on a trip and wanted a specific journal you could keep notes and pictures in, especially if you wanted to share them or export them without giving anyone access to your main journal, this is perfect. It’s also a great idea to have project notebooks to keep track of them and not clutter up your main journal. But, since I started Bullet Journaling, I have mostly focused on this feature so that I have a clean journal to start out every year with a fresh journal.

If you open up the main menu using the hamburger button, you’ll see the Books section. If you click on that, you’ll see My Journal. What I did was to go to the edit button at the top, rename that book to this year, 2019, and then change the color. I started at the top of the color palette and am going to make my way around it in a clockwise fashion.

This will allow me to start every year fresh with a new, clean bullet journal. I will be able to scan through a year without the clutter of past years. It will appear more like a bookshelf instead of a giant pile of entries. I also plan to add a project book for things I’m working on and keep track of the evolution of that project without having to clutter my memory journals. I was really excited about this feature when it was developed, so I hope you’re as excited as I am about it.


Whether you choose to use the default templates or whether you choose to create your own, you should be able to effectively journal using CustomJournal. Using the information in this video you should be able to create a rich, custom template that allows you to journal any way you choose. In my next video I’m going to show you the journal templates I created and how I use them to journal every day using my blend of Bullet Journaling, Stoic Reflection, and Long-form journaling. I will also link to my website, where I will have links to my templates so you can import them if you don’t want to take the time to create them yourself. I will show you how to download those templates and import them into your journal as well. Also, you can go to the CustomJournal’s website. The creator has a page of different types of journaling and the templates he’s created based on those types of journaling. You can also download those and import them.

CustomJournal App Tutorial: the Basics

Original Script of the Video (not a direct transcript)


Hello, everyone, and welcome to this bonus video from Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and I would like to first thank you all for joining me. Today I want to talk to you about a great new app I found called CustomJournal. It’s a brilliant app with a laundry list of great features that converted me from using a paper journal to exclusively journaling electronically.

In my fourth video, episode three of Watch Me Shine, titled How to Build a Journal and Start Journaling, I talked about how journaling has become one of my most valuable, even vital, tools in my life. Journaling is more than just a tool for tracking building good habits or breaking bad habits or writing down “Dear Diary…” stuff. It is a habit in itself, which helps build discipline. The habit of journaling has helped me keep a record of my life which allows me to analyze it better. It has also helped me see things more clearly, which in turn has helped me keep my life in perspective. It is a tool I recommend everyone start, whether old or young.

In that video I also talk about how journaling digitally was not my preferred method, for several reasons. I couldn’t keep up typing on my phone when taking notes from books and audiobooks. It also didn’t feel as genuine or real. The feel of writing on paper just felt right.

I’ve been journaling now for about seven months and in that time my journaling system has evolved. I started by using a custom-built journal using the Tul discbound notebook system, which I built to have a planner and several sections for organizing my various notes. My first journal entries were simple. I would just write a few thoughts down in the box provided for the day. These were the highlights and lowlights of each day, things that happened, things I learned, and such. I started to do this every day, just before I went to bed. Doing a brain-dump like that helped to clear my head and actually helped my issues with insomnia. It didn’t cure it, mind you, but it did help so that I didn’t go to bed with a brain full of thoughts keeping me awake.

Over time, I stopped using the planner part of my journal because my days are mostly the same. I get up, go to work, come home, do the chores or errands I need to do, do some work on my channel, writing, website, or hobbies, watch some YouTube or TV, and then go to bed. Not much variation there. I started taking notes using my Pixelbook instead of paper. At some point in there, I read the Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll and instantly fell in love. This was a pivotal moment in my journaling evolution. As these things changed, forcing my journaling methods to evolve, I started looking for a way to digitize my journal as well. And that’s when I discovered CustomJournal. And today, I’m going to teach you how to set up CustomJournal get started building a digital journal so that you can journal any way you like.

First Things First

First things first:

  1. CustomJournal is an Android-only app at this point and only in the Google Play Store. It’s not on Amazon or any other small app stores. The creator is working on making it an iPhone app as well, but I’ve been keeping him too busy asking him to put in all sorts of features that make this app better. But he does plan on making it an iPhone app. If you are an iPhone user and you’re interested in this app, there is a link on his website to sign up to show interest in the app and get notified when it’s released on the Apple App Store. I highly recommend you take advantage of that.
  2. As I hinted in the first point, this app is changing and it does so regularly. It’s actively being developed and I’m a beta tester for new code, so I know that. What appears in this video may not even be entirely accurate or complete by the time you watch it, but it should give you an idea of how to set it up and get started.
  3. As a beta tester and one that paid for the Premium version of the app, some of the things I talk about are Premium only features. I highly recommend buying the Premium version. Right now, the prices are Holiday prices. You can get it as a service for $3.99 for 3 months or $11.99 for 12 months, with a 25% discount on your first year, so $8.99. Or you can buy a lifetime liscense for $14.99. Sometime after the first of the year, the prices are going to go up. So, I would get it now, while you can. I can tell you that I bought the lifetime license because this is going to be a lifetime habit for me, and I’ve gotten $15 worth of use out of it per month. Seriously, this is one of my most used apps on my phone anymore.
  4. This first video is going to be about getting it installed and getting the settings the way you want them. My second video will cover using the default templates and building a custom template to journal exactly the way you want. My third video will cover advanced techniques like Books, using multiple templates, and journaling methods. I may have to split that last one up into two videos, depending on how deep I decide to go, but I’ll figure that out as we go through.

Download and Install

Because this is an Android app, it’s not hard to download and install. Just look up CustomJournal in the Google Play Store and hit Install. This will run on any Android phone running Android 5.0 or above. It also runs on Chromebooks with access to the Play Store and Android apps. I run it on my phone and my Pixelbook, which allows me to use the built-in keyboard or a bluetooth keyboard to type long-form journal entries.

Initial Setup

When I first get a new app on my phone or Pixelbook, the first thing I do is go through the settings. Let’s start there.

Screen Lock

The first section is Screen Lock. There are three options here:

  1. Require Password: If you want to lock the app, just click on the toggle button to turn it on. It will ask you to set a password. You can use a PIN, a password, or an alpha-numeric string with special characters. I’m a fan of the last one, as I like security. It should be noted that the password is just to secure the app at this point. It does not secure the backup files yet. The developer has told me that he’s going to change this in the future so that the backups are encrypted. I’m looking forward to that feature.
  2. Change Password: Once you set a password, you can use this feature to change it.
  3. Check Password on Pause: This will change the behavior to require a password even when resumed from the background, not just when the app is started. This is more secure, if you’re paranoid like me, so that the password is required in case you forget to close your journal when you’re done with it.


The second section is Style. This is the overall feel of your journal and there are several options here:

  1. Primary Color: This is the primary color of the whole app, meaning the toolbar, check boxes, buttons, etc. As a minimalist, I chose a grey color. The cool thing I figured out here is that, when you set your main color, the rest of the colors are all on a palette so they all go together. I’ll get to that later when we start building templates. For now, I’m going to use the one I picked so that it’s easy to remember. I use hex code #BDBDBD. I chose it because it’s easy to remember.
  2. Question Font: You can pick a font here so that all questions use the same font. There is the System Default, as well as several others. But I didn’t really care for them. I chose to download my favorite since I moved to Android: Roboto Mono. As I said, I’m a minimalist, so I like boring, monospaced fonts. To do this, you click “Tap to download custom font” and then pick one from this huge list. You can also search this list by clicking in the search box and selecting the font you want. Here is Roboto Mono, but you can choose any one you like.
  3. Question Color: This color is specifically for questions in your journal. This doesn’t mean when you type a question in your journal. This is for Question templates, which we’ll get to when we start building those. I chose black for this and ended up leaving it this way, but you can choose any color. For the time being, I recommend you just choose black until you start building your own templates.
  4. Input Font: The same as the question font, but this will be the font of the things you type in. Again, you can choose the fonts that are there are or select something else. I could see making the questions a blocky, typed font and making this a script font. That would be neat. But I’m boring and chose Roboto Mono here as well. I like things simple.
  5. Input Color: The same as the question color, but it will change the color of the things you type in. Again, I chose black, but you can choose whatever color you like. I would recommend black for now, but it’s your journal. Do whatever makes you happy.
  6. Font Size: There are four sizes here. I chose small because my eyes are good as long as I’m wearing my glasses and I like to see a lot of text when I’m reading. If it’s too large my reading speed gets in the way and I have to scroll too much. But pick a size that’s comfortable for you. I’m going to select Normal for the purposes of this video because I want you all to be able to see it.
  7. Dark Mode: Yes, for all you dark mode fans, this app has a dark mode!


