The More You Talk, The Weaker You Appear: Always Say Less Than Necessary

In November of 2015, Saturday Night Live ran a skit about a fictional TV game show called Should You Chime In On This?  The show’s host, Keenan Thompson, made statements about a series of hot-button topics including Syrian immigration, public breast feeding, girls playing football, and Hillary Clinton.  He then asked three three dim-witted contestants whether they should chime in on these issues.  All the contestants needed to do in order to win the million-dollar prize was simply answer “no” when asked if they should chime in.  But of course, these microcosms of our actual society couldn’t help but interject their opinions when given even the slightest window to talk.

Aside from laughing at the contestants’ foolishness, I couldn’t help but wonder when I have acted the same way.  How many times have I annoyed people by slipping in my two cents at the cost of disrupting a conversation?  Do I talk just to hear myself talk even if I shouldn’t or don’t need to?

It was a wakeup call for me, and a much needed one for a college student.  College is a place that begs you to talk, march, tweet, and protest – it turns into a real-life version of Should You Chime In On This.  It’s as if you’re obligated to fill a void with your chatter and opinions, even if it accomplishes nothing.  But I like the void.  It’s cool.  In fact, I purposely seek out places devoid of chatter and competing voices.  One of those places is the gym, but unfortunately I now have to cross this off my already shrinking list of opinion-free zones.

The culprit was a middle-aged man who looked like the type of guy your dad was embarrassed to say he was friends with in high school.  He wasn’t hesitant to pull the trigger on a conversation about how much he loved the equipment at the gym.  Deciding not to be rude, I engaged with him (under the assumption that I’d slip away in a few seconds).  I don’t quite remember how, but he was able to maneuver our small talk into a political rant, rattling off a list of reasons why I should vote for Donald Trump in the presidential election.  Normally, I would say anyone who can make a smooth transition from dumbbells to politics was a master wordsmith.  But I quickly realized he was the epitome of what I had been trying to prevent myself from becoming over the past months.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with your generation,” he said.  “All this entitled stuff.”

The only thing keeping my mouth shut was remembering Keenan Thompson’s disappointed face when those contestants failed to keep their thoughts to themselves.  After several minutes of nodding and attempting to escape, the conversation took a turn for the worse.  He felt the need to inform me that he was divorced and that his daughter’s college tuition would be $30,000 per year.  Shortly after, he happily announced that he was only legally obliged to pay $12,000, leaving his ex-wife and daughter to cover the other $18 grand.  Our conversation eventually dissipated, and my lecturer climbed into his Mercedes-Benz (which was presumably worth two years of his daughter’s tuition).

Congrats, man.  Now I know that you have a distorted view of our political landscape and you’re selfish.

As much as I wanted to be angry at the man, I felt sorry for him.  How lonely must your life be that you’re so prepared to unleash such an onslaught of your thoughts on an unsuspecting twenty-year-old?  What kind of repressed anger and resentment could cause such a desperate and irrational desire to be heard?  Regardless of the answer to those questions, I had a clear illustration of what I didn’t want my life to resemble.

In 2014 I read Robert Greene’s fourth law in his book The 48 Laws of Power: “Always say less than necessary,” but I didn’t internalize it until that day at the gym.  We desperately want to release the tension and excitement that’s pent up in our minds about some concept or issue.  But the problem is that chatter (especially with strangers) is the wrong outlet for this.  Oversharing reveals the weaknesses in our psyche before we’ve had a chance to work on them, and we come off as foolish unbeknownst to ourselves.

Excessive talking gives reassurance to the insecure.  It’s abundant and free.  But we neglect the cost we pay by losing productivity, and worse, wasting other people’s time.  What’s scarce, however, is the ability to deliberately remove oneself from the discussion – to listen, observe, and avoid embarrassment.

What would Keenan Thompson think?  Are you saying something because it needs to be said, or do you just want to be part of the conversation?

I’ll cut my writing off here before I say more than necessary.

Dominic Vaiana studies writing and media strategy at Xavier University.  He founded a campus newspaper and later went on to advise, ghostwrite, and edit for colleagues and startups.  His biweekly newsletter with his personal articles, essays, interviews, and book recommendations, can be found here. For any questions or comments, email


7 Things That Happened During My 7-Day Social Media Detox

“Dominic, a lot has happened since you last logged in to Facebook.”

