[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.

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