Michael Thompson
Co-creator of 2 boys with my dream girl. Career coach. Join 35K others for career and relationship advice featured in places like Business Insider and Fast Co.

It took hitting rock bottom for me to learn the real meaning of success

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The phone rang. This was it, I thought. At last, all the years of struggle I’d endured were about to be worth it.

Growing up with a severe speech impediment and social anxiety, I had a very limited view of what I was capable of accomplishing. …


“I love the way you think.”

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Photo by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels

I received the ultimate “Can I pick your brain?” email. Quarantine had just begun here in Spain, but I was already feeling burned out from everyone’s initial infatuation with Zoom.

Is it cool if we just do an old-fashioned phone call?” I replied.

I’d prefer video,” the man immediately shot back. “There’s something cool I’d like to show you.

I wanted to insist, but after giving him a warning that my apartment wasn’t very big and I didn’t always get to chose when my youngest son cries, I gave in.

The next day, however, not even 5 minutes into our call, he asked to do a screen-share and tried to sell me on a product he was pushing. …


Don’t just watch speeches, dissect them

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Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

Growing up with a severe speech impediment and social anxiety, I was terrified of meeting new people. That changed, however, when at the age of 23 I took a sales job to overcome this fear.

At the time I didn’t have any intention of staying in the job for long. My plan was to simply get in front of as many people as I could in the short-term to learn how to better connect with people in the future.

As I expected, for the first months on the job I got hung up on countless times each day. Then, something surprised me: I fell into a groove. Later that year, I broke into the Top 10 of a triple-digit salesforce, and shortly thereafter I was promoted to management where I went on to train all new hires. …


I should have done this ages ago

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unsplash

When my wife and I had our first child I needed to find a hobby that didn’t involve leaving the house for hours at a time. After realizing I didn’t have a knack for putting together IKEA baby furniture, one day I made the decision to try and publish an article a week.

As someone who didn’t have any writing experience, I had zero expectations going into it. …


If you walk long enough, you’ll arrive

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Photo by Jordan Niranjan on Unsplash

Every week I get a few emails asking for writing advice — especially from people who don’t have the time or desire to publish an article every day of the week and 37 on Sunday.

With two young kids and bills to pay, I try to answer most messages I get. But writing isn’t my only job and I don’t move as quickly as some other people. Plus, I don’t see the point in spending my time — or more importantly, wasting someone else’s time — by writing a bunch of fast replies to big questions.

That being said, before I get into a few pieces of writing advice that have worked for me when it comes to moving fast by writing slowly, below’s a bit of my backstory. …


Here’s what they said

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Photo by Crypto Crow from Pexels

As an American living in Spain, it didn’t take me long to realize that most Europeans aren’t massive fans of the self-help world. In fact, the majority of my friends loathe it with the same intensity as they do most politicians.

For the longest time, to avoid the punches in the gut, I kept the dirty secret that I was pumping out self-help articles on a weekly basis to myself. But two years ago, after an article went viral, I came clean and I told my buddies about my little hobby.

At first, their comments stung and they couldn’t believe I was funding my life by telling other people how to live theirs. But over time I leaned into it and each week I began sending them not only my own articles but also those of my fellow self-help writing friends. …


There’s a lot to gripe about. Here’s how to complain more productively.

A woman complains to her boyfriend while watching a movie on a laptop.
A woman complains to her boyfriend while watching a movie on a laptop.
Photo: FluxFactory/E+/Getty Images

A while back, when in-person gatherings were still a thing, my wife and I were hanging out with a couple we hadn’t seen in a while. When we said our goodbyes, I immediately began grumbling about how much they complained about everything.

My wife just looked at me in confusion. “Are you listening to yourself?” she asked.

Oh.

The average person complains between 15 to 30 times a day, according to Will Bowen, the author of The Complaint-Free World. Complaining is normal — we’re emotional creatures, and especially these days, the world seems to be giving us a lot to complain about.


We have a life, not a career

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Photo by Fernando @cferdo on Unsplash

I walked out of the meeting feeling eight feet tall. For the previous two and a half years I’d been fighting to turn my side-gig into my main job and the freshly-inked contract in my backpack signified all the hard work had been worth it.

However, that indescribable feeling of having your dreams turn into reality was short-lived.