The third section is Background. There are three options here:

  1. Change Background Image: You can choose a custom background image that will display in your journal. I personally left this blank, but it’s a neat feature if you want to put in something like lined paper, parchment, or something cute like a kitten or a koala.
  2. Reset Background Image: This will set the background to the default one that came with CustomJournal.
  3. Remove Background Image: This is what I hit. It just makes it blank.


The fourth section is Reminder.

  1. Daily Reminders: This is where you can set a reminder to journal every day. Mine goes off at 10:30 PM, which gives me a little time so I can journal right before I go to bed.
  2. Notification Sound: You can turn this toggle on to use the notification sound on your phone. Leaving it off makes the notification pop up in your notification bar, but it remains silent.

Template Reminders

The fifth section is Template Reminders. This makes your reminders more granular. When we get to building templates, you can set a reminder on certain ones, different reminders on other ones, or no reminders at all on others. This section allows you to make it so that reminders can have sound even when your main reminder doesn’t, or vice versa.

  1. Template Notification Sound: Turn this one on so that templates make sound.
  2. Do Not Send Notification If Used: If you’ve already filled out a template early, this will make it so the reminder for that template will not trigger. This has been handy for me to remind me when I forgot to fill out a template or so it doesn’t wake me up when I already wrote my journal and went to bed early.


The sixth section is Export. This is another great feature of this journal. You can export it to either text or PDF so that you can have a copy of it to print out, if you like. I’ve done this so that I have a backup that someone can read in case something happens to me.

Days that are colored have journal entries. If you want to export one day, just click on it. If you want to export a span of days, click on the first day you want in the series, then click on the last day you want in the series, and then click done. You then have the option to “Export to Local Device” or “Share”.

If you choose “Export to Local Device”, you will then choose where to save the file, and then click save. It will be saved to that location. If you choose “Share” you will get a notification when the export is complete. You then click on that notification and choose what to do with it. You can open it in another program, save it somewhere, email it, transfer it through Bluetooth, or even print it.

Manual Backup Data and Images

The seventh section is Manual Backup Data and Images. This is a complete backup of the database for your journal. It’s exported as a Zip file. You can either choose to back this file up to Google Drive, or locally on your device. If you use Google Drive it will create a folder in the root of your Google Drive called CustomJournal. If you choose “Backup to Device” you can choose where it saves the file. These zip files will contain a file called custom-journal.db, which will have all the entries to your journal as well as all your settings, books, and templates, as well as a copy of all the images you’ve saved into your journal. More on that later.

Google Account

The eighth section is Google Account. This is where you will log into your Google account, if you want to use Google Drive and auto-sync. If you don’t want to use these features, just skip this part. Otherwise, click on “Log In As” and log in. If you don’t want to be logged in anymore and don’t want to use these features anymore, just click “Logout”.

Automatically Backup Data and Images

The ninth section is Automatically Backup Data and Images. You can use this to automatically back up your data once per day to Google Drive in the same Zip files that manual backups create. This will keep the last five backups to all of your data and images in the CustomJournal folder in your Google Drive. You can also set it to only backup over WiFi to save your data if you’re not on an unlimited plan. You can also use this feature to restore from your latest backup by clicking “Restore from Google Drive”.

Sync Between Devices

The tenth section is Sync Between Devices. This will create backups using the App Data section in Google Drive. You can find it by going to your Google Drive on your computer, clicking the Settings button (represented by this gear icon), and going to Manage Apps. You can’t see these files, but you do have the option of disconnecting the app from drive and deleting this hidden app data. I use this feature all the time since I journal during the day on my phone and then do my longform journaling at night on my Pixelbook. Again, you can set this to only sync over WiFi and you can restore from this data on Google Drive as well. There is also an option to delete the data from Google Drive from the app as well, if you don’t want to log in on your computer.


The last section of settings is Miscellaneous. There are two settings here:

  1. Enable Left Navigation Drawer Swipe: This will allow you to open the navigation drawer using a swipe, but I found that this is tricky with the new gestures on Android 10 and especially when flipping through the pages on my Pixelbook. It’s here if you want it, though.
  2. Reset Tutorials: If you’ve turned off the handy tutorials and forgotten how to use some features, you can use this option to turn them back on. I’ve done this a couple times when I’ve forgotten how something works. So, it’s there if you need it.


And that’s how to install and initially set up your CustomJournal. Using this, you can get started building a journal. There are a lot of built-in templates that come with CustomJournal. You should be able to get started using any, some, or all of these. Look for my next video in which I teach you how to use the default templates and set up a custom template to journal exactly the way you want. My third video will cover advanced techniques like Books, using multiple templates, and journaling methods. Until then, Watch Me Shine.

Debt, Getting Out of it, and Staying Out of it – S01E16

In this video I open the conversation about money. This week’s topic is specifically about debt, getting out of it, and staying out of it.

Original Script of the Video (not a direct transcript)

Hey, everybody. Welcome to this week’s episode of Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and this week I want to open the conversation about Money. Today, we’re going to talk specifically about getting out of debt. I’m technically doing this topic a week early because I combined two weeks of learning into the last episode. I was supposed to talk about Nutrition and Exercise over two weeks, but my way of doing it doesn’t need two weeks of information.

So, let’s go over the tasks from last week and then we’ll get started.

  1. Make a list of things you can do to improve your diet. Don’t just go on a diet. Think of how you can change your diet to be better in the long run.
  2. Start doing those things, one at a time, until they become habit, until they become your diet, what you habitually put in your system.
  3. Start doing research into exercise. Figure out if you want to go to the gym or just work out at home like I did. Either way, start to do the research. Make a list of things you can do to improve your exercise.
  4. Start doing those things, one at a time, but only if you’re in a place weight-wise that will allow you to work out without injuring yourself. If you’re not, just focus on diet until you are.

Again, comment below if you want to talk to me about any of this and I’ll help you out as best I can. No pressure.

Debt is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I started borrowing money from people at what I consider a very early age. When I was 13-years-old I asked my dad to buy me a computer. It was a Tandy 1000 RLX/HD from Radio Shack and it was on sale for $1000. The deal was that I would mow the lawn for $5 each time and pay it off. I could also use birthday and Christmas money as well.

I remember that computer vividly. It was, at the time, smaller than many home computers I’d seen. It was the ugly beige color that most computers came in at the time. It had both a keyboard and a mouse. The screen had lots of colors and I could play games on it. It was amazing. It didn’t run the new Windows operating system, but it had DOS 5.0 on it, which was enough for me. I was so happy. Until six months later when it was a total piece of crap. There were better computers out there and I then wanted those, but I was in debt.

When I was 17-years-old, I took a loan from a bank for $3000 to get a new computer. I remember this computer as well. It was an ACER P-166 and it was awesome. It was a Pentium 166 and had a 2GB hard drive. It was black and had a cool looking case. It had this design in the side with all these air holes, like someone shot it with a shotgun. It ran Windows 95. The screen was gorgeous. The capabilities of this machine were awesome compared to my first computer. Not only in games, but it had a 33.6 baud modem, which meant I could get on the Internet for the first time. It opened a whole new world to me. Because I knew computers better at this point, I bought one that would last a little longer than six months. But, even then, the shine started to fade within a couple years. There were better computers out there and I wanted those, but I was in debt.

When I was 18-years-old, I started to go to college. I took out government loans for it. I was told that, no matter what degree I got, there were employers out there that would pay well, anyone that had a degree. After two years in college, I transferred to a university. This cost even more money, but the loans were easy to get. Again, I was told that it didn’t matter what degree I got, as long as I had one. I was told that the jobs offered would pay well just because I had a degree and I would be able to pay them off easily. What they didn’t tell me was that the average worker pay in the United States had remained stagnant since the 1970s, during which time I was born. Worker pay had gone up an average of 3%, which was the traditional yearly increase of inflation. But, during that same time span, the cost of everything else went up much more and services were increasing in ubiquity every year. In the 1970s, there was no Internet in homes. There was no cable TV. There were no mobile phones. You could argue that these things aren’t necessary, but have you tried to get a job lately without having access to the Internet and receiving calls on a mobile phone? If you have, which jobs are those? I’ll bet you 9 times out of 10 they’re minimum wage jobs you can get by walking into a store and filling out an application. These increasing costs aren’t covered by that 3%.