That was the subject of four emails I received from Facebook over the past week after deleting the app from my phone.  Yes, a lot did happen since I last logged in.  But not in the sense that Mark Zuckerberg and company thought I’d been missing out on.

I went on a social media detox.  I didn’t like any Instagram pictures, read any tweets, or reply to any Snapchats until yesterday.  I don’t consider myself addicted to social media.  It’s more of an escape valve from my to-do list – a virtual smoke break.  When you hear about people quitting social media, it’s usually because it’s seriously interfering with their work or family life.  For me it was an experiment.

It wasn’t challenging, but it was strange.  For the first few hours, I would catch myself reaching for my phone, only to remember I didn’t have those all-too-familiar app icons on my screen waiting to be opened. It was like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time.  At first you’re shaky, but then you wonder why you ever needed them in the first place.  Anyway, I figured since I went seven days without social media, I could list the seven most important things that happened:

1.  I realized I wasn’t important or popular enough that I couldn’t live without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

2. My productivity increased dramatically. I wrote four articles (including this one).

3.  I talked to people. Once I remembered my home screen would be devoid of all red notification icons for a week, I was free to interact instead of burying my head in my phone – at the bank, at the store, and at home.

4.  I ate much healthier. I’m attributing that to the absence of sped-up cooking videos.

5.  My phone battery lasted all day (usually with 30% to spare).

6.  I had more free time. I typically spent a total of 30 minutes per day on social media before the detox, which may not seem like a lot.  But 30 minutes lasts awhile if you just sit down and watch the clock.  I cooked, visited a couple people I hadn’t seen in weeks, worked out, and read (more than usual).

7.  I was in a better mood. You’d be surprised how much other people’s complaining, arguing, and negativity affects your own temperament.

If I had to sum up my social media detox to someone in one sentence, it would be this: If you want to see your productivity skyrocket, ground yourself in reality, and be healthier, delete it all for a week – you won’t be attached even when you have it back.

Dominic Vaiana studies writing and media strategy at Xavier University.  He founded a campus newspaper and later went on to advise, ghostwrite, and edit for colleagues and startups.  His biweekly newsletter with his personal articles, essays, interviews, and book recommendations, can be found here. For any questions or comments, email


Exercise: Cheaper Than Therapy (And Cocaine)

People piss us off.  We feel stuck and unsatisfied.  We have so much to do that we end up doing nothing at all, which leads to excuses that perpetuate the cycle.  This week, my excuse was writer’s block.  Between work and unnecessary distractions, it seemed like I was unable to come up with any new ideas (at least any that would be worth your time to read).  So I did what I’ve always done when I’m confused, excited, or angry: I put myself through a grueling workout.  It wasn’t until I was halfway through my routine at the gym that realized I needed to write about the benefits of strenuous exercise.

The key word here is strenuous – not flitting around from machine to machine or doing a few minutes on the elliptical.  Instead, take the long way on your run.  Do an extra set of squats.  By pushing your physical limits, frivolous distractions and problems that weigh you down trickle away. 

You got in a fight with your boyfriend today?  Run another mile.  Your coworker made fun of you?  Do another rep.  You can’t come up with an idea for your next project?  Swim another lap.  When you finish, you’ll be amazed how physically, mentally, and emotionally refreshed you are.  Exercise is the figurative reset button on our day-to-day lives.

You’ve probably heard of runner’s high; it’s a real thing.  The good news is that it’s not limited to running.  When exercising intensely, the body releases endorphins, the same chemicals that produce euphoria similar to the effects of opioids.  Although opioids are often abused with substances like cocaine, they are prescribed by doctors to inhibit pain and combat addiction.

So yes, instead of going to Alcoholics Anonymous or snorting coke, you can get the same effect by running hill repeats.  It’s cheaper, too.

Yes, I quit my collegiate athletic career, but I set a strict workout regimen for myself.  It may not be as demanding as Division I track, but I push myself as hard as my body will allow.  There is a perverse sense of pleasure derived out of pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion, knowing that you’re sharpening your body as well as your mind in the process.

Often the best ideas come when we are in the middle of a strenuous run or a lengthy swim.  All the thoughts that were once clumped together seem to sort themselves out.  This is because there’s nothing else to dilute them.  It’s you versus yourself, which can be frightening for some people until they realize it’s exactly what they need to take their productivity to the next level. 

