Don’t decide until you ask this question.

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Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

Forty of us ran counterclockwise in a giant circle on the field. My helmet squeezed against my cheekbones.

The circle sped up like a carnival ride. I tried to sprint but my legs dragged, exhausted.

It was late summer and I was about to enter my sophomore year of high school. As a freshman, I’d joined the football team but, due to my athletic ability being slightly less impressive than an inflatable tube man with a malfunctioning electrical fan, I hadn’t gotten much playtime. My position was Left Out (get it? I was left out).

A…


The devious way our brains trick us into withstanding misery

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Photo by Ernest Brillo on Unsplash

I yanked open my refrigerator door, anticipating a much-needed wave of cool air to give me relief.

It was deep in the summer of 2009 in Boulder, Colorado and I lived in a condo with no air conditioning. What it did have was a weird quirk: when I opened my patio door for a breeze, the smoke detector sometimes blared. I have no clue why. So, before I enjoyed some air from the outside, I had to stand on a chair and yank the detector’s plastic cover off, disabling it.

Today, there was no wind.

My condo was more silent than usual and when I opened the fridge, there was no whiff of coolness.

No light went on, either…


Do this and you’ll grow from your challenges.

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Photo by Tom Garritty on Unsplash

In the early winter of 2012, I stood in front of my condo building and stared at my parked car.

Someone had scrawled on my driver’s side window in burgundy gunk.

Vandalism? I lived in Aurora, Colorado, which has a crime problem, but the area felt safe. A neighbor was a meth addict, but the worst problem he caused was lounging outside his front door and mumbling while I walked to my mailbox.

A note was stuck between the bottom of the car window and the door. The text was typed in big, official, capital letters.

A cop had discovered my car’s expired plates.

They gave me a…


Use this when fear gives you no option.

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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

I stared at the phone. My torso felt like an icebox.

Maybe I could weasel my way out of this? It was a stupid idea. Nobody wanted to talk to me.

I reached for my phone and pressed on the digit buttons. The phone emitted tone after tone like a dying robot.

More than a decade ago, I’d written and self-published a semi-lousy book and wanted to get some publicity. I’d mailed the book to some potential influencers.

Then came the part that left me cold and sick with fear.

I had to follow up, ask the influencers if they’d gotten my book, and what they thought of it — but I…


When you’re stuck, the problem might not be you.

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Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

I sat on a park bench in Golden, Colorado as the sun set, gnats barrel-rolled above the grass, and a cop yelled at kids rafting in Clear Creek, just beyond the “Creek Closed” sign.

I was reading a book called How To Write Short.

It was the perfect timing for the cop to yell.

The book’s author said to jot down great examples of short writing. This wasn’t exactly writing, but what the cop yelled made my list.

As the cop lowered his voice and the teenagers dealt out their apologies, stories, and excuses like cards from a playing deck, I lowered my gaze back…


You are always creating ripples — here’s how to make sure they’re not silently ruining your life.

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Photo by NON on Unsplash

In 2007, I sat at a table for dinner with maybe fifteen other people as we slowly revolved — slow enough to be unnoticed by some and fast enough to make others nauseous — counterclockwise to view the stale surroundings of Tampa International Airport.

Our group was eating on the top floor of the airport’s Marriott hotel in a revolving restaurant. I sat next to a world famous author and strength trainer, his wife, and other business people. As everyone chatted, I mostly stayed silent.

I could make the excuse that I was a good listener, but that would be a lie.

My shyness and low self-esteem were creeping over the back of my shoulder and around…


Put all business advice through this filter.

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Photo by Alex on Unsplash

My friend Wally and I coasted along 285 South in Denver, Colorado, on our way to embarrass ourselves spectacularly at Top Golf. Wally and I have been friends for over twelve years.

We’ve cheered each other on while riding our respective life roller-coasters, enjoying the rises, screaming through the plummets, and occasionally puking during the corkscrews. He had at least one kid while I went bankrupt. He had another kid before I landed a dream job. And we’ve shared notes on who got screwed worse during our respective home constructions.

We were officially beginning my two-day bachelor party — because why limit yourself to only one?

“It’s NateFest 2020,” Wally said. “See what that implies?”

“Yup!”…


Told by someone who owed over $183,000 and started paying back the debt $5 at a time

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Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Rex, his wife, another couple, my wife and I shared a big booth to celebrate our recent marriage. I called it a wedding aftershock party.

A few days earlier, the temperature had dropped more than 50 degrees to below freezing just in time for our outdoor mountain ceremony. The day after, it had rocketed back up. Short sleeves and air conditioning were back. So was talk about business, because, as owners or self-employed folk, we couldn’t help ourselves.

All the couples were sharing their origin stories, which included some struggles. …


Are you dumping your emotional energy into a bottomless pit?

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Photo by Stijn Swinnen on Unsplash

I grabbed the edges of the six-foot metal basket, bent my knees, leaned forward, and adjusted my alignment as if setting up a pool shot.

The basket probably weighed over 1000 pounds. Maybe close to 2000. I gave it a little push to test which way it rolled, stepped to the left six inches, bent down, and pushed again.

It was spring of 2014. I’d started a job at a textile warehouse. The company supplied dozens — maybe hundreds — of businesses in the Denver area with clean uniforms, soap, brooms, towels, and floor mats. That day, I was folding…


Some are better at hiding than others.

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Photo by Hiroshi Kimura on Unsplash

“He turned around, looked at me, and said, ‘I will rearrange your face.’”

Nina grabbed my leg and stretched it as she continued her story.

“But you know what? I was really proud of myself. He didn’t cock his arm back. I saw that. He wasn’t actually going to hit me. So I didn’t flinch.”

She pulled on my leg and spoke faster, words rattling out of her like a blender whose top had popped and the churning liquid had erupted.

“The next morning, he tried to pretend nothing had happened and said, ‘Good morning, honey bunny,’ but I didn’t let him pretend nothing happened. I called him out on it.”

She was talking about her live-in boyfriend. She was talking about my teacher.

More than…

Nate Rifkin

Was bankrupt. Now financially free. Was depressed. Now happy and fulfilled. Was figuring out how to change his life. Now writing how he did it.

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