Author Archive for Cory Miller

My New Blog Focused on Mental Health

Since I started sharing my mental health journey publicly, with this talk in 2015, and then later on through several posts here (which have become some of the most popular I’ve written), I’ve wanted a way to take that conversation further — erasing the stigma, helping others take steps to better mental health.

Additionally, I’ve realized part of my life mission and purpose is to make a meaningful, positive difference and impact in people’s lives related to their mental health, in any way I can.

So today I’m announcing Mental.Fitness … a place and space to talk about mental health and the regular, consistent activities, practices, habits, routines we can do to get and maintain good mental health, or … mental fitness.

You can read more about it on my announcement post …. but be sure to signup for the community email.

Entrepreneurs: Your Companion Guide to Maintaining Good Mental Health

Finally …. a tool, a resource has arrived for entrepreneurs on maintaining good mental health is here, written by my friend, psychologist and fellow entrepreneur Dr. Sherry Walling and her serial entrepreneur husband Rob Walling.

It’s called “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Keeping Your Sh*t Together: How to Run Your Business Without Letting it Run You.”

I wish I had had this book 10 years ago when I started iThemes. It would have helped me better navigate the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

So I’m buying a dozen of them as gifts to my entrepreneur friends this week.

This book was written BY two of us, FOR all of us.

If you’re just starting on the entrepreneur journey or already deep on it, this book is FOR YOU (and me). Whether you’re going through a tough season of life and business … or just humming along gracefully … this book is for YOU (and me).

I think of it as a companion guide to entrepreneurship, like a survive handbook for entrepreneurs climbing their own K2s.

It’s written by a true experienced expert, but in intimate human speak, with studies and stories abounding that brings what we all know and feel out in the open, with actionable help. It hits all the big issues we deal with … from depression and loneliness to family, stress and procrastination.

Right now, it’s $3.99 on Amazon Kindle. But it’s an invaluable investment in your mental health, which makes a chill $4 seem like they’ve given you no reason not to go get it right now. (In fact, I’ve got it in paperback and Kindle versions.)

And by the way … I’m not just shilling my friend’s book. And I don’t get anything from it, other than to help other entrepreneurs know about a key guide in the often lonely, often misunderstood entrepreneurial journey.

Sherry and I met last year and we instantly hit it off. Not only is she an amazing human but she’s extremely experienced and talented professional.

We connected over our common interest in the mental health of entrepreneurs. Then we worked together on several initiatives for entrepreneurs (and their spouses) through her work and I hope to work with her again very soon.

So when she told me she was writing a book for entrepreneurs last year, I all but begged her to get it out as fast as she could as I knew so many entrepreneurs are hurting and in need of her work and help, just like I have.

In fact I recall saying to her, “We (entrepreneurs) need this in the world.”

When I started sharing My Iceberg a couple years ago, I longed to have a practical tool and resource to share with others to navigate their own Icebergs day by day.

And today … it is here.

Go get it. Use it. Reference it.

I have, I am and I will be doing the same.

P.S. — Thank you Sherry and Rob for opening up your lives and sharing your stories, experiences and expertise with your fellow entrepreneurs. Today, we’re better for it.

A Decade In Business: 10 Things That Got Us Here

In honor of our 10 year anniversary at iThemes this month, I looked back and reflected on what I’ve learned, that has made the most impact to our success and longevity in business.

Here goes:

1. It’s all about people.

The real reward in business is people.

Profit is awesome and kind of essential. But the people make it fun, joyful and special.

None of this would have happened without people, beside me, behind me, often in front of me. The ones who’ve done the overwhelming bulk of the work to get us here.

And it can’t just be any people … they have to be really, really, really good, committed, passionate, talented people.

The ones who care. The ones who love what they do and who they do it with and for.

When you get people like that the thing you must do is find out how to set them free and get the hell out of the way.

So invest in people. They will invest in you. Richly.

When you invest in people and they blossom and bloom before your eyes …. that’s what has made these 10 years so incredible.

In 20-30 years from now, when I look back at this decade at iThemes, the things I’ll remember are the people I’ve walked with, fought with (and for) and the things we did together.

Caring for, protecting, loving on, coaching, mentoring people is a big investment but one of the best I’ve made. It also makes you a magnet for more good people.

And frankly, it’s just the right thing to do.

