Vacation: where good habits go to die

Vacation is hard for me.

This sounds like an incredibly ungrateful, and privileged attitude, but let me try and explain.

For starters, I know I am lucky to get to travel and vacation as much as I do.

Compared to the alternative (staying put and working), it wins 9 out of 10 times.

That 10% of the the time that it doesn’t win however, are those moments I feel like I’ve over-done it.

“How can you say you vacation too much?!”

I think we’re all familiar with the age-old adage of “everything in moderation”, so why does it apply here?

Well, there’s money of course…

Vacation ain’t cheap, even if you justify it with the money you may save from things like travel hacking.

You’re still spending money, and points can’t cover everything.

Another big one for me is time away from work.

I know that most people don’t give a shit about missing work for play, but as an entrepreneur, it eats at me.

When I take myself away from my business, things fall behind.

In the past, this was probably more true than it is today, but it’s still a reality I live with.

I’ve been building a team over the last few years to address this, but there are still so many things that I have my hands in that don’t progress when I’m on vacation.

And it worries me.

Why can’t I just take a vacation and relax?

Why can’t I feel like I deserve a break, and give myself permission to detach for a week or two?

I wish I knew the answer, but I realize it probably won’t come to me overnight.

What I do know is that vacation loves to kill the good habits I’ve formed.

Waking up at 6am?

Forget about it.

Playing guitar?

Too much of a hassle to carry my travel guitar around.

And then there’s writing. Honestly, there’s no excuse.

But the reality is that my habits die on vacation, and I still haven’t figured out a way to combat this.

Do I just accept that routines are meant to be disrupted when traveling?

Honestly, I’m OK with this, so long as I’m able to get back on the horse when I return.

What I’d love to know though is how you, my dear internet stranger, preserve your good habits and routines when on vacation.

Or do you just say “fuck it”?

Drop a comment below to let me know. I could use all the help I can get.

The MLM virus

Multi-level marketing represents the dark, deceiving, and depressing part of my industry.

We all have a Facebook friend or two who’s wrapped up in an MLM. And at one time or another, we have maybe been part of one ourselves.

If you’re not familiar with MLMs, here are some of the common characteristics:

  1. Representatives (aka victims) are paid a commission of what they sell, and more importantly, they are paid a commission for everything one of their recruits sells
  2. The actual product(s) the MLM sells are usually not very good products (there are few exceptions to this)
  3. MLMs host regular events for their top-representatives to boast about the lavish lifestyles they’re living with luxury cars and white sand beaches

Now, do I think MLMs are an effective way to grow a massive business?


Do I think MLMs are an ethical way to grow a business?

Definitely not.

The problem stems from the combination of the 3 characteristics I mentioned above.

Simply put, people who are recruited to “work for” these MLMs are not being taught to sell the product(s) to customers, they are being taught to sell a fantasy lifestyle to friends and family.

Yes, one of the major tenets of an MLM is that the people you are taught to sell to are the ones who you actually know (read: your friends and family).

Fucking disgusting.

My experience working for a MLM

Back in the Summer of 2006, going into my sophomore year of college, I received a sketchy phone call.

I was told that there was a job opportunity for me at a company called Cutco, where my friend had been working as one of their top sales people.

The fact that I was being solicited an interview set off my bullshit radar, but I ignored it because a) my friend was already working there and doing well and b) I wanted a job.

So off I went for an interview in San Francisco, which felt especially fancy and official to me, even back then.

The office was in a crummy neighborhood and building, and right then and there I should have turned around and left.

But I continued down the dark rabbit hole.

I waited for my “interview” behind several other people, who were around my age.

The reason I put interview in quotes was because the guy barely asked me anything before telling me to come back for a second round.

The second round was more of a presentation than anything.

The room was filled with about 20 individuals, a good amount of diversity in the room.

Yet, when the presentation was over, the same guy who interviewed me (aka the boss) pulled me and a few other white and asian people to the side and told us he could see something in us that made him think we were going to do well working for Cutco.


The guy didn’t even know anything about any of us. This was one of the most blatant examples of racial profiling I had experienced in my young life, and it actually got worse.

As I was walking to the train, naively feeling good about myself, me and this other white kid ran into another one of the “interviewees”, a black kid.

He told us that the “boss” had told him he wouldn’t be getting the job.

I’ll never forget that moment.

Deep down inside of me I knew how wrong it was, but for whatever reason, I still continued down the dark rabbit hole.

Young and dumb, not acknowledging the white privilege nor the injustice.

In the end though, that kid who wasn’t hired lucked out.

