A Pause: Looking Back to Look Forward


After two years of starting this blogging journey, I’ve decided to take a pause. This project started out with the goal of developing a writing practice, a space to explore fulfillment and a hope to connect with others on a similar journey.

I can confidently say I’ve accomplished all three of these goals. What’s been surprising from this journey is that this blog went from being the only outlet that helped me achieve those ends to one of several.

With that said, I want to take time to reflect on the body of work I’ve created over the past two years and determine what’s next. While I enjoy the weekly writings, I want to explore these topics on a level deeper than what I can achieve on a weekly basis.

I look forward to sharing more as my journey progresses. Until that day, I wish you all the best and hope you continue to enjoy the ride.

Much Love (and more to come)

When It Counts

I’ve always been curious about my strengths and why they matter. Normally, though, I ponder this through the perspective of my professional life. In this part of my life I’m constantly measured and assessed. In my experience, the more aware I am of my strengths, the more I consciously lean on them to help me reach the necessary outcome.

One such strength I have is a high attention to detail. This strength has helped me succeed in my professional career in countless ways. Yet, it wasn’t until a recent experience in my personal life that I realized that my strengths don’t exist in silos.

My wife and I got our oldest daughter a new bike as an early birthday present. The bike came pre-assembled. Yet, when we arrived with it at home, I took the time to inspect the assembly. I found several screws that needed to be adjusted and tightened. I read through the manual to ensure it’d be set up to my daughter’s specifications.

Midway through this process, I became aware that I was utilizing my strength of attention to detail in a different context than what I normally view it in. What was curious about this is that I just did it. I didn’t stop to think about which strength had the most utility for the situation at hand.

I just did it without thinking about its utility. I realized that this strength isn’t something I utilize in one facet of my life, but it’s innate. It permeates beyond any individual identity.

This realization showed me that strengths aid us when we care about the task or outcome at hand. Our strengths help us when it counts.

The true realization, however, is that what counts doesn’t happen in one silo of life. Until we integrate our whole self, until we acknowledge we are defined by an amalgam of multiple identities, we won’t be able to apply the lessons from one domain or identity to another.

This is the true beauty of knowing yourself. It’s coming to see the multiple facets of your identity as complementary rather than individually. Like a symphony working in harmony to transcend, the whole becomes greater than its parts.

Rest and The Four Factors of Recovery

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been diving into the idea of rest ethic- the yin to work ethic’s yang.

My assertion has been that excellent work is the result of balancing rest and relaxation as much as time spent actively engaged in the work. The type of creative work that stretches us and provides growth is only achieved through the tension and interplay between time on and time off.

Most people are really good at being on, at grinding their work ethic down to the bone. Time off, however, requires a different sort of skills. While these skills can be learned, many of us have avoided honing them as a result of the short-term rewards that come from being in a culture that glorifies hustle and always being on or available. But, like any skill, rest and recovery can be learned. And like a muscle, the more you engage it, the stronger it gets.

To be clear, effective, deliberate rest is different from zoning out and watching TV or scrolling through social media.

Rest and recovery is intentional. It is a commitment to making more time for rest, which also has direct benefits to your work. This type of self-imposed time constraint forces you to focus on what’s essential. You realize the true value of your time beyond it being a currency to exchange for money. Instead, it becomes something more valuable to you, something to invest intentionally into what you deem most meaningful.

The Four Factors of Recovery

As described in the book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, recovery is made up of four key factors.

The first factor of recovery requires you engage in such a way that it allows your mind and body to wind down.

The second factor of recovery involves deciding how we spend our time and attention.

Many factors in our life are beyond our control and can be stressful and distracting further draining your energy and creativity. In order to balance this, it’s worth having a practice that allows you to have an element of control in your rest. The pursuit of types of rest activities are within your control – you could cook, or paint, or make music. Choose something that allows you to decide how to spend your time, energy and attention.

The third factor of recovery requires you to be challenged enough to get into a flow state.

Even activities within our control don’t necessarily mean they’ll be easy. Learning to play an instrument or writing are examples of this. This is what makes them good rest activities because active rest requires experiences that allow us to pursue mastery – they are both challenging and mentally engaging enough that they allow us to enter flow states. Mastery experiences become so engaging and demanding that they force everything out of our mind, leaving no space for us to obsess over work.