2. Find your sidekick, fast.

For the first couple years of business, I didn’t have a sidekick. One who would make me better. One who was strong where I was weak, weak where I was strong. One that completed the picture for me as a leader and manager.

And truly I’ve learned … having a sidekick means you don’t walk alone. You don’t shoulder everything on your own. You don’t make decisions in an echo chamber. You don’t fight alone. And that person just makes you better. And what you’re doing together exponentially better.

Matt is my sidekick. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better partner. He is the definition of the ideal sidekick.

We met each other over 12 years ago now as friends. Then he started working with me … and eventually I named him the Chief Operating Officer.

Looking back, one of the smartest decisions I’ve made in business that has translated to our success and my happiness.

He’s not even 30 years old … but he’s an incredible leader, manager, all around Swiss Army knife. Those who know him and what he can do are jealous I have him. Those who hear about him, want to meet him. For good reason.

For years, we’d simply would use the hashtag #pals in our chats or texts to summarize our friendship and partnership when the going got tough (and it often has).

In the most recent season of time, we’ve got a new one … #backtoback.

Back to back is when you’re surrounded by an overwhelming force. You’re outgunned. You’re outmanned. It’s just you two against the world … you go back to back and fight your way out. Together.

He’s had my back. I’ve had his back. And I can’t imagine getting him without him.

3. Be early.

When I stated iThemes in January 2008, we were one of the first commercial WordPress product shops out there (starting with WordPress themes). We launched at a critical time in WordPress. The right moment. The right time. And we were EARLY.

I can’t overstate the momentum that gave us for the last 10 years. Mostly, I’ve just tried to keep riding that and using that momentum, adding more to it, to become a force that helped us arrive here.

It means more people know us, like us, trust us because we’ve had a lot of time to do it all and we were, yes, EARLY.

Being early was crucial for us, although so many others were not “early” and still have had great success too.

For us, though, we have used it and keep using it.

4. Be lucky.

I like to think of myself as a smart guy … but I know I’m a very lucky guy too.

I’ve joked with our team that if I wrote a book about the history of iThemes it would be called “Stumbling Successfully.”

We’ve made a ton of mistakes. But we’ve also been lucky and then made our own luck by doing good, working hard, taking care of people and not giving up.

We want to keep being lucky, which means we’re open to opportunities and will pursue them backed by hard work.

5. Email marketing was/is our secret sauce.

It feels weird to throw this in here, but it’s so true. We have used email marketing since the beginning, and only amped up how we do it every year to be better and better.

But if you were to see a chart of our sales over 10 years … I could show you when we sent out emails.

We used it when others neglected or thought it was vile black magic. But we did it right, respectfully and to the max.

6. Try not to puke on the ride, OK?

I got on this roller coaster 10 years ago. And so many times just when I think I got the ride down and know where all the big curves and drop-offs are … I find new ones.

I think of one of the key characteristics or strengths required as an entrepreneur is simply: resilience.

Being able to take a gut punch … and get up and keep fighting.

Sometimes the punch is in the face. Sometimes you’re lying face down on gravel and being dragged.

And so many times, I’ve thought, “Maybe the next action I’ll take is to just go throw up now.”

But you gotta keep going. One foot in front of the other.

Looking back at 10 years worth of key events, moments and crises, somehow I just kept going. Somehow we just kept going.

And try not to puke.

7. Seek out and cherish the people who run in, while others run out.

I’ve talked about this at length during my talks over the last couple of years.

I call my people my Life Support Team. (I talked extensively about this in the Iceberg of Life.)

They are the people who run into your life when everyone else is running out.

When you’re down, you’re crying, at your worst and maybe just want to quit …. they are ones who say, “I got ya, bro.”

So many times as the leader you’re the person charged with reassuring everyone else that “it’s going to be ok.” But sometimes, when you’re at the bottom, it really helps to hear someone else say to you …. “everything will be ok.”

There is a tomorrow. There is hope. Let’s pick you back up, brush you off and get you going again.

A huge part of that team, beyond my wife (who is my first and most critical partner) and family and friends, is my entrepreneurial peer group. Other entrepreneurs who are on a similar path, sharing the same values, and just want your best.

In times of troubles these people stand out … they stay. Right by your side. And vice versa.

