Empty Your Cup Will Be A Book

Big news and a much needed update

Heyo, Nik here, you know, the guy who went radio silent on Monday.

Sorry if I scared ya and thanks to everyone who reached out and asked about my health. I’m doing good :)

I know this isn’t a personal newsletter, but we’ll need some context for this update to make sense.

You might not know this but, for the past three years, I have been getting a Master’s degree at Technical University next to writing full-time. As of last Friday, I am done. I handed in my thesis and, barring any disasters, will graduate by November.

While I’m incredibly excited to launch into writerhood for the next 50 years, those three years have also been the hardest-working years of my life. On Monday, I realized: I need to take a step back, shift down a gear, and look at all this with fresh eyes.

What initially felt like a slump in motivation turned out to be a desire for change. The first change I am making is the one I’m most scared of, but it’s also the one I most believe in:

I’m getting rid of deadlines. All of them. No more daily, weekly, or monthly set publishing.

That statement is enough to give 17 writing gurus a heart attack, and I have been a big believer in deadlines in the past - so what’s going on here? The simple answer is I got sick and tired of them, and when I probed this feeling, I realized it was for 2 reasons:

  1. I need more time to write better things. This includes both long articles and short ones. Without time to let a piece sit, edit it, and, yes, toss it out altogether if it sucks, I’ll always be forced to deliver sub-par writing some of the time. This isn’t to say everything will be perfect from here on out, but I got annoyed enough with knowing things weren’t when I sent them that I think this is worth a try.

  2. As long as I have deadlines, I’ll always feel guilty when I’m not working. If you’re diligent in what you do, you know this feeling. You’re committed to doing the best job you can, but if that job is never-ending - which all entrepreneurship is - you’ll have a much harder time relaxing than if you can drop the hammer at your normal job. With daily or weekly deadlines, there’s always another one coming up soon, and it’s usually enough to keep me spinning in circles in my mind, even if I’m off duty. Reducing deadlines has helped before, and this feels more sustainable long-term, especially if I’m gonna do this for the rest of my life.

This is a classic example of “what got you here won’t get you there.

It’s hard to let go of what has worked well for us in the past, but it’s often exactly what we need to improve. For me, that thing was publishing on a set schedule.

I published daily book summaries on Four Minute Books in 2016, daily Quora answers in 2017, weekly articles and newsletters from 2017-2019, and now Empty Your Cup for the past four months.

I’d still recommend it to any starting writer, but at some point, just like in college, you have to graduate to something bigger.

That bigger thing is going to be the Empty Your Cup book.

Here’s what that means for this newsletter:

  1. Instead of soon going paid as originally planned, the newsletter will remain free - at least until the book is published, maybe longer.

  2. Instead of daily emails, you’ll get them on a more random, infrequent schedule. I might send several in a row if I have them, but this allows me to write the content in batches and then test individual pieces so I can improve them and make sure whatever shows up in the book is world-class. It also means some of the ones in the book will be brand new.

  3. When the book is ready, we’ll start a 365-day sequence on this newsletter that functions like an upgrade to the book. It might cost $5/month to get all posts or come as an upgrade to a slightly more expensive version of the book, we’ll see.

Okay, long update, but I hope it makes sense. If you have any questions, fire away.

I know I’ve never made more changes to my writing than I have this year, but it’s all a reflection of how much has changed in my life. You might not understand them all, but I hope you’ll see them through together with me.

After all, we’re over 4,000 people now on this amazing journey to find balance in our lives. I don’t know if we will, but I can promise you that everything I do with Empty Your Cup serves this goal to my best knowledge and ability.

Thank you for being here and talk soon!


PS: I’m working on a longer article to better explain why I’m now choosing more of a sprinter’s mindset at work. I’ll send it through when it’s ready.

Monday Zen: The Tiger & The Lamb

Once upon a time, a lamb was drinking water from a mountain stream. A tiger came to drink the water a few yards above him, saw the lamb, and said, "Why are you muddying my stream?"

The lamb said, "How can I be muddying your stream? I'm down here and you're up there?"

"But you did it yesterday."

"I wasn't even here yesterday!"

"Then it must have been your mother."

"My mother has been dead for awhile. They took her away."

"Then it must have been your father."

"My father? I don't even know who he is!

"I don't care. It must have been your grandfather or great-grandfather who has been muddying my stream. So I am going to eat you!", the tiger exclaimed.

And with that he pounced on the lamb and made a meal of him.

One of my favorite scenes in The Dark Knight is when Alfred tells Bruce Wayne the story of the jewel thief:

“A long time ago I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit.

