Why Thinking Big Can Be Terrible Advice

I subscribe to a magazine called Robb Report. If you are unfamiliar with this magazine, it is aimed at a wealthier demographic…like, really wealthier. It showcases articles about buying yachts and luxury real estate and $40,000 watches and $6,000 sweaters. In short, it’s all about living large.

To be clear, I haven’t reached those heights of income and lavish spending thus far in my life's journey. Nor do I aspire to it necessarily. The question begs then, why do I subscribe to this magazine?

Two reasons. First, in my role as a marketer, I am constantly looking at other advertising for ideas, copy, new angles, and offers that others are making. In high end magazines such as Robb Report it is relatively expensive to advertise so those who do so are very good at what they do. I use their work as inspiration and to spark my imagination. There is a practical utility to this exercise.

Secondly however, I read Robb Report to remind myself of what is possible. I use it to enlarge my own vision of the world and what it has to offer. It sometimes shines a spotlight on my own small thinking and serves as a good way to wake up a latent potential in myself and my own ambitions.

That being said, I believe that sometimes the advice of “think big” can be misguided and dangerous.

As I have traveled through life, at certain points I have been so low that simply getting back to a minimal baseline of normalcy seemed like a Herculean task that I was unfit to embark upon. When I weighed 230lbs it was REALLY difficult to imagine myself at my current weight of 163lbs. That leap in my own mind was just too great. Discouraged, I would then never even attempt to make the necessary changes to begin that new journey.

It was just too overwhelming.

It was only when I started thinking smaller that I began to have more consistent success. Instead of setting a target of 165lbs I said to myself, “Can you lose 5lbs?” That seemed doable so I tentatively started down that path. The first week I put my plan into action I lost 8lbs. Emboldened by this small win, I thought, “Ok, if you can lose 8lbs in a week maybe you can lose another 5lbs this week.” The next week I was down another 7lbs. Fifteen pounds in 2 weeks was a great start!

From there, things just snowballed. By setting these smaller, incremental goals I was able to eventually lose the weight and reach my goals.

I have applied this “thinking small” mentality to other areas of my life as well. With my wife I realized I didn’t have to overhaul our entire relationship…I could start by making weekly date night a priority. I didn’t have to build a net worth of a million dollars overnight…but I could begin by paying down my debt incrementally and saving a portion of my income each month. I didn’t have to prepare for a 5K, but I could begin running each morning in 5 minute chunks, building up my time, week by week.

All of these things have led to a degree of what we might call “success” in my life thus far and it all came from intentionally not thinking big. I lowered my sights, curbed my ambitions, and dialed back my BIG vision.

As I have progressed I have allowed myself to set my sights on larger, more ambitious targets. That never would have been possible had I simply set those targets in my sights when I was at the bottom of the hole I had dug for myself. Instead of making it a goal to get out of the hole, I made it a priority to first stop digging. Smaller goal, bigger immediate impact.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, might I suggest lowering your own sights, figuring out some small ways you can generate some wins and then build to something bigger. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. The key is to get started. Where you start is much less important than the simple act of starting somewhere, anywhere.

Try it for 30 days and see what happens. You have nothing to lose and may actually get your life back. 

I’m such a sucker for compelling advertising. I can’t seem to get enough of it. I mean, as a kid on vacation with my family down in Florida I would often stay up in the hotel room, watching infomercials instead of going down to the beach with my brother and sisters. I collect junk mail. I watch the Super Bowl for the ads…and this is from an avid football fan.

Anyway, a little while back, while scrolling my Facebook feed, I saw an ad to invest in a distillery down in Utah. Being REALLY into whiskey and an ad nerd, it caught my attention right away. The minimum investment was just $250 so I thought, “Hey what the heck, I’ll do that and then I can say I am part owner of a distillery.” I thought it would be kind of a fun thing to do and be a part of.

As an “investor” I am on their mailing list which keeps me up to date on what those guys are up, news about the distillery, product releases, and more. A few weeks ago I got an email letting me know that they were opening the distillery up for tours and tastings. I signed on right away.

This past weekend my brother-in-law and I made the 5-1/2 hour drive down to Clear Water Distilling Co. in Pleasant Grove, Utah to do the tour. We arrived Friday afternoon and had the tour scheduled for 6pm that evening. The distillery is located in a warehouse in a group of warehouses that look relatively newly built. As we walked in, the distinct smell of distilled spirits gently wafted through our olfactory system. It was a very pleasant smell. tobe_at_clear_water_distilling

The interior was bright and clean. One room leading to the warehouse serves as a tasting room and the interior design is reminiscent of an old school apothecary. Plush chairs, velvet on the walls, and ornate furniture made the room feel cozy and inviting.

The distillery area itself was also clean and antiseptic. That they cared a great deal about contaminations was reassuring. The equipment they had purchased was second-hand, but gleamingly clean and bright. It looked brand new except for a few dents here and there that indicated some age. It was modern and well-maintained though.