8. Always be tweaking, experimenting, trying new things.

For years business friends asked, with a very puzzled looked, why we kept venturing into new products and even areas. Often failing.

Part of the answer is it’s how I’m wired. I like experimenting. I like new challenges. I like new projects. And I like diversifying.

I know how fickle this game can be. I don’t want all my eggs in one basket.

But it’s also about making sure we’re continuing to experiment, to improve so that we can keep this thing going for a long, long time.

So we try new things and fail. Mistakes are learning though and we’ve tried to learn better from those mistakes.

I think the opposite choice here is complacency.

And that’s too often the easier choice. Just to coast, put things on automatic pilot and think nothing will ever change.

Just like our sales related to emails, I can probably show you the times we got complacent and put things on cruise control. It’s very dangerous.

9. Adapt and innovate or wither and die.

If we had kept doing only what we did in 2008 … we would not be here today.

If we hadn’t adapted and innovated, stepped out, took risks, made mistakes, lost money on experiments, I firmly believe we’d be out of business.

Year after year we’ve tried to look on the horizon and see where things are going and position ourselves to stay relevant.

It’s not easy. It’s often painful. But it’s necessary. And it’s the reason why we’ve lasted 10 years.

It’s often a hard pill to swallow, especially after you’ve been through a particularly rough patch and things are going well.

But if we were watching on the horizon and sensing the changes, we could have easily gotten consumed by them.

10. Just be good people.

This one is epicly simple: Just be freakin’ nice, generous, gracious, humble, helpful people!

I think it’s wired into my DNA and how I was raised … but I’ve always wanted to just be the good ole small town Oklahoma boy to everyone around me.

Ready to help. Ready to listen. Open to possibility. Open to sharing. Open to connecting.

And I think it’s been a huge part of our success here.

When others stirred up controversy, or choose to be the antagonist … I simply choose to be who I am — a good, generous guy to others (including many of our competitors).

I believe it’s the reason people want to do business with us today, whether that’s partnering with us, promoting us or coming to work with us.


So there’s my ten. The same ten I’d bet on to get us to through to the second decade.

18 Runs, 2 Swims And My Physical Health Support Group

It’s been way too long since I’ve done an update here about my physical health journey and so I took some time to catch you up. Here goes:

Raulks (Run/Walks)

“Rualks” is my new word for run/walks that I do. I always say, “I went for a run” and people mistake it for me running a solid X miles or X minutes. But it really means I walk and then run, then walk, then run, and on and on. Intervals of walking and running as I’m still mostly doing my 5K Runner app for my running exercise routines.

Here are some summary stats for my raulks, which have been a blast and a bit addicting:

  • Raulked 18 times in 46 days
  • Roughly averaging a rualk around every 2.5 days, which was inspiring and confirming to me
  • Most are around 30 minutes, going for around 2 miles in total
  • Raulked with a variety of people, which was something I hadn’t planned on but sincerely love
  • Raulked in a variety of places:
    • Around two State Capitols (Oklahoma and California)
    • Multiple states again (Minnesota, California) and even out of the country (Mexico)
  • Did a true trail run for the first time, which was a BLAST, and I want to do that more
  • Raulked in 47 degree weather, which is likely the most I can tolerate I think. (I’ve been spoiled by such great weather as I’ve started to run)

Here are the runs I’ve done since my last full post on Sept. 6, roughly.

Running Clinic

I attended OKC’s Red Coyote’s Running Clinic on Sept. 23 and learned SO much about how to run, how to stretch and some routines to do. It really changed the way I run in such a good way. I think it’ll help me prevent injuries.

Highly recommend taking a running clinic near you!

Better Documenting

Doing this blog post today, I had to go back and actually look at what I’ve done for the past 45+ days and I gotta say, it was inspiring. It feels like work to document everything but it’s got an incredible inspiring effect on me.

I typically try to take a private selfish during my exercises and post them to my private journal. And I also post updates on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. But it’s not the same as I get here when I do these digest posts.

And if I had to start over, I would have tracked ALL my actual runs in one app/journal from beginning. And right now that app would be: MapMyRun. I lost seeing the actual route I took on my rualks. And it’s been a quasi-journal for me, although I end up taking screenshots of the routes and posting to my journal.