Later that night, while eating celebratory pizza and ice cream with my wife and our two kids, out of the blue my heart began to race and my palms began to gush with sweat. Realizing something was obviously wrong, I excused myself from the table and stepped out on our terrace to get some air. …


4. Arguing with your boss in the shower

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Pexels

As the father of 2 young kids who sleep as much as most start-up founders, my morning routine is pretty weak.

That being said, most days after dodging dinosaurs and spending a few minutes picking Oatmeal out of my hair, I usually feel pretty good.

A T-Rex-sized reason for this is because I’ve stopped beating myself up for not being as productive in the mornings as some of my more well-oiled self-help counterparts. Instead, I’ve focused on eliminating a few habits that weren’t doing me any good.

Sometimes, not always, the best way to add value to your life is by looking for things you can subtract. …


Nothing kills progress faster than indecision

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The Lazy Artist Gallery

Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked across three different continents either growing my own businesses or helping other people to grow theirs. Through these experiences, as well as being a mentor at various business accelerators and a career coach, I’ve had a front-row seat to observe the behaviors of those who have the courage to go after what they want and those who keep allowing dust to build on top of their dreams.

I could write a book about these experiences, and maybe one day I will. …


You know something other people don’t

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Unsplash

“What on earth are you talking about?” my mother-in-law shot me a cold stare across the dining room table. “You have a family to think about! You can’t just flip a switch and make money online! A job at a bank is much more stable! Why not just teach English? There will always be schools!”

I tried to defend my actions and assure her everything would be okay so we could both get back to enjoying the delicious lamb she had made.

But the truth of the matter is that I too had a million doubts. Despite a few small wins with some of my articles, at the time I still hadn’t figured out a way to turn views into consistent income. And I certainly hadn’t thought of a way to earn enough to support two kids without being stressed out. …


Observations from 42 trips around the sun

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Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

I’ve never sat down to count the countries I’ve been to or the cities I lived in. But combine getting bitten early with the travel bug as a military brat and working across three continents over the last 20 years, I’m fortunate to have gotten to know many different kinds of people from many parts of the world.

While writing an article about how to attract beautiful people into our lives, I found myself thinking about these experiences and what true beauty looks like.

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder as we each are attracted to and value different things. That being said, no matter where I was living, or what I was doing, the people who demonstrate the 5 traits below best represent true beauty to me personally. …


A key insight from someone who’s woken up 15,376 times

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Pexels

Like most 42 year-olds, I’ve woken up over 15,000 times. Like most 42 year-olds also, especially those with kids, whenever I see an article about how to dominate the day by embracing a morning routine, I yawn.

But despite my aversion to structure and love of all things snooze, a few years ago the fear, stress, or downright panic I felt immediately upon waking up began to be intolerable. So I finally gave in and started tinkering with ways to kick off the day on a more positive note.

Yes, you should make your bed as it serves as a reminder that you are the type of person who takes care of their environment. …


Focus on what you can control and silence the rest

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Photo by Jade Masri on Unsplash

After thanking the man for his time, I hung up the phone and turned to my roommate who was laid out beside me on the couch and said, “It looks like you’re officially the only person in the house without a job. …


You’re worth getting to know

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Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

When asked by Larry King what skill people should most focus on to be successful, serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk replied without hesitation — “Self-awareness.

Yet, when Larry dug in for ways people can better develop or teach this skill, Gary again replied quickly — “I don’t know. But I know it’s important.

At first, I was taken aback. If Gary thought honing this skill was such a crucial ingredient for success, how come he couldn’t provide any practical tips for improvement?

After taking a moment to think about Gary’s response, however, his answer made perfect sense: Gary didn’t have any advice to share because it wasn’t a skill he had to personally work hard to improve. …


Embrace the “Invert”

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This past February marks the 10th year I’ve lived in Catalunya. When I look back at pictures of myself from before I moved here from the US compared to now, I feel like I’m looking at an entirely different person.

Not only have I managed to keep off the 60 pounds I lost during the first few months of living here. But in some photos, I actually look like I’m smiling without having to fake it.

Not drinking has played a role in this. The same goes for quitting smoking. …


Good things happen when we stop trying to be cool

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“What are you up to this weekend? Maybe we can hang out?”

What do normal people do in situations like this? Blink? I tried to keep blinking. But as I wrote down the number of the woman standing in front of me, my visibly shaking hands made it pretty clear that I was a 10 out of 10 on the frazzled scale.

“Sorry about that. I haven’t had a drink yet today,” I joked.