I didn’t mention it before, but Cutco sells premium kitchen cutlery. In fact, I’d argue that Cutco’s products are an exception to the MLM rule of shitty products.

Cutco knives are actually pretty decent.

But let’s be honest, who needs a butter knife that can cut through leather?

Or a pair of scissors that can cut a penny in half?

(These were the demonstrations they had us do for friends and family).

The saving grace is that we got paid hourly to do these presentations, in addition to the commissions we would earn for selling the knives or recruiting someone under us.

I ended up selling a few sets to family and friends, kept my demo kit, and ultimately broke even from the whole experience (not factoring in my time).

I didn’t do it for more than a month or two before finally realizing this bullshit wasn’t for me.

I learned some valuable lessons from the experience though.

The most important lesson?

Never touch a MLM again.

MLMs reek

Nowadays, I can smell a MLM from a mile away.

We commonly see them on Facebook, but I’ll also have the occasional victim try and pitch to me in person.

I run like hell as soon as I sense it.

Recently, I went to a retirement party for a dear loved one. It was here that I encountered one of the most egregious examples of MLM behavior I’ve ever experienced.

A guest of this party (a friend of a friend) had the audacity to ask if she could do a 2-hour presentation pitching her product.

This product, by the way, costs $4-6k USD.

My dear loved one felt obligated to compromise (for reasons I won’t go into), so she allowed it to happen downstairs, away from the party.

About 20% of the guests remained upstairs.

This was so unacceptably inappropriate.

Here we were, celebrating someone’s long and difficult career, and a snake oil salesman had somehow managed to infiltrate and potentially brainwash 80% of the guests.

Fortunately, the few of us with sense steered clear, but that’s not the point.

The point is that these companies are built to tap into peoples’ greed and desperation.

Even after this woman had stolen the majority of the guests from the party for more than an hour, she still continued to slither into disingenuous conversations trying to peddle her snake oil.

And I would normally feel sorry for people like her, but she doesn’t deserve an ounce of it. She took a shit on what was supposed to be a happy celebration.

There’s no “easy” button

So if you’re reading this rant, I’ll leave you with one small piece of advice.

As an experienced entrepreneur (I say this humbly…in fact, I hated writing it), one of the most important things I’ve learned is that success does not come easy.

MLMs sell easy buttons.

I would bet that most people would love to be their own boss and rake in boatloads of passive income.

But this isn’t the real world.

If you want any semblance of that life, you’re gonna have to find another way.

But that discussion is for another day.

Take your friend to work day

I was chatting with V last night about a friend who recently returned from a rather lengthy work trip.

It had me thinking…

I have no idea what my friend does in their work life.

I mean, I know who they work for and generally what they do, but the rest is 99% mystery.

I know the weekend brunch version of this friend, but I don’t know their professional side at all.

Isn’t this kind of weird?

I mean, our careers don’t define us, but they’re certainly a big part of who we are. Yet most of us don’t have a clue about the day-to-day lives of our closest friends and family members.

We have take your daughter/son to work days, so why not have the same thing in the adult world?

Basically, employers would provide a few paid vacation days each year to shadow a friend or family member in their place of work.

OK OK, so maybe this has “Kramer idea” written all over it, but I personally would love to see what my closest friends are like in a work setting.

I also think it could potentially have great networking implications.

Think about it…

You bring your graphic designer friend to your workplace for the day. It just so happens that your company is looking for a freelance graphic designer to design some digital ads.


Of course, it won’t always work out this perfectly, but at the very least your employer gets to see you on a more personal level, your friend gets to see you on a more professional level, and you get to be distracted for an entire day of work!

But that’s a small price to pay, right?

It’s also not guaranteed to be a distraction. It could end up being even more productive, since you’re trying to prove to your friend that you’re no slouch.

Of course, in my line of self-employed work this might not work out too well.

I imagine my friends would get bored after 5 minutes of watching me do things on my computer with limited coworker interaction.

In fact, we’d probably end up going out for a round of disc golf instead of being holed up in my apartment.

But I’d be stoked if one of my friends invited me to their work.

So who’s up for it?!

Diffusion of responsibility

What a Monday morning this has been.

V and I were rudely awakened by an SF police officer, incessantly ringing our doorbell at 4:45am.

When I answered the door, I thought we were going to get some very bad news.

Instead, the officer tells us that the Berkeley Police Department has information about V’s car, and to give them a call.


Our initial thought was that the car was stolen, but upon further inspection, it was actually the rear license plate that was stolen.

And here’s where things got even more annoying…

Berkeley PD told us to call SFPD. SFPD told us to contact the DMV. DMV told us we needed a police report. Berkeley PD again said to contact SFPD. SFPD is confused why Berkeley PD isn’t dealing with the issue.