But writing this post, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t posted anything here earlier. If anything it gave me a baseline of all I’ve done and revealed some interesting things about why this has actually been a WHOLE LOT OF FUN.

I need to do better documenting … and more scheduled digests like these. They are inspiring to me, if anything.

My Newest Adventure: Swimming

Since it is starting to get colder and I’m not especially excited about running in the frigid Oklahoma winter, I decided to explore swimming. It has numerous health benefits, so I pinged my brother Travis, who is a phenomenal swimmer and in another life would have trained to be a Navy SEAL.

After much research and exploration of what I thought would work for me, I found a gym near our office with a swimming pool and got a tour and a 7-day free pass to explore. Here is what I’ve done so far:

  • Bought some awesome Michael Phelps goggles. And start organizing my Tom Bihn gym bag. Might have another post on how I’m trying to become uber-efficient at getting in and out of the pool and back to the office later.
  • Oct. 20 — My brother Travis drove down from Tulsa to OKC to do his signature “Swimming Bootcamp” with me. What this really meant is that my brother got to haze his older brother for 30 minutes in the pool. My goal was to learn some techniques and routines to do for 30 minutes. He kicked my butt, throughly, and, yes, like all rascal brothers pushed me in the pool a couple of times. He never let me stop moving either. It was a great learning experience: 1. I know what to do in the pool. and 2. Never ask Trav to coach with me again. Just kidding! Thank you so much brother!
  • Oct. 24 — went for my second swim. It felt great. Although the pool was crowded, I got in a 30-minute swim, with 5 minutes on each end for warm up and cooldown and tried to never stop moving in the pool. When I got to the deep end, I treaded water as much as I could until I got my breath back. In the shallow end I walked against the water and started swimming when I could. Incredible workout. 30 minutes after I was out of the pool I was still sweating. I can’t wait to go back and will be buying a monthly membership.


Haven’t bicycled yet … but Lindsey and I got fitted for a bicycle this month and are seriously contemplating buying bikes in the spring.

My Private, Online Physical Health Support Group

Another huge milestone for me on my journey to physical health.

At the beginning of September, I put out a simple tweet and blog post asking if anyone else wanted to join me for an online support and accountability group focused only on physical health. After sharing my journey for the past couples of months, it was surprising how many people said, “I need to get started now too.”

And after talking for the last couple of years about how my entrepreneurial groups have impacted my life so much, I realized I desperately needed a group for support and accountability in this area.

To my excitement, 7 other people asked to join me in this group, with our first meeting on Sept. 11, 2017, with a simple 8-week commitment.

So, with some basic rules (absolute confidentiality, show up, share highs and lows), we started with Zoom meetings on Monday nights and it quickly grew to a Slack group, that has channels for Activity, Food, Tools, Updates, where we share our successes and struggles and tips that are working for us.

We’re now on our sixth week and although some (including myself) have had to miss a couple of Zoom meetings, we are doing daily and weekly checkins via Slack. (We’ll see what the interest in our group is to continue on in two weeks and I’ll report back here on that.)

It’s been incredibly helpful for me.

I know I’m not alone. There are others on the same journey, with the same or similar obstacles, but we’re here to cheer each other on.

We’ve lost weight together. We’ve start moving more together. We’ve had setbacks together. We have wins togethers. And I feel incredibly inspired to keep going on my own journey, with our little group.

But I asked our private group via Slack for a couple of quick blurbs about how their experience in the support group has helped them and this is what they said (anonymously):

“Joining this group has given me the courage to take the necessary steps to ensure I’m around for my wife, my kids and myself. It’s taken away the fear of talking about my bad habits and fostered a commitment to pursuing better ones and a community that provides encouragement, feedback, and accountability. And I’ve lost 15 pounds so far.”

“Being part of this group has helped keep me accountable, not just to my wife, but also to a group of friends. When I wanted to start something new, if I stopped without explaining why, I was called out on it. Very helpful that we’re all in this journey together.”

“Working at home, for myself with an infant at home makes it pretty hard to want to stay healthy. Luckily, this group has helped me. I still have some trouble with snacking, but I’m so much more active, I drink more water, and I pause often to think, ‘Is this something I’d be happy to tell the group I did?’”

“I don’t think without the group that I would be taking my meal planning as seriously. It also helped while at a conference recently to know that I had some like-minded people around me to hold me accountable and to cheer me on.”

