My Experience Taking an Engineering Course on YouTube

Early on in the COVID pandemic, I had some extra time to spend at home. I decided to work my way through a physics lecture series I found on YouTube. 

I decided to start working my way through these lessons from Jeff Hanson. I started with the Statics course, and then I moved on to the solids and dynamics courses.

Why Did I Do This?

I think engineering is the coolest. My mom’s boyfriend is an engineer and I was fascinated with how he could fix almost anything in his house. Like many other people did during the pandemic, I was seriously considering a career change to engineering. I actually applied for a couple engineering schools and got in to one of them. I thought I would brush up on my physics and math by running through Jeff Hanson’s courses on YouTube.

What Did I Learn?

Well, obviously I learned a lot about engineering concepts. But what I was surprised by is how easy I found it to learn from this format. I love being in a classroom setting, but this gave me access to the same information at any hour of the day, and allowed me to work at my own pace.

Some people who want to learn these subjects assume that the only way to find this information is to spend thousands of dollars on college courses, hundreds of dollars on text books and hours in a classroom. People know that they can learn about social media marketing or fitness on YouTube, but I think the part that gets overlooked is the legitimate, valuable information you can find on YouTube on ANY SUBJECT.

Would I Still Become an Engineer?

After completing these courses, I think I scratched the itch that I had. I still love learning new math and science concepts but I’m not interested in working as an engineer. I love applying the concepts I learn, but I don’t think the work that engineers do would stimulate me in the same way.

Biggest Takeaway

This little foray into a new subject really showed me one thing. Being a lifelong learner is a personal choice that you have to make. If you want to perpetually improve and expand your knowledge, you have to make the choice to take action.

If you’ve always wanted to learn about something, but never had the chance to take an actual class — just look for something on YouTube or elsewhere online. The resources are available for you to learn whatever you want: GO FIND THEM!

Playing Guitar More in 2021

I’ve started playing guitar quite a bit recently. This is nothing new, I’ve been playing guitar since I was a teenager. I took a few guitar lessons when I was in like 2nd grade, and then again when I was in middle school. Then, when I was in high school I picked it up and played a lot. I spent hours and hours in my room annoying my brother by playing the same chords over and over again.

Recently I’ve been really enjoying learning new songs on the guitar. I think I’ve followed a somewhat typical path in learning and playing guitar. Obviously at first I made progress really quickly, but then I felt like my progress really stalled for the past few years. I wasn’t playing as much, and when I did I just played the same songs over and over again.

In the past few months I’ve been learning new songs from artists that I didn’t really listen to much before. I watched this video of John Mayer performing at NAMM 2021, and have really enjoyed learning some John Mayer songs.

I’ve read that guitar players typically progress quickly at first before reaching a stagnant period and then after awhile they start making progress again. I hope that I can continue to grow as a player over the next year.

January Milestones

I hit a couple of milestones this month that I thought would be interesting to share here. These weren’t really goals that I was working towards, but I’m still happy with the progress I’ve made over the past year or so.

900 Subscribers on YouTube

A couple of days ago, I reached 900 subscribers on YouTube. I’m actually really happy with the growth I’ve seen on YouTube in 2020 and so far in 2021. I got on a pretty good publishing schedule in 2020 and have ramped it up further in 2021.

I’m consistently gaining around 10 subscribers per day on my YouTube channel, so if I can maintain this trajectory I should reach 1000 subs (and eligibility for monetization) fairly soon.

300 Pound Back Squat

In mid-2020 I started the Smolov squat training program. I made a lot of progress fairly quickly, while taking on this squatting program in addition to CrossFit workouts. One of the biggest changes that CrossFit helped me make was getting more depth in my squat. I went from doing mostly “powerlifting-style” low bar, parallel squats to doing high bar, ass-to-grass squats. I took a slight step backwards as far as the weight I was lifting, but my range of motion has increased a lot.