When I was 25-years-old, I bought my first new car. It was a 2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse. This was at the time when they had these really flashy commercials on TV and the Barenaked Ladies were singing One Week over these cool images of people driving, singing, and having a blast in that car. I was making decent money and the car I was currently driving was going to cost more to fix to meet Atlanta’s exhaust requirements than the car was worth. I don’t remember how much the loan was on that car. I got a great deal, but I was bound to that loan until it was paid off, which was 5 years. But I loved that car. It was silver, just like the commercial, and it had a really great stereo and a sunroof. It took me all over the south, the midwest, and even to Canada a couple times. I loved driving it.

When I was 29-years-old someone pulled out in front of me on an icy morning and I hit them, crushing my beautiful 2002 Eclipse. The insurance company told me that they could fix it, but it would probably not drive the same because of the damage. It would cost pretty much exactly what the car was worth to fix, so they gave me the option of totalling it out, which would cancel out the rest of the loan and bring me to zero. Because I was in debt and my credit at this point was shot, I had to take a high-interest, short-term loan and buy a piece of junk 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier. I drove that car for 18 months. I used that time to fix my credit and then I did it again.

When I was 31-years-old I traded that car in for next to nothing and bought a 2008 Mazda 3 5-door. It was awesome. It drove really well, even in the snow and ice. It had a great stereo and a sunroof. I had lots of space in the back to haul stuff. I drove that car for eight years and nearly 250,000 miles. It took me all over the midwest and even took my family to Disney World once. I never once had a problem with that car that wasn’t regular maintenance. I did, however, have some problems making the payment on time here and there. But, again, I was bound to a loan… twice. At one point, after paying it off, I took out a loan to pay bills that came up by using my car as collateral.

When I was 41-years old my wife lost the ability to work. In order to make ends meet, I needed a second job. Because my car was too old, I went out and traded it in for my current car, a 2017 Mazda CX-3. Again, I look at this car and just get excited. I was getting overtime at work, which would pay the car payment every month and, for extra income would, my plan was to drive for Lyft and Uber, hopefully making enough money to make up for the missing paycheck. This plan worked great for about two years when I ended up losing my job. Lyft and Uber started to compete and take the price cuts out of the drivers’ portion of the fare. I was bound to a loan and, again, having problems making the payments.

And credit cards? I don’t even really want to get into those because that’s embarrassing. But I’m going to touch on it anyway to drive home a point. Twice now I’ve fallen victim to the trap that credit cards are a second source of income. They let you keep up your lifestyle in hopes that better times are coming. As I generally do contract work, credit cards narrowed the gaps during times of unemployment or underemployment. When I got a good contract or a full-time job that paid well, I would pay them off. But, again, that doesn’t always work. Twice now I’ve had to use debt assistance, where I pay a company money to negotiate with my debtors to bring down interest rates and stop late fees and such. These programs are great, but having to go through them is embarrassing. On top of that, when you spend your money paying off things you’ve already bought or things you’ve already done, you spend your life paying for life you’ve already lived. You’re living life backwards.

They say that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. This means that, no matter how carefully you plan, something can go wrong. Murphy has a law about this. The problem, though, is that when you’re bound to debt, the lienholder doesn’t care about your problems. They want their money and they’re either going to get it or take away the thing for which they’ve loaned you the money. I’m working my way through this problem again and I’m going to give you advice on the things I’ve learned. Hopefully you can use this information to help you.

There are two types of slavery alive and well in the United States today: incarceration and debt. The United States prison system incarcerates people in for-profit prisons, in which inmates are in work programs, getting paid sometimes $2 an hour to do work for which the prison makes a profit. If you think I’m kidding, I have links in the video description below. But it doesn’t stop there. The more nefarious version of this is the US system of Student Loans and credit cards. I’ve already touched on credit cards, so let’s look at student loans.

In the United States, the higher education system, meaning colleges and universities, have become increasingly expensive. And to compensate, the US Government offers citizens the ability to take government loans to pay for it. Knowing that the money will be there, colleges and universities keep increasing tuition every year. When this happens, the government increases the amount of loans students are allowed to take on every year. This has turned into a cycle.

And, knowing that more and more people are getting degrees, the employers in the US are starting to demand higher education for all levels of employment. It’s nearly impossible to get a job without a 2-year degree, for which most people go in debt. This isn’t always stated on the employment listing, of course. The requirement comes in knowing that people with degrees are often selected over ones that don’t. This is usually for entry level positions, as well, which are traditionally supposed to require nothing except the desire to learn and train on the job. The higher paying jobs are starting to need a minimum of a 4-year degree, which costs even more. And, for all of these jobs, they’re paying only what they have to, which often doesn’t cover the cost of paying the debt you’ve incurred to get a degree to give you access to that job. If it does, you often don’t have enough to afford buying even a modest home, which means you have to rent something you’re not going to get collateral out of to resell later in life. You’re living life in service to another.

So, how do we break this cycle? How do we get out of this modern day indentured servitude?

The first thing I had to do was change my mindset about money. I learned that I must learn to master my money, not let my money master me. The program taught me that a person who sees the powerful force for good that money can be will be more likely to keep their life in balance by earning, saving, and giving.

The first step to that is to see that money is a tool. That’s it. It doesn’t make you happy. It doesn’t even bring happiness. It’s no better at that than a screwdriver or a hammer. It’s a tool. What you do with it can bring happiness, but the money itself isn’t what makes you happy. Loans, credit cards, and debt make you a servant. You put yourself in the service of another, the lienholder. The work that you do belongs not to you, but to your master, the holder of the debt. When we owe someone money, they have a certain amount of control over us.

The second step is to get an understanding of what you’re paying for every month. Sit down with a piece of paper or a spreadsheet. Figure out how much you spend on everything. Rent, utilities, food, services, car payment, credit cards, maintenance, everything. Make it visual. See where your money is going. Know your debts and know where you stand.

The third step is to get some help. If you can’t afford a financial advisor, ask a friend that seems to be doing well with money. Have them take a look at your bills and debts and figure out a plan that will help you get things under control.

The fourth step is to get control and the sooner you do this the better off you’ll be. Make a commitment at this point to stop going into debt to buy things. If you can’t buy it outright, don’t buy it. Tell yourself that, if you buy something using debt, you’re going to end up paying up to 20% more for it in the end. That’s no lie, many credit cards charge up to 20% interest, which means that if you buy something that costs $1000, by the time you get done paying off the debt, you’ve probably paid up to $1200 for it. Could you use an extra $200 in your life? There’s an easy place to find it.

The fifth step is to get that plan together and work it. Stick to the plan. Do not deviate. Pay your credit cards monthly, no exceptions. When one gets paid off, don’t keep the money you paid on it. Pay extra on another card until it’s paid off. Then don’t keep that money either. Pay extra on another card until it’s paid off. Do this until they’re all gone. Cancel them, cut them up, burn them, and vow to never use them again. Use that money you were using to pay those cards and put it into savings. Use that savings to buy the things you want once you can afford them. We’ll talk about saving more next week.

If you get overtime, use it to pay debt. If you win a scratch ticket, use it to pay debt. If you hit a big one on a slot machine, use it to pay debt. If you get a check from your grandma for your birthday or Christmas, use it to pay debt. Get yourself to zero and stay above that line. The only thing I would argue that you may want to go into debt for is to buy a house. If you want to buy a house, by all means take a loan. But only take a loan that is going to cost you less than 25% of your current monthly income. Think of one of your weekly checks or half of your bi-weekly check as a mortgage payment.

Here are three final tips I have:

If you want to go to college or university, start saving early. Don’t go into debt as a young man, as I did. Start working in high school or take time off after high school and work until you can afford the college or university of your choice outright. Do not go into a life-time of debt to get a degree for which you may never find a job that will afford you the opportunity to pay off that debt. Start considering trade schools or self-employment. Unions will pay you to learn and get you experience in the field. There are training programs out there on the Internet that don’t cost a lot of money and will help you start your own business. This isn’t easy, of course, but it’s a lot more affordable than a degree and you can spend your time working on something that you own which allows you to bill what you want instead of what someone else is agreeing to give you. Benefits from a company are no longer provided. You pay for them out of your check anyway. Get them through the ACA, or If you’re self-employed, you have access and can often get a tax break on them.