“Success for me is oftentimes based on my ability to focus. Joining this fitness group gives me the nudge I need to make my fitness goals a part of my every day concerns, Knowing that I will be checking in regularly with the group keeps me motivated. I also love that I share my progress throughout the week with others. I know I always have a cheering section. I’ve lost 15lbs and have established some really good habits because of the group.”


OK, that’s my report for now. I’ll try to do this more often and not just on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

What I’ve Learned About Midlife … So Far

This has been a story that’s been (again) simmering in me for a while. Although I’ve shared it with close friends over the last year, I haven’t done so publicly.

I’m doing so today because many others I’ve talked with have shared the same or similar experiences (hitting 40 and going through midlife transitions) and I want you to know …

“You’re not alone.”

It’s my Underneath the Iceberg story for the last two years and it’s called “I Hit Midlife And It Body-Slammed Me.”

When I Remember It Starting …

I was in my late 30s and inching closer to the big FOUR O, when I started feeling the phenomenon I now know as “Midlife.”

Maybe I can sum up the feeling by what I was saying inside like this:

“Everything is great. But everything feels empty.”

And a huge part of that came with a hefty portion of guilt of course.

I kept asking myself: “How could I feel so empty, when I have everything I ever wanted?”

Almost in one day it hit me in the face …. I had accomplished everything I ever wanted to do in life since I was a kid …

  • An awesome, loving, supportive partner in my wife Lindsey
  • Two happy and healthy children
  • A business that was doing great, with work I loved and people I enjoy working with (and partners I consider dear friends)
  • Great relationships with my parents and brothers
  • Friendships with incredible people who I respect, respected me, loved me and I loved them
  • Materially, I wanted for nothing
  • And so much more that I am so incredibly grateful for

But I came to realize after desperately wanting to flush these emotions … that they were also very real and I couldn’t ignore them. I couldn’t bury them, although I tried. I couldn’t run from them either. I was feeling this way for a reason. And I wanted to know why and what I could do to change them. Fast.

So I went on a determined quest to find answers. I dove headfirst straight into it.

I was very very motivated …. I didn’t like these feelings, I wanted them simply to go away and to “fix” the problem right now.

And I just knew I would find the answers. I’m a voracious reader, I have a counselor, I have great friends and mentors to talk to. I just knew I got this.

But along the exhausting search with no meaningful answers, I gave up, at least for a time.

I did everything I know to do when faced with these life’s issues, but still came up empty.

I read books, I talked to people. I thought, I journaled. And for a time, a time long enough to be embarrassed to admit now, I wallowed in it and resigned myself to think, “There are no answers to this. This is just life and my life. Just face it and move on, Cory.”

It wasn’t that I didn’t desperately want to figure it out … I was just lost, starting over completely, in a land I didn’t know and without a compass.

I had no clue what to do. And it was jarring.

Life still felt empty for me despite so many things I was (and still am) intensely grateful for.

And yeah, for a time, I leaned on coping mechanisms that sucked. I felt empty and wanted to numb them.

Compounded with what was going on inside me, the physical realities of getting older (and living a rather unhealthy lifestyle) set in for me.

My weight ballooned. My back was constantly hurting. I wasn’t sleeping well for a number of reasons. I had to get glasses for the first time in my life. (Yeah, I realize so many others have had glasses for forever, but for someone with great eyesight for most of their life, having your vision impaired, seemingly overnight, was and still is a major adjustment for me). I found out I had high blood pressure and other things I’ve recently shared.

I told a friend the other day in reflection that my body kind of went on strike and revolted against me in the last couple of years and screamed at me, “Hey dude, all that crap you ate or did when you were age 18 to 35 ain’t cutting it now. At all!”

With each new problem, I’d find myself saying:

“Is this as good as it gets?”

“Have I reached my summit and now I am on the descent?”

And then more guilt.

Turning 40 was an weird milestone in all of this.

I kept referring to it, as others have, as “halftime.” Only I didn’t have any sort of a gameplan for the second half and felt like I was stuck in the locker room with nothing to do.

It was as if I was looking out at the next 40 years of my life and going, “What the hell am I going to do with it?”