In 2020, I went from a 255 pound max to a 285 pound max in the first couple months of the squat program. I wanted to get to 300 pounds but hadn’t really had a chance to test my one rep max. One day this week we worked up to a one rep max back squat at CrossFit, and I was able to hit a 300 pound lift.

I’m not done achieving my goals for 2021. I still have a long way to go. Stay tuned for my journey.

Why Mentors are So Hard to Find

I’m seeking a mentor.

Honestly, I haven’t done much in the way of actually looking for a mentor. I’d love to have one, though. Someone I can bounce ideas off of, ask for advice, and learn from. But mentors aren’t on LinkedIn just reaching out to every young person in their field.

But I understand why. For someone with 10+ years of experience in a given field, what incentive is there to mentor someone?

For many people that find themselves in stressful careers (and careers that get more stressful and demanding as they progress) they simply “don’t have time” to mentor someone. If someone is driven by making money, there isn’t an incentive to help a younger person in their field.

I think one way to get many of the results of a mentor is to turn to “Mastermind” programs and online courses. Once someone in a given field reaches a certain level of expertise they can put together a course about how to get started in their field, how to grow and develop, and certain roadblocks they ran into that you can avoid.

There are many programs like this, but I think they will make their way into new industries in the next 5 years.

Do Work You’re Proud Of

Yesterday at work I got to do some awesome work. When you do similar things every day, work can start to feel monotonous. However, yesterday I got a message from a co-worker asking for help on a project and I jumped at the opportunity.

We put together a “guest post” or “sponsored post” for a popular tech site. I was involved from start to finish and I felt like I had really contributed to my company’s goal of promoting its product. I studied the other sponsored posts on the site and emulated what I saw as the good parts of them. I wrote a 500 word article that 1.) would provide value to the site’s readers and 2.) promote our product in a way that would make people want to buy it.

I also did some graphic design work for the article, because the post includes a header image and a in-article graphic. I really enjoyed this process because it allowed me to showcase a range of my skills while also collaborating with a few other team members.

I’m excited for the post to go live and I’m optimistic that it will deliver good results for my company. (Stay tuned for my post about how the article went viral and I got a huge bonus 😜🤞)

I really enjoyed writing this post. Typically I’m writing informative articles for the sole purpose of attracting organic search traffic from Google. When writing for SEO, I feel like my writing is kind of formulaic and boring. I’m not focused on telling a story to readers, I’m interested in showing Google that I’m an expert on a given topic. I plan on writing more posts like this one over the next month or so. Thanks for reading.

Pros and Cons of Daily Blog Posts

I set a goal to post on my personal blog every day in January. So far I’ve been able to do this. I didn’t set any boundaries or rules for what I had to write, how long it had to be, etc. All I have to do is write something that I’m willing to post and share it…every day for a month.

When I complete this month of blogging I will have doubled the number of posts on this site. Even though I’ve had this blog for a few years, I didn’t post regularly. Now that I’m a couple weeks in to this “challenge” I just wanted to share a few of the pros and cons that I’ve come across.

Pros of Blogging Every Day

  • Writing Gets Easier: As writing has become a daily habit, I’m able to put my thoughts into words much faster. This has translated well to my blogging for work as well. The more I write, the better I get at the actually process of writing. I am improving my productivity and my actual content.
  • Better Connections with Readers: I don’t get a ton of traffic to this site, but posting often gives people a reason to come back to my blog. As I dive into more topics I’m able to relate to readers and start conversations more easily.
  • New Blog Post Ideas: Just because I know I’m going to have to write a blog post tomorrow, I’m constantly coming up with new things to write about. I have a long list in my Notes app of potential blog posts titles and topics.
  • Allows for Trying New Topics: When I post “every so often” (which usually ends up being one every six months) I tend to stick to the same topic over and over again. When I blog every day I’m able to discuss a range of topics, so I haven’t gotten bored of writing yet.
  • More Visitors To My Site: It’s pretty common for websites and social media accounts to get a spike in views/traffic right when they post. When I post every day I get to see the small bump in views every day. I’m already on track to have the best month ever as far as views go on this site. I’m excited to see how much I can grow just from posting every day.

