12 Small Things I’ve Started Doing Just a Little Better

This is Not a Life Hack List

There’s nothing here that will make you different. No hidden secrets to an existence fulfilled. Or accessing your inner strength. They’re only a few tweaks I’ve made over the last months that are worth noting. Because little victories are still victories.

So here are 12 small things I now do just a little better.

Choose as you like.

1. Pick up the Trash

That’s not a euphemism. I literally mean pick up trash. From the ground. Credit my daughter for this one—she points out every piece of litter she sees. I’m proud we both know better than to muck up our surroundings in the first place. But now we take an active part in cleaning it.

Same thing with stray socks or hair balls around the house. (Secondary credit to our Roomba, who used to choke on Shopkins and shoelaces on a bi-weekly basis.)

Side note: It will surprise you how much this gets noticed. I got called a “good Samaritan” at work for picking up a fallen post-it, then thanked by a Publix employee for grabbing a coffee cup in their parking lot.

1A. Walk to the Recycle Bin

OK, so this is kind of similar, but I’m giving it its own subcategory. Essentially what I mean is, recycle more—it’s insanely easy. But like most people, if there wasn’t a blue bin in the room, I’d toss bottles & cans in the trash. Now I carry them out with me. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s usually a recycling bin on the other side of the door. You’re welcome, Mother Nature.

2. Take the Thank You’s

When people thank you for something, don’t downplay it. “No problem” and “don’t mention it” are improper responses. Acknowledge your contribution. Say “You’re welcome” or “happy to help.” You did something. They’re thanking you. Don’t minimize it.

3. Stop Saving Things for Special Occasions

I’ve got a perfect pen. Brushed silver with a gold clip, hefty weight, and it glides smooth as Tennessee whiskey. It was a groomsmen gift from my friend’s wedding. And I only use it for big occasions. My marriage license, house contracts and job offers were all signed with this pen.

I came across it the other day. Damn thing is dry. Best I can tell, I used it 6 times.

What a waste.

4. Delegate

I don’t need to do all the things. It’s OK to pass sometimes. And just because I know how to do something, or “it might be faster” if I do it (you know you’ve said that), doesn’t mean I should do it. There are very-capable people around me that can handle the work. Plus, I’ve got blog posts to write. Also, learning opportunity.

And speaking of learning…

5. Less Learning, More Doing

I love to learn about certain topics. I’ll watch videos, trainings and tutorials about writing and goaltending all day long. But ENOUGH! I’ve found myself watching 40-minute webcasts about things I learned years ago. I’m beyond that. The doing is far more important. Do or do not. There is no more learn… (Sorry for butchering Yoda.)

To clarify, I don’t mean stop all learning. I mean be selective. Cut yourself free from mailing lists you’ve outgrown. Recognize when you level-up.

6. Say No to Meetings

I once sat through a meeting I was invited to by typo. Turns out there are 2 people with my last name at work. Never. Again.

If you’re the most senior person in the room, you don’t need to be in the room. And if you’re not sure why you’re invited, decline. Or ask. Request an email recap of what you need to know.

This one makes your life better so fast.

7. Accept Help

Ever had your arms full and someone offers to grab something? And you say “No, I got it.”


“Yes, please” from now on.

8. Embrace the Public Poop

You’re in the stall, humbly checking your twitter feed, trying to keep quiet. Then some gastro-demon bursts into the pod next to you like the Kool-Aid man. While they splatter and plop without care, you sit, tight-cheeked & wide-eyed, trying not to make a sound. Except for a faint foot shuffle to let them know you’re there.

Or you’re on the pot, and some reluctant soul takes the stall next to you and neither of you can go. Like some kind of keester cake stand-off. Who can be quieter?

Kill that noise. Be the Kool-Aid man. If it’s high-noon at the B.M. Coral, draw first. Release the hounds. Win that duel.

9. Teach

I’ve heard that reading 6 books on a topic makes you an expert. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes you more knowledgeable than most.

Remember how I sat through all those trainings in tip #5? I know a lot of stuff. And I know more than some instructors. May as well teach.

I’ve led a few conversion writing lessons at work recently. It’s tremendous fun and they were well received. I don’t think of myself as an expert per se, but I’ve made a name for myself as the go-to specialist.