Round and round we go.

Meanwhile, I’m dealing with some back-and-forth between Comcast and Motorola regarding recurring internet issues we’ve been experiencing.

Motorola says it’s Comcast. Comcast says it’s Motorola.

It’s so bad, it’s almost amusing.

To me, it simply feels like a constant diffusion of responsibility when dealing with big companies and organizations.

Nobody wants to take ownership of the problem, so the victim just get tossed back and forth between the parties who are supposed to fix said problem.

I sometimes wish there were a third party involved just to keep the first two parties in check.

So much falls apart to the hands of bureaucracy.

I wish I knew what the solution was, but I think this is merely a byproduct of a capitalistic society.

Big organizations are quite simply, not organized.

There’s always somebody else at fault because hey, “we’re big enough that I can point my finger in this direction, and my problem will be solved.”

And the customer? The awakened citizen?

“Who cares? I’ll never see or speak to them again in my life.”

In other words, there are no consequences to saying something is somebody else’s fault or responsibility.

My problem as a Comcast technical support person is to simply keep you from becoming my problem.

Anyways, just a little rant for your Monday morning.

My mantra today is Amor Fati. Love fate. Simply embrace the frustrating, silly moments like these, and be grateful that the SF police officer didn’t have worse news to wake us up to.


Why I’m thinking about killing one of my babies…

Warning: this is a rant/whiney post.

I’m so frustrated right now, I’m smashing the keyboard to just get this rant out.

It’s about WordPress. Freakin’ WordPress.

I’ve been working with this platform for nearly a decade, and it’s still regarded as one of the best platforms for building a website.

I’m starting to feel that nothing could be further from the truth.

The Coffee Concierge backend is so  bloated right now with plugins and other technical errors, that all I’m doing is hopping from one problem to the next.

It’s the equivalent of trying to type a blog post like this one, only to have the “T” key stop responding for 10 minutes, followed by the “E” key, and then the “A” key.

My work session started with simply trying to update some plugins on the backend of my website. Eventually, it turned into me being completely locked out of my site.

I moved everything over to a staging environment, only to not be allowed into my staging environment because my password was apparently incorrect. Mind you, this is probably the 10th time this has happened, and I use two different password managers.

So, I attempt to reset my PW and my username allegedly doesn’t exist.


I then proceed to spend 20 minutes over tech support chat to see if they could shed light onto what might be going on.

We seemingly come to a solution, only for the problem to resurface later on.

More on that in a minute…

I finally login to my site successfully to update the plugins. Bam, done!

Move everything back over to the live site, login successfully. Woohoo!

Try to work on homepage…front-end visual editor plugin is not working correctly.


OK, I’ll try Safari instead of Chrome.

I go to Safari, attempt to log in to my site, wrong password.


I’m literally using the password I just changed it to 5 minutes ago.

And the cycle continues…

I’m so tired of technology.

It seems that I can’t ever focus on one problem at a time, because a thousand other tiny ones keep smacking me in the face as I’m tying to focus on one problem.

This brings me to the end of this rant, which I don’t expect anybody to read or care about.

But if you do happen to be reading…maybe you can relate?

Does technology fuck with you too?

There are so many damn obstacles interspersed between the main obstacle, that sometimes I feel like giving up on certain projects all-together.

I guess it’s best if I just take a break and return to it later, but I can’t stand the thinking about returning to something I wasn’t even able to start on because of a bunch of bullshit technical issues I have no patience for at this point.

Happy Sunday!

Letting go of what you can’t control

I’m trying to practice what I preach with this one, because I’m getting worked up this morning about something that is completely outside of my control.

Yet I still feel like I have to do something. I have to solve the problem.

But I can’t. Again, it’s outside of my control. And it feels like the only way to respond is to do nothing at all.

Yet I don’t want my attitude to be mistaken for apathy, and maybe that’s the problem.

I feel bad for being apathetic.

But if I continue to try and solve problems I can’t solve, trying to solve these problems will continue to be expected of me.

And what good does that do for you and me?

Not much.

So today I’m taking the apathetic approach.

I’ll listen to someone I love if they need to vent, but I’m not going to try and come to the rescue, because it never does any good.

Is this selfish?

Without a doubt. But sometimes we need to be selfish to truly help others.

Let’s call it the antithesis to martyrdom.

I refuse to help the victim if it means that it will end up converting me into the victim.

So if you have people in your life repeatedly taking advantage of your support, I’d encourage you to try the opposite approach next time support is expected of you.

