[Insert Catchy Title] 11/20/2016

Here’s an idea of what I’ve been thinking about over that last 7 days. I don’t have time to turn my thoughts into a smoothly flowing narrative, so I’m just going to tell you what’s on my mind. I don’t have time to try harder. This is a note to my future self.

Gary Vaynerchuk

I’ve been obsessed with Gary Vaynerchuk (YouTube). I’m not sure how I never came across him before. He’s a rockstar social media mogul who understands things like Twitter and Snapchat and the next one you haven’t heard of yet. He built a million dollar wine business, took that business online, and created an early YouTube channel called WineLibraryTV.

Gary says (paraphrasing) “don’t create, document.” What he means is that you don’t need to bother trying to be clever, to be creative. By just documenting your work, your successes and failures, you create value for people who follow.

Gary also taught me many other things. Here is a short list.

  • Self-awareness is extremely valuable and unteachable.
  • Know your strengths and triple down on them. Don’t chase what other people tell you you should do.
  • Regret is the most painful. Spend time with retirement home residents to see this pain first hand. People regret what they do not do.
  • Immigrants have an unfair advantage because they recognize the opportunity that others don’t. Native-born people take things for granted.
  • Those who work the hardest create the most luck. Tom Bilyeu: “I will die before I quit. I will outwork you.”
  • Don’t pay attention to people who complain. Jeff Bezos: “complaining is not a strategy.”
  • Don’t use age (or anything else) as an excuse to not learn new technology.
  • Pursue unreasonable goals. Gary will buy the New York Jets when the time is right.

Satya Nadella

When Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, was asked how he hires people, he said he looks for people who bring “clarity and energy.” Why does this matter? Our world is accelerating in complexity every day. The ability to bring clarity to complex problems is increasingly valuable. Energy is infectious. Leaders who bring energy to their work inspire their teams. They get more out of their people. They are multipliers, not diminishers. Yes, I’m a fan of Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown’s book titled Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.

Have Unreasonable Goals

In Elon Musk’s office lies a floor to ceiling picture of the planet Mars. Gary Vaynerchuk constantly talks about buying the New York Jets. Dreams like these motivate humanity’s highest achievers to get up every morning and work their ass off. If people tell you that your dreams are crazy, you are on the right track.

Sharing your dreams is hard when you fear judgement. I hesitate to tell even my closest friends. I worry too much about what they would think of me. My dream is to build the largest wooden warship ever built. It will be slightly larger than the magnificent HMS Victory. I need to find 6000+ oak trees. Why? Because the level of craftsmanship in ship building fascinates me.

HMS Victory. The last first-rate ever built before the iron clads reigned king.

For more on the subject of unreasonable goals, here’s a little excerpt from my 2015 article titled Commencement:

“Dream Big, Think Big, Be Big”  Dan Pena (The 50 Billion Dollar Man)


Rule #5. Be Unreasonable 

Tune out the naysayers. Recognize that most successful people started out with unrealistic ambitions.

You are 1 of 7 billion people on one planet in a vast universe of countless stars and planets. No one will know if you fail to achieve your biggest hopes and dreams. Get up and try again from a new angle, all angles.

Don’t make game plans, make war plans. Today you’re going to war to solve a problem. Call in the navy, infantry, air force, cavalry, artillery, etc. If at first you don’t succeed, try something new. If everyone else is fishing with a pole, you should be fishing with dynamite.

Infinite vs. Finite Games

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek. His recent talks delve into his concept of infinite and finite games, infinite and finite players. I liken the concept to Native American war-chiefs who, before declaring war, debated the consequences on the tribe’s next seven generations. The tribes play an infinite game. They do not play for sport. They do not look for small short term gains.

The finite player plays to beat the other guys. They treat relationships like transactions. They sacrifice future stability for short-term, opportunistic gains. Ready, fire, aim. They want to make America great again, which really means “beat China”. We’re going to do it by drilling everywhere. It’s a short term, opportunistic play, and the cost is paid by future generations.

I’m thinking that people with a strong spiritual practice, who believe in a higher power, tend to be infinite players. You have your karma, or your pearly gates. These spiritual concepts change your perspective. You care more about your fellow man, moral righteousness, and you bring more compassion and empathy to your daily life.