As the best-selling author Ryan Holiday notes, “All exercise is cathartic.”  Instead of ignoring our obstacles and agitations, exercise forces us to confront them head-on, and ultimately leads to a sense of psychological relief through the expression of those emotions to ourselves.

On a lighter note, exercise gives us that daily dose of self-accomplishment that we desperately attempt to fill with Netflix, Facebook, and made-up chores.  By waking up each day with a physical goal that must be achieved, you are forced to hold yourself accountable.  Write it down, and once you meet your quota for the day, cross it off your list and do it again tomorrow. 

But the journey has no destination.  Unless you’re training for a competition, exercise is not a means to some vague end.  It doesn’t need to be justified once it becomes a habit.

People that exercise habitually don’t do it because they’re ultra-disciplined, they do it because it’s a regular part of their life like eating or sleeping; it feels good.  They crave lifting weights or going for a run because it frees them.  That’s why you never see a bodybuilder complain about going to the gym.  For lack of a better term, it becomes an addiction – a positive one though.

Oh, and when you think it gets too hard, consider the person who isn’t able-bodied and how badly they would want to trade their circumstances for the temporary pain you feel during a tough workout.

Strenuous exercise is my therapy.  The fleeting pain that it necessitates pales in comparison to the productivity and mental decompression that follows.  I love the struggle.  It’s what allowed me to write this, and it’s why I’m going to take on another workout right now.

Dominic Vaiana studies writing and media strategy at Xavier University.  He founded a campus newspaper and later went on to advise, ghostwrite, and edit for colleagues and startups.  His biweekly newsletter with his personal articles, essays, interviews, and book recommendations, can be found here. For any questions or comments, email


Meet The Media Guru Behind Some Of Today’s Best-Selling Authors

You’ve probably never heard of Michael Tunney.  In fact, some authors and entrepreneurs may not want you to hear about him – he’s their secret weapon.

Trained under the controversial media strategist and author Ryan Holiday, Michael is a media mastermind who works behind the scenes to get epic amounts of publicity for his clients.  Although he can’t disclose all of his work, some of the most notable projects he’s worked on include James Altucher’s Choose Yourself (which sold over 40,000 copies in its first month), Robert Greene’s Mastery (a New York Times bestseller), and Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way (which has sold over 100,000 copies and is widely popular among professional athletes).

I discovered Michael after reading Ryan Holiday’s acknowledgements in his most recent book Ego Is The Enemy and was fortunate to strike up a conversation with him recently.  Michael does much of the same work that I enjoy, most notably writing.  I even found out that his father and brother went to Xavier University, where I’m currently a student.

As you can imagine, I had a million questions for Michael and wanted to ask him things that would particularly interest readers.  But before we get into the good stuff, here’s Michael Tunney at a glance:

Current gig: Product Developer at Social Triggers & Founder of Lost Context Media

Location: Los Angeles

Favorite hobby: Exploring LA, been here for about six months

Music of choice: White guy rock (Wilco, Pearl Jam, Jason Isbell, etc.)

One word that best describes you: Knowledgeable

One person you’d love to meet: Eddie Vedder

You originally started a career in law before launching bestselling book campaigns and exploring your writing career—how did you get into the business you’re in today?

I got the stones to leave the law about two years into practicing, but I should have dropped out of law school when I had the chance. For anyone thinking about going to law school, don’t. For why, read this or this.

I had moved to Austin with my girlfriend at the time, working a meaningless job at smaller firm. I was desperate and looking for a way out because I knew I didn’t want to end up miserable, like every single middle-aged lawyer I’d ever met. I was also basically destitute.

On a lark I emailed two authors, Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield, who were coming out with The Art of Doing and looking for unpaid interns. I did some marketing work for them and then emailed Ryan Holiday, who’s blog I’d been following for a while. After a series of emails and a phone call, he had me meet one of his mentors in Austin, Tucker Max, to make sure I wasn’t a serial killer. I think the next week I was interning for Brass Check and it went from there.

People typically consider careers in marketing or writing to be broad or vague – what makes your work unique?

Job titles in marketing have become almost purposely vague, which comes along with specialization. Like any other business, you have to learn the language of that niche to look like you fit in or know what people actually do.

I can’t sit here and say my work is unique, but I do have a knack for writing in other people’s voices in a way that resonates with their ideal audience (95% of my writing work is ghostwriting).

You write a lot about “hustling” and carving a path – what do you feel that young people today are doing wrong or could improve upon career-wise?