The fourth factor explains why it’s important to be so absorbed in our rest that we forget about work.

Our ability to put work completely out of our mind and focus on other things is necessary for mental and physical recovery

Sabine Sonnentag, a professor of Work and Organizational Psychology, in a study on the importance of detachment wrote:

Empirical research has shown that employees who experience more detachment from work during off-hours are more satisfied with their lives and experience fewer symptoms of psychological strains, without being less engages while at work.

The most creative and productive workers are those who can unplug entirely from work

Our first step to building our rest ethic is to take rest seriously.

We must recognize its importance and our right to rest. We must carve time out for rest and protect it as judiciously as we do work time. One way to achieve this is deciding ahead of time when you’ll stop working. Ernest Hemingway was known for leaving his work unfinished mid-sentence at the end of each day so he could get a hot start the next day. Stopping at the right time requires a level of self-awareness.

The easiest first step is to develop a ritual to transition between work and home (especially in our prevalent remote work culture). It doesn’t matter what you choose but rather that you start and do it consistently. For example, I have a set time I stop every day, refuse to respond to emails after-hours, and transition from work to rest by taking a 20 minute walk outdoors. However, you could transition your day by writing out your to-do’s for the next day, journaling and reflecting on your day and lessons learned, or spend 30 minutes engaged in a creative pursuit.

My challenge to you is that you start by taking rest as seriously as work. Like many of the best things in life, rest and recovery require intentionality, discipline and commitment.

How will you give yourself the space and permission to hone your rest ethic this week?

Enjoy the ride,

Creativity: Where Work and Rest Ethic Collide

Last week I wrote about my shift in thinking regarding work ethic and time. This week, I’ll share how that shift in thinking has strengthened my creative muscle (and why it can for you too).

But first, it’s important to define the creative process. To do that, we’ll borrow the definition from Graham Wallas’ book, titled “The Art of Thought.” Though published in 1926, his definition stands the test of time. The Creative Process, according to Wallas, has four distinct stages:

  1. Preparation – where you sit down and do the hard work
  2. Incubation – where you allow your conscious mind to focus elsewhere, either by resting or on another task
  3. Illumination – when you arrive at highly sought-after aha moment
  4. Verification – where you do more work to confirm your revelation has merit

What this framework shows us is that creativity is nothing more than a balance between two tensions – work ethic and rest ethic, time on (Preparation and Verification) and time off (Incubation and Illumination), Chronos and Kairos.

In the past, I often only focused on the Preparation stage of creativity. This is where the hustle takes place. Yet, since rethinking time and rest ethic, I’ve come to see that it’s not the only step and doesn’t lead to the breakthroughs I’d hoped for.

Setting work aside allows our conscious mind to rest and focus elsewhere. Incubation in our subconscious happens when we give ourselves space and distance from the problem at hand. This can happen when we immerse ourselves in high-quality leisure, like time in nature or deep work on another unrelated problem.

If you’re like me and revered the hustle, the mind shift to slow down and create space for creativity feels blasphemous. It’s easy to naively believe that incubation will just happen eventually or when we find time. This is nothing more than magical thinking. We must make time for it, we must be intentional with it. This is why a good rest ethic is essential.

Happy ideas come unexpectedly without effort, like an inspiration. So far as I am concerned, they have never come to me when my mind was fatigued, or when I was at my working table…they came particularly readily during the slow ascent of wooded hills on a sunny day.

Graham Wallas

Rest is a fundamental factor in the creative process. The type of creative work that’s required of most knowledge workers (that’s most of us) is not linear or additive. The amount of time put into the work does not correlate to the breakthrough insight we hope to achieve.

A mastery of the creative process is a necessary skill for anyone who hopes to do great work. Creativity requires constant unlearning (another reason it’s important to hone your learning and growth practice). The creative process is inherently destructive. It requires us to break things – to go against the status quo. Exploration is the means by which we develop a greater willingness to break things.

In order to tap into the creative process, we must take a disciplined, yet balanced, approach between our work ethic and rest ethic.