Spirituality Is a Game Changer

This statement blew my mind: “Research and experience strongly suggest that spiritual practices, such as mindfulness, meditation, and contemplative prayer, accelerate our development through stages.” It comes from Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams.

I have never called myself spiritual. I have never aspired to be spiritual. I have no idea what I am missing out on. What if spirituality is a key to extraordinary leadership? Would our greatest leaders been great without their spiritual practice? John Wooden, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. Would they have shaken up the world without their spiritual practices acting as driving forces?

Spirituality in 2016

Among business elites and entrepreneurs, there are a few thriving spiritual trends. You may know them as mindfulness, meditation, and Stoicism.

What the hell is stoicism?

Stoicism is a school of philosophy practiced by a few well known Romans. They are Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, and a few others. Jim Collins, in his seminal work “Good to Great”, chronicles an amazing story of a soldier who braved the perils of POW camp by embracing the words of Epictetus. The Stoic principles remind me of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The principles include things like:

  • Focus only on what you can control
  • Be aware of your emotions and do not act out of anger
  • Detach from the past and future. Live in the the now.
  • And my favorite:
    • YOU are the project. Invest in yourself every day. Strive to be slightly better than you were yesterday.


I have never practiced meditation. My activities most similar to meditation bring me 80%+ of my best ideas.

  • Showering
  • Running
  • Walking
  • Laying awake late at night

How can I tap into that potential more intentionally? How can I create that mental state regardless of my environment or circumstances? I think meditation might be the key.

Transcendental meditation is loved for its amazing capacity for curing anxiety and unraveling complexity. Somehow our minds try to solve 10 problems at once. We even have a word for it: scatterbrained. Our minds jump into the past and the future and back at the speed of light. The anti-thesis of mental time travel is mindfulness. Intentionality. Being in the present moment. Getting out of your head.

In a recent episode of the Tim Ferris Show podcast, Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger tells a story about taking up transcendental meditation practice during the 1970’s. He said that he struggled to chase several goals at the same time. Without meditation, all problems merged into one giant, tangled mess. With meditation, he was able to focus attention on one thing at a time. He continued meditation practice for less than 2 years, but the ability to focus attention stuck with him for the rest of life. I believe this ability allowed him to succeed in the film industry, politics, and life.

Thanks for reading! My mission in writing these posts is always to help uplift at least one person. If only one person is uplifted, the world is a slightly better place. Your comments and feedback make writing extremely rewarding; I truly appreciate receiving them. Stay legendary!

About The Author

I am a proud father of two and a leader of engineers at Symantec Security Technology and Response. I join the fight against malware and ransomware every day. I am hiring!

After earning my B.S. degree in Computer Science and Engineering from UCLA, I continue to mentor students in Symantec’s internship program. In the security space, I hold patent #8,819,828. My FCC Amateur Radio Technician license call-sign is KK6OOO.

How To Move Fast and Destroy Obstacles

Originally published May, 2016.


From personal experience, when you screw up, it’s best to first admit it and then start cleaning up the mess. Trying to brush it under the rug wastes energy and multiplies the size of the mess. Everyone makes mistakes, bad things happen, and it’s the response that really counts. Admitting your mistakes is the best way to improve. Ignoring mistakes causes missed opportunities for improvement. Seems obvious, but it’s not always common practice.

Practicing honesty lets you move fast. You don’t even have to think, truth becomes natural. Harvard Business Review says it this way: “Candor Improves Performance.”


Start by telling people what you intend to do, right now. Make your intentions known. People like to help, and will give you a fresh perspective. and valuable feedback. The collective intelligence of five peers is vastly superior to your single mind. Give up trying to prove your smartness. Develop the courage to announce your intentions; peers will get behind you, get out of your way, and clear your path.

Need to meet with someone? Why not just tell them? There’s probably no downside. Often times we suck at communicating, even with our spouses. This creates all kinds of problems when people don’t understand what’s going on.

Example: Peter Diamandis (Mr. X-Prize) set out on a mission to privatize space flight. It took him a decade to cut through red tape in order to fly a plane into zero G. His message to the bureaucrats: “you will retire before I quit.” As a result, if you have the coin, you can now buy flight to the edge of space to experience zero-G.