Cons of Blogging Every Day

  • Run Out of “Good” Ideas: When I first started writing every day, I already had a few posts in mind. However, now that I’ve posted those blogs I sometimes feel like now my ideas are second-rate. I think this feeling can be helpful, because it forces me to come up with new “good” ideas. However, I still sometimes feel like I’ve already covered the topics that I want to write about. The truth is, I just need to keep writing.
  • Quality May Suffer: When I’m posting daily I get the sense that today’s post isn’t that important because tomorrow will bring a new post. I’ve justified lowering my standards because I’m prioritizing posting every day, but if I want to run a successful blog I need to focus on delivering quality content. I want people to find value in the words I’m sharing, so I need to make sure I’m following through with that promise.
  • Less Time for Long (1500+ word) Posts: I’ve written some longer blog posts in a single day, and I’ll likely include some longer posts on this site later this month. Writing a fully developed and researched blog post that is over 1500 words can easily take a few hours. I’m writing here after a full day of writing for work, so I don’t have a ton of time to devote to this blog right now. Daily posting is a good habit, but it shouldn’t get in the way of creating amazing content.

Thank you all for reading my blog. If you have any writing tips for me, send them my way on Twitter.

I Suck at Closing New Clients…

I’ve worked on building a freelance marketing business or marketing agency for awhile now. Unfortunately the most I’ve ever gotten paid for a freelance gig was around $200 for a single project. Not only is this much less than I would like, it’s a result of one thing: I’m terrible at selling my services and closing the sales.

This is probably fairly common amongst many marketing professionals, who enjoy promoting products but don’t enjoy “sales”. I know that selling is a valuable skill to have, and once it’s established it can continue to pay-off for an entire career.

How Do I Find Clients Who Are Looking for My Skills?

My skills are mainly SEO, content writing, and graphic design. I often come across businesses and their websites or social media account and think “I could really help this person.” I reach out to these businesses quite often, but haven’t been able to close clients consistently. I’ll have a conversation about how I can help and the person, and in many cases they are interested.

This is where I drop the ball. The client will say they’re interested and I will confirm that I will do the work. Then I find myself unable to get another response or they simply lose interest.

I need to optimize my sales “funnel” to move people from interested prospects to paying customers. I think my sales process kind of loses a “professional” feel once it reaches the time to lock clients in and collect money. I’ll get this worked out in the coming months and hopefully will check back in with a couple new agency clients.

If you have any tips for a “young” marketing freelancer/agency feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.

My Experience with VPN Affiliate Programs

Affiliate marketing, if done well can be a very lucrative pursuit. It hasn’t paid me a ton, but it has taught me a lot about what it takes to encourage people to buy products based on recommendations they read online.

I signed up for my first VPN affiliate programs in 2018, and over the past couple years VPNS have paid me over $2000 for sales I’ve made. If you’re looking to get into the VPN affiliate marketing space, here’s what I’ve learned.

Which VPN Affiliate Programs Did I Use?

  • NordVPN: This is the first program I signed up for, and has had the highest conversion rate of any of the affiliate programs I’ve used. Commissions are high and the affiliate dashboard is super easy to navigate.
  • ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN is the second affiliate program I signed up for. I started seeing sales pretty quickly with this one, although just not as often as NordVPN. The affiliate program setup was smooth and it’s generally easy to use.
  • Perfect Privacy: I signed up for Perfect Privacy’s affiliate program so I could navigate into reviews and content about other VPNs besides NordVPN and ExpressVPN. I had some success early with Perfect Privacy, but didn’t push it like I did with Nord and ExpressVPN.
  • Private Internet Access: Private Internet Access (PIA) was another great affiliate program that I’m glad I signed up for. Again, I saw some early success here, but it quickly fizzed out. PIA has recently shut down my affiliate account for inactivity, so if you want to maintain an account keep in mind that you will need to make some sales.