I knew traditional retirement wasn’t ever going to work for me. I love working and I love my work. I always have. Lindsey is well aware I don’t have any intention of ever stopping some kind of “work.” And I hated thinking I’d work for the next 25 years, then, what? Sit for another 10 or 20 years and die?

I had no hobbies. What would I do with that time that was meaningful and invigorating beyond what I was doing already? Despite feeling this emptiness, I felt I still had plenty of energy, experience and expertise to give, as well as a lot more to learn and grow and improve on.

I just didn’t have thoughts on where to go but to maintain what I have or did (in all areas of my life). And for someone who prides himself on always learning and growing, the weight of a potential plateau, or what I’ve always referred to as the flatline of life really ate at me.

From what I’ve read …. this is called the U-Shaped of Happiness ….

“If happiness over the life span looks like a U-curve — and researchers suggest that it does — then people in their forties and fifties occupy the bottom of the curve,” writes Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

But after giving up on my search for a time, I had a couple of lightbulb moments that set me in a totally new direction for my life.

I wouldn’t say I have it all figured out. I don’t. Not at all. But I have enough for me, for now. To have hope and direction.

I have so much more to learn and grow … but I at least found more clarity in the fog I was in on how to spend that second half, where/how to focus my time, talent and treasure, and what things I needed to work on. And I’m excited again. Very excited.

I’d like to share some of those lightbulb moments here (mostly in chronological order).

1. Old Metrics Had to Be Reset and Recalibarted

I found what did it for me in my 20s and 30s … doesn’t always do it for me now in my 40s. Not in the same exact way at least.

Those metrics still matter to me … but my focus and perspective on them is different. They still mean things to me, but the old way metrics don’t give me the fullest expression of the meaning I want in my life now, today.

Yes, I want to win. Yes, I want to make money. Yes, I want to help people. Yes, I want to meet new challenges head on and conquer them.

The motivation is different. It’s not building for myself, it’s more helping others build for themselves. (More on that later.)

But for some of the lightbulb moments I’ll share below, my perspective on all of them changed a bit because I’m standing now in a new place and stage in life.

2. Physical Pain as My Sign of Bottled Up Emotional Pain

In my mid to late 30s, I increasingly struggled with nagging back pain. No matter what I did, I’d still have back pain. I tried everything. I tried sleeping differently. I started standing more at work. Going to a chiropractor, getting massages, etc.

Nothing I did gave me long-term relief from my back pain.

Then over Christmas in 2016, my friend Jenny Beaumont, after meeting me at WordCamp US earlier that month, dropped a simple message to me in Facebook Messenger, with a link to her email newsletter and saying it might be something of interest to me …. and it was!

Beyond telling her incredible story of her own back pain, she mentioned a book titled “Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection” by Dr. John Sarno.

Compelled by her own story, I devoured that book and started implementing many of the practices in it …. specifically, the key point of being mindful that when my back hurt I started asking myself if there was some stress, anxiety, or emotional pain in my life I wasn’t attending to.

That was in late December 2016.

Today is October 13, 2017 … and I haven’t suffered from the type of chronic back pain since that time. Honest truth.

I’m not a doctor, a scientist, a researcher or a psychologist …. but I attribute my own chronic back pain largely to the emotional pain I was going through during this time, specifically around midlife.

For months, I didn’t tell anyone about it, fearing a placebo effect, or being called kooky.

Call me a hippie or weirdo now, I don’t care. It made total sense to me and it’s changed my life. (More on mindfulness later.)

Once I simply started being mindful of my back pain and then questioning myself to see if I was burying or harboring any emotional pain, I’ve been back pain free since.

I never thought about physical pain and how it *could* be associated with emotional pain. But it made sense to me. And now I look at it as ONE WAY my body is telling me I’m not dealing with things adequately.

(By the way, it should be noted that I did not have any major structural problems with my back. No discs out of place. No fractures or anything like that for old car accidents. No diseases, no car accidents or physical trauma. And I’m not in any way discounting chronic back pain for others. I’m recounting my own personal experience and journey.)

3. Mindfulness As a Way Of Life

I’ve used meditation on and off nearly all my life. But I never quite understood the value of mindfulness when I started practicing it with my own back pain.

But it’s seeped into more and more of my life since.

Sherry in one of our ZenTribes meetings over the summer talked at length about mindfulness and I took good notes. She said:

“Mindfulness is attention. It’s checking our automated actions to ensure they are what we want. And it’s the secret sauce for wellness.”

