Driving Coast to Coast (to Coast): How to Take the Road Trip of a Lifetime

A word of caution before driving cross country: This post is being written during the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the United States and the rest of the world. Before taking any action on the information provided in this post, please be prepared to take the proper precautions: wear a mask, wash your hands,…

Road Trip Across America: Reflections from a Week of Vagabonding

Vagabonding

Last week, I wrote about my first 11 days on a cross country road trip that took me and my girlfriend from the Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania to the arid desert of northern Arizona. I also discussed the value of meaningful travel, the merits of a road trip, and why you should set aside…

The Unfinished Jigsaw Puzzle: Solving Life One Piece at a Time

The Jigsaw Puzzle of Your Life

In this post, I’m going to take you to a jigsaw puzzle table, into a forest fire, and to (but not on!) a roller coaster. This short journey you are about to experience will take some sharp turns and tangents, but by the end, I promise that the essence of this post will not be…

Skip the Vacation. Take a Road Trip Instead

Vagabonding

Take a vacation, and you'll be bored after a week. Take a cross-country road trip, and you'll never want to come back. It's interesting, and even mesmerizing to look at the contours of the map, watch as the deep green forests of the east yield to tan mountains of the west and red rocks of…

Pencil Paradigm Shifts: Small Moments that Make a Big Difference

Paradigm shifts are fundamental changes in our thinking and are powerful influences in what become our habits. They can fast-track our formation of new habits, unlike any other experience. So, what if I told you some of your good habits can be formed in the blink of an eye? Habits are the building blocks of…

Writing Will Redefine Your Life

Writing Will Redefine Your Life

Writing is where all human action, connection, and persuasion begin. When they say “the pen is mightier than the sword,” it’s not just because it sounds good, sounds contrarian, or that it is a rallying cry for all introverts and nerds. It is because it is true. There is a deeper, visceral, intrinsic value to…

12 Lessons from Saying No to a Life of Mediocrity

Say No to Mediocrity

On In the last post, I gave you the cheat sheet on How to be Extraordinarily Ordinary. I wrote that post largely due to my own personal experiences and observations. It represents the path I have so desperately sought to avoid, and so desperately want you to avoid: mediocrity. Today, I offer the first step…

How to be Extraordinarily Ordinary

How to be Extraordinarily Ordinary

Follow these simple guidelines for an ordinary, dull, and monotonous life: Believe everything people tell you (especially those you agree with).Try your hardest not to stand out.Stay close to home or within a 20 mile radius (preferably less).Get a job for the money, not for the meaning it brings to you and others.Do something because…

Site Update: May 2020

Site Update

Live from a lake in the Northern Pennsylvania woods Greetings from my own version of Walden, where I've spent the entire month of May and most of my time during the COVID-19 era. Each month, I’ll be looking back at what’s happened with JoeBalcom.com over the previous month. If you’ve missed any articles, I've included…

Prove Yourself Wrong. It Will Always Prove You Right

Leave the hard climbing to the experts

Replace the need to perpetually prove yourself right, with an ingrained reflex to prove yourself wrong. Visualize climbing a thousand-foot ladder up the side of a steep mountain face. You desperately want to reach the plateau so you can rest, enjoy the view, and prove to everyone else that you are strong, determined, and superior.…

Writing Makes You Creative, Creativity Makes You Happy

Be true to your creative nature

Your ability to be creative is as much a part of your nature as playing and running is for a dog. When a dog trainer begins working with an upset or misbehaved dog, the first thing they ask the owner is “do you take it for walks?” This one question gets to the heart of…

10 Ways to Make Room for Work That Matters

If your goal is happiness and meaning in your work, you must make room for the work that matters to you. Pre-pandemic, focus was hard to come by. I used to be all over the place. Checking email here, texting a friend there, catching a glimpse of the TV here, checking the fridge over there.…

The Magic of an Orthogonal Mind

Orthogonal Mind

Orthogonal is an unusual word. Orthogonal is a unique word. Orthogonal is an orthogonal word. Here’s an easy way to think of this concept: Imagine one straight and narrow line on a graph (g), traveling in one rigid direction in perpetuity. Now imagine a line (P) branching out from your original line, like so: Another…

How to Cook Steak Like a Pro: From Novice to Chef in One Night

Learn to Cook

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook…

Learn Your ABCs: The Agony and Beauty of Creation

Creation

6 Lessons I Learned Through One Week After Hitting “Publish” “Pain plus reflection equals progress.” –Ray Dalio If you are a painter, a dancer, a comedian, actor, singer, or fellow writer, you know how hard it is, how humbling it is, how overwhelming it can be to put your work out to the world for…

The Power of a Forcing Function: How A Plane Ticket Transformed My Life

Forcing Function

Booking the flight was my forcing function. There was no time to regret what I had just done. There was no time to reason myself out of it. There was no time to give fair warning to family and friends. I just had to do it. So I took what I had: time constraints, money…

Why Gamblers Never Win in the Long Run

In life, there are two types of people: strategists and gamblers. Chess players and slots players. Only one wins in the long-run. 1:00am, Las Vegas, NV The casino floor is packed. 1 AM in one of the world’s busiest casinos is not the best time or place to be wandering aimlessly to look for two…

Turning Diamonds Into Water: If You Keep Your Soul, the World is Yours

Keep Your Soul

How to Keep Your Soul and Find Meaning Using the Paradox of Value "Everything in life is truly free, if you keep your soul.” This was the vivid and profound message in my head when I woke up from a dream the other morning. The message itself was engrained in my brain, no messenger. I…