Ride out the storm with silence and dare I say, apathy.

See if the ironic response you were hoping for somehow actualizes. You might be surprised.

Acknowledge the “inner battles”

We woke up this morning to the tragic news that world-renowned chef, author, and TV host, Anthony Bourdain, had taken his own life.

This was the second celebrity suicide in the span of a week (at least, that I’m aware of).

Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Bourdain’s shows, I really admired his work.

From an outsider’s perspective, he was living the dream: traveling the world, eating in world-famous restaurants, and experiencing a variety of culture from the places he visited.

He got paid to do this.

I can only imagine how many people are using this tragedy as a means to judge the man for how he died.

I can hear them now…

“If I had a life like his, I would never choose to end it”

But the truth is that few people really know what Bourdain was going through. And who the hell are we to judge this as anything more than what it is?

A total tragedy.

It’s hard to take any silver lining from somebody’s death, but I feel that Bourdain would have probably wanted this for the people who loved him, so here’s my crack at it…

Everybody is fighting their own inner battles, regardless of how perfect their lives may seem.

Forgetting this is a form of judgment, and frankly, a dangerous one.

Recognize that there are people in your life who are generally positive, negative, or neutral, but they each have their own internal struggles.

In fact, I would argue that the positive people are the ones we need to be especially careful to not neglect.

Don’t assume that a positive person is OK and always able to take care of herself. Treat her with the same love and attention that you would give to your most depressed friend or family member.

Anybody can have mental health issues, just as anybody can have general health issues.

The brain is an organ, arguably the most important organ, yet many of us still treat it as an afterthought…perhaps because it’s hard to see its issues on a surface level.

So my advice to you (and myself) is to remember to check-in with all of the important people in your life on a regular basis.

You don’t have to pretend you’re a therapist, nor do you have to ask deep-diving or intrusive questions.

Just listen.

Don’t neglect the acquaintances and strangers either.

If you walk past somebody on your way to work, try a smile instead of a stoneface.

Pay the bridge toll for the car behind you.

Send a text to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.

Just do something for somebody else, without expecting anything in return.

It doesn’t matter if it’s someone you know, if they’re rich or poor, or seemingly happy or sad.

We all need love and acknowledgment.

Many thanks to Anthony Bourdain for his inspiring life’s work, as well as the reminder that everybody deserves to be loved and listened to, regardless of how they may seem at the surface level.

Stop “ghosting” in business

Although I’ve done some online dating in the past, I never got to experience modern online dating (Tinder, Bumble, etc.).

And honestly, although it feels like it would be kind of fun to swipe left and right, I don’t envy anybody that has to go through with it.

One of the reasons I know modern online dating sucks is because of the pedestrian behavior known as “ghosting”.

Ghosting someone is more-or-less defined as abruptly ending communication with someone you matched with (or worse, have already met). The catch is that you don’t tell this person off, you just stop talking to them, likely leaving them hurt and confused.

You disappear like a ghost, get it?!

Well, although it’s not unusual behavior, it’s still pretty shitty behavior.

And not surprisingly, this shitty behavior exists in the modern business world as well.

You may interview for a job and subsequently follow-up with the hiring manager, but then you never hear from them again.

Or maybe you submitted a proposal to a prospective client, only to wait endlessly for a decision. Again, you follow up, but you don’t even  get a “no thanks”.

Not only is this shitty behavior, but I think it is also pretty pathetic behavior if I’m being honest.

Sure, maybe I’m a little bit salty from my own personal experiences, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that it isn’t an admiral thing for somebody to do.

In fact, there was a time where I tried to discourage prospective clients from behaving this way by charging for my proposals.

After all, I was giving them both my time and some very specific actionable advice on how they could improve their AdWords campaigns.

Was it wrong to expect them to pay for this?

“That’s just the nature of business, Benji…”

I hear ya. I really do. In fact, I eventually stopped charging for proposals because I realized ghosting just comes with the territory of modern sales.

However, we come from a society where it’s expected that one should say “no thanks” or at the very least “no” when they don’t want something.

When did people start chickening out when it comes to courteously declining something?

So here’s my advice to you…

The next time you have to make a buying decision, especially in a b2b setting, please, for the love of god, have the cajones to tell the seller “no thanks”.

I know I am guilty of this behavior myself, and I’m really ashamed of it.

I recently had a company incessantly bug me to get on the phone with them to start using their services.

My initial behavior was: ignore, ignore, block, block.

Finally, I simply emailed them to politely tell them I wasn’t interested, and I haven’t heard from them since.

By simply putting an end to my ghosting behavior, neither party wasted any additional time.