Mindfulness is awareness.

She added, “Mindfulness is four things: notice, observe, reflect, respond.”

So so good.

I used it recently one morning with my daughter, Lillian. As typical, she came into our room at 6:30 a.m. bright eyed and wanting attention and snacks and whatever else the “redhead” demands.

She climbed up in bed with me and sat on me and just looked me in the eyes for several moments. My first instinct was to jump out of bed and start my day by attending to her requests and hopefully getting a shower.

But instead, I noticed and observed how beautiful she looked in the morning light. All of her. Her face, her eyes, her crazy curly red hair. How her eyes looked at me with innocent deep love. How good it felt for my child to be close to me. And I reflected on that moment … and how incredibly thankful I was to have this priceless sweetheart next to me that was real and not a dream … and for the opportunity to have a daughter such as her, perfectly crafted as she was.

And because she hates wearing clothes and only had panties on (oh my), I responded to all this by gently covering her with a blanket, then hugging her when she let me, sneaking kisses on her cheeks, and being entirely enchanted in the moment by my two-year-old little girl who will one day be a woman and perhaps not have this chance again, every morning, to snuggle with her like I do now.

That’s the gift of mindfulness. Of paying attention to life in all its fullness (light and dark). Of being aware of it all.

I am always the guy that looks to the future. Dreams and dwells and basks in the future and what could be. I’m the guy who is always thinking and thinking and thinking.

And most of the time … I totally miss the present. Life’s little moments.

I want mindfulness and attention in all areas of my life. Seeing and experience life in real High Definition, in the present.

So many times in the past year as I’ve started to make sense of this life stage, when asked how I was doing, or to give a one-word expression of my current state, I’d simply say: Present.

Very hard to explain, but it’s frequently how I’m feeling now — just present in my own life. Because for so much of it, I’ve been absent from it.

Today, I’m more present in my life than I have ever been and so thankful for it. Because I’m paying a lot more attention to it now and its worth and value, success and struggle, joy and pain. It’s given me new and fresh experiences and more meaning and purpose and joy.

4. 10X Generativity.

Another huge lightbulb moment that filled me with purpose and passion was stumbling upon the word “Generativity” via Erikson’s Life Stage theory.

Erikson said generatively denotes “a concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.”

I guess you could call it giving back or paying it forward, whatever, but I love the word “generativity” so much more.

Erikson’s model suggested that in each stage, there is a crisis of choice.

In midlife, between roughly ages 40-65, Erikson’s theory suggests it is “Generativity versus Stagnation.”

Stagnation was a great description of what I was feeling and have felt.

There was so much more I felt I could give and offer yet I felt stagnate for the first time in my life.

So I read everything I could about the opposite choice — generativity. And it’s become my word for 2017 and the second half.

If the first half was focused on building up myself and accomplishing my goals (for the most part) … the second half would be focused on helping others even more so.

Of course I’ve always tried to help others whenever I can.

But this refocus and double down brought such new clarity and passion to my life. It felt more other focused. It felt more energizing that I could give back by helping someone working on their first 40 (and after 40 too).

Instead of just a lightbulb … it was turning on the stadium lights.

First, for my children (and family). They deserve the best of me, and are my first priority. If I do nothing else than help raise happy, healthy, loving humans, it’ll all be worth it.

Second, for those closest to me and then, on and on to the people I can touch in the world.

In reflection, the greatest joy of my career and business has been seeing young people blossom and bloom. For 6 years we’ve funded and ran a nonprofit to help children learn technology in Oklahoma.

Our mission at iThemes is “Make People’s Lives Awesome.” And it’s my personal mission as well.

I want more of that and more I haven’t even imagined. 10x more.

That’s impact. And increasingly I’ve been more focused on ensuring that whatever I do has maximum people-focused impact.

How can I apply my time, talents and treasure to generativity?

5. The Four Pillars of Meaning

Reading Emily Smith’s book “The Power of Meaning” this year was a life-changing moment for me. (And I can’t recommend the book enough.)

Throughout my life, I’ve always been focused on purpose and meaning in my life, but this defined it in a way I’d never imagined.

It gave me direction to look for and more clarity to find more meaning in my life, and the second half.