In the book Mindset (non-affiliate link), Carol Dweck explains how growth minded people use every strategy possible to make sure they succeed. This is what it takes to destroy obstacles.
Brendon Burchard describes the same thing in a slightly different way. He says you need to go to war with your problem. When you go to war you send in the army, navy, marines, and Air Force. You use all the resources at your disposal to get the best outcome. You attack from all sides.
Jim Kwik frequently quotes Albert Einstein: “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” You have to try new approaches, some of which have never been tried. Don’t quit after your first attempt. Most people, when trying something new, quit after the first failure, when they are actually very close to achieving a breakthrough.
Example: job application. The bare minimum is applying online. What else could you do? Research the business, carefully prepare a resume and cover letter, appear at the business and meet the manager, call them up every day, offer to work for free for 1 week. Attack from all angles.


…but don’t suck. Taking imperfect action does not mean produce garbage. It means use the info you have now to take action. It also means not waiting for perfect information and timing. Perfection never comes.

Manoj Bhargava teaches a powerful lesson. When his staff tells him it will take days or weeks to give results, he asks: “what can you give me by 3pm?”
The message is this: take imperfect action right now, get started. Think of something you can do right now to build momentum.
Examples: schedule a meeting, announce your intentions to your team, jot down notes. Get the ball rolling! You do not need perfect information to get started, and you may never get it.
To quote the great Zig Ziglar:
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

Thanks for reading! My mission in writing these posts is always to help uplift at least one person. If only one person is uplifted, the world is a slightly better place. Your comments and feedback make writing extremely rewarding; I truly appreciate receiving them. Stay legendary!

About The Author

I am a proud father of two and a leader of engineers at Symantec Security Technology and Response. I join the fight against malware and ransomware every day. I am hiring!

After earning my B.S. degree in Computer Science and Engineering from UCLA, I continue to mentor students in Symantec’s internship program. In the security space, I hold patent #8,819,828. My FCC Amateur Radio Technician license call-sign is KK6OOO.

Who do you want to become?

Who are you now? Who do you want to become? What will you give up to become that person?

Acknowledging sacrifice acknowledges that change isn’t easy. To make the change you’ve been wanting, you have to give up some time or some comfort.

The difference between you and the next level achiever is mental and physical conditioning. Conditioning your mind allows for more focused attention, less distractibility, and delayed gratification. Conditioning, like athletics, comes with practice.

One day without practice loses you one week of progress.

You have to practice every day. Like my music teacher once taught me: one day without practice loses you one week of progress.


To Succeed Entrepreneurially, Become an Incredible Student



From Michael E. Gerber. Become an incredible student through the Practice of these 5 skills:

  1. concentration: gain the ability focus attention on what’s important.
  2. discrimination: decide what is important and more crucially what is not important.
  3. organization: turn chaos into order, create systems.
  4. innovation: in all things, strive for continuous improvement.
  5. communication: connect with other people online, face to face, public speaking, writing, etc.

In the spirit of presidential elections, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes. Entrepreneurship is American!

“I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon-if I can. I seek opportunity-not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, this I have done. All this is what it means to be an American.” — Dean Alfange, creed.

How Tiny Creations Make the World a Better Place


I believe all people must participate in the world. Bystanders watch the world go by. Participants shape it. The world’s artists and entrepreneurs participate through creation. With our own tiny creations, we can all do the same .

There are thousands of tiny ways to contribute. These are few examples:

  • Hand-write a note to someone you appreciate. Say thank you.
  • Review your favorite cafe on Yelp. Thank the staff.
  • Write a review of the last book you enjoyed. Thank the author.
  • Vote in democratic elections.

Most people won’t take 5 minutes to write a sincere thank you to someone or something they care about. Dare to be different. Dare to make a difference.

Dare to be different. Dare to make a difference.

Writing little notes spreads positivity in the world. Thoughts influence when expressed. We choose to express nothing, express love, or express hate. Expressions are tiny creations, and tiny creations change the world.

  • Be a giver more than a taker
  • Be a participant more than a bystander
  • Be a creator more than a destroyer
  • Be a producer more than a consumer
  • Be active more than passive

The result? you live an inspired life. You inspire everyone around you.