And we all lived happily ever after…

Can Quality Exist Without Quantity?

As I take a crack at this daily blogging thing, I can’t help but wonder if writing every day just for the sake of writing every day is a waste of time?

Undoubtedly, there will be days where I will have nothing of substantial substance to write about.

Today feels like one of those days.

However, this writer’s block had me thinking…does quantity contribute to quality?

In other words, does writing every day (even when some small or large percentage of said writing is garbled nonsense) help one write better over time?

It seems like a well-established mantra that practice makes perfect, yet there still seems to be some hypocrisy in what we actually believe (i.e. quality over quantity).

But can you actually have quality without quantity?

Does quality just naturally come to us out of thin air?

Does overnight success really exist?

Though these may come off as rhetorical questions, I think most of us would agree that the answer is “no”.

So why do we simultaneously expect quality over quantity if we know we can’t have one without the other?

Is it merely a matter of only sharing our best work, while keeping our worst work behind closed doors?

I personally struggle with this question on a daily basis.

Because I want to be prolific and consistent, but I also don’t want my work to simply take up space and waste others’ time.

Maybe it’s simply a matter of writing every day, but only sharing the work I feel is worth sharing. In theory, this would be a way to balance quantity and quality.

The only glaring problem with this approach is that it can close an important feedback loop.

I want people to know that I’m human, and far from perfect.

Putting stuff out there consistently, regardless of quality, keeps me honest with others, but also with myself.

Having the pressure of public critique (even to an audience that may not exist), is great for quality control purposes.

If I know somebody else may be reading this, I’m going to be more careful about dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s.

So I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m not gonna discourage myself from quantity, even if the quality may not be there quite yet.

I think it’s better to just get momentum and consistency before tweaking towards perfect.

I’m using the default wordpress theme at the time of this post’s publication. Who cares? I can address cosmetics later. Right now, I’m more concerned with quantity, because I know quality will eventually follow.

What do you think?

It’s OK to Give Up on a Book Written by your Favorite Author

When Ryan Holiday sent out an email announcing the release of his latest book, Conspiracy, I couldn’t hit the “buy” button on Amazon fast enough.

You see, I’m a big fan of Ryan Holiday’s work.

He’s smart. He’s authentic. He’s prolific. Basically, all things that I admire and aspire to be in my own life.

Of course, I don’t know him personally, but my guess is that I would probably enjoy his company based on his work alone.

I was first exposed to Ryan Holiday through his book Trust Me, I’m Lying. This book was ahead of its time in many ways, as it revealed that sometimes bad press can be more effective than good press.

Even more shocking was this notion that a brand could intentionally create bad press to grow its sales (American Apparel is the foundational example in this book).

Holiday then proceeded to write 3 books that had pretty much nothing to do with Trust Me, I’m Lying.

He exposed me to the benefits of stoicism in The Obstacle is the Way, which to this day is still one of my favorite books.

Then he touched on the danger of our egos in another classic, Ego is the Enemy.

Finally, he wrote another excellent book in the marketing genre that really struck a chord with me: Perennial Seller. In this book, he actually talks about a Twitter debate I was partially involved in between he and Derek Halpern, over a quote that said something along the lines of “You should be spending 20% of your time creating and 80% of your time promoting.”

Perennial Seller’s main argument was that not only is this a fallacy, but in order for anything to withstand the tests of time and sell year-after-year, it must have timeless elements of quality.

This isn’t to say that promotion should be ignored, but promoting poor content will always be a losing strategy, especially in the long run.

Anyways, I was expecting yet another classic from Ryan with Conspiracy after writing so many consecutively classic books, but I was thoroughly disappointed.

And that’s what brings me to today’s musings.

I had a really hard time giving up on this book because it was written by one of my favorite authors. But it’s ok to quit on things that just aren’t doing it for you.

Sure, some things are slow-burners that you’d benefit from with just a little bit of patience. But not everything is a winner, and I finally came to accept that this is ok.

I’m sure that there are plenty of people who would still enjoy this book, but I wasn’t one of them.

It was a long, dragged-out story about two celebrities I could really care less about.

Yes, I think the story is important in a lot of ways, but I thought the book could have been condensed significantly. It felt like a chore to read.

So I finally gave up on the book about 2/3 of the way through. Now, I’ll be able to shift my attention to a new book that will provide me more utility.

This seems like a rational approach, no?

Moral of the story: it’s ok to not like everything your heroes say or do. This will not only help you focus on what’s best for you, but hopefully it will also help your heroes adapt to feedback from some of their biggest fans (if they’re even listening).