Don’t buy something if you don’t need it. Take a car, for instance. If you live in a city that has a decent public transportation system, don’t buy a car. Use the public transportation system for your day-to-day travel until you have saved enough to buy a car. If you need immediate travel, take a cab, Lyft, or Uber. If you don’t have any of those and absolutely need a car, don’t buy something new. Buy a cheaper, used car and pay it off quickly so that you can save that money until you have enough to buy something better. Don’t buy the car you want, buy the car you need.

Don’t pay for all the streaming services. In my house, we pick one and binge watch the shows we’ve missed. When we’ve watched them, we switch to another for a few months and binge watch the shows we can only see on that one. Then we do switch again. If those shows are released weekly instead of as a whole season, wait until the season is over. Remember, television is a distraction. Spend your time learning, educating yourself. That Internet connection is access to a whole world of education, not just a conduit for streaming and social media. Use it to better yourself, not just distract yourself.

These, of course, are just examples. If you have any others, feel free to comment below and give advice to me and others looking for ways to save money.

So, here are your tasks for next week:

  1. Get your mindset right about money. Remember that it’s simply a tool. It doesn’t make you happy. Things won’t make you happy. They’re temporary and can be lost, stolen, broken, or taken away. It’s what you do with the money that makes you happy. Experiences, giving, donations, good will. These things make you happy and you’ll never lose them.
  2. Stop buying things using debt. Make a commitment to stop using loans and credit cards to buy things.
  3. Know where you are financially. Get an understanding of where your money goes. Understand where you’re paying for things you need or paying for life you’ve already lived.
  4. Get some help. Find a financial advisor or a friend that can help you get things under control by coming up with a plan. Contact credit card debt relief programs. My state has one that is non-profit. They do charge a small fee, but it’s so they can keep the lights on and keep doing this for other people.
  5. Use that plan. Work it. Stick to it. Get back to zero and start climbing.

To be fair, it took me a long time to realize all this and choose to live it. It’s not an easy path to follow. I’ve climbed out of debt three times in my life, two of those with assistance. I remember the feeling of getting there and how nice it was to have money again. But I forgot. Don’t forget. You can get out from under this, just as I did. And, when you do, it’ll be like a breath of fresh air. I’m climbing there myself for the fourth time and I’ll see you on the other side. So, until next week… Watch me shine.

Physical Health – S01E15

This week’s episode is about physical health.

Original Script of the Video (not a direct transcript)

Hello, everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and I’d like to thank you for joining me again. This week, we’re going to talk about physical health, but kind of like I said last week, I’m not a health professional, so if you have specific concerns or needs, be sure to talk to your health professional about them. However, this is a topic that I’ve had a lot of experience with. If you remember my history, for much of my life I was an overweight, pack-a-day smoking, alcoholic. I have since turned that around and I’d like to tell you how I did it. 

But, first, let’s look at the tasks from last week and go over them real quick.

  1. Pick something to learn.
  2. Figure out a way to expand your exposure to something new.
  3. Use your mind to expand that knowledge.

Again, comment if you like and I’ll help you out if I can. No pressure.

When I was a kid, my parents always tried to provide my brother and I with healthy, nourishing food as best they could. They subscribed to the food pyramid. If you’ve never seen that, it says you should eat three meals a day representing all the food groups in proper proportions. A certain number of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, meat, etc. This, if followed properly, is quite healthy. However, as we can see by the state of people today, it typically isn’t. There are various reasons for this, but the individual reasons don’t matter. What matters is that we take a look at what we, as individuals, are doing and choose to do it differently if it’s not working for us.

When I got into university I started eating whatever I wanted. I was snacking all the time. I was eating things out of boxes and cans. And I was drinking way too much for one person. I’m not sure if you know this, but look at the calorie count on alcohol, specifically beer. Add into that by knowing the fact that your body, in order to process alcohol you consume, turns it directly into sugar, which your body stores as fat. Between the food I was eating for meals, the snacks I was eating between them, and the alcohol I was consuming, I was probably eating 5,000 calories a day. Now, for someone of my body size, that could feed three people. This was the reason I was overweight. And I woke up every morning feeling like crap. I was hurting, not just from the alcohol, but my body just hated me.

Another presenter I like is Tim Ferriss. He wrote the 4-Hour Work Week and another book, the 4-Hour Body. In the second one he talks about physical health. I’ll get into some more that he talks about in a little bit, but I wanted to use a phrase he uses in that book to illustrate a point. He tells a story about how he was in Tokyo with some friends and they all decided to go and do something and he didn’t want to because he was overweight. It was at that moment that he decided to change that about himself. He calls it his “Harajuku Moment”. Harajuku is a district of Tokyo and that was the area he was in when he had his moment. The point is that we all come to a certain moment during which we decide to change.

What is your Harajuku Moment? Mine was when my daughter was two-years old. We were having a Halloween party and inviting over a lot of people. During this party, my wife took a picture of me holding my daughter. She was leaned over in my arms reaching for something and I was bent backwards trying to keep her in the frame of the picture. There were three things about that picture that bothered me. First was, the arch of my back made my beer gut stick out and I could see it for what it was. Second was remembering that while I was getting ready one recent morning I had buckled my belt and pinched my stomach doing so. Third, seeing the picture and doing the math, the excess body fat that I was carrying weighed as much as my two-year-old daughter. I was carrying a second, smaller person around with me everywhere I went. I had experienced my Harajuku Moment.

The problem was that I didn’t decide to do anything about it for probably five more years. You see, just because we know it doesn’t mean we decide to do anything about it. It took something else to get me started and that was having a goal. My goal, as I said in an earlier video, was to run a Tough Mudder. I knew that I would have to stop drinking, stop smoking, lose weight, and start exercising to be able to attain that goal.

When I first started to lose weight, I read that book, the 4-Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss. In that book he talks about using himself as a human guinea pig and knowing that the things he explains in that book work. If it worked for him, it would work for me, right? So, I started with the diet that he lays out in that book: the slow carb diet. It did work for me, but I hated it. And that’s the point I want to make to you now. Listen to me, because this is the best possible advice I can give on the subject of diet:

The best possible plan to lose weight is one you can stick to. A fad diet is just a distraction, it’s a set of rules that distracts you by forcing you to pay attention to the rules and not focus on the fact that you’re eating less. The only rules that you should pay attention to are to eat less than your body burns and don’t cheat yourself. And diet doesn’t mean a plan you use to lose weight only to go back to what you were doing before. It needs to be a lifestyle change. Diet means what you habitually put in your body for fuel. If you go on a diet and lose weight and then go off it again, you’re going right back to where you were before.

Think about it like a gas tank in your car. When you pull up to the pump, you fuel your car in about five minutes. But when you start driving around, it takes hours, days, or even a week or more to burn it off. You should only put in what you need to put in to fill it. If you overfill it, you’re going to make a mess. Of course, you can fill extra gas cans and put them in the back of your car, but your car will then be overweight, carrying around more fuel than you need. Only put in what you need to put in.

When I had my Harajuku Moment and started doing what Tim Ferriss suggested, the slow carb diet, I found that I got some results, but they really weren’t working as well as I’d hoped. Cutting back on soda and replacing it with water was great. Eating the way his diet suggested was working, but not fast enough. I wasn’t losing weight fast enough for the trouble I was putting myself through. I knew that if it didn’t start to work better, I was going to quit. What I decided was to do more research and that’s when I found some things that worked better for me.

First, I did what I did with any goal, as I’ve described in previous videos. I wrote down what I wanted, a specific measurable goal that I could shoot for. I started writing down disciplines that I could incorporate into my life in order to advance me towards that goal. Practicing these disciplines, or turning them into habits, were smaller goals that I could work towards. Again, every Sunday night I would pick one to attempt for a month, see if it worked or if it was too hard, and then reevaluate after a month. I found that the more positive things I could do to reach my goal brought me closer to it every day.

The list of things was long. It was things like, cut out soda and replace it with water. Skip breakfast, eat a light lunch, and then fill up at dinner. Stop eating a snack in the afternoon. Things like that. But this turned into a lifestyle for me. I began to live this plan, this list of things that I incorporated into my life and just never quit doing. To this day, I’m down 40 pounds from my highest weight and I’ve kept it off for going on eight years now. By now, if you’re still watching, I’m sure you want to know more details of that plan, so I’ll tell you where I started.

I incorporated two things into my life:

  1. I started paying attention to two numbers: calorie count and carb count.

    Now, you can pay attention to all of your numbers or even just the macros: protein, fat, carbs. But I found that it was too much hassle, so I only started paying attention to two numbers: carbs and calories. I knew my goal calorie count because I found a calculator on the Internet. I knew that, if I wanted to lose weight, I had to stay 10 to 30 percent below my BMR, which is the base rate at which your body burns calories just to stay alive. I found a number that worked for me and I stayed below that number. Then, I reduced the amount of carbs I took in to less than 100 grams of carbs. That’s it. No excuses. And I tracked those numbers religiously. I got this from the Keto diet.

