10 Things I’ve Learned: Graham

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10 Things I've Learned: Graham

One of my favorite things in life is watching friends have a dream…and then go for it.

My friend, Graham, is one of those people.  And actually, he has lots of dreams.  But time and again, he has shown the world that he isn’t afraid — in fact, he loves — to chase after them.

Probably most recognizably, he has done this in business.  Graham was one of the first guys I knew who was an entrepreneur straight out of college, helping start a company that sells health supplements and then in turn gives them to malnourished kids worldwide.  Then a few years later, he saw a need within Kansas City for more good Paleo food.  (Yes, he’s an avid Cross-Fit-er.)  So — no big deal — he just launched a majorly successful company called Paleo Fit which now provides tons of yummy prepared Paleo meals and snacks in KC and on Amazon and beyond.

But while Graham’s entrepreneurial adventures have been cool to follow, I think even more I enjoy watching him just chase after the dream of living a cool, meaningful life.  Whether that is seriously investing in good friendships, choosing to live a more minimalist lifestyle, traveling and spending time in places he enjoys, helping consult and brainstorm with others about achieving their dreams (right here!), thoughtfully living out his faith, or just having the courage to live a life full of adventure and risk and creativity and kindness, this guy is genuinely “living the dream” in some really cool ways.  And it has been pretty darn cool and inspiring to watch.

So for anyone with a dream, or just wanting to live out the life of your dreams, I highly recommend reading Graham’s 10 Things.  Good stuff.

I’ve Learned…

1. Embrace stillness & solitude

My sophomore year of college, a mentor introduced me to the spiritual discipline of Solitude & Silence (technically two separate practices, but they go hand in hand). Since then, for over a decade, it’s been my practice to carve out a weekly time of ~3 hours to be alone in a still place. I don’t have any 100% attendance stickers, but it’s a priority.

When I started, solitude terrified me and silence was unnerving. I am used to constant stimuli and affirmation; when I don’t have one or both my trusty iPhone is always there in a pinch to reconnect me or remind the world I exist. Solitude & Silence brings me face to face with my humanity. It reminds me that I am indeed temporal, deeply valued but relatively unimportant. It centers me and allows a better perspective of my life, business, friendships. Last, it creates the space where the voice of the Divine may actually speak in a way I can hear.

Find a quiet, alone space and spend a few hours there. It will do your life well. It will make you more fully human.

2. Embrace hustle

That thing that you’ve been dreaming about: it’s going to take work. A lot of work. There’s no magic pill, shortcut or event that will automagically make the stars align for success to come strolling up to your doorstep.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be: the destination isn’t nearly as important as the hard work it takes to get there. Your dream & passion is what propels you forward through the trials that form you into who you’re supposed to be. So embrace hustle from the outset. You’ll be a lot less neurotic that way. Trust me.

3. The thing you want to drop first is probably the thing you need most

Whenever life is crazy busy I am tempted to drop the practices I need most. My rationale is that “I don’t have time to sleep… eat a proper meal… get crushed at CrossFit… take solitude… have dinner with my dear friend…”

The problem is that I’m actually shooting myself in the foot when I ditch these life-giving practices. These things make me more fully human. And being fully human is always the goal.

4. Risk is always the right choice

Though the tide of culture is turning towards entrepreneurship & art, we are far too tame. We embrace insulation, isolation & security thinking they are the goals of life, but they simply dull our senses.

Embrace risk. Don’t be stupid*, but, if it scares you, it’s most likely the right choice. At the very least you’ll have a good story. Who knows, maybe your whole world will change. Mine did.

* I find that honest, risk-taking friends are a good litmus test for stupidity. It’s important that they’re risk-takers themselves because if they aren’t their filter is going to be far too strict: they’ll talk you out of important opportunities that you should leap for. It’s equally important that they’re honest. Because frankly, there are times that our ideas are flat out dumb. And you need friends who can look you in the eye and in complete love tell you that you’re an absolute idiot.

5. I’m not in charge & I was never meant to be

For me, this is the complementary posture to risk.

As an entrepreneur I am constantly taking risks: bring new products to market, hiring a new employee, buying a new piece of equipment. I never know how something will pan out despite regardless of hours of due diligence of financial projections and market research. For me, risk is the act of taking destiny in my hands. I dream and pursue believing my actions truly can make a difference and change the world.

And yet, I’ve come to realize that the opposite is also true. When I stop or take a step back the world keeps moving. It’s almost as if a story is slowly unfolding and I am merely playing my part. In fact, sometimes after disengaging for a bit I find the situation far better than if I had struggled and tried to push things ahead. I’m not in charge. I’m not supposed to be.

As important as it is to go all out in risk, it’s just as important to embrace that I am not the center of the universe and that things will play out just as they’re supposed to right when they’re supposed to.

Life is a dance living between these two places: risk and submission, action and rest.

6. Chick-Fil-A breakfast is a game changer

Seriously. Have you had their Chicken Biscuit? Game. Changer.

(Skip their coffee though. Sucks.)

7. Invest in a few things you love

A couple months ago I was in solitude reflecting on my life and realized I was surrounded by things I take deep delight in. Immediately a wave of gratitude washed over me. I looked around and one by one named my thanksgiving for each and every object… Prairie Goods watch & wallet… MacBook Pro… Sigg Water Bottle my dear friend Luke brought back from Switzerland… Freitag Bag… Baldwin Jeans… Oliberte boots… Moleskine Journal… G2 Pen… iPhone…

I live a relatively simple life in terms of things. In a lot of ways I’m fairly nomadic, so my lifestyle hasn’t allowed for the accumulation of stuff. The few things I do have I am passionate about and deeply thankful for. I’ve invested in them.

I think that’s a much better way to life: focus on what you love & invest in it. The rest is just filling space.

8. Guys, buy a good pair of jeans: you need a staple

This January I got a pair of Baldwin jeans. I’ve worn them everyday since. They go with my New Balances, my boots, my wingtips. Dress them up. Dress them down. Always comfortable and worth the investment.

9. Invest in (awesome) friends

My dad served in the Army, so my childhood was spent moving every 2 years. I’ve gotten to know a lot of amazing people and am deeply thankful for the experiences a forced nomadic life brought.

I used to invest in a wide circle of friends and I still enjoy being connected to a range of people. But as I’ve begun to pursue my passions my life has become a lot more full and my time has to be intentional.

My advice: focus on the awesome people. Everyone is awesome in their own right, but focus on the people who are awesome to you. We all know we become like the people we’re around, so be around people you want to be like.

Here’s what you want to look for:

  • Do they fascinate you?
  • Do you feel yourself with them?

If you answered “yes” to both of the above, you’re on the right track. If not, keep looking.

10. Do cool sh*t

It will make the world a lot better of a place.

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5 comments on “10 Things I’ve Learned: Graham”

  1. Love these 10 things! I have found #3 to be so true and something that I have to remind myself of constantly.

  2. I definitely think Graham is wise after reading his top ten. I must tell you #7 is brilliant. Instead of having a bunch of stuff a few good items are of far more value. I have never had the chicken and biscuit at Chick-fil-A but just added it as #1 on my top ten. Thanks for sharing~

  3. Ali, you couldn’t have shared this at a better time. Thank you for the post.

  4. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing.