Why I Like Religion Even As An Atheist

I never grew up religious.

My parents were Buddhist, but they never forced me into anything. They wanted me to practice Buddhist traditions, but never really taught it to me. I’m glad they didn’t smother me with religion, and sort of just let me figure it out for myself.

But as I experienced life living on my own, I started to notice more about the benefits of practicing a religion.

The one thing that religions do well is that they provide a regular communal space in order to reflect on life and how we can be better people.

Photo by  Josh Applegate  on  Unsplash

Life can get incredibly lonely if you let it.

What going to Sunday Church allows one to do is connect with philosophical ideas in a group setting. It can be an environment for intentional reflection and positivity — which I feel a lot of atheist people lack.

Of course different religions have their faults historically (and I’m not saying I’m going to church this Sunday), but I wonder if there’s a way to create a regular communal space for positivity and reflection for people who aren’t religious.

In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeown details the need for rest and reflection in our lives. It’s absolutely essential to have these two things in order to thrive. We need at least 8 hours of sleep a day and we need to reflect on how we’re doing at least weekly (if not daily).

If we don’t take the time to intentionally check on how we’re doing weekly, then we often fall into the spiral where we just let life happen to us. We let other people dictate what our schedules are, and occupy the rest of our time with brain-numbing entertainment as a “chaser”. By the time a certain number of months or even years passes, we’ve put in so little time into thinking if what we’re doing is actually the direction we want to go in.

I’ve been trying to think more like an essentialist.

I’m starting to notice how many things I’ve tried to squeeze into my life, into my calendar, that are simply just non-essential. I’ve become that “busy person” that tries to do too much. And I hate that.

So I’m doing some ruthless cutting off of things that are not a high priority to me.

I need to narrow my focus in order to do the few things I want to do well, extremely well.

Some of those priorities right now include:

  1. Sleeping 8 hours

  2. Creating video content

  3. Deep diving into my hobby of cooking

By focusing on only a select few things, and having extreme lenience for the other things in my life, I can thrive. For example, I don’t have to make every gym session I schedule. It’d be nice to make it — because I know the benefits — but if it interferes with my 8 hours of sleep, it will get cut.

I’ve always had so much dispersed focus that I accomplished lots of small steps towards different things, but never really took the time to get good at just a few things. That’s going to change.

That’s the purpose of this Q4: figure out what is essential and ruthlessly cut off the non-essential. Start making priorities and don’t accept anything less than the top 10% of options that come your way.

If you don’t make specified criteria to evaluate your decisions, then you’ll accept pretty much everything in the effort to achieve more.

And you might be like “Evan, what’s wrong with achieving more?” Well the thing is, we don’t need to be achieving a general statement of “more”. We need to be achieving more of what we want to achieve, and that needs to be intentional.

Yes, have time for your other interests, but that does not take priority over your main thing.

So my next post on Saturday, I’m going to outline what my desired outcomes are going to be for Q4. See you then!

Just Show Up

I was in Solvang this past weekend.


It’s this charming little Danish town just north of Santa Barbara, CA. I visited with a good friend of mine as we slowed down from normal life. It felt nice to trade in laptops and emails for Danish pastries and wine tastings.

After leaving my former company, I’ve felt rejuvenated in a way that I haven’t felt before. I’m finally able to enjoy my weekends — not as an escape from work, but as an opportunity to spend a full day immersed in something new with people I care about.

I’m really taking the time to think about things like this now.

People in the self-improvement space like Gary Vaynerchuk popularly say that if you’re looking forward to the weekend, then your shit’s broken. But I don’t agree with that completely.

You shouldn’t dread your work; you should generally enjoy what you’re doing and the people you work with. But there’s no reason you can’t look forward to Fridays, when you have exciting things to do with awesome people you don’t normally get to see during the weekdays.

It’s sometimes on these weekend experiences away from work, that I learn and have the most creative ideas come to me.

One of those ideas this weekend came from my friend.

When I asked him what advice he would give to himself if he could go back 5 years, he told me to simply: show up.

That’s it. Just show up when you say you want to do something. Don’t let last minute laziness stop you from living your best life. When it comes to taking breaks or attending events, you have to do things with a purpose and intent.

You will 100% regret the times you want to do something but instead opt to do something else at the last minute.

Just choose to show up.

Who I Want to Be in Q4 2018

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post isn’t that readable. It’s sort of just a stream of consciousness as I think about how I can finish 2018 strong given all of the recent changes happening in my life.

It’s the last quarter (Q4) of 2018.

That’s insane. It feels like just yesterday 2018 just started.

But now as we sprint towards the finish, I have to ask myself the questions: what kind of things do I want to create this quarter? What kind of change do I want to see in myself? After leaving my former company, who do I want to become?

I’ve always been one to list out too many things, thus spreading out my focus. That’s something I really want to work on these next 3 months: nailing down my focus and getting really good at one thing. If anything, it will help me see how far I can go in one niche area.

I’ve read a lot of blogs about thinking about the person you want to be in terms of roles. I wanted to try that out so below, I’ve listed just 3 roles I want to be good at in Q4.

The 3 roles I want to excel at are:

  1. Specialized continuous learner

  2. Fit and healthy person

  3. Worker and contributor

Why these 3 roles? Because I think they influence major parts of my life in a positive way. One thing I enjoy the most is learning new things and applying them. I also enjoy the benefits of being fit and healthy physically and mentally. And at work, I want to feel like I’m making a positive difference in someone’s life, like I’m contributing to the happiness of at least one person.

As a sort of overarching reason, all 3 roles contribute towards my mental health.

Without satisfaction of progress/learning, good health, and friends, how can you feel good about your life? You need all of these things in check to feel happy, at least in my opinion.

So with that, let’s figure out how to excel in all 3 areas of my life. I always like to base my goals in habits, as I have come to believe that all lasting changes come through habits — things you do regularly piece by piece to create ultimate benefit.

Here are ways I can grow in these 3 areas:

Specialized Continuous Learner:

  • HABIT: Listen to a podcast, read a book, or read a blog every day

  • HABIT: Write everyday

  • Take one course in any subject

Fit and Healthy Person:

  • HABIT: Sleep 7-8 hours per day

  • HABIT: Meditate 10 minutes per day

  • Gym 3-4x a week, purposefully allowing rest days

Worker and Contributor

  • HABIT: Work a full-time job for 40+ hours a week at an honest company towards improving people’s lives

  • HABIT: Reach out daily for 30 minutes to old contacts and maintain and improve my relationships with friends and family

  • Always be adventurous and try new things, restaurants, and hikes with my dog and people I love

If I simply ingrain all of the habits into my life, and take on the rest of the activities as “growth projects”, then I’ll be a happy man.

I’ve already gotten most of these habits down.

It’s just about locking in and really working on the discipline to follow through. There’s nothing some good discipline can’t accomplish. That means owning the responsibility to yourself to respect the things you need to get done. Saying no to the distractions that want to take you from these core habits.

I’ll be working more on how I’m taking action on these 3 roles in the post tomorrow.

I Just Quit My Job.

I don’t want to reveal too much about it, but my former company and I had a values mismatch. One thing I value deep down is being transparent and honest (that’s why I’m writing this, duh) and unfortunately, my former company did not.

So I left.

This was me last Friday leaving on my last day of work.

This was me last Friday leaving on my last day of work.

And here I am again.

Unemployed, in my underwear at home, and reviewing all of the Angellist Job Boards.

I’m anxious, but also excited at what’s possible. The past few months have felt like one big learning experience.

I’ve met and worked with some amazing people, so I know it wasn’t all for nothing. I still keep in touch with my old colleagues. That was probably one of the best results to come out of this whole experience.

But I also wanted to reflect on my time there. I wanted to extract some type of meaning and value.

And so here are five lessons I’ve learned over the past few months:

1. When you’re starting out your career, focus on the thing you were hired to do. Don’t feel like you have to 10X the business from day one. Chill out with all of your ideas and just perform what you are being paid to do. Don’t be afraid to pitch them, but those ideas should be secondary to your paid role.

2. Make friends with your coworkers. Don’t skip (too many) happy hours. Just show that you’re willing to take time out of your personal life to get to know your coworkers beyond the office. It really says a lot about who you are as a person. When you all move on to different companies and passions, you’ll have a diverse network.

3. Customer support has an immensely important role in a company. They have a direct line to the customer. If you’re interested in starting any type of business, you must listen to your customer’s words and their feelings. It’s not enough to look at metrics and think you’re doing the right thing.

4. It’s fine to make mistakes as a team and as an individual. We are all growing. But when you don’t own up to those mistakes and take responsibility for your actions, it becomes extremely harmful to those around you.

5. Never compromise on your morals. No amount of money (and certainly not at entry-level) should persuade you to do things that are morally not aligned with who you are as a person. There are too many other jobs out there that won’t force you to do this.

During my whole time with this company, I’ve neglected my health: I haven’t been going to the gym as much, I haven’t written on this blog as much, and I haven’t been sleeping as much either.

Health is definitely a priority going forward.

With good health comes the focus I need to figure out what the next steps are. In order to do that, I will be aiming to write at least 500 words a day as I report on what my search is looking like.

Sometimes that will mean a post daily, other times it will mean posts will be combined into one epic 2,000+ word post.

My hopes for my next team to work with is that they value fresh ideas, feedback, and transparency. I’m sure I will find something even better than I imagined. Life’s too short to spend 8 hours at a place you have a moral mismatch with. A job doesn’t have to be exciting, but at least it has to be non-toxic.

Let me know if you have any advice going forward!

Why Companies Should Acquire the Right Customers, Not More

When it comes to business, here are two (oversimplified) options when it comes to customer acquisition that I’m noticing:

  1. Attract the masses with a product that promises everything. Compete on price and give massive discounts in order to convert more customers. Overbook and under-deliver and completely alienate a section of your customers. The customers who should have never been your customers have a horrible experience with you. They cause social and financial damage to your company.

  2. Take the time to identify the right customers. Create marketing that targets and attracts these specific ideal customers. Deliver on exactly the service that they expect from you. Focus on quality product above artificial growth.

With option 1, it’s simple to point to a chart and say “Look how many customers we’re getting! We’re selling so much product!”. But when you go a level deeper than that, you start to see the truth.

You may have sold more product, but how many of those customers returned your product and requested a refund?

How many customers were sold a different product and left a bad review because they imagined they were receiving one thing but got something completely different?

How much potential business are you losing from these bad reviews?

The Hidden Costs of Attracting the Wrong Customer

The ROI of effective marketing makes everything else easier. You are clear on what you offer, you let customers qualify themselves, and you give value to the customer before you sell them.

But of course no marketing is perfect; you’re going to acquire some bad apples. They are deceptive to the executive branch, because sure, they may look like a net benefit from the sales point of view, but they will only cause headaches for your company. They will absorb time, money, and reputation from your company.

These things are a lot harder to gain back than they are to lose.

How to Attract Your Ideal Customer

Initially, it’s hard to find the right customer.

But once you’re in the industry for a few years, you should have a good idea of which customers provide you the most lifetime value (LTV).

The ones with the highest LTV whether that is through profit or through referrals will be the customer base you want to tap into. This is a simplified profile of who you want, but generally you want people who will contribute the most to your business profit-wise. If they’re not bringing in more profit, they’re making you lose it.

You have to coordinate your different departments to acquire and maintain these ideal customers:

  1. Marketing must create content, ads, and conversations that are written in the language that speaks out most to your ideal customer.

  2. Sales must learn how to qualify the right people and understand how to disqualify the problem customers.

  3. Product, engineering, and operations must deliver on the product that marketing and sales claim to provide.

  4. Customer support must be the voice of the customer and provide growth suggestions for other teams to improve the product.

Once you have all of these teams working in cohesion, you will be serving the right customer and serving them well.

Choose to serve the masses and you end up serving half of them well and making their lives truly better, while the other half of them experience a money-entangled pool of failed expectations.

The world is your oyster (but only if you're willing to work hard)

I’ve been watching this fascinating interview on The School of Greatness podcast featuring the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant. Right in the beginning, he said one of the most important lines that resonated with me. My paraphrased version:

Yes, you can do anything you want — the world is your oyster — but you have to put in the work it takes to get there.

I think our generation has grown up with the belief that we can do anything we want if we put our minds to it. And that’s exactly why we’re growing up mentally crippled. That’s why it’s so hard for us to make a decision, whether that’s to choose a major in college, or decide whether or not to do the more rewarding activity over Netflix and video games.

We don’t like commitment because if we can do anything we want, we feel like we’re closing the door on something potentially greater.

I mean the grass is greener on the other side, right?

Because what we’ve grown up with is this mindset that 1) we don’t know what we want, 2) something amazing is out there, 3) the options are endless, and 4) you only get to taste the benefits of those things by working hard at it.

Most people don’t want to work hard at one thing and spend years on it, because what if it turns out that you find something better? What if it’s not your thing after all? This thought is scary to feel like you’ve wasted time. So instead of hypothetically wasting time, we choose to intentionally waste time instead, with guaranteed entertainment because we know for at least that instant, we won’t be miserable during that episode of Game of Thrones.

I think the solution that the current generation wants is the ability to test a lot of careers out, for the most minimal amount of time, so they can determine the thing they want to do the most.

Sadly, college claims to be this solution.

But when’s the last time a college actually let students test out what it’s like to actually have a career in the field they want to test out? Students spend most of their time in classrooms never working a day in their field except the few who get internships.

There must be a better solution to keep people engaged mentally, while also giving them the opportunity to make money and actually gain experience in the field they want to get into.

Because although the world may be our oyster, we must put in the hard work it takes to get there. We can’t be sitting in a classroom all day.

To get more, do less

I’m tired of people saying they’re busy all of the time.

Not because they’re not actually busy, but because they use it as an excuse not to change anything.

If your busyness is making your life unmanageable, it’s your job to reduce the amount of things you need to do however that needs to be done. You can go the route of elimination of delegation, but the things that don’t give you value in life need to be pushed somewhere else.

We admire all of our heroes for accomplishing great things.

But how did they get there?

It’s by being selective about what they did and minimizing the time they spent on activities and busywork that didn’t make their lives better.

The Key Is To Do Less, Not More

So many times in my life, I’ve wanted to be super fit, learn Japanese, and start my own YouTube show, and also start my own business — often all at the same time.

There’s a reason I haven’t made much progress in any of these and no it’s not because Oreos are delicious.

It’s because I’m trying to do too many things at once.

My focus was too spread out.

Think of focus as a finite amount of energy. It has the shape of a ball. Now if you have many different interests and you spend that time in many different directions during the day, you’ll make some progress, but not much.

Now, when you choose to prioritize things, and spend 2 hours a day on something, you’ll go a lot farther in it than if you had been trying to hit many different goals at once.

The less you do, the farther you’ll go.

The less you do, the farther you’ll go.

It’s simple math really.

You can spend a little bit of time getting better at something here and there if you do it once or twice per week. But if you put in the time to do it consistently and with focus, you’ll get a lot more done.

Take for example, writing.

You could either write one essay per month like in most college courses, or you could write 500 words per day. Who do you think the better writer is going to be?

The difference over 4 months is enormous.

If your average college paper is 500 words, then over 4 months, you’d have written and thought about 2,000 words. But if you wrote 500 words everyday, then after 4 months, you’d have written at least 60,000 words.

It’s all about committing to practicing the same thing consistently. When you do that, you’ll make monumental increases in your skills and output.

Think about what you’re spending your time on. Can you reduce the things you do, so you can put more energy into a select few things?

Patience vs Complacency

One hard lesson I've learned this year is how slow things take.

You want things to happen fast.

You want progress to happen now.

But often, it takes much longer than you think it will, and you have to be okay with that. You can't force your relationships to develop any faster than you want, whether that's at work or in a romantic setting.

All you can do is take the right steps every day and be patient.

You have to trust the process. Of course you also have to make sure the process will be valuable to you in the end.

But it's not complacency to keep chugging along and get slow results. That's called patience and it's oh so necessary in this fast world.

Children in Adult Bodies

Age is deceptive.

You can look like an adult.

You can talk like an adult.

But deep down inside, your behavior and view on life can be that of a child.

I think the difference between a child and an adult has less to do with age and more to do with these factors (there may be more, but these are the most important I think):

  1. Independence. How well can you function without anyone financing you? Can you handle problems without consulting your parents to fix things? Can you resolve issues by yourself?
  2. Responsibility. Do you take responsibility for your actions, your words, and the effects both of these have on people? Do you take ownership of duties, and reap the benefits and consequences of your actions?
  3. Giving. Do you seek to enhance, or do you seek to take? Do you make other people better, or do you make them worse off? Do you treat people, items, and places with respect, before it's given to you?

An adult has an awareness of all of these traits.

A child struggles to have any of these as the opposite is much easier to maintain. It's easier to be dependent on your parents for money. It's easier to dick around and avoid positions of power where your actions affect others. It's easier to take and receive items than it is to give away what you have.

Adulthood shouldn't be a scary thing.

Instead, we should recognize adulthood as the beautiful realization that you are growing your confidence and competence in life. You're getting better at helping others. And by doing so, you're realizing your human potential.