My First Affiliate Sale

I remember it didn’t take long for me to get my first sale. It was within a few hours after publishing my first post and the commission was $36! I was so excited, because that felt like so much money to earn from something I posted online. I quickly realized the beauty of affiliate marketing – your earnings are unlimited and completely based on your performance. I saw the roadmap to making thousands of dollars a month, or a week, or even in a day.

My VPN Affiliate Earnings

I’ve been promoting VPNs in blog posts since mid-2018. I’ve made over $2000 in those two years. One thing that makes this type of marketing so appealing is that I haven’t created any content about VPNs in over a year, but I still see a few conversions per month.

NordVPN Affiliate Program Earnings

NordVPN Affiliate Stats

NordVPN was my best performing affiliate offer. My personal opinion is that NordVPN has the best landing pages, and they have a number of offers for users in different locations.

Organic Search Traffic Is Incredibly Valuable

When it comes to an e-commerce store or a blog post that is selling affiliate product, organic search traffic is a gold mine. It is so valuable because it is free and continuous. Any sales you get from organic search traffic are 100% profit, because you don’t have to pay for these users to come to your site via ads.

I think if you want to be really successful in the affiliate marketing space, you probably have to use ads. Otherwise, it’s going to be really difficult to rank for competitive, high-value keywords.

My Tips for Anyone Looking to Get Into Affiliate Marketing

  • You don’t need your own website. I got affiliate sales from a number of websites that I didn’t own. The majority of my sales came from posts (like this one) on Medium. Having your own website does give you more control, but if you have a large following on social media or other online platforms you can be successful.
  • Provide valuable content. My early articles were like “NordVPN is the best.” It was easy to see that I was just promoting a product, and as a result these articles didn’t perform well. I quickly adjusted to trying to help people in certain situations that may lead them to purchase a VPN. I started writing resource and how-to posts, and I started to see my sales tick up.
  • Build authority first, then try to sell. I’ve written other posts about this, but I think people will be better off if they try to build a following before trying to dive into affiliate marketing. If you can grow a following of people that trust you, when you finally do promote a product they will be more willing to believe your recommendations.

My Favorite (and Least Favorite) CrossFit Movements

I’ve been writing about my CrossFit journey recently, and I just wanted to share a bit more about the specific movements that are common in CrossFit workouts. There are a few skill-based workouts like muscle-ups and pistol squats that frustrate me right now, but once I nail the movements I may like them. These are the movements I love to see in a workout, followed by the movements I dread.

My Favorite CrossFit Movements

My favorite movements are either those that I excel at, or that I just enjoy doing (even if I’m not great at them).

Rowing: Rowing is a pretty simple movement, but coming into CrossFit I had a few issues with my form. After a couple classes, I fixed my form and instantly loved any workout with rowing in it. I’m pretty strong in most cardio movements, like rowing, running, and biking.

Toes-To-Bar: Toes to bar sucked for awhile, when I just couldn’t seem to string reps together. After a coach at the gym gave me a cue to “shoot my legs down and back” I was able to maintain momentum for multiple reps. Now I can string together 10 kipping reps consistently, and I actually enjoy the movement.

Double Unders: Double under were another movement I struggled with for quite awhile. Whenever double under were prescribed in a workout, I would substitute single unders. Now I’m pretty comfortable with them and I enjoy doing them in workouts and on their own.

Clean and Jerk: I took a weightlifting class in high school and we learned how to clean and jerk. I remember the kid who demonstrated the movement did a perfect clean and split jerk. He caught the bar at the bottom of a deep squat and I was so impressed. Working on my clean and jerk this past year has been fun. I recently got a PR of 195 pounds — although I’m still working towards my goal of 225.

Deadlifts: Deadlifts are simple: pick up a loaded bar and set it down. I’ve been deadlifting for years, but I had hit a plateau. I was stuck at 300 pounds and couldn’t get past it. However this past year at CrossFit I was able to improve my one rep max to 350 pounds.

My Least Favorite CrossFit Movements

My least favorite movements are movements that I haven’t nailed yet, or that I find incredibly difficult.

Box Jump Overs: Box jump overs suck because they are hard (as if other CrossFit movements aren’t). If you make these burpee box jump overs, they are WAY worse. These just tend to be in the middle of workouts that are already hard, and then these proceed to keep my heart rate through the roof.

Snatch: I’m not terrible at the snatch, but I just need to work on this movement a lot more to really nail it. I just haven’t found consistency in the snatch positions yet. I can get the bar up through the first couple pulls, but struggle to catch the bar in a balanced, comfortable position. I don’t like metcons that include snatch, because of the technical nature of the movement (and the potential for injury).

Devil’s Press: Devil’s press is BRUTAL! It’s basically a burpee with dumbbells followed by a dumbbell snatch. Workouts with devil’s press are always hard. Even if it’s just 6-8 reps per round of devil’s press they consistently kick my ass.

Strict Press: Maybe I just struggle with pressing movements in general (bench press, shoulder press, etc.), but strict press is a tough one for me. I feel like over the past year I’ve made very little progress in improving my strength in the strict press. I can do 3-5 reps of 125 pounds for example, but as soon as I jump up in weight I struggle to even get the bar off of my shoulders. According to these strength standards, most of my lifts fall into the “Intermediate” category, but my strict press falls closer to the “novice”. One of my goals for this year will be to improve my strict press.

Pistol Squats: Last, but certainly not my least hated workout: pistols. I struggle with single leg movements like pistols, box step ups and lunges. My right leg is weaker than my left and these movements really punish me for that. This really just means I need to do more of these movements — and I’m going to work on these going forward. We did a workout with pistol squats last week and I did them with a box, so I didn’t have to sit all the way down. As I fatigued, I could hardly complete a single rep with my right leg.

Do you have any tips for me on improving my least favorite movements? Which movements are your favorite and least favorite? Let me know on Twitter.

Why Are There So Many Overweight Kids in The U.S. and What Can We Do About It?

According to the CDC, obesity affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents in the United States in 2016. Unfortunately, the majority of these kids will grow up to be obese adults. These obese adults will then require more healthcare and economic resources than healthy individuals.


The Problem is Not Just A Lack of Physical Activity

It can be easy to point to the prevalence of childhood obesity today and say that it’s obviously because of less physical activity. Kids today spend more time playing video games and browsing the internet than they did two decades ago.

Weight gain, and ultimately obesity, is caused by one thing – caloric surplus. Physical activity and exercise is obviously one way to burn calories, but it exercise a smaller role in weight loss than eating less. The “food” comprising the “typical American diet” is not conducive to weight loss whatsoever.

The Typical American Diet Is To Blame

Over the last 30-40 years, the American diet has transformed to include more processed foods, more sugar, and more low-quality calories. Regardless of what Americans are eating, we are just eating too much. As out diet becomes more and more processed, it becomes easier to consume too many calories.

The U.S. Subsidizes The Production of Unhealthy Foods

The federal government spends over $20 billion per year on subsidizing agriculture and farm businesses. According the the Environmental Working Group, the majority of this money goes to the largest producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice.

The foods created from these agricultural commodities are some of the least healthy and lowest in nutrients. As the production of these foods continues to be propped up by government funding, small farms growing healthier, organic vegetables and organic, grass-fed meats struggle to compete with the mass production of other food products.

Correlation Between Poverty and Obesity

It is well known that poorer Americans are more likely to be obese or suffer from diabetes; there is a strong negative correlation between household income and both obesity and diabetes.