Nick and James, two of Clear Water’s employees, led us on the tour with Nick doing most of the heavy lifting in describing their process for distilling spirits. The company motto is “Be Defiantly Different” and it is clear they mean just what they say with the spirits they are distilling. Their “icon” line features a unique array of spirits that don’t quite fit into any established category. Each one is named after important - though lesser known - historical figures that you have probably never heard of, but should know.


This spirit is their eau de vie and is a veritable blend of different fruits, molasses, and wine, then aged lightly in toasted oak barrels. It was surprisingly refreshing, with notes of apple, pear, and honeysuckle. I’m a fan of brandy and cognac, and this spirit was every bit as good as some of the best stuff I’ve had.

It was affectionately named after Josephine Baker, a world-renowned entertainer, World War II spy, and civil rights activist. The spirit Josephine is just as layered and intricate as her namesake. award_winning


Named for famed Danish explorer, Lorenz Freuchen, this crafted spirit is just as bold in both form and function. It was described to us as a “cinnamon rum” although because of how it is distilled, cannot legally be called a rum. Through the distillation process it is processed through both cinnamon and vanilla which gives it a decidedly dessert-like flavor, reminiscent of homemade apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I’m not generally a fan of flavored spirits, but the Lorenz was so artfully done that I would definitely make space for it in my liquor cabinet.


Rene is the newest release and not much about it is found on their website as of yet. I should have paid more attention to Nick’s explanation about who it is named after, but what I did pay attention to was the flavor and taste of Rene.

It is a blend of rye whiskey and Armagnac brandy and was absolutely delicious. I never would have dreamed those two flavors combined would produce something so unique and tasty, but they did. It was a perfect marriage of the spiciness from the rye and the sweetness from the Armagnac.

Other Spirits

In addition to the Icon line, Clear Water is also bottling some sourced offerings, such as their 14-year light whiskey and a delicious 5-year old rye. I’m 99.99% sure that the rye is being sourced MGP (the label on the bottle says, “Distilled in Indiana…” which is a dead giveaway.)

I have no issues with that, however. Some purists may, but the number rule in my book is simply whether I like it or not and I genuinely like both of those. In fact, I liked the rye so much that I bought a bottle to bring home with me.clear_water_distilling_light_whiskey

Anyway, the weekend was a great success and we had a blast. Nick and James were perfect hosts (James even drove us to the restaurant we were going to so we’d save the Uber fare) and couldn’t have made our experience any better.

In full disclosure, as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I own stock in the company and have a vested interest in its success. My enthusiasm for what they are doing is genuine, however. To be perfectly frank, I went into this with really low expectations. I wasn’t expecting their spirits to be as good as they are. I hope that Matt and the team can forgive me for this, because after having a taste, my opinion is firmly in the camp of “This stuff is delicious!”

Give them a try if you can and let me know what you think.


barrels_at_clear_water clear_water_distilling icon_line

You want to know what my biggest goal in life is?

Ok, here it is…

To do as little as possible.

How’s that for ambition?

I probably should give some context here. All my life (with interludes of low self-esteem or self-worth) I have considered myself to be a high achiever. I’ve had grand plans for accomplishing big goals and living a grand life. I fill my day with all the “stuff” I have to get done to reach those goals. For the most part, I have actually achieved a lot of things. In fact, some of my accomplishments were deemed impactful enough by the Idaho Business Review to award me their “40 Under 40” award. I’ve written two books. I fought in a cage match. I’ve grown a business to $10 million in revenue.


Accomplishments, achievements, awards…none of it actually made me happy. It was just one more thing to check off my ever growing to-do list. I’ve joked that my to-do list was going to be stapled to my lapel when I was buried, dozens of things still left to do.

None of those things on my to-do list are really that important. Some of them are. I have responsibilities and commitments that I need to fulfill. I have work that I need to get done. Appointments to keep.

But, how many of them actually support me? How many of them are ultimately going to lead to any sort of lasting fulfillment? Very few.

So, I decided that in addition to my regular to-do list, I would create a “Get To-Do” list. These are things taken from my 5-year Vision Statement and distilled down into yearly, monthly, and weekly actions. These are the things that will actually change my life and lead to fulfillment. I have business stuff on there, but I also have important relationship stuff on there. Critical health items and a place for my hobbies and interests. I have all the things on my “get to-do” list that I never seemed to have time for…and as a result, my life marched on, indifferent to my angst of not living a life that was truly mine.

Instead of trying to simply do more, I am being intentional about doing less of the stuff I don't want to do and more of the stuff that I do. So when I say my greatest ambition in life is to do as little as possible, it is in the context of doing things that aren't going to lead to my own personal fulfillment.

Each week, I create my “get to-do” list and fill in the activities on my calendar FIRST. Only then do I add in all the other stuff from my regular to-do list. And if some of that stuff doesn’t fit? Well, too bad. But, no longer will it stand in the way of bridging the gap between who I am today and who I am capable of becoming.

No more. Now my "Get To-Do" list takes priority. It’s my time to live.

Every morning as part of my morning routine, I head out on a walk around my neighborhood. There’s a nice walking path that loops around and gets me back home. That path is a little over 3.5 miles and takes me about an hour.

I really love this path and enjoy my walks immensely. Most days I see the same folks out walking as well and although we never stop to chat, we recognize one another and wave or nod back and forth.