I regularly refer to my “career” in my twenties as a dumpster fire, and transitioning out of law in my mid-twenties was a nightmare. So as someone who has been at the bottom of the barrel career-wise, I’ve learned it is essential not to lose hope or stop believing in yourself.

I’m not a religious person and just typing “believe in yourself” makes me cringe, but without some faith that things will get better, its going to be nearly impossible to take action and have the confidence to take risks.

Other than that, be generous and give to other people. It’s not always the natural impulse when you are looking for a job because you’re most likely thinking about being able to pay rent. But acting selfish or entitled just doesn’t work. Give, give, give and you’ll be paid back in ways you can’t see in the moment.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you look up to or think you could be of service to. Every time I’ve done it something good has come my way, even if it was just lessening the fear of rejection by sending the damn email.

Finally, don’t be so afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. So be bold, be assertive, ask the dumb questions, and get out of your own head and do shit.

 You’ve had success with some of the top authors in the world such as Robert Greene, James Altucher, and Ryan Holiday – do you have clients knocking your door down trying to get you to work for them?  How many clients do you currently have?

I only take on a few clients every month, so it’s usually about choosing the right projects and making sure there’s a good fit for the client. I consider myself very lucky to be very busy.

Who would you love to work for but haven’t yet been able to?

I’ve been pretty lucky to work with some hard working people who know what they’re doing and taught me a lot. Maybe working for a great show runner like David Simon or Vince Gilligan.

 What should we expect to see in the next few years from Michael Tunney?

Getting more of my own writing out in the blood stream. My current poor excuse is that I’m too busy with my other work, but we both know that’s a lie.

 How can people get in touch with you and follow your work?

My email is, my website is and Lost Context Media can be found here. Oh, and I’m on Twitter @mike_tunney.

Along with my writing, I send my newsletter subscribers some book recommendations twice a month – do you have any book recommendations of your own?

I’m currently reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. I’m not a runner, but there’s a lot of stuff in here about the mind of a writer that’s pretty good.

Dominic Vaiana studies writing and media strategy at Xavier University.  He founded a campus newspaper and later went on to advise, ghostwrite, and edit for colleagues and startups.  His biweekly newsletter with his personal articles, essays, interviews, and book recommendations, can be found here. For any questions or comments, email


40 Percent Of Americans Don’t Use This Fundamental Technology – Do You?

Look around your home, your office, or your classroom.  Genius innovators have given us the Internet, smart phones, cars that park themselves – the list is endless.

But what if you found out you were part of the 40 percent of Americans that miss out on the single most impactful piece of technology the world has ever seen?  Further, what if you realized this technology has been under your nose your whole life?  In fact, this technology has survived over 5,000 years with virtually no changes.

Books.  Physical books.

They are the perfect technology: cheap, convenient, and potentially life-changing.

Despite advances with phones, computers and (insert frivolous app here), books have remained the default resource for information and entertainment; as well they should be.  

Sadly, however, a Pew Research survey concluded that nearly 40% of American adults didn’t pick up a book last year. 

As someone who happily devours books, this saddens me.  Admittedly, I hated reading until I graduated high school (where I was forced to read).  But I soon understood that the greatest obstacle to self-improvement is adopting the attitude that you don’t need help – that you have everything figured out.  This is the single most destructive lie you can tell yourself.

As Ryan Holiday, who himself has authored four books that have shaped my life’s path, adeptly reminds us, “Whatever problem you’re struggling with is probably addressed in some book somewhere written by someone a lot smarter than you.” 

And he’s right.

Though simple, books are revolutionary.  They provide solutions to complex problems that modern technologies can only provide temporary relief for.  A couple hundred pages can help you find happiness, become a better person, embrace obstacles, or just enjoy a good story depending on your taste.

If time is your excuse of choice not to take advantage of books, it’s an invalid one.  I’m often asked by friends and colleagues how I have time to read every day, to which I respond by asking how they have time to watch their favorite show or exercise or eat.  When something becomes important – when something becomes essential – you make time for it.  It’s part of my job.  It’s non-negotiable.

Sure, books aren’t free.  But ten bucks is pocket change compared to the money we shell out for phones, shoes, and watches that tell us when someone Snapchats us.  This is not to say any of those things are inherently evil or useless, but if we look at reading as an investment rather than a chore, our perspective changes.  The potential ROI (return on investment) for a book is far greater than the ROI for those things in life that we deem as necessities.