So, we went looking for the stones. But, in 6 months, we never met anyone who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine - the bandit had been throwing them away.”

“So why steal them?”

“Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

What Alfred is trying to explain is that Batman’s enemy, the Joker, isn’t your average criminal. The Joker is the tiger. He shows up at the river and picks a fight. Just because he can. It’s who he is, and there’s nothing you can do to change it.

Some people aren’t looking for anything when they torpedo your life with toxic words, bad ideas, and terrible habits. They can’t be healed, appeased, or convinced to change their minds. Some people just want to tear others down.

Their pain sits so deep you can’t get to them and it’s not your job to try and do so. Your job is to realize it before they pounce and get out of the way.

Life is better when you’re a lamb. You can mind your own business, be calm and happy, and you’ll get along with almost everybody.

But don’t be naïve. Don’t trot into an obvious trap. Go through the world with open eyes. Stay aware of real danger. Watch out.

And when a tiger is making excuses to attack, run like hell.


About Monday Zen: Most people hate Monday. Why? In a good life, it’s a day like any other. At the very least, it shouldn’t be worse by default. That’s what Monday Zen is for: To make sure you start the week with calm, poise, and determination.

Let’s not derail our trains of thought before they leave the station. Let’s enjoy the journey.

Hey! Did you know word of mouth is the main way the work of solo artists grows? If you like Empty Your Cup, can you please share it? Your friends can sign up here.

You can also share on Facebook or tweet about it.

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

...and it's all small stuff

In 1997, a man named Richard Carlson published a book with a brilliant title: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all Small Stuff.

The title so clearly captures the book’s theme that just hearing it or giving the book as a gift already sends the right message to the person in question. In the past 20 years, many people did: Carlson’s books have sold over 25 million times.

Of course, the advice in it wasn’t new. Just the packaging. Reminding himself of the same thing some 2,000 years before, Marcus Aurelius wrote in one of his Meditations:

“It is essential for you to remember that the attention you give to any action should be in due proportion to its worth, for then you won’t tire and give up, if you aren’t busying yourself with lesser things beyond what should be allowed.”

Commenting on both authors, Ryan Holiday writes in The Daily Stoic:

“If you give things more time and energy than they deserve, they’re no longer lesser things. You’ve made them important by the life you’ve spent on them. And sadly, you’ve made the important things—your family, your health, your true commitments—less so as a result of what you’ve stolen from them.”

Yesterday, I woke up slowly. Had a calm start to my day. As time passed and I ran a few errands, I couldn’t help but compare: “Usually, I’d be working on X right now. After lunch, Y is the task I normally chase after.”

In the context of these quotes, suddenly, it all felt…small. Because that’s what we do. Day-to-day, we take care of small stuff. It is only in the long run that it adds up to big things.

Routines are good. They help us get these small things done. But it’s so easy to get caught up in them. To keep running in your hamster wheel, until you’ve completely forgotten why you started running in the first place.

Yesterday, I made time to remember why I’m running. I’m running so I can wake up without an alarm each day. I’m running so I can take off whenever I’m sick. I’m running so no boss can tell me what to do. And I’m running to write great stories.

Everything else? The tiny parts that break and go wrong each day? It’s all small stuff.

On a flight to publish his next book in 2006, Richard Carlson passed away from a pulmonary embolism. He was 45 years old.

We don’t get to choose our time. All we get to do is choose how to spend the time that’s given to us.

Carlson’s early death may feel ironic, but, most of all, it’s symbolic. Don’t fritter away life by getting dragged into the unimportant. Don’t spend time on things that don’t deserve it.

Pick your battles. Remember why you’re running. And don’t sweat the small stuff.


PS: I wrote a short, free summary of Richard’s book a while ago. You can read it here.

About No Sense Friday: Most people live for Friday. Relaxing on the weekend is fine, but we can’t just waste it away every time. That’s why Friday is the most important day to call out things that make no sense. Because in a way, the concept of ‘Friday’ itself makes no sense.

A good life is lived every day, not just once a week.

Hey! Did you know word of mouth is the main way the work of solo artists grows? If you like Empty Your Cup, can you please share it? Your friends can sign up here.

You can also share on Facebook or tweet about it.

What Walls Will You Run Into?

You wake up from the sunlight. It shines right into your face.

You open your eyes and realize: you’re in a box. A square, plastic box, just large enough for you to stand in. You get up and look around. It’s dark, except from above. Some kind of hatch’s been opened, so sunlight can fall in.