There is a particular couple that I see nearly everyday, out walking their dog. Every time they see me they wave enthusiastically and yell, “Hello! How are you today?”


They are so animated that at first I thought maybe I knew them and just didn’t recognize them. This is an alarmingly common occurrence in my life, by the way. People come up to me all the time and say hello and chat for a bit, all the while I have no idea who they are. If my wife happens to be with me she will remind me that they attended church with us several years ago or were perhaps parents of another child who played on one of our kids’ sports teams. Even with her patient explanations I still never remember them.

Anyway, back to this couple. One day they had started their walk shortly before me and I was sort of trailing along behind them on our mutual path so I got to see them as they interacted with others they encountered. As they came up to other people they would wave enthusiastically and yell, “Hello! How are you today?”

To every single person.

I then noticed that any time a car would pass they would wave enthusiastically as well (although they skipped the whole “Hello! How are you today?” part.) Surely they didn't know every one of these passersby personally?

It dawned on me that they were just overly friendly to everyone they saw. Not only that, but the lady always carries a small garbage bag and one of those trash picker things, you know the claw thingy that lets you pick up garbage without bending over? So, here they are, out walking their dog, picking up trash, and waving animatedly to everyone they saw, inquiring about their mood.

My mind reeled with this new info. Are they just good people? I was skeptical. But, maybe they were. Everything about their behavior would indicate this to be the case. I found it both sad and encouraging that this might be. Sad because of my skepticism (what did that say about the world, or more accurately, my view of the world?)

Encouraging because there are still good people around us all the time. They are friendly, engaging, and genuine. They want what’s best for you and their community. They are driven by some internal moral compass to make those around them feel safe and welcome.

I find myself looking eagerly for them each morning. I love the dopamine hit they give me with their friendly wave and enthusiastic shout and do my best to return it as much as my introverted self will allow. I can't quite reach their level of enthusiasm, but I'm working on it.

They make me happy. 

More importantly, they serve as a great example of how people should strive to be. They make the world a better place and make me want to be a better person.

And for that, I thank them.

About 10-12 years ago, my wife and I went to counseling. Admittedly, our issues with our marriage were mostly on me. I was not very adept at communicating, was immature, was selfish, and impetuous. I treated my wife much too casually and didn’t take our union as seriously as I should have. I was pretty flippant about it all and it was wreaking havoc on our ability to talk, work things out, and get along in general. We were disconnected and distant. 

At her insistence, we decided to give couples therapy a shot. I was highly annoyed by this, but eventually agreed.

(**I need to deviate slightly from this story to point out how glad I am that my wife never gave up on me, even when she had ample reason to. Through all my ups, downs, and lunacy she has stuck by my side. She could have left at any point with total justification. She sure as shit didn’t need me to provide for her. She is an incredible interior designer who runs an excellent business that is in high demand. Any guy on the planet would be happy to have her, but she chose me, in spite of it all. And for that I am incredibly grateful and try my best not to take it for granted.) 

Anyway, the therapist we went to see was a complete disaster. She was an older lady who had a deep-seated disdain for my kind - meaning the male species - and our sessions simply devolved into a series of blame sessions of all the things I was doing wrong. It wasn’t helpful and it did more harm than good. It made me bitter and resentful.

We eventually moved on and found another therapist that was much more balanced in his approach and were able to work through a lot of our issues, but that first experience has always stuck with me as being very traumatic. From that moment on I viewed any form of therapy with skepticism and contempt.

Fast forward to this year. Kirsten had periodically suggested that I try therapy again over the years and because of that original experience, I had been extremely reluctant to say the least and would always brush aside her suggestion.

Earlier this year, in the throes of my deep depression and lack of overall motivation with life, I decided to take her advice and find a therapist that I could see who wouldn't be a total douche. I figured that my life was at a pretty low point anyway and that therapy couldn’t hurt. It might not help, but at least it wouldn’t make things worse.

She found a guy who seemed like he might be a good fit. He had also left the Mormon church as I had and would be able to understand my unique challenges in that regard. I made an appointment and went to see him.

It took about a month or so for me to finally relax with him and open up a bit, but when I did, the benefits were immediate and positive. I realized very early on in our sessions that I was carrying around a lot of baggage that needed to be offloaded, so to speak. I thought carrying that trauma around with me was normal and expected. Spoiler: it’s not.

He helped me greatly to work through various issues I had and helped me discover a path to walk in life that had been long hidden from me. I am on this path now and this path is good.

This is a case for therapy. It helps and it works. At least for me it did. If you are in a bad spot, I would highly encourage you to find a therapist that you get along with that can help and at least give it a try. You may have to “interview” several of them before you find someone who gets you, but once you do, you will be glad you did.

A special note to all the guys out there who maybe think that therapy isn’t manly or is a sign of weakness, I would say, get over yourself. You deserve better than that. Put your ego to the side for a moment and just trust the process. Therapy isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength, courage, and self-awareness. Choose you in this moment.

Therapy is cool. Prove me wrong.

Top envelopephone-handsetclockchevron-downarrow-up-circlearrow-down-circle