Here’s hoping you’re taking the time to develop your own rest ethic. And as usual, make sure you enjoy the ride!

Much love,

Rethinking Time and The Other Half of Work Ethic

In America, men often work long hours even when they are already well-off: such men, naturally, are indignant to the idea of leisure for wage-earners except as the grim punishment of unemployment

Bertrand Russell

Last week, I wrote about why an openness to unlearn or rethink what you know is central to learning and growth. In doing so, I decided to reflect on ideas I had to rethink that contributed to significant growth in my own life.

Like many high-performing, high-achievers, I was singularly focused on hustling, on reaching that next level of success. Every achievement reached became nothing more than an opportunity to find the next challenge. As far as I was concerned, this was just part of having a strong work ethic – hustle now and rest when you’re dead.

But, burnout always came. I even began to normalize it and convinced myself that this was my “normal” rhythm – work obsessively until I no longer could and then hope that the forced recovery would be quick so I could get back to hustling. Rest became nothing more than something to overcome so I could get back to work.

Yet, the more I read about the world’s best and most prolific performers (whether it be in sports, business, or other domains), I found that a strong drive and work-ethic was only half of the puzzle.


A strong work ethic is important. It allows us to make, execute, coordinate, manage, attain, plan and, overall, get things done.

But, there is an upper limit to our work ethic – one I became all too familiar with in my antiquated way of approaching work. A singular focus on work is precisely what lead to burn out. Work, instead, must be balanced with rest. But, rest should not be something we do when we’re forced to. Like a strong work ethic, it must be cultivated intentionally and in a disciplined manner.

A disciplined rest ethic is essential because it gifts us with inspiration, ideas and recovery. It creates space to build enthusiasm and sustain passion on a project. A disciplined rest ethic strengthens your work ethic and vice versa.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier (Founders of Basecamp) provide one of the better definitions of work ethic in their book “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.”

A great work ethic isn’t about working whenever you’re called upon. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do, putting in a fair day’s work, respecting the work, respecting the customer, respecting coworkers, not wasting time, not creating unnecessary work for other people, and not being a bottleneck

What their definition makes clear is that working until the point of exhaustion or burnout is not necessary nor guarantees quality work. A good work ethic is defined by the quality of the work, not the quantity or busywork.


This struggle between work and rest is one that is not new. In fact, the ancient Greeks had two distinct words to symbolize these ideas.

Chronos was the personification of time. More specifically, measured time. In modern times, this is the distinction of time we frequently worship.

However, time has different qualities to it.

When you are on a three hour date with someone you love, time flies by. Compare that to sitting in a three hour lecture or a three hour conference call (may God have mercy on your soul). Time crawls by slowly, painfully even. The Chronos time doesn’t change, it’s still three hours. Kairos time, however is much different – it flys versus crawls. Chronos represents the quantity of time. Kairos represents the quality of time.

Our obsession with Chronos time has resulted in an obsession on how we spend our time, which we then conflate by letting it define who we are. We come to believe that if you’re hardworking you are worthy of admiration and respect, while someone who avoids work is lazy or contemptible. In short, how we spend our time becomes a value judgment.

This belief seeps into our unconscious and drives us to constantly fill our days with busyness and leads us to overwork and constant stress. We find ourselves living a paradox – we grind ourselves down to protect our dignity and self-worth but find ourselves hating our job or the work. While logically this is nothing more than mental gymnastics, if the story we tell ourselves is that work builds character, the more we hate the work, the better it is for our self-worth. A singular focus on Chronos allows us to develop a sense of dignity and self-importance because we hate our jobs.

Our culture worships busyness more than ever. We find ourselves more stressed out, more burned out and busier than ever – but no more productive for it. We equate these states too often with accomplishment rather than seeing them as a detriment to work itself.

The problem, as Cal Newport sees it in his book Deep Work, is that productive deep work, which results in creative and innovative outcomes, is challenging to quantify for the majority of knowledge workers. Rather, we default to “busyness” as the benchmark of productivity. It’s easier to measure busyness. Further, it sets the bar low for what’s defined as an accomplishment without having to get much done at all.