According to Smith and her research, the “four pillars of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence.”

I wrote a bigger review of it here.

But here’s some thoughts on how I’ve been thinking about them:

  • Belonging — we all want to belong to something bigger than us. Beyond our business which I ascribe huge meaning and belonging to (whenever our team or customers wear our logo I feel connection and belonging and I hope vice versa), but I try to find that more and more in every group I can now. One recent way I’ve felt belonging while getting crucial support is by starting a physical health support group. Our little support group is going through the same or similar things, and on the same journey, together, and we “belong” to a group. I’m very proud to be a part, even if we don’t have a logo … yet. (Note: I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s new book on Braving the Wilderness, which goes much deeper into this subject and will be reporting on it in a later post.)
  • Purpose — beyond loving and caring for my family and friends, one of the chief reasons I believe I exist is to be a champion of mental health and wellness. To help erase and eradicate the stigma of mental wellness on this planet. It’s the dent I want to make in the world. I started that journey in 2014 with this talk and it’s focused and energized my purpose in life.
  • Storytelling — how we tell our life stories matters. Redemptive stories are the key. This one was bad for a long long time. But it has gone from bad (the place I was in) to good …. and great. And someday even better as I get more and more clarity on it and learn and grow. My second half story hasn’t been told in full yet.
  • Transcendance — these are mountaintop moments for me … when I see something that puts me in awe of the world and its grandeur … alongside the people I love most. All about shared experiences. I want more transcendent experience with people.

6. Doubling Down, Then Doubling Down on People and Relationships

Barbara Bradley Hagerty in her awesome book “Life Reimagined” was another critical, life-changing read and compass for me. So much so I bought my business group in OKC a copy for each person. (Her post on the 8 ways to survive and thrive in midlife is EXCELLENT and short.)

Among the many things I learned from it, it’s the focus that second half people have on “people and relationships” which ties in with belonging.

Again, I’ve always valued people and relationships, but it’s a refocus and double down on the energy I want to spend developing epic relationships with incredible people in my second half.

People I love. People who love me.
People I care about. People who care about me.
And more and more shared experiences with them.

It’s all about people and relationships.

7. Beginning My Physical Health Journey

Faced with many of the physical health issues I mentioned earlier, in August, I finally said, “I have to get serious about my health.” And although I’ve worked on my mental wellness seriously for the last 7 years, I had woefully neglected my physical health.

This journey is about holistic health and the last piece … physical health.

You can read all about that here as I’ve been blogging actively about my physical health.

For the bulk of my life I never worried much about my physical health. I was just healthy, mostly.

Then right around 40 (probalby sooner) my body said, “Enough, bro. Time to get serious, or I’m bailing on you.”

Now I’m finding great value (and new hobbies) in my journey to a complete and sustainable healthy lifestyle.

Writing this post has made perfect sense where this would be the next obvious step in my life’s journey. I want to be here for the next 40 years and beyond, for myself and those I love.

8. Being The Opposite of a Cranky Old Fart

So many times, I’ve felt myself and my attitude be a cranky ogre. I’ve blamed it on everything I started sharing.

I’m thankful I’m married to a woman who pushes me, inspires me to not be one, and forgives me when I am.

For what I’ve read and also seen, and from Erikson’s model alone, we have chcoies to make about how we approach the second half.

So I thought about a chart of mindsets for my second half …. and some choices I can make.

On the left are the things, left unchecked, of how I could leave the second half (rather miserably) …. but on the right is what I desire to be and how I want to live.


The left side seems easier. But lonely and empty and a waste … and I’ve felt those too many times in my life already.

But the right side feels vibrant, passionate … and ALIVE. And right where I want to be even if it feels hard and exposed.

I want to maximize the life I have left …. and give it liberally to others.

It means being willing to learn and grow …. and fail.
It means being willing to try new things and be scared and out of my comfort run.
It means the willingness to embrace fear and run into it.

All focused on the expression of …. generativity.


So this is what I’ve learned … so far.

Midlife body slammed me. But I got up again, eventually, and learned from it, even if it took longer than I wanted.

Its gift has been clarity and passion and direction that I need for the second half.

I’m thankful for the struggle to get here. Now.

To be continued.


Books I’ve Read That Helped Me

By the way, I would be remiss now to share some books that helped me ….