Bonus fact: there’s always room for good teachers. Also, I spelled “knowledgeable” wrong 5 different ways.

10. Help with Un-Fun Tasks

Giving someone a hand with chores goes a long way—and it comes back to you tenfold. Be a team player. You wind up building your own roster in the process. (Yay, sports analogy!) So grab a shovel and help your neighbor dig. Take a task from your coworker’s to-do list. They’ll return the favor.


11. Don’t Keep Score

Help because you want to. A good day’s work makes a great night’s sleep. So don’t track favors. Assist because you genuinely care.

12. Let it Go

I made a New Year’s resolution in 2007 to toss, recycle or donate at least 1 item per day. I started with outdated manuals and clothes. Next were old boxes and obsolete randoms. Then bigger things like furniture and “I-may-use-it-someday” items got chucked.

Best resolution I ever made.

Now I’m trying it with The Dark Side. Fear, anger, hate, suffering. Toss that shit. It clutters your life. Way more than those twin metal bed frames you’ve been storing. Just toss it. Cut it from your life. You’ll sleep better.

Literally (figuratively) pack it up, pack it in, let it begin.

So, What’s Changed?

Not a lot.

A lot of little?

I dunno, really…

None of these are big accomplishments. They’re small wins. But they make me feel better. So that’s kinda big…

…If not just a little.

And I’ll be awful sometimes
Weakened to my knees
And I’ll learn to get by
On the little victories
And if the world decides to catch up with me
Still little victories

— Matt Nathanson, Little Victories



Saying Goodbye To Ringling Bros. One Last Time

We went to the circus last week. Likely for the last time…

…Man, I hope I’m wrong about that.

After 133 years, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus is packing its tents. That’s profoundly sad for a guy whose son is named after P.T. Barnum.

Barnum was a man who made wonders. More specifically, he made you wonder. You knew his oddities couldn’t possibly be true, right? But still, what if

What if the Fiji Mermaid was real? Or the Cardiff Giant? Or Jenny Lind really was the greatest singer in the world even though you had never heard of her?

He was The Greatest Showman on Earth and he could make you question everything. He was never in it to trick you. He just wanted to make you wonder. He believed his cast’s stories were genuine. Because if he believed, he could make you believe. He could conscionably tell their stories with confidence. And you never left a show feeling like you’d been had.

Barnum collected wonders. He had a menagerie of oddities and he was kind to his staff—never exploiting them. Only showcasing their talents for as long as they wanted him to. They were his family. They were his friends. He never showed anyone against their will.

I am an animal lover. I support and donate to animal charities and have 2 rescue dogs. I understand PETA and I know circus animals have been mistreated. I don’t hold ill will toward activists for pressuring Ringling Bros. to remove the elephants—the straw which broke the proverbial camel’s back for ticket sales. But I was sad to see them go.

Call me naive, but I believe the majority of the circus love what they do and the animals they work with. And while I have no doubt that abuses have occurred, I don’t believe they are a frequent manifestation on today’s tour.

Depending on your age, you may be thinking about that unicorn. It’s worth noting that Ringling Bros. purchased Lancelot. Did genetic manipulation occur? Almost definitely. But not by the circus. They gave him a good run, a happy home and better care than he had on his previous renaissance fair circuit.

Would the animals would be happier in their natural habitat? Of course. You can say the same about zoo creatures. But I also know the joy they bring people—and me. And I know people who have worked with animals and truly loved them. Plus, there’s no guarantee they’ll go to their natural habitat. Or be taken care of as well as they are now. So you can argue either way.

I’ll miss the circus. It’s been an institution for generations and I’ve never left feeling like I’ve witnessed an atrocity. I always felt I saw incredibly talented performers at the peak of their career, loving the joy they bring to the crowd.

Last year, we took a picture with a clown.

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When we saw him again this year, Finn (short for Phineas Taylor, P.T. Barnum’s full name) recognized him immediately. He asked me to open the photo on my phone and ran over to show him. The clown smiled as big as the paint on his face. He hugged my son, told him it was great to see him again, and we took another photo.

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You can’t tell me that clown isn’t sad we can’t do it again next year.