Suddenly, the box starts to rise. Like an elevator. It moves closer to the light. And closer. And closer. Now, you’re in the open. Still in the box, but you can see nature all around you. Green canopy, animal sounds. A jungle of some kind? Whatever it is, it looks dangerous.

But, what’s that? Just outside the box, facing each of its four sides, about 10 feet away, there are four walls. Huge, towering, red-brick walls. You can barely see any green between them.

Sprawled across each wall in bright, white letters are your four biggest goals in life. How did they know? Who even is ‘they?’

Before you can ask more questions, a buzzer sounds. Your plastic prison falls apart, leaving you exposed. Whatever this game is, looks like it has begun.

So many questions, but only one that matters:

Which wall will you run for - and how fast can you reach it?

The biggest wall a painter can run into is not painting at all. That one’s a thousand feet long and equally as high. And it’s right in front of the painter’s nose. But as soon as she first swings the brush, it magically disappears.

The next one is a little further away. A little smaller. And a little easier to get around. Maybe, it’s not painting consistently, or using the wrong technique, or judging her work too early. But since she scaled that first wall, it’s another one she can handle.

Wherever you are in life, you have to work with what you’re given. Everything we have, our minds, our bodies, is part of the starting equipment inside that plastic box. Once you’re out of it, it’s on you to choose your walls - and use it as best as you can.

What are the biggest walls you could run into by overlooking them? Which ones really matter? And why are you afraid of tackling them?

Whatever this game is, I can assure you, it has already begun. So pick your walls - and then run for them.


About Thought Experiment Thursday: Einstein said we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them. Science estimates we have about 35 thoughts per minute. That’s a lot of chances to change our thinking. So on Thursdays, that’s what we’ll practice.

A question opens the mind. A statement closes it. Let’s keep ours wide open.

Hey! Did you know word of mouth is the main way the work of solo artists grows? If you like Empty Your Cup, can you please share it? Your friends can sign up here.

You can also share on Facebook or tweet about it.

Forgiveness Wednesday: One More Time

You ate all the candy and told your parents you didn’t. Oh, that damned first lie. But eventually, you forgave yourself. One more time.

You said you’d be home by ten, but you weren’t. They were worried sick. Your stomach twisted as you lay in bed. But eventually, you forgave yourself. One more time.

Your boyfriend said he was seeing someone else. How could he do that to you? What did you do wrong? Nothing. So eventually, you forgave yourself. One more time.

The girl you liked was never into you. You just refused to hear the message. When it finally sank in, you broke down and cried. All this time, wasted. But, finally, you know. So you forgave yourself. One more time.

You felt lonely and isolated. Why didn’t anyone understand? One day, you realize you never told them. That you pushed them away. But time heals all wounds, even if not all bridges can be rebuilt. You found a new start, a new chapter, a new life. And forgave yourself. One more time.

You knew you weren’t fit to work. But you showed up anyway. You wanted to look professional and strong. Of course, the project went sideways. You blew past the deadline. The final number was wrong. Your boss ripped your head off. Worse, she was right. But you could do better next time. Take the day when you’re sick. So you forgave yourself. One more time.

The voice in your head said “no.” That you couldn’t do it. Who should believe you? Why would anyone care? It brought up some nasty things, and you surrendered. To the couch. To Netflix. To ice cream. But you’d still be here tomorrow. You’d have a chance to try again. But to take it, you had to forgive yourself. One more time.

You were supposed to be so much farther by now. More money. A family. The job you really wanted. You don’t have any of these things, and, yet, life is still beautiful. There’s so much more to it than this. Maybe, it’s a sign to forgive yourself. One more time.

You don’t have to do it all alone, you know? Whatever it is, someone out there feels the same. But if you don’t raise your hand, they won’t see you. Can’t help you. Can’t tell you they’re going through the same thing. Don’t stay quiet. It’s okay. You can forgive yourself. One more time.

Whatever happens today, or tomorrow, or 36 days from now, promise me one thing. Promise me, you’ll forgive yourself. One more time.


About Forgiveness Wednesday: No matter how the week starts, by Wednesday, we’ve had enough time to kick ourselves. We’re human. We make mistakes, we regret them, and we blame ourselves. But the only way we can keep moving on is if we forgive ourselves and those around us. So every Wednesday, forgiveness is what we’ll practice.

Let’s be kind to ourselves so we can succeed.

Hey! Did you know word of mouth is the main way the work of solo artists grows? If you like Empty Your Cup, can you please share it? Your friends can sign up here.

You can also share on Facebook or tweet about it.

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