In the moment you post that Facebook status or watch another sped-up cooking video, you could read something that completely alters your life’s path. 

Will that happen with every book you read?


And if you’re not a habitual reader, it will be slow and difficult at first, just like it is learning to use any other new high-tech software or device.

But once you incorporate reading into the mix of technologies in your life, a change occurs.  The more you read, the more aware you become of the world around you and the better sense you can make of it.  Books offer us the rare opportunity to detach ourselves from the mundanity of a dramatic, tech-filled life.

There’s no app for that.

If I baited you into reading this because you thought I knew about some secret gadget, I offer you my deepest apologies.

Now close your browser and pick up a book.

Dominic Vaiana studies writing and media strategy at Xavier University.  He founded a campus newspaper and later went on to advise, ghostwrite, and edit for colleagues and startups.  His biweekly newsletter with his personal articles, essays, interviews, and book recommendations, can be found here. For any questions or comments, email


An Ambidextrous Generation: Why Millennials Flock To Sanders And Trump

The kids who grew up listening to their parents grumble and nit-pick about politics are ready for an answer.  They’re exasperated by vague, roundabout discussions about foreign policy, education, and taxes.  Which is why, for the first time ever, the preferred presidential candidates among millennial voters are a celebrity billionaire and a 74-year-old socialist from Vermont.

Millennials, those born between 1982 and 2000, number nearly 19 million.  They are the largest generation in the country and match the voting power of the Baby Boomers.  Like it or not, young voters will decide who the next commander-in-chief will be, and the number of millennials that will poll in the 2016 presidential election is expected to be the highest ever.

But as time ticks away leading up to the election, millennials have become increasingly polarized in terms of their political views.  They lean far to the left and far to the right, deeming moderates as “cop-outs” or “part of the problem.”

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders serve as shiny toys for millennials to play with on social media and college campuses.  These candidates’ eccentric ideas give millennials what they’ve been longing for since they were in diapers: nonconformity.  Trump and Sanders don’t want to blend into the crowd, and neither do millennials.

Both candidates provide concise and compelling answers to intricate questions that have baffled the country for so long.  How do we fix the immigration problem or the war on drugs?  Build a wall.  How do we close the education gap?  Make college free

No jargon.  No convoluted discussions.

46 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 favor Sanders as opposed to 35 percent for Hillary Clinton (although a better metric to acknowledge may be Sanders’ two million Facebook likes, 600,000 more than Hillary Clinton).  Millennials see through Clinton’s faux progressivism and aren’t fooled by her countless political flip-flops.  Her inconsistency won’t allow her to tap into the same stream of youthful idealism that Sanders has.

Sanders’ campaign is appealing to millennials not necessarily because of his policies, but his unmistakable sense of outrage toward modern America.  Dissatisfied with Obama’s idea of “change,” Sanders preaches the need for a “revolution.”

Put it this way: if you’re a broke 22-year-old concerned about the future and a lifelong activist resembling your granddad bursts on the scene proclaiming our society is rigged for the rich, war sucks, and college should be free, it would be hard to resist him.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Donald Trump has made harsh, often prejudiced, rhetoric a staple of his campaign.  Surprisingly though, it hasn’t cost him with young Republican voters as he continues to win under-30 voters across the country.  One poll showed Republican millennials backing Trump by a 3-to-1 margin over any other candidate.  Though he is two decades older than Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, he managed to defeat them in dominating fashion, all while having no more experience than your friends who rant their political agendas Facebook.  So how does this billionaire captivate millennial voters?

Trump doesn’t play the game that the rest of the traditional candidates do (or did).  Just like a pop singer, the young people don’t care what he’s saying – they care how he says it.  He capitalizes on Americans’ anger, frustration, and confusion.  His emotion and brutal honesty cut across age, economic background, and the ideological spectrum.

Millennials have been raised in an era of lies and distrust, and it’s going to take something dramatic for them to regain faith.  What millennials want and need is something radical and fresh.  Whether Trump or Sanders can provide that and sustain it is unclear.  What’s not unclear, however, is the never-before-seen passion that Trump and Sanders demonstrate.

As we draw near to November 8, I can’t help but wonder if these candidates, and the millennials who support them, will realize that they actually have more in common with each other than they thought.

Like Walt Disney said, “The things we have in common far outnumber and outweigh those that divide us.”