  2. I started intermittent fasting.

    I found that when I woke up in the morning, I usually wasn’t hungry. And I found that if I ate anyway, I would be hungry off and on the rest of the day. So, what I did was to not eat until I was actually, really hungry. And the way you can tell this is if you feel a bit of hunger, drink some water. If you’re still hungry 15 minutes later, then eat something. But only eat until the sense of hunger goes away. Don’t fill up. Staying a bit hungry forces your body to eat some reserves to keep going. Those reserves are body fat. Forcing your body to eat body fat will help you lose weight.

That’s honestly all I did and that’s what I do to this day. It’s harder to maintain over the winter for me and I tend to fall off track, but as soon as spring starts to arrive, I’m back on it in full force. This keeps me from gaining back all the weight I lost and my winter weight goes away pretty fast. I’m a 42 year-old man with visible abs again. I don’t have a six-pack, but I certainly don’t have a problem buckling my belt anymore. And I’ve maintained this for going on eight years now. And every year, it improves. I think this fall I was holding at around 13 percent body fat. That’s not where I’d really like to be, but it’s comfortable to me and I’m not ashamed to go swimming without a t-shirt on.

And I did all this without doing any exercise. I did eventually exercise, but losing weight has nothing to do with exercise. Anyone that tells you that it does is trying to sell you a gym membership. Changing your diet makes you look good in clothes. Exercising is what you do with what’s left to look good naked. They’re two different goals, so don’t confuse them.

When I did decide to exercise, I started doing bodyweight training and you can do that without buying any equipment at all. When I first started, the only thing I bought was a chin-up bar that I could put in a door frame to do pull-ups. I stuck to four exercises: push-ups, pull-ups, leg lifts, and squats. I recommend finding some progressions so you can start out easy and then work up to harder exercises. I started out using a workout called Convict Conditioning. And then I added in running later, after losing more weight and getting my muscles ready with bodyweight training.

Four exercises plus cardio. That’s all you really need. Anything else starts to target specific muscle areas and can help you improve those. Since starting I’ve added a bench to do some extensions, some bands, a ball, and a couple other things. I got them because I’ve switched to the Reddit Bodyweight Fitness recommended routine. You can find the details to that in that subreddit. But I recommend you just get started with the things I listed above. The four exercises plus a cardio. But, again, you don’t need to do this at all until you get to a goal weight that will allow you to exercise without hurting yourself.

And, once you start exercising, I recommend you set a goal. Do you want to run a marathon? Do you want to run a mud/obstacle course like I did? Knowing that there was a goal to reach helped me do the things I needed to do to achieve that goal. Full disclosure, I never did run a Tough Mudder. They were all too expensive and too far away and I wasn’t sure I could do 13 miles. However, I did run some 5K runs and worked my way up to 10K runs. I tried every obstacle I encountered and managed to overcome all of them except a handful. I ran them with friends who encouraged me, just as I encouraged them. After about a dozen or so, I started just running for relaxation and health reasons. Again, full disclosure, I’ve fallen off the wagon here, but it is on my list to start again. But it should be noted that I’ve kept the weight off even when not running for a couple years because I mostly maintain my diet.

I believe that you can do this as well. If you’re interested and you want help, let me know. Or, you can check out the specific subreddits on Reddit that I mentioned: Keto, Intermittent Fasting, and Bodyweight Fitness. They are full of people that just want to help you. And if you want to show off how far it takes you, there’s always LoseIt and ProgressPics. These are also great, supportive subreddits.

So, if this is something you want to explore, here are some tasks for next week. If you’re already where you want to be diet and health-wise, you get the week off.

  1. Make a list of things you can do to improve your diet. Don’t just go on a diet. Think of how you can change your diet to be better in the long run.
  2. Start doing those things, one at a time, until they become habit, until they become your diet.
  3. Start doing research into exercise. Figure out if you want to go to the gym or just work out at home like I did. Either way, start to do the research.
  4. Start doing those things, one at a time, but only if you’re in a place weight-wise that will allow you to work out without injuring yourself. If you’re not, just focus on diet until you are.

Remember, a diet should be a lifestyle change. It’s what makes you look good in clothes. Exercise is what you do with what’s left. It’s what makes you look good naked. Keep those goals separate and do them in an order that benefits you without overloading you.

I believe in you. And, until next week… Watch me shine.

Emotional Health: mind, will, emotions – S01E14

Original Script of the Video (not a direct transcript)

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and I want to thank you for joining me again. I missed a couple episodes and I apologize to anyone that’s been waiting, but the subject of this week’s episode isn’t an easy one to approach. It’s about mental health. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say about this because I’m not a mental health professional. So, the first thing I want to say is: if you’re dealing with mental health in some way, please see a mental health professional. It’s not something to take lightly.

The second thing I wanted to say is: I’m going to approach this from a standpoint of what helped me improve my mental health. I feel that these changes can help anyone, but they’re not going to fix everything. I also want to try something new. I’ve noticed that my viewer engagement rate isn’t very good. That means either you’re not interested in the subject matter, or I’m not a very engaging presenter. I would like to change that. So, I’m going to try and be more… me. I’m going to try and tell more stories instead of lecturing you like we’re sitting in a high school guidance session. This subject matter shouldn’t be boring. I want you to be excited about the prospect of changing your life. 

That being said, let’s look at the tasks from last week and see how we did.

  1. Make a choice to find a map.
  2. Set time aside to study
  3. Read and study it.
  4. Apply music.
  5. Join a community.

Did you find a map that makes sense to you? Have you decided to study it so the world starts to make sense to you? Did you get started? What’s your soundtrack? Did you find others that can help? Comment if you want some help and I’ll help you out if I can. No pressure.

I remember the first time the question was posed to me, are you a mind with a body or a body with a mind? This really wasn’t all that long ago. I think it was last fall sometime. I was always the type of person to sit and think too much. My father liked to point that out a lot when I was growing up. He still says it often, to this day. I just can’t help it, I guess.

I was sitting on my back porch, just after the sun went down, and the stars were coming out. It was a bit chilly and I was actually considering starting a fire in the burn barrel in my backyard. My family was inside. I think my wife was probably relaxing after dinner and my daughter was probably in her room dancing. And I was outside, sitting in a chair on my porch, and listening to some presenter on YouTube. I think the topic was the nature of consciousness. And the question came up, are you a body with a mind or a mind with a body. And as I sat there, I felt really, really small. I felt so unimportant and insignificant. And, honestly, the idea terrified me. But then something hit me that turned all that around. The idea that hit me was that, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel, no matter how true that is, the human mind is the origin point for everything we have in our lives. Literally everything that didn’t just happen in nature started as a thought.

Just let that sink in for a moment. Everything from religion, philosophy, art, music, poetry, government, law, politics, inventions, family, all the way down to tools, how to make fire, recipes and cooking in general, all the way back to the decision to come down out of the trees and start evolving into something greater than monkeys hiding from predators and surviving on fruit, came from someone using their mind to generate an idea and taking a chance that it may lead to something better. Our minds, our ability to think, to see the world around us, notice problems that need solving, and then take ideas that came before and combine them, modify them, and start using them to solve those problems, is the tool that we use to do so. Mankind is the dominant species on this planet because we’re constantly not satisfied with the way things are and trying to find better ways to improve things.

As I sat there on the porch, that idea struck me hard. I started thinking about those past ancestors and what they’d done for us. I have a home, a building in which to shelter myself. That building was made from construction techniques that had evolved over thousands of years. I had just eaten a meal that came from food that had been grown and raised by thousands of years of evolving agriculture techniques. It came to me through a network of distribution that made sure that food was delicious and nutritious by the time it got to me. It was cooked using techniques and recipes that had evolved from a bare campfire to appliances hooked to power systems. I was wearing clothes that were manufactured instead of animal skins. I was sitting in a chair that was designed to be comfortable and durable instead of a tree stump or log. I was holding a pocket computer in my hand connected to a wireless network in my home that was connected to a global network of computers delivering ideas from people all over the world. People had created those ideas out of learning, combining, and modifying ideas that they’d learned from those that came before them and then delivering those ideas to me from thousands of miles away, not to mention the span of time between which they recorded it and I chose to watch it. And yet, all of this was possible because we as humans had evolved new methods. But, overall, it’s really not far from the way we used to transmit ideas millions of years ago.

