Your body is stronger than you think: Notes after two months on ClassPass.

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I am not a “gym guy.” Other than a very brief stint on an elliptical machine as a sophomore in college, and a second brief stint on a stairclimber at Crunch Fitness in LA in 2008 (conveniently located across the street from my place of residence), I haven’t been to a gym in years. I have always preferred outdoor sports – cycling, flag football, hiking, and tennis. Part of this is because I’m an unabashed germaphobe, and I feared what microorganisms were waiting for me in various locker-rooms and workout machines.

I have never been able to motivate myself to work out regularly: I had a small belly that for years I couldn’t get rid of. Eating and drinking right is — or was — easier for me than partaking in fitness regimens.

During the summer of 2014 I heard about ClassPass from my friend Anastasia Leng. I was intrigued by ClassPass’s value proposition, but I didn’t immediately join: I figured that with so many weekends away in the summer, it wouldn’t be worth it.

However, at the start of Labor Day Weekend, on my 29th birthday, I had a mild existential crisis and thought it would probably be better if I lived to 100 instead of 75. So I joined ClassPass. I decided to plunk down $99 per month to go to dozens of gyms (3x maximum each per month). Yes, this sounds expensive at first, but for me, it was a lifesaver.

What do I love ClassPass? It is perfect for Millennials — especially Millennials with ADHD. There is no commitment to one gym, and every day is different. Sure, some classes I love more than others, but all have value in improving the body.

And I’ve realized: The locker-rooms and machines at 90% of the gyms I have attended are sufficiently well-cleaned so my germaphobia was misguided!

Here are some of my favorite ClassPass classes:

1. BCL Fitness (Prospect Park and Central Park) – Melissa Carter is a lovely person and inspirational teacher. This is a simple boot camp held in Prospect Park or Central Park. You are drenched with sweat after it is over, and it feels so good.

2. Swerve Fitness (at 18th and 5th in Manhattan): I love that this is a cycling class with built-in sprints and competitions. I have become (psychotically?) competitive  – I scored an 809 here recently and was #1 in class. Halston is my favorite instructor here, but the others are equally inspiring. I also love that Swerve emails you your scores 15 minutes after class ends, making great use of data.

3. BFX (at 17th and 6th in Manhattan) – From boxing classes to cycling, this (new!) gym is great. Helpful instructors all around.

4. AQUA Studio NY (78 Franklin St – Tribeca) – This is cycling (spinning) in a pool. Yes, the concept is a bit crazy, but it is an intense workout, but it works wonders after a stressful day/week at work.  Anne K. is my favorite instructor as she doesn’t stop pushing you to your limits.

5. FlyWheel (Multiple locations) – Ah, FlyWheel, the redheaded stepchild of SoulCycle. The teachers here (I have had many) are all special and do such an amazing job of motivating you. One small problem: Waiting in line for the showers after class. Oy!

After two months, I have noticed significant changes in my body: My stomach is flat, my legs feel lighter, my hair looks thicker, my disposition is cheerier,  and either I now have delusions of grandeur or I really feel like I can conquer the world. Despite the unending stress of startup life, I am dealing with it far better than I did previously.

There have been a couple of classes that I haven’t enjoyed as much as the ones mentioned above, but it has probably been a mixture of my personal preferences (e.g. lack of showers or difficult to get to) that have led my to these conclusions. I was excited to learn that ClassPass raised $12 million a few weeks ago and will therefore be around for a while. Give it a shot. I promise you, it will be worth it.

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The Melting Pot: Leading chefs dish on diversifying dinner

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Ok foodie readers based in New York City, this one’s for you. I typically write about diversity in the workplace, but now I’m writing about diversity in the kitchen. My former employer from eons ago, Mother Jones Magazine, is hosting a pretty delicious night this coming Monday, featuring chefs of color who command the top echelons of the culinary world. Join chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Gabrielle Hamilton, Floyd Cardoz, and Charlene Johnson-Hadley in conversation with Mother Jones food and agriculture reporter Tom Philpott as they discuss the faces behind our food. Plus, there’s an open bar and appetizers, so get your tickets now!