Simply put, by focusing exclusively on Chronos, we maintain a busy existence by focusing our accomplishments on what’s easily measured so we can point to something that justifies our work ethic and ultimately our identity.

Next week, I’ll continue to explore other ideas I’ve had to rethink or unlearn in order to deepen my growth.

I’m curious to know what ideas have you had to rethink or relearn that had a significant impact on your life?

I’ll leave you with another quote by Bertrand Russell that sums up the lesson nicely:

“There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.”

To Learn, You Must Be Willing to Unlearn

I walked into the room and introduced myself as the Hospital Magician. The teenage boy gave a nod of the head and motioned me in, indicating his interest in seeing some magic. I could tell by the look on his face that he felt confident about his ability to not be fooled and figure out how I did whatever trick I was about to perform.

I pulled out a deck of cards and a Sharpie.

The first words out of his mouth were “I know how you do this trick” in a tone of absolute certainty.

Without missing a beat, I responded, “You must be really sharp, most people don’t know how this is done.” And continued on. I redirected his attention by having him pick a card from the deck and had him sign his name on it with the Sharpie.

Next, I asked him to focus closely on the Sharpie in my hand.

With his attention focused on the Sharpie, I held the card he had signed in my other hand and proceeded to penetrate the card with the Sharpie. As the Sharpie slid effortlessly through the center of his card, surprise washed over his face and his eyes went wide.

I removed the Sharpie and had him examine his signed card with no damage to show for it.

With wonder still showing on his face, he exclaimed, “I do NOT know how you did that!”

I love this story because it represents a key lesson about learning.

In order to grow, you must be willing to change or rethink your beliefs. You must maintain a posture of humility and acknowledge that there is much you may not know. In my experience, the more you peel back the layers on a topic for a deeper look, the more you realize your baseline knowledge on the topic is insignificant in comparison to the total body of knowledge that exists.

When you approach learning from a posture of curiosity, this realization creates awe and wonder and propels you forward while maintaining space for humility of knowing that there is much you don’t know.

If you’re unwilling to change your mind or stubbornly hold onto beliefs with steadfast conviction, you smother curiosity and any future prospects of rethinking what you know.

Even worse, you stifle future moments to experience awe, wonder and growth.

My challenge to you is to explore something in your life worth re-thinking. It may not change what you think, but what’s important is that you’re willing revisit what you think you know with curiosity and an open-mind.

Wishing you the best on your continued journey of growth. Enjoy the Ride!


Treat Yo Self

“People try to get away from it all – to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like. By going within. Nowhere you go is more peaceful – more free of interruptions – than your own soul”

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Last year I started a new tradition – I chose to take the week of my birthday off. The idea was to spend that time doing things that recharge me and to remove distractions so I could connect with myself.

At first, it felt a bit excessive. I could easily understand the need to take a day off, but taking a whole week for myself seemed a bit too self-indulgent (in retrospect, it’s curious to examine the source of this guilty feeling).

Nevertheless, it turned out to be one of the most tranquil and self-affirming experiences I’ve had in recent years. Doing it around my birthday made it easy to justify as an opportunity to celebrate me.

And now as I head into my birthday week, I continue the tradition. I’m taking the week off and celebrating me. I’m “escaping” by going within and spending time with myself.

When we take time for ourselves, we should not think of it as “lazy” or “self-indulgent” or “as a means with no end.” Rather, it is an expression of our commitment to know ourself, to deepen our connection with ourselves.

No one else is going to give you permission for this, which is precisely why you must be intentional about it. Perhaps, you don’t need the full week of your birthday, but can you take a day or two for just yourself?

In a world that’s constantly moving, it’s on us to create the space needed to slow down and enjoy life in its simplest form.

It is only through stillness that we can get closer to knowing who we are. And I’d argue, knowing who you are is the greatest project of your life.

Cheers! Here’s hoping you find ways to celebrate and love who you are in your own way.

Enjoy the Ride,

An Exercise in Learning to Enjoy the Ride

Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions – not outside.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

As part of my search for fulfillment and meaning, I’ve been making a point to have deeper conversations with friends, co-workers, and others who’ve achieved success. It’s been through these conversations that I’ve noticed many of us share similar struggles. They come in many forms – anxiety, worry, fear of failure, feelings of unworthiness. But at the core, the pattern is the same, we all suffer due to a desire for control.