I’ve been watching a lot of videos by a man, a really fantastic speaker, named Eric Edmeades. One of the videos I watched talked about the way humans used to transmit ideas hundreds of thousands of years ago. Humans used to sit around the fire and tell stories. These first people didn’t have computers, phones, TVs, radios, or even a writing system when they first started out. They had each other, the security of a tribe, and the safety of a campfire. They used to sit around and tell each other stories so that others could benefit from their experience and that experience would often save lives. The people that learned those lessons had a better chance of survival in the future. Now, for the most part, we don’t have to worry about it to that extreme, but I think we’ve lost something in the process.

I’m not going to argue that technology is bad. I’m a technophile and I believe that technology can absolutely be used to better our lives. I think that we can use technology to grow our tribe, expand the safety of our campfire, and transmit the experiences of our lives to those that could benefit from it. And that’s exactly why I’m doing these videos. I want mine to be one of the campfires you choose to join, to learn and benefit from my experience, to better your life when the world seems a dark, cold, and foreboding place that makes you feel small and insignificant. Within you is a mind that holds the potential to better not only your own world, but the world of those around you. I believe that, within you, you contain a store of knowledge and experience and that knowledge and experience is a source of potential that is limitless. I believe that you can use that potential to create a better world, again, not only for yourself, but your tribe.

I remember the day I met my daughter. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned this story in this channel. I met my wife at a bar and we exchanged numbers through a mutual friend later. But when I met her she didn’t like me, for some reason. The numbers came later so I must have made a good impression. But, when I met her, the first words out of her mouth after I introduced myself, were designed to scare me off. She asked, “Do you want to see pictures of my kid?” She told me later that it usually filtered out a lot of guys. Not one to be scared off easily, I said, “Absolutely!” And, after some phone conversations and a date or two, about a week or two later, we met in a park. All the typical things went through my head when meeting her daughter: getting to know her, playing and having fun, keeping her safe, and all the other things that typically go through peoples’ minds when they are playing with a child. But, because my brain likes to overthink things, I was also thinking about how children work and how brains evolve.

Children are fascinating to me, particularly how they learn and how their thought processes change over time. Children, specifically their minds, are like basic computers. They have a basic input system via their eyes, ears, fingers, toes. They have a basic output system via a system of crying and a type of protolanguage, mimicking the sounds they hear. And they have a basic processor that uses that data to expand their understanding of the world. They learn by combining that input into useful data and understanding. Over time, their programming becomes increasingly complex. They learn to walk, talk, use tools, and modify the world around them. As time goes on, all these systems become more complex through increasing the amount of input they receive. They still learn from parents, but they begin learning from others like extended family, friends, teachers, and so on.

Eventually, they evolve into more complex computers. They start deciding what to do with that input. They start making choices. Instead of one decision making path, the one they were taught, they start to evaluate the inputs and decide which way they are going to use them. They either keep the original programming or abandon it for one they think might change the results to something better. We can see the evolutionary process at work in something as simple as a decision to try something new to create a more optimal result given the nature of inputs. We eventually have to become our own programmers. When you hear that phrase, what does it mean to you? To me, it means that we need to analyze how we take in information and how we use that information, how we combine and modify it, and then apply it to our lives, not just as children, but also as adults.

The problem, as I see it, is that people generally quit learning about this process once school ends. I fell victim to this after leaving university. Learning often becomes a passive thing. We learn what we need to learn based on employment or the circles of friends that we maintain. How many of you know that person that just doesn’t read? How many of you, honestly, are that person? I know that I stopped reading to learn right out of the gate when I entered the real world. I tended to only read stories for entertainment purposes, like sci-fi or fantasy novels, unless prompted to do so by my employer. Combining this with my other chosen inputs: music, television, movies, etc., this fundamentally changed my input, which I’m sure had dire consequences for my overall programming.

What this did, in essence, was to skew my view of the world. I was reducing my input to that which was required to become better at my profession or distract me from the world. I became a specialized processor, a piece that only fit into a specific role in a larger machine. What happens when that role is no longer required or becomes redundant?

I just lost my job again this week. I was working as a System Administrator for a company that no longer required as many System Administrators as they currently had. They decided not to extend my contract. As you can imagine, this is devastating, terrifying for me. I did what anyone would do: I started to look for similar roles to the one I had or ones that I’ve had in the past. Again, this process is terrifying and devastating when I’m turned down for those roles for one reason or another. I’m currently having to change my programming.

So, I’m having to use my willpower to learn new things. I don’t honestly believe I’m just going to switch career paths, but I do believe that I need to change what I’m taking in and expand my inputs so that I have more knowledge and experience to call upon. How many of you have ever been in a position in which you called upon seemingly unrelated experience to solve a problem? How many of you, say, changed a recipe because you were cooking for someone with a food allergy? How many of you solved a computer problem by knowing about how someone used their computer, not because of something technical? How many of you ever explained a process to someone based on their profession, not yours? All of the knowledge we take in can be applied to other things.

The thing that allows us to expand our knowledge and experience is willpower. It’s one of the greatest tools we have. It’s the tool we use to get us out of our comfort zone. It’s the power of self-determination, the drive to become something better. It’s a muscle, one you can’t see or touch, yet one that needs exercise. The problem is that most people, myself included for much of my adult life, is that we choose not to exercise it until we need it, and one that fails us because, when we need it, it’s often not there because we didn’t choose to exercise it and we can’t carry the load we require in that moment. I already did a video that you can find in my channel, on ways to exercise your willpower so that it’s there when you need it. I encourage you to watch that video, because it’s a vital tool to add to your kit. You might say, “OK, Brian, that’s great. But where do I start?”

When I was a child, I was not very emotional. I tended to accept things for the way they were. If they weren’t the way I wanted them to be, I just learned to adapt. This is a good skill to have, but the problem is that I just took things at face value and rarely had a desire to change them. As I got older, this trend followed me into adulthood. I learned what I needed to learn. I would take jobs when they presented themselves. I would take whatever salary I was offered because that’s what was offered. Expressing emotion has always been a sort of weak point for me. Granted, the ability to control my emotions has always been a strong point for me, but the ability to show them has not.

Thinking about this I was reminded of when, as a child, I had an interaction with my one of my grandfathers. I was probably six or so at the time. Just a kid. I remember spending the day with him and watching him do work. It’s just what he did. He was always working on something, always busy. He was a gardener, a handyman, and absolutely loved working on cars. If he didn’t know how to do something, he would just try new things until he figured it out. I think this is probably the main person I got this skill from. I remember this day vividly because I always felt bad about the interaction later in life. We were in the garage and he was doing some kind of MacGuyver stuff to fix a problem. I don’t know what it was and it doesn’t really matter. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing: solving this problem and keeping an eye on me. At some point, I let my emotions get the better of me and I blurted out, “When are you going to have time for me?” Now, as a fairly unemotional child, this was uncharacteristic for me. I knew that what my grandfather was doing was important. He was solving a problem. But what I didn’t expect was the look he gave me. He calmly put down the tools with which he was working, looked at me, heartbroken but with one of the kindest smiles I remember ever receiving in my life, and said, “Ok, Brian, what do you want to do?”

We went downstairs to the workshop he had in his basement and I spent hours going through all the drawers in that room. I pulled things out and asked him, over and over, “What’s this?” Through that interaction I learned more about my grandfather than I think I had at any other point in our relationship. Not only about the tools he used, the things they were used for, and the wealth of knowledge that man had at his disposal. But also his kindness, love, and what he valued in life. He was willing to drop what he was doing, the job he was working to complete, to spend time satisfying my curiosity as a child. He showed me two things that day: one, that expressing my wants and needs should not be something I should hide, and two, that dropping everything to aid those in need should be a value by which we should all live our lives.

As I said, that interaction is something I felt bad about throughout my life. I never wanted to impose upon people and make them stop doing what they were doing to help me. But, now I look back on that interaction in a different light. The way we learn is to expand our inputs and modify how we use that to create different outputs. The drive to do so is fueled by our willpower. But it’s the emotion, the desire, that prompts it all. If we don’t examine our desires and express them to ourselves and others, it doesn’t matter how much willpower we have or what we learn that matters.

