Stuff I’ve Learned, Part 1

By Rob Shaul


(1) There are no shortcuts.

Tim Ferris started the “Life Hack” movement with his book, the “4-Hour Work Week.” I remember reading his book when it was all the rage, and wondering to myself if I was the only one who thought a man who sold private-labeled nutritional supplements (a dirty business) for a living and cheated his way to winning a Tango dancing and sumo wrestling contest, was a douche bag.

Life hacks, and short cuts in work, relationships, nutrition, fitness, education, etc. are distracting dead ends.

The quicker you stop looking for short cuts, and get to work, the sooner you’ll find fulfillment.

(2) You don’t want to take the shortcut anyway.

If you shortcut or cheat your way to a position, relationship or success in any life arena, it will haunt you.

Others may admire your “accomplishment” but you’ll know the truth, and this knowledge will dog your mind and chew down your self-worth.

Shortcuts never end well.

You want to earn it.

(3) 3 Things Make You Happy …

  • Work You Love
  • Living in a Place You Love
  • Being Around People You Love

Two out of three and you’re doing better than 90%.

Three out of 3 and you’ve hit the jackpot.

One out of three and something isn’t right … you’re unsettled.

Zero out of three and life is miserable.

Of all three, living in a place you love is perhaps the easiest to nail. Most are most comfortable where they grew up, but other factors include the weather, culture, and what you like to do recreationally. I always knew I wanted to live in a place where I could hunt and fish, and other than my time at college back East, the only places I’ve lived are Oregon, Alaska, and Wyoming. When other areas in my life were dark – family, work – I could always escape to the mountains or sea.

Being around people you love is the one you can least control. Relationships end. Kids move away. Couples divorce. Parents age.

Doing work you love is the most slippery because it’s not obvious, and often, changes.

The reality of paying the bills often makes choices for us.

It takes time to align the reality of our talents with work that meets them.

Work you love today, may not be work you love tomorrow. I loved being a military officer until I didn’t. I loved being a journalist and publisher until I didn’t. I love being a strength and conditioning coach …. until I won’t.

Know that as you age and grow, you’ll change and your work may need to change too. If this happens, embrace it.

Career change is invigorating!

(4) Social skills are overrated.

I’m a textbook introvert. Crowds, bars, parties – make me uncomfortable, even at 51.

In my youth, I was convinced something was wrong with me and marveled at the social butterflies who sought out these social encounters and excelled in them. Eventually, I noticed that the best people at parties were not solid people outside.

To a person, they never followed through. When help was needed, it was always the quiet people who arrived to lend a hand.

I observed that the men who were best with women, were often not very good men. And the women who were the most popular at parties, were empty shells one-on-one.

Much is written about the importance of networking, first impressions, appearance, communication skills, etc.


I’ll take a socially awkward, quiet, hard-working grinder who keeps promises, and follows through any day of the week over the “life of the party” everybody likes.

(5) Heaven is full of 3-year olds …

And 4-year olds, 5-year olds … and 26-year olds, it doesn’t matter, as long as they are your children. Nothing in life brings me joy like spending time with my children and playing. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing … and I’ve got kids from 26 old to 1 week. No work accomplishment or accolade, personal relationship, time with friends or beautiful women compares to wrestling with my 3-year old, bench pressing with my 24-year old, fishing with my 26-year old, or rocking with my brand new week-old daughter.

I don’t write this to be altruistic, nor do I claim to be a great father.

This is purely selfish. I’m not sure my kids enjoy the time they spend with me as much as I enjoy the time I spend with them. It doesn’t matter … I’ll take all I can get.

(6) Play is Dessert. Building is Protein.

Living on cookies and ice cream would be awesome at first, but won’t sustain you and eventually, you’ll grow soft, weak and unhealthy. The same is true for play or recreation. I often read, and hear people dream of quitting work and surfing for a year, or climbing for a year, or hunting year-round, and ache for them.

Play won’t sustain you. Good hard work – which is worthy of your talents, challenges you, and brings pride and satisfaction, is the protein which makes us strong.

I’ve met many who bought into the “play” fairytale and have moved here to Jackson to live it. All have big smiles … and sad eyes. They rotate from service job to service job, and play activities to play activities … skiing to mountain biking to surfing to paragliding to climbing to kayaking, and on and on.

“Happy” on Instagram is not happy in real life.

The problem with constant play is you’re not building anything. You’re just consuming.

Humans are builders – a company, a career, a community, a family. Building sustains us in a way play never can.

Play is important. I went 10 years without taking a vacation … and there were some dark periods in that time – so I know. But play will not sustain you.

Always be building.


Have you learned Stuff? Willing to share? If so, email it to and we’ll compile it for others.



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