We want to be in control of our future, of outcomes, of how others perceive us or how the world should operate.

This need for control is a uniquely human experience. It’s a way for us to reduce the dissonance we experience when confronted with our own finiteness.

In my own experience, my suffering is often nothing more than my inability to accept this lack of control with grace and wisdom.

As such, I’m intentionally learning to better manage this existential quandary. At the heart of it, my hope is that by focusing effort only on what is within my control, I can unlock a wellspring of peace and stillness in my day-to-day.

What follows is an exercise I’ve been doing to help build this muscle (the source of which can be found in The Zone of Genius, Gay Hendricks’ follow up to the Big Leap).

  • Step 1: Whenever you feel discomfort in your mind/body, pause to notice it.
  • Step 2: Stop to wonder “what am I trying to control that’s actually not within my power to control?” If insight presents itself, great. However, if it doesn’t, graciously accept that it will eventually come. Stopping to wonder is the important part.
  • Step 3: Formerly declare it is outside your control. “I consciously let go of trying to control it, whatever “it” is.” If you gained insight in Step 2, insert it into the declaration, such as “I consciously let go of trying to control whether clients like me or not.”
  • Step 4: Think of a positive action you can take immediately. This should be something you consciously have control over. Take the action.
  • Step 5: Memorialize the moment by pausing to enjoy the feeling of relief and clarity that comes from letting go of trying to change the unchangeable.

Here’s what it looked like in practice for me this past week. During a rather hectic day at work, my email inbox grew at a rate faster than I could manage. My anxiety began to spike at the idea of having to handle the burgeoning workload. This anxiety morphed into anger at people for demanding so much of me.

  • I took a moment to notice this feeling of unease.
  • I stopped to wonder and realized that I was trying to control external demands.
  • I formerly declared “I consciously let go of trying to control the demands others make of me.
  • I looked at the priority list I had set earlier in the day and recommitted to complete the next item on the list.
  • I took a deep breath of relief and applauded myself for acknowledging that my distress was due to trying to change the unchangeable.

This may be but a small example but it’s in these small moments that we can learn to take life as it comes rather than as we wish it were. It is the sum of these moments that we train ourselves to enjoy the ride rather than need to control it.

The Mirror

In the process of reflecting to uncover my Zone of Genius, I realized I worry a lot.

This behavior is one I’ve identified that keeps me out of my Zone of Genius. This awareness has made me curious to try and understand what I get from doing it and what it costs me.

The answer to those questions are becoming clearer.

One key insight I’ve learned is that when I worry, it’s never really about the thing I’m worrying about. The worrying is nothing more than the manifestation of a deeper internal conflict. For me, worrying tends to reflect the helplessness I feel when I cannot control outcomes.

This awareness has helped me notice the physical and mental states that overcome me – the racing thoughts, the rumination, the tightness in my chest, a scarcity mindset, the victim mentality – when I give too much agency to externalities.

These realizations have helped me deepen my self-awareness and recognize that feelings of discomfort (like worrying) are often a mirror – they reflect more so my inability to live into my values than the thing itself.

When I’m short with my daughter for not being able to control her anger, it’s less about her and more about my inability to manage my own anger. She’s just reflecting what she’s seen.

When I get frustrated at a coworker who is ill-prepared for a client meeting, it’s less about the co-worker’s performance and more about how I could’ve set clearer expectations of what success looks like.

The feelings of overwhelm I experience when the workload is too much is less about the organization I work for and more my inability to set clear boundaries or take ownership of saying “no”.

This isn’t to say that others don’t have responsibility for their own actions, it’s more so a mental-framework to remind me that I cannot control them. Spending time ruminating on the outcome is counterproductive and narrowly focuses on external factors.

Learning to be mindful of these uncomfortable emotions has helped me reframe the picture and look inward instead of outward. This awareness has helped me see the pattern of my suffering is mostly self-manufactured.