Dominic Vaiana studies writing and media strategy at Xavier University.  He founded a campus newspaper and later went on to advise, ghostwrite, and edit for colleagues and startups.  His biweekly newsletter with his personal articles, essays, interviews, and book recommendations, can be found here. For any questions or comments, email


The Best Way To Get Ahead Of Your Peers – Hint: It’s Not An Internship

After spending a couple of years at college, it seems like the word “internship” has reached an almost sacred status.  Students worship internships, deeming them as the golden tickets to escort them from college into the job of their dreams.  In just the past month, I’ve received numerous emails from my school directing me towards internships not even remotely related to what I’m doing – the term “internship” itself is vague and insignificant.

Millennials have been trained to take the safe route: get lined up with a company that’s been successful and make people look good so that we, in turn, might be successful too.  It’s a decent plan, but there’s a way to take it a step further if you’re willing to take a risk

As you prepare for your next steps, your may feel pressured by your parents or professors to find an internship.  This can be confusing.  Should you stay in town or leave? Should you be paid or work for free?  How many hours will you have to work per week?  Will you get class credit?

Fortunately, there is a solution for the internship dilemma: it’s the Canvas Strategy.  In its simplest terms, it means finding canvases for other (smarter) people to paint on.  I originally learned this from Ryan Holiday, and it changed my life for the better.

How does the Canvas Strategy differ from finding an internship?  For starters, completely forget about the title of your position.  Also stop worrying about credit, and throw out the idea of what a job is “supposed to be” on paper.  Instead, the Canvas Strategy calls us to focus all our energy on seeking, presenting, and facilitating opportunities that help other people thrive.  It’s certainly more glamorous to chase your own glory, but far less effective.

People that practice the Canvas Strategy discover that they benefit the most when they seek emerging and remarkable things within their industry and latch on to them as opposed to begging for a spot at an established business.  The old approach was to make your boss look good, but the Canvas Strategy entails no ass-kissing.

Having a set curriculum kills incentive and deadens the learning process.  Instead, promote others’ creativity; discover who they can collaborate with.  It makes their life easier and puts them in a better position to help you.  Discover what you can do that’s unique, and apply it to a developing idea.  The rest will fall in place.  Don’t worry about the money yet.

Here’s an example from my own life.  When I declared my major as public relations, I immediately began researching all the top firms nearby.  But I was playing the loser’s game.  The odds were against me to land a spot at Fleishman Hillard or some other industry giant.  I had no connections or recommendations.

Around the time I discovered the Canvas Strategy, my uncle and mentor, Matt Hall, was in the process of marketing his first book, and needed somebody to help him grow his audience.  I immediately said I wanted to get involved with this process, and when he told me to contact KAOH Media to see if they could help him, I established a relationship with their founder which led to a paid position with her firm that would eventually take on Matt as a client.

This could have never happened by sitting on my couch and aimlessly sending my resume to every firm I could find.  You can be as ambitious as you want, sending emails and making phone calls to your dream company, but it will be diligence, creativity, and self discipline that distinguish you and take you where you need to go.

This has been one of my longer posts, but for good reason.  The Canvas Strategy could be the difference between being stuck in a cubicle and launching the next big idea in your industry.

Here are some valuable lessons that I learned the hard way and want you to take away:

Nobody owes you anything.  Seek what you can do for others, not what they can do for you.

You don’t need the title “internship.”  It’s better to have practical knowledge than a fancy desk, or even money.

Learn something without a having a definite reward, just for the sake of learning it.

Put your work in front of people and ask for bold feedback.  Embrace it.

Do your assigned job correctly – even if you hate it.  Only narcissists think they’re too good for their position. If you don’t perform minor tasks with vigor, you’re not qualified to do more important things.

* You can read Ryan Holiday’s original post about the Canvas Strategy here.

Dominic Vaiana studies writing and media strategy at Xavier University.  He founded a campus newspaper and later went on to advise, ghostwrite, and edit for colleagues and startups.  His biweekly newsletter with his personal articles, essays, interviews, and book recommendations, can be found here. For any questions or comments, email


I Quit Track This Year: Here’s My Story

I loved track and field.  And I still do.  Twelve years of the sport pushed me to my mental and physical limits and taught me resilience and patience along the way.  It brought me respect, records, a state championship, countless memories, and the opportunity to compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics.