We, as human beings, need to listen to our desires, feel the emotion behind them, understand those emotions, and express them in an appropriate manner. We need to learn to balance that, to feel the emotions and allow them to flow, but we also need to learn to control them, not let them control us. We need to allow ourselves to feel passion, curiosity, creativity. We need to harness them and allow them to fuel our desires. We need to express those desires and then use our willpower to drive us to learn. So, think about things that make you curious or the things that inspire creativity. Do you want to learn to communicate with others more efficiently? Learn a language or take a speaking course. Do you want to create? Take an art class or learn to play an instrument. Your desires are your own, but you must learn to understand them. Think about what drives you as a human being, learn something new, and then expand your tribe, invite them to share your fire, and teach them something that can help them do the same.

If you do these things: use your mind to its fullest extent, use your will to fulfill your self-determination, and harness your emotions to understand what you want and why, your emotional health will flourish.

So, let’s talk about tasks for next week that can help you work on these things. And we’re going to kind of work backwards through the topics of this video because they’re foundational and build off of each other:

  1. What do you want to learn? What drives you as a human being? Are you curious or creative about something? Spend some time thinking about these things and decide to learn something completely unrelated to your profession or things your friends do. Pick something to learn.
  2. Use your willpower to sign up for a class, pick up a book, watch some YouTube videos, or otherwise begin learning about this new thing. Figure out a way to expand your exposure to something new. Then commit to going to the classes, reading the books, watching the videos, and practicing.
  3. Use your mind to expand that knowledge. Don’t just take in the lessons. Actually practice it, modify it, and use it in new ways. Figure out how that knowledge can be applied to other areas of your life. Most especially, teach it to others. There’s no better way to learn something than to take the time to explain it to someone else.

We are not cogs in a machine. We are not specialized tools meant for one purpose. We are complex beings, full of potential, and that potential is unlocked through learning a variety of skills and talents. If we limit ourselves to what comes to us in life, we are limiting ourselves in life in general. Become something greater and help others become something greater. I’ve made a commitment to doing the same, so, until next week… Watch me shine.

How You See The World – S01E13

In this video I talk about spirituality, either religious or philosophical and the place it fills in our lives.
Stoic Resources:
Vox Stoica
Tim Ferriss – Tao of Seneca

Original Script of the Video (not a direct transcript)

Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and this week, I would like to talk to you about spirituality, whether religious or philosophical, and the place it fills in our lives. But, before we get into it, let’s take a look at the tasks from last week. Remember to comment on this week’s video for how you did. Again, if you take the time to comment, I’ll take the time to respond.

  1. Find a coach or mentor for your primary accountability partner. Were you able to find someone to coach or mentor you? If not, keep trying.
  2. Find one or more accountability partners that are willing to join you on this journey. Were you able to find some people to join you on your journey? Whether you have or not, never stop trying. This should be a goal as long as you’re on the journey.
  3. Remember the list of things you’re looking for. Did the people that you find fit the bill? Always keep this list in mind. It can be used for relationships in general, not just accountability partners.

Jim Rohn says in this program that he believes that there are three parts to our makeup:

  1. Body – the physical.
  2. Soul – the mental: mind, will, emotion, intellect, etc.
  3. Spiritual – the part us that talks to God.

He says that these are layered, with the spiritual at the center, surrounded by the soul, and encapsulated by the body. He believes that spiritual health is the most important part of this whole process.

Honestly, this is the one lesson so far that I could not swallow. I’ve been an atheist since I was about six or eight and scolded in youth church classes for asking questions to which the teachers could not provide sufficient answers. I had my first real religious argument with my mother between eight and ten and made her cry because she couldn’t answer them either. She begged me to stay in church until I was confirmed at eighteen because she hoped it would eventually stick. My father told me I had to, so as to not upset her any more. I did so. I was confirmed in the Catholic church when I was eighteen and can count the number of times I went back after that on one hand.

Honestly, I spent those years trying. I prayed. I read the scriptures. I studied them. When they didn’t satisfy, I began studying other religions and the list I studied was long. Of all my university courses, ones about religion were my second favorite, only surpassed by history. I was honestly searching for one that made sense to me, with which I could agree. Again and again, I found the same inconsistencies and flaws that I always had. And those flaws, I could not get past. I’m not telling you this to talk you out of your faith or to tell you that you need to quit the church of your choice. I’m simply stating that I could not swallow this lesson. That is, until I decided to look at it from my perspective and apply philosophy.

Once I decided to substitute philosophy for religion in this lesson, I found that the teaching method held true. Philosophy and religion are not mutually exclusive. Many philosophers were religious. This applies from Socrates in ancient Greece, the founder of Western philosophy, all the way through to today. It also applies across cultures. So, I’m going to teach this lesson from my perspective. And, when I do, do what I did and use philosophy and spirituality interchangeably. Then choose to follow whichever path, or a blend of the two, that works best for you. Because, when Jim says that spirituality is the center and most important part of our makeup, he’s not necessarily wrong. When I placed the philosophy of my choice at the center of my being, my view of the world began to change dramatically.

Jim believes that the way to begin developing a deeper spiritual life are as follows:

  1. Make it a pursuit.
    Decide to dig deeper, either into faith or into a philosophy. Do your research. If the one you were born into doesn’t appeal to you or if you weren’t born into one at all, start learning about others. There are many active religions and philosophies to choose from. There are many more that aren’t active at all, but that doesn’t make them worth any less. Start looking into them. Choose something that speaks to you. Find a teacher, either living or not, through books and recordings.
    I, personally, settled on Stoicism. I found that when I began reading the writings of Seneca and Epictetus, I found like-minded teachers. And, although I disagree with him on several points, I found that Marcus Aurelius, the last of the great Roman emperors, was a wise and noble teacher.
  2. Set time aside to pursue it.
    Just as many go to church on Sunday morning, setting aside a regular time to study religion or philosophy, is important. It should not be a leisurely pursuit which you only do when you find the time. It should become something central to your being. Religion and philosophy become a map that can guide you through the world. They teach you how to see the world and understand your place in it. They become guides for how you maneuver through the world, respond to the world around you, and help you stay sane.
    I like to listen to audiobooks in my car on the way to work. I also like to practice my chosen philosophy, Stoicism, when I go to my wife’s church with her on Sundays. Because I don’t believe, but am forced to go for the sake of my family, I can listen, learn, and either accept or not accept those lessons based on my philosophy. During these time periods, I actively learn about and/or practice my chosen philosophy, respectively.
  3. Read and study it.
    Whether you choose religion or philosophy, there are probably millions of pages written about it. There are probably hundreds of thousands who follow it. There are probably hundreds who teach it. Whether you were born into it, converted to it, or haven’t found one and are looking to do so, there is someone who can help you along. Choose one and get started learning.
    I’ve already mentioned audiobooks in the car, but I also have e-books on Stoicism that I read. I also subscribed to YouTube channels about Stoicism. My favorite right now is a channel called Vox Stoica. I’ve linked to it in the comments. My point is that I’ve gathered lots of material or have access to lots of material which I study in order to expand my knowledge of the subject.
  4. Apply music.
    If you go to a church, the members tend to sing songs. There may even be a choir or an organ player. My wife’s church has a band. There’s a reason for this. Music can aid participation and aid in building memories. When studying, put on some music that is either related to your subject matter, or something without lyrics that is soothing.
    I really like one particular album that I found by Marconi Union called Weightless. The group that made it worked with sound therapists and it has been scientifically found to slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and lower levels of cortisol, the hormone your body releases in reaction to stress. Just listening to this album resulted in a 65 percent reduction in their overall anxiety and they experienced a 35 percent drop in their typical physiological resting rates. I listen to it while reading Stoic writings and the combination is like meditation for me.
  5. Join a community.
    If you go to church, keep going. If you don’t go to church but you’re religious, find one. If you don’t go to church because you don’t believe, find like-minded people that believe as you do. Form your own church. Maybe not an official one, but get together and talk about it. Being part of a community of like-minded thinkers or believers is essential. Humans are social creatures. We need community in order to thrive. Being part of a community boosts our overall happiness. Being part of a community of like-minded thinkers and believers can also increase our understanding of our religion or philosophy.
    I don’t have this right now. Most everyone I know is religious and I’m sort of an outsider in that respect. However, I do offer my philosophy in the form of advice whenever asked how I would handle a situation. I don’t tell them where I got it or how, but I’m often thanked for a different perspective. It allows me to practice without preaching, which is more important to me. My advice is valued and that makes me feel good.

Again, I don’t care which one you choose or even if you choose to blend the two. I have no stake in this fight. But choosing to try and navigate the world without some sort of map to guide you is choosing to try and figure all of this life out on your own. There’s no sense in choosing to do it that way when entire lifetimes have been set to the task before you and those people choose to give you the entirety of their lives’ work. Benefit from the hard work of others.

Which brings us to the tasks for next week.

  1. Make a choice to find a map, whether it’s religious or philosophical in nature.
  2. Set time aside to study. Mark it in your planner or journal and choose to attend or study.
  3. Read and study it. Wise words have been written. Learn from them.
  4. Apply music, whether it’s related or as a study aid.
  5. Join a community, whether it’s a church or study group. Be part of something larger than yourself.

Remember to write your answers down and comment on them in next week’s video or contact me through my website, As always, if you take the time to contact me, I will take the time to respond.

How you view the world is important. We shouldn’t go through life blind. Religion and philosophy help us see the world in a way that makes sense to us. Even if we do not agree on how, we should all understand that we’re all in this together, and should help each other through it. If you know someone that’s lost in some way, maybe help them walk your path until they find a path more suited to them, and then wish them well on their journey from that point forward. And, as always, until next week… Watch me shine.

Accountability – S01E12
In this video I talk about accountability and the two types of accountability. I also talk about accountability partners and the two types of accountability partner. I also talk about what to look for when finding accountability partners.

Original Script of the Video (not a direct transcript)

Hey, everybody. Welcome to this week’s episode of Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and this week I’m going to talk about Accountability. The word accountability comes from the word account, or to give an account. It’s a contract with someone else, but it can also mean to yourself.

Last week, I said there were no tasks. That holds true, but I hope you took the time to think about what we discussed last week. I hope you found something in last week’s episode to help you with your self-esteem and self-discipline. If you’re still struggling, feel free to comment or contact me through my website,, and I’d love to help you out.

I said in the intro that accountability comes from the word accountable. Being accountable is being required or expected to justify actions or decisions. It means being responsible. Being responsible means having an obligation to do something, or having control over or care for someone, as part of one’s job or role. It also means capable of being trusted. If we put all this together, along with the idea that we have a contract with ourselves or someone else, the idea grows into something larger.

Being accountable means that we make a contract with ourselves, possibly others, for which we must justify our actions and decisions, to do something which we choose to do, and we trust ourselves to get it done. We must use our self-esteem, self-discipline, willpower, and integrity to do what must be done so that we can build for ourselves a world which is worthy of who we are and what we can become. 

Earl Nightingale, in his speech “The Strangest Secret”, said that everyone is where they are because that’s exactly where they want to be, whether they’ll admit that or not. Everything we have done, all the decisions and actions we have made, have brought us to where we are now. If where you are in life isn’t where you want to be, you can’t keep making the same decisions and choices. If we keep doing what we’re doing we’ll get what we’ve always gotten, and we’ll stay exactly where we are. Or, we can change. We can adapt. We can grow. We can make something of our world.

There are two types of accountability. There’s the internal, which means that we hold ourselves accountable. And there’s the external, which means that we ask others to help us.

Internal accountability isn’t easy. Internal accountability is using our own integrity and maintaining it throughout our lives. The problem with this is that we must be able to answer to ourselves and answer honestly. Remember that integrity is what you do when nobody else is looking, when you can’t get caught. It’s the value we place upon ourselves. It means doing what you say you’re going to do, what you’re supposed to do. It means being the best version of yourself that you can be. But it also means not making excuses for not being that person. And it means being consistent about it.

If you want to practice your internal accountability, here are some things you can do:

  1. Write your goals down. Have a written record of what you say you’re going to do. We’ve already done some of this in previous videos and this process will continue to evolve as we go through it. For now, just continue to keep making your list and going over it from time to time.
  2. Be honest with yourself about how you’re progressing. In this process, there’s nobody to impress except yourself. But, in the same breath I say, the only person you can cheat is yourself. When you win, congratulate yourself. But, when you fail, hold yourself accountable. Don’t berate yourself, just be honest.
  3. When times get tough, persevere. Don’t give up. There is no shame in failure. You just found one way that didn’t work. The only shame is giving up. If you quit, you get nothing. If you persevere, you get something. And something is better than nothing in nearly every case. I go back to the process: try, fail, learn, adjust, and try again. This should be a mantra for us all.
  4. Schedule regular times to sit down and measure your progress. Again, hold yourself accountable. So, sit down and give an account. Hopefully you’re using your journal to write down and track your progress. Read your past entries and see how you’ve done. Figure out places where you’ve failed, look for patterns. Think of ways you can create disciplines and habits to avoid those failure points in the future.

External accountability is easier. The hard part is finding accountability partners. I have already said, as far back as my first video, that I’m willing to be yours and I ask that you be mine. I meant that. But, before you choose me, let me go over with you the things you should look for and ask of an accountability partner.

  1. Choose someone that cares, but not enough to lie to you. Find someone that’s willing to be honest. Remember when I said that the only one you’re cheating is yourself when holding yourself accountable? When someone is holding you accountable, you can’t let them cheat you for the sake of your feelings. They need to be honest so you get good, honest feedback.
  2. Be willing to share your goals and be specific. The person you’re working with can’t hold you accountable if they don’t know specifically what you’re trying to do and how you’re trying to do it. Share with them your goal, your schedule, your methods, and your deadline.
  3. Be honest. Not only with yourself, but with the person you’re working with. Again, they can’t be honest if you’re not honest with them. This is easy if you’re successful. But, if you slipped up, let them know it. They can’t help you if you’re not honest about it. Maybe they can give you some help or advice to get you back on track, but not if they don’t know about it. Besides, in the end, the truth will come to light.
  4. Set a schedule for check-ins. Don’t leave this to fate. Make sure to set times and hold to them. Check in and give an account. If bad habits or choices go too long, they’ll start to stick. And, once they stick, they become harder to correct.
  5. Heed their words, whether good or bad. Their advice and their encouragement are equally valuable. You may not always like what they have to say and you may not always agree with it. But you probably need to hear it either way. Again, this is easy when you’re successful, but it’s just as important when you’re not.

There are two types of accountability partner. I recommend you find several of the first kind and one, specifically, of the second kind. In either case, remember the things you should look for in an accountability partner before you choose. When you find someone that fits those, figure out which type of accountability partner you’d like them to be. Then, take a chance and ask. The worst that can happen is that they say no.

The first kind of accountability partner is one that you see as an equal. This type of accountability partner is generally the type that is going to go through the process with you. It’s the friend that goes to the gym with you. It’s the friend that takes a class with you. It’s the other members of your book club, or climbing club, or dance class. This type of accountability partner can be the one that calls your phone or knocks on your door when it’s time to go do the work. They can help motivate you by reminding you of your goals and motivations.

Again, I recommend you find several of these, if possible. The reason for them to be there is to motivate you when you don’t feel like continuing. But what happens when you both don’t feel like continuing? If you have a third, fourth, or fifth person, there are less chances of a bad day ruining it. When there are two or three people blowing up your phone, you’re less likely to ignore it. You’ll have more people counting on you. And they, in turn, will have more people counting on them.

The second kind of accountability partner are coaches or mentors. This type of accountability partner is generally a subject matter expert in the area in which you want to work. It’s your Krav Maga teacher, or your art instructor, or your anger management coach. This person has already been through the process. They know the failure points and can give you advice on how to avoid them. They also know the subject matter and the best ways to achieve your goals.

I recommend you only find one of these for each given area in which you’re looking to improve. Having multiple coaches or mentors in a given area invites disaster by increasing the chances of confusion. If one coach gives you one method and another argues with it, this adds frustration into the mix. If one teacher tells you something is important and another tells you it’s not, this adds frustration to the mix. All methods work, but not every method works for everyone. Remember, the best method is the one to which you can stick.

I’m cutting this week short by a few minutes so that you can take a little extra time for this week’s tasks.

  1. Find a coach or mentor for your primary accountability partner. Go back to your goal list you made a couple weeks ago and look at your primary or secondary goal. Think of a person that could help you achieve that. Ask them to be your coach or mentor in that respect.
  2. Find one or more accountability partners that are willing to join you on this journey. Maybe it’s someone already in your class, club, or group. If you don’t have anyone, consider asking a friend to join you.
  3. When you ask these people to help you, remember the list of things you’re looking for. Go over this list with them. Make sure, out of all of those things, you both commit to being honest and being open to honesty. 

If you chose me for either of these positions, I would be honored. Shoot me a message, either in the comments or through my website,, and I will get back to you. But, either way, until next week… Watch me shine.