“Don’t worry,” she replied with a smile. “I’m nervous also. I never thought the first person I’d ever ask out would be an American giving a seminar at my office. …


If you aren’t fighting to stay intellectually alive, you’re wasting your time

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I walked into the lobby of our hotel and sat down in the first open chair I could find. Then in the angriest voice, my exhausted ass could muster, I turned to my dad and said, “I just missed my son’s first birthday for absolutely nothing.”

I’d flown down to Central America for the fourth time in as many years to attend a court trial regarding a costly mess I’d gotten myself into years earlier. …


Life is just better when you want to see others win

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Photo: ljubaphoto/Getty Images

I began my morning feeling good. I had just finished getting my kids dressed and fed, and had no other tasks standing between me and the workday ahead. I was energized. I was ready to be productive.

And then I opened up Facebook.

The post jumped out at me immediately: Someone in my network had shared a story they’d written that had gone viral. They were being flooded with opportunities and getting all sorts of recognition. …


All progress is made in the present

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The Red Fisher King

“Holy Shit!” Liam, our five-year-old screamed. “Holy Shit!” Luc, his parrot-like little brother echoed.

My wife and I had hoped after spending 3 months without seeing a single blade of grass, the sun and sea would burn off some of our kid's pent up lockdown energy.

But that’s not exactly how things played out. Not even thirty minutes after we packed up our car and made the hour drive to a quaint little fishing village on the coast for a “work-cation”, our kid’s excitement had reached a whole new level.

After giving an apologetic nod to the lone person on the beach who didn’t look too pleased to see children, I made the 10-meter wade towards the rock they were sitting on to see what was up. …


A lesson in social courage from Malcolm Gladwell.

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On March 2nd, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain did the unthinkable: the Philadelphia Wizards big man scored 100 points during a single basketball game. Not only was this something that most people deemed impossible at the time. But 60 years later it’s one of the few sports records that many people think will never be broken.

To put Wilt’s feat into perspective, in the history of basketball the only person to ever score more than 80 points in a single game was when the late Kobe Bryant went on a tear and dropped 81 points in 2006.

So what was in Wilt’s water that night? Was it laced with luck? …


Courtesy of de-escalation expert, George J. Thompson

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Photo by Frank Busch on Unsplash

When it comes to both relationships and communication, I never would have imagined that the most valuable book I’d ever read would be written by a cop.

But the late George J. Thompson — aka “Doc Rhino” — wasn’t just any cop. The man was seriously accomplished and the true definition of a “Warrior Poet.”

Prior to joining the force, the talented martial artist — holding a Black Belt in both Judo and Taekwando — taught English at both the high-school and university level before receiving his post-doctorate from Princeton in rhetoric and persuasion.

Due to his love of education, martial arts, persuasion, and law enforcement, George created the only true Tactical Communication Course in the world which would later go on to form the work he is most known for — his book “Verbal Judo.” …


Schedule your free time first

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Like most people who have been working for 20 years, my career has been full of some pretty great moments and some pretty awful ones.

After graduating from college and spending 9 months slinging colorful drinks in poorly lit Baltimore bars, I finally landed a job at a company my parents weren’t embarrassed to tell their friends about.

Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long. Not even a year into the job I made a mistake that cost the company much more money than what they were paying me.

Being canned from my first real business job was a blow to my already shaky confidence. But this time I didn’t stay down for very long. …


“Forget the long-term. Excellence is the next five minutes or nothing at all.” — Tom Peters

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freepik

“What in the world are you reading? The 4-Hour-Workweek? Really? You’d be a lot better off if you gave Tim Ferriss a break and picked up a book from Tom Peters instead.”

My dad said the words above to me over a decade ago right before I packed up my bags and moved to Barcelona. Like most of his advice at that point in my life, I let his words go straight in one ear and right out the other.

A few years later, however, my dad forwarded me a video from Tom Peters about how to conduct yourself during a recession. …


Your words matter

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Miguelangel Miquelena on Unsplash

A little less than four years ago, I sat down and wrote my first blog post on a horribly designed WordPress site. At the time, the idea of becoming a professional writer wasn’t even on my radar. Sitting down each day to write was simply something I realized was fun and it helped me to better organize my thoughts.

Today, by writing an article or two a week, I can easily support my family of four. Below are the seven things that allowed me to move from having no idea I could write to making a decent living doing it.


Thing #1: The Spark

My wife and I were walking to a secluded beach in Menorca, Spain, when we heard another couple speaking English. …

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