But the sport also brought me pain: frayed cartilage, two hip surgeries, fractured bones, and torn muscles.  It brought me stress and anxiety, and it took me longer than it should have to realize that track had completed its role in my life.

It was not until I came across this quote that I was able to take my mind out of the gutter and see my situation for what it was:

“If you cannot reasonably hope for a favorable extrication, do not plunge deeper. Have the courage to make a full stop.” – Alexander Hamilton

At the end of my career I was fighting for honor’s sake – to say I completed four years as a Division I athlete.  I went to practice every day and pretended everything was fine.  But I hated it.  It didn’t matter that I could only give eighty percent effort, it was a status symbol to be an athlete at a major school.

I was ashamed to admit to others (besides those closest to me who knew something was off) the truth that I was done.  What would my coaches, relatives, and friends think if I bailed out on my goals and my identity that I carried with me for the past twelve years?

Here’s what I concluded: the people that need validation, the people that allow their identity to be defined by others, the people that can’t accept their fate, they are amateurs.  Professionals, on the other hand, live fulfilling lives, and they know when to cut their losses.

It was mentally and physically unhealthy for me to keep running track.  My recovery had plateaued, and it was clear I wouldn’t reach my ideal performance level.  At the same time, I was missing opportunities to learn about life outside the bubble of sports.  I am in no way shaming college athletics (as many others have); however, I can’t stress enough the importance of being objective and cooperating with the inevitable, especially when your wellbeing is in the balance.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared to quit.  There is always a fear of the unknown, a need for certainty.  But that need for certainty is dangerous.  It prevents us from exploring and living up to our potential.  I can now say with confidence that I have improved as a person since my decision.

I have no regrets.  If anything, I’m relieved and energized.  Where I once feared would be a gaping hole in my life has turned into a wealth of opportunity.  Since stepping away from track, I’ve been hired by two amazing companies, and made great strides toward my future career.  I’ve also developed my faith life, and grown closer to my family and friends.

The hardest part of the last two years was not the hours of grueling rehab or the workouts that caused so much untold pain.  Instead, it was the psychological effects that almost broke me.  It was one thing to battle physically to get back to my old self.  It was another matter, however, to admit to myself that I could only fake it for so long before everyone realized that I wouldn’t be the runner I used to be.  Only then could I accept it was time to move on and find my worth somewhere else.

If you find yourself in a situation similar to mine, here’s my advice: you won’t die if you cling to attachments that are toxic.  In fact, there are many people who live their lives hanging on to everything because they can’t swallow their own pride.  But you’ll be a hell of a lot happier when you decide to take a step back, discard your unsolvable problems, and take back control of your life.  Trust me.

“The weak never give way when they ought to.” – Jean François Paul de Gondi

Dominic Vaiana studies writing and media strategy at Xavier University.  He founded a campus newspaper and later went on to advise, ghostwrite, and edit for colleagues and startups.  His biweekly newsletter with his personal articles, essays, interviews, and book recommendations, can be found here. For any questions or comments, email


5 Books To Base Your Life On

“Whatever problem you’re struggling with is probably addressed in some book somewhere written by someone a lot smarter than you.”  -Ryan Holiday

Reading isn’t fun when it’s mandatory.

That’s what I’ve come to discover over the past few years. But when we shift our perspective on reading from a chore to a personal investment, something clicks.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been embarrassed to be “that guy” at college that sits in the library and reads. But that’s changed over time. Reading is now a regular part of my routine, just like sleeping or eating. Books offer a window to perspectives and insights that simply can’t be absorbed in a classroom, on TV, or online.

I promise, once you start you won’t be able to stop, and your life will never be the same. Anyway, here are my top five books to base your life on.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert GreeneGreeneRobert-48LawsOfPower

The first of five renowned works by Greene, The 48 Laws of Power is the ultimate guide to social intelligence, carving out a path in a hostile world, obtaining power, and defending against it. It’s grounded in a wealth of research spanning three thousand years, and its lessons have influenced millions from multi-platinum artists to Super Bowl champions.

Fun fact: aside from the Bible, The 48 Laws of Power is the most-requested book by prison inmates.

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan HolidayScreen Shot 2014-02-13 at 12.14.09 PM

At the age of 29, Ryan Holiday’s insight into the human condition is remarkable. The underlying theme of his book is inspired by Stoic philosophy (I know it sounds boring, but it’s refreshingly simple): we don’t always control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond. If you’re demoralized or stuck, this is the blueprint for clarifying your perceptions and ending the pity party. The Obstacle is the Way is a much-needed gem in a culture saturated with self-help gurus.