Stay Legendary,



Hydrate, Meditate, Oscillate, Pontificate, Educate


Simplified morning routine for weak willed folks like me.

For a long time I struggled to develop a consistent morning routine. The Internet holds tons of advice on this subject. Usually it boils down to just a few key habits. Drinking water, meditation, excercise, reading, writing. And don’t forget eating!


  • Drink clean water. Your brain and your body thrive on it.
  • Start with hydration as it helps with all else.


  • My simple mantra: “All I have is my breath”
  • Feel trapped emotions, accept them, release them.
  • Start the day with a clear mind and clear heart.


  • Stretch your muscles
  • Strengthen your muscles
  • Move your muscles


  • Write in your journal
  • Write down your goals (again)
  • Write down your values
  • Write down your mission
  • Write down your thoughts and ideas


“Drink deeply from good books.” — John Wooden

  • Read books that expand your mind
  • Read at your own pace
  • Read strategies to apply during the day.

Learning How To Learn

What do Mark Cuban and Elon Musk have in common? They read all the time.


In 2014 I developed a new habit after running out of interesting documentaries to watch. I turned to YouTube and watched countless interviews, lectures, and TED talks. YouTube hosts thousands of these videos including independently organized TEDx conferences; it goes without saying: the Internet is amazing! A vast wealth of free lectures are available through Khan Academy, Coursera, and others.

After I learned about leadership from Simon Sinek, I was hungry for more. I watched every interview and lecture given by Simon I could find. I kept going; I did deep dives on Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, Neil de grasse Tyson, Noam Chomsky, etc. I absorbed their words like a sponge. I watched all this stuff so you don’t have to, and I want to be the best part of all of modern heroes.

Today, some of Mark Cuban’s stories stick out. In one of his interviews Mark recalls sitting in front of his computer writing code for 36 hours straight while eating a bucket-load of ribs. He also mentions reading the Hadoop manual just to keep his knowledge fresh. His laser-like focus is inspirational in a world where distractions are ever-present.

Elon Musk has something in common with Mark Cuban. It is a willingness to read everything and anything. It is a pursuit of knowledge to turn dreams into reality. What I observed is that self-made successful people all share a zero-laziness learning policy. And, learning is a key to enabling success.

All schools elementary to university should have one goal: teach the students how to learn. They do this, but never explicitly set the goal. It’s difficult to measure how well a student can learn independently. Elementary prepares students for middle school, measuring success with GPA. University prepares students for academia and industry measuring success with GPA. What they really want to do is prepare a student for the next tier of learning. Students need to be ready to learn harder, more abstract concepts, and more volume of knowledge.

If students learn nothing else from 16 years of study, they should learn how to learn. For the rest of their lives they will need to constantly learn and adapt to their world. If a student coming out of this system does not know how to self-teach, the system has failed. After 16 years of study, most students will not have the knowledge do many things they need to do.

The list of examples is long and growing:

  • Teaching – an important skill for people management and parenthood. Everyone knows that we need more and better teachers.
  • Money management and personal finance – skills required to understand and pay-off insurmountable student loan debt.
  • Politics and citizenship – necessary for democratic participation and community involvement.
  • Psychology and relationship building – important for family skills, management, parenthood.
  • Cultural awareness – critical for interacting with others in diverse societies and diverse workplaces.
  • Confidence and communication – important for sharing ideas through public speaking and contributing in democratic society.
  • Child rearing and family skills – critical for raising healthy, intelligent families.
  • Handyman skills for cars and homes
  • Nutritional science and fitness – crucial for living a healthy lifestyle.
  • How to grow your own food – vital for community sustainability. It starts with having a lemon tree; you will never buy lemons again. Growing food creates surpluses to share with your neighbors. The food is organic in the truest sense. This is a topic for a whole different post.

Most students are not taught these things in lecture, but they must be learned. The problem is learning takes time and effort. You need to work at it and commit yourself to it. To quote contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei: “Life is much more interesting when you make a little bit of effort.”


Triggers: How To Unclog Your Brain Drain


What can we do to control what we think about … and ultimately our world? Thoughts pop into our head because of triggers.