Source: Science Daily

Sadly, and oddly, in the United States, it is not rich people who are most vulnerable to obesity but poor people. Because of government subsidies of corn and soy, processed foods with these ingredients are cheap and accessible to low-income communities. High consumption of processed food is associated with weight gain and other health problems like diabetes.

Highly processed foods basically hijack our brain’s rewards center, which leads to people overeating these foods. Whole foods, like meats, fruits and vegetables, don’t do this and as a result are less likely to be over-consumed. Whole foods are associated with higher costs, but there are a number of healthy, whole foods that are affordable and can be purchased at any grocery store.

What Are The Incentives To Improve Health?

Agriculture, tech, and food are big industries. If we want to improve the health of Americans, these industries need to adjust to produce better health outcomes. Unfortunately, shifting these massive industries is going to be a slow, gradual change.

Under the current system, there is very little incentive to improve health at the societal level. If people consume less food, require less healthcare, and become more active, the industries that serve these needs will lose out on potential profits.

At the individual level though, the incentives to maintain a healthy lifestyle are countless. You will spend less on healthcare in your lifetime. You will be capable of doing more physical activity. And finally, you will likely live longer.

What I Would Do To Solve Childhood (and Adult) Obesity

I have a few ideas that I would implement, if I were put in charge of a task force to solve the obesity crisis in the United States. I was overweight for the majority of my childhood and I found that it held me back in a number of ways. Today I am fit and healthy and I want to help kids embrace healthy living from a young age to avoid the health and social issues connected with being “a fat kid”.

Step 1: Improve Health & Wellness Education

I was lucky to go to some of the best schools in my state. Although my education was fantastic, I still feel that my knowledge of health and wellness topics was incredibly lacking coming out of high school. The education materials around health and wellness felt outdated and vague.

If we truly want to get rid of childhood obesity, we need to give young people the knowledge they need to get healthy on their own. Although there are plenty of outside factors that influence a person’s health, empowering kids to make their own decisions is essential for making longterm progress.

Step 2: Spread Awareness About Fitness and Performance

There is a very clear connection between health and performance in most cases. If someone is playing a sport, they are going to be more capable and perform better if they are healthy. By getting kids involved in sports, even if they are overweight or not the best on their team, we can help promote healthy habits from a young age.

I’m a strong believer that once you see some progress in something like running, cycling, weightlifting or another sport you will be more likely to stick with it and work to achieve more and more. This worked for me when I found cycling in my teenage years. I overhauled my entire life to help me work towards my cycling goals. The passion I found in cycling allowed me to remain dedicated and even now that I don’t ride my bike that much, I have shifted to other area of fitness.

I hear a lot of people discussing their long-term goals for fitness and performance. I’ve heard people say that they are training for longevity, and I think that is certainly a worthy goal. However, I think dedicating yourself to performing at a high level has more ability to influence people to adopt healthy habits.

Read More: My Journey from Fat Kid to Fitness Freak

Step 3: Build a Network of Fitness/Healthy Lifestyle Mentors

I remember how terrible it was being the fat kid in gym class. But I also know how amazing it felt to finally feel like I was “in shape” and know that I was healthier than I’d ever been. I want to help kids who are struggling with their weight get in shape and learn healthy habits. I think Big Brothers Big Sisters is an amazing organization that helps at-risk youth build relationships with role models in their communities. My goal is to build something like this that focuses on promoting fitness, healthy eating, and good habits in low-income or generally overweight communities.

I’m lucky enough to have encountered a good role model as a child, who helped me see what it looked like to focus on health and fitness. But I know that if I didn’t meet this person, my life may look a lot different. I may have fallen into a life without healthy habits like exercising and eating a healthy diet. One mentor can make a huge difference in a child’s life and I want to spread healthy lifestyles to as many kids as possible.

Have you gone through a lifestyle transformation for the better? If so, what led you to make the changes necessary to improve your health and lifestyle?