And now, when I experience difficult emotions, I’m more likely to pause and imagine them as a mirror. I ask myself, “what are you trying to show me about myself?

Our ability to live into our Zone of Genius is limited by our ability to know ourselves – not so we can self-criticize but, rather, so we can acknowledge where we are in the journey and compassionately move towards growth.

Wishing you all the courage you need to hold up your own mirror. It may not be easy but it’s important work worth doing. Enjoy the ride!

– Diego

Uncovering Your Zone of Genius

I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, as I inspire those around me to do the same

Zone of Genius Central Guiding Mantra

Last week I discussed the four zones we operate in as described in The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks – the zone of incompetence, the zone of competence, the zone of excellence and the zone of genius.

Since reading the book earlier this year, I found the idea of discovering my Zone of Genius pulling at me like the moon does to the tides. There was something inside of me that knew this was worth taking the time to discover. Doing so felt like the next right step in my continued journey to discover what makes for a fulfilling life.

In this post I’ll share with you the Genius questions posed in the book to help you discover your own Zone of Genius. If you find this intriguing, I recommend you pick up the book as it goes into a bit more detail. I will say though, digging into the questions is worth the work and the insights I gleaned have been valuable.

The Genius Questions

There are a set of four questions that help you uncover your Zone of Genius. They build upon each other, so I recommend you go through each in sequential order.

Genius Question No. 1

  • What do I most love to do? (I love it so much I can do it for long stretches of time without getting tired or bored).

Genius Question No. 2
This second question builds on the “What I most love” question into something more concrete.

  • What work do I do that doesn’t seem like work? (I can do it all day long without ever feeling tired or bored).

Genius Question No 3.
This third question forces you to think about where your heart and mind meet.

  • In my work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction to amount of time spent? (Even if I do only ten seconds or a few minutes of it, an idea or a deeper connection may spring forth that leads to huge value)

Whatever you come up with, you’ll find some essential part of the work you do that produces the greatest payoff. Whatever it may be, try to put the highest priority on doing some of it every day. That means, if something has the highest priority, you train yourself to do it first.

Genius Question No 4.
The forth question opens you up to think of yourself in terms of accepting you have a unique and priceless ability you carry within yourself. It is not about self-aggrandizing or giving yourself an ego boost. Rather, it’s a humbled exploration of your innermost qualities and how to apply that quality to make your life and the lives of others more valuable. An important distinction to make though is that this ability is not unique in the whole world. There are probably millions of others who have it. However, it’s usually unique in your particular circle or work setting.

  • What is my unique ability? (There’s a special skill I’m gifted with. This unique ability, fully realized and put to work, can provide enormous benefits to me and any organization I serve).
  • Some additional prompts to help you dig into what your unique ability are as follows:
    • I’m at my best when I’m____________.” Once you have a good general statement move on to the next question.
    • Go deeper into this general statement by taking a closer look. Ask yourself: “When I’m at my best, the exact thing I’m doing is__________.
    • Go one step deeper by asking yourself: “When I’m doing that, the thing I love most about it is____________.

Diego’s Zone of Genius

For those of you that like to see what the output of this could look like, I’ve provided my own Zone of Genius for reference (attained with the help of wonderful human/friend/coach Robbie Swale).

My Zone of Genius is when I am being the “hospital magician.” I am the conduit through which collaboration takes place and is shared with others in order to create a sense of wonder and awe. I am engaged fully in the present and reacting to what’s in front of me rather than what should be. I lead from a posture of curiosity, openness and playfulness. When I am in my Zone of Genius, my intent is to help others expand their perspective and see the world differently – to see the potential in how wonderful life can be and plant the seed that the richness of life is cultivated from within.

Signs that I am NOT in my Zone of my Genius include:

  • Scarcity or fear-based mindset
  • Taking life too serious and letting it feel too weighty
  • Self-focused or worried too much about what others will think
  • Ruminate over what’s over the horizon or obsessing over some future outcome
  • Too much focus on being right versus getting it right
  • A perspective that focuses more on what I lack than what I have

I hope you find this journey into discovering your Zone of Genius as fulfilling as I’ve enjoyed it.

As usual, much love and make sure you take time to enjoy the ride!