Your world is the outcome of what you pay attention to. — Cal Newport, from Deep Work

Information is the most common trigger. A new piece of information reaches our ears or eyes. Tidbits become thoughts. We control who and where information originates. We have levers and switches to adjust the flow.

Media and messages source most of our daily information. Watching television or online news feeds puts thoughts into our head. A well-placed advertisement triggers an emotional connection. An email, text message, or quick hallway conversation shares a tidbit. All this stuff easily and frequently results in information overload.

We need filters to process all the tidbits flying around. Reaction to a new message is a decision. Too many decisions result in decision fatigue. If you never received, or never saw the message in the first place, there’s no decision to make. You stay one step further from decision fatigue.

To cut the crap, first find your purpose. Figure out what you care about and, more importantly, what you don’t care about. I don’t mean to hand-wave. Purpose finding is not simple. Here’s two different perspectives from people much wiser than I.

Warren Buffet’s trick. Make a list of 20 goals you’d like to accomplish. Circle the top 5. Avoid the other 15 at all costs.

Derek Sivers’ way. Hell Yeah or No.

Once you know your purpose, eliminate messages and media you don’t care about. Unsubscribe from almost everything. Remove all triggers possible. Disable smartphone app notifications. Unsubscribe email newsletters. Create email folders and filtering rules to pare down your inbox. Unsubscribe from podcasts. Develop discipline to avoid floating back to those much-loved information feeds.

Your life is the outcome of what you tolerate.

If you tolerate spam, your head becomes a giant spam can.

If you tolerate friends that spew negativity, your head overflows with pessimism.

If you tolerate blurred vision, you struggle to see.



It’s your choice. Choose to tolerate GREATNESS.


Do Work, Make Deals, Sign on the Dotted Line


Stand Out 

He not busy being born is busy dying. — Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate 

I prepared to discharge my wife from the hospital after the birth of our sons. A woman ran into the room with a heavy duty breast milk pump and a 10 page contract. I started to skim the pages, not even reading carefully. The lady remarked: “seriously! You’re going to read all of that?”. I replied: “Yes.”

I realized in that moment that most people don’t bother to read the fine print.  Here’s a professional who hands out contracts every day, appalled that I might actually read the agreement. I stood out.

I realized that paperwork comes with  life-changing events. Opening a bank account, becoming a home owner, making a business deal. Many life-changing events revolve around paperwork. If you’re signing you name often, chances are something big is happening.

Most people aren’t willing to put in the work. To read the paperwork. To sign their name to get closer to your goals. Being handed a heavy 100-page bundle by your notary public is intimidating. Sitting for an hour reading and signing each page is not fun. Most people don’t bother reading 10 pages. But it’s necessary.

And then I remembered what I learned from Les Brown:

You have to be willing to do what other’s won’t do in order to have what other’s won’t have.

You have to do things you’ve never done to become someone you’ve never been.

Quest To Maintain Zero Readers

Almost no one reads my stuff and that’s okay. I write for the joy of it.

Like many writers, I’m an absolutely awful promoter. I don’t know how to sell my abilities and my work. I don’t know how to build an audience. I do enjoy writing.

My Medium Stats as of 10/23/2016

My stories’ stats are awful. No on reads my stuff. Maybe I pissed off the recommendation algorithm. I don’t know. I accept obscurity. I have freedom to experiment. How grateful I am!

I’ve set a new challenge for myself: how long can I go without being read. There is one condition: I’m not allowed to hold back on promotion. I have to shamelessly promote. Being unread is a kind of rejection. How long can rejection continue? Let’s see! I declare victory every day until I find two true fans. Two souls who read everything I publish.

Experimentation is required to find and eliminate what doesn’t work. Experiments should answer questions. The answer may be your idea doesn’t work. The experiment is successful with negative results. This is not failure. Now you know. Now you move on to the next experiment. Eventually, all the bad ideas will work themselves out of existence.

This approach helps build self-esteem. By facing it head on, you overcome rejection. You learn not to focus on others’ opinions. What matters is your own self-assertiveness. Dealing with the critic inside is hard enough without also worrying about critics outside.

By not pleasing everyone else, you win. You gain authenticity. Your audience begins to know you for you. Not you for the spineless, trying to please everyone you.

Stop worrying about being discovered. Put in the work. Experiment. Be shameless.