Fun fact: The Obstacle is the Way was read by the majority of the New England Patriots players and coaches during their 2015 Super Bowl Championship season.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl61633LFpDXL

If there’s anyone that can answer the question “What is the meaning of life?” it’s this guy. A psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor, Frankl wrote this profound book to demonstrate how each person can find a purpose and find meaning even in the direst circumstances. If he could answer these questions while suffering through a concentration camp, I think you can, too.


The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin719w4oe5o1L

Seth Godin is normally associated with his business and marketing skills, but the lessons of this book can and should be applied to every walk of life.  Godin challenges us to reconsider the old rules: get a degree, find an institution, land a safe job, and stay in your comfort zone. Instead, Godin argues that our connection economy rewards art, not compliance. Not necessarily fine art, but our own creative work, whatever that may be. If you disdain the 9-5 life, this book is for you.


On the Shortness of Life by Senecatumblr_n7blki6WzO1qz6f4bo1_1280

I’ve never read a philosophy book as applicable to 21st century life as this. Seneca’s advice on wealth, jealously, power, and happiness are as useful today as they were when he was advising  his students in Ancient Greece:

 “Envy you’ll escape if you haven’t imposed yourself on other people’s notice, if you haven’t flaunted your possessions, if you’ve learned to keep your satisfaction to yourself.”

Don’t expect your typical philosophical text when you read this. It’s short, easy to understand, and will leave you with a deeper appreciation for life after reading it.

I hope these books impact you as much as they impacted me. They are life changing, and will lead you to discover others that are equally compelling.


One Book Every Media Consumer Must Read

In 2009, Ryan Holiday purchased a series of billboards scattered throughout Los Angeles to promote his client Tucker Max’s film “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” but this was no typical publicity campaign.  Shortly after they were put up, Holiday defaced the very billboards he purchased with obscene, 2-foot-long stickers implying that Max have something despicable done to his genitals.

After snagging a few photos of his pseudo-vandalism, Holiday emailed the pictures under a fictional name to two local blogs saying, “Good to know Los Angeles hates Tucker Max, too.”

“You’re not lying, are you,” the blogger asked.

“Trust me,” Holiday replied, “I’m not lying.”

The subsequent backlash and barrage of tweets and Facebook protest groups resulting from Holiday’s act gained significantly more publicity for the movie than any billboard could have done alone.

This is one of several eccentric publicity stunts that Ryan Holiday features in his controversial book “Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.”  But it’s more than a playbook for swindling the media.  Holiday acts as a whistleblower, pulling back the curtain on modern media and exposing its corruption.

While Holiday describes how he lied, cheated and bribed the media to promote his clients, TMIL provides a brutally honest but vital look into the complex world of online media that’s increasingly dominating the fields of PR, advertising and strategic communication.

So what can you learn from TMIL that isn’t covered in your communications classes?

A common trend exists to think of public relations as some vague, corporate term that involves billion dollar companies paying big bucks to firms that protect their reputation.  But, as you will quickly learn from Holiday, the paradigm has shifted.

In a culture where journalists and bloggers are slaves to money and page views, Holiday argues that “news” can be created based on tips from manipulators like himself.  The stories that will generate the most clicks, which inevitably make cash, are the ones that get published.

It’s a disturbing thought for PR practitioners: your client loses millions of dollars because of a malicious rumor started by a tipster looking for a big scoop and a quick dollar.

The web has enabled virtually anyone to pull the levers of blogs and news sites to twist what we read and watch.  With the mass media no longer being the main conductor of news, we are forced to adapt to this chaotic environment which requires skill to navigate.

At the least, TMIL will challenge your presumptions about how publicity and news are generated.  It also serves as a sharp reminder that the media is a pliable, workable substance that can and is easily manipulated.

Although it’s not often that a Wall Street Journal bestseller needs any additional publicity, TMIL is an exception.  This book is indispensable for anyone in the communications field.  Whether you simply want to be informed or actually use Holiday’s tactics for your own benefit is up to you.

Dominic Vaiana studies writing and media strategy at Xavier University.  He founded a campus newspaper and later went on to advise, ghostwrite, and edit for colleagues and startups.  His biweekly newsletter with his personal articles, essays, interviews, and book recommendations, can be found here. For any questions or comments, email