7 Reasons Why Japan’s PR Troubles Can’t Stop It From Being Awesome

Japan has a major public relations problem.

Yesterday, an article in the Guardian titled “Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?” made its way around the highbrow social circles of the internet. Then there’s the continued fallout from Japan’s two-year-old nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima, which continues to present problems of epic proportions. There’s also the issue of the Japanese economy, which people love to refer to with negative terms like “The Lost Decades,” despite the fact that things in Japan appear to be rosier than they are in many other places. Finally, on the foreign policy front, Japan’s problems with China and Russia continue to be a source of international tensions.

But Japan is awesome. Really awesome. And it doesn’t deserve this negative press, when Japan has solved many of the problems that plague us every day. Here are some things that I love about Japan.

1. Crime

Japan has the lowest crime rate, by far, of any country on earth. This leads to a significantly higher quality of life than one would have elsewhere. Whether you’re going home by yourself late at night or traveling to a rural place alone, you feel incredibly safe in Japan. No place is perfect, but in this respect, Japan comes as close to perfection as anything I have ever experienced.

2. Public Transportation

Japan’s system of public transportation is nothing short of incredible. In San Francisco, people complain that a propensity for earthquakes and a seaside locale has prevented the city from building an extensive underground transportation system. I actually believed this was true… until I visited Japan, where every city has incredible public transportation, typically in the form of subways, despite being close to the water and in earthquake-prone zones. Japan also has bullet trains that make it easy as pie to travel between Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and other major cities. And domestic air travel is a breeze. The country’s low crime rate means that domestic airports are similar to what American airports were like pre-9/11, with very few security checkpoints. Also, in New York, I am used to being barrelled over by SDPs (Seriously Disgusting People) whenever I am on the subway. In Japan, there is tons of order. People wait in two places to board the next subway — in one line that guarantees you will get on the next train, or a second place that guarantees you a seat on the second train (that typically comes just two minutes later)!

3. Pride and Honor

Whether I am handing money to a cashier at 7-11, getting served dinner at an izakaya, or asking for assistance at the train station, in Japan, I was treated with respect and everything operated with incredible efficiency. Last year, I wrote an article for PolicyMic about the drawbacks of a tip-based culture, and I acknowledged that in Europe service is restaurants is inferior because of a lack of tips. However, Japan provided me with service that was superior to that of any American restaurant, because people take pride in their work. After eating approximately 30 meals at restaurants, I had not one complaint.

4. Heated Toilet Seats

5. The Cleanest Public Restrooms Ever

Yes, I will say more. Every restroom in Japan is incredibly clean. True story: I didn’t even consider building a nest when going #2!

6. Convenience

With vending machines everywhere, one never has to worry about getting a nice cold coffee or tea for little more than $1.

7. The Food

You may say, “I live in New York and we have the world’s best food.” I don’t think that’s true. Sorry broseph, but in New York, lots of the food isn’t fresh. In Tokyo, you have the Tsukiji Market in your backyard. I ate many of the best meals of my life in Japan. And they were super healthy too. Three words: Sushi. Sushi. Sushi.

Yes, I love Japan for all of the above reasons and many more. Any Guardian readers who doubt it would do well to visit the country and see for themselves.

Guy Fieri Times Square Restaurant Review: Here Is The Grade I Give It After I Tried It Myself

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After reading Pete Wells’ marvelously entertaining New York Times review of Guy Fieri’s Times Square restaurant, the eponymously named Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, I wanted to experience the place myself, simply to judge whether Wells was too harsh, or whether this dining experience was truly as poor as Wells claimed.

So I launched a campaign early this week to convince my five-person team at work to join me at Guy’s for a Friday lunch to remember. Much like my pre-Sandy obliviousness to the practice of folks who traffic in disaster porn, I was ignorant that ironic dining was already a hipster pastime. But an ironic dining outing, much like wearing tight pants when cycling long distances, is a hipster concession that we all must make for the good of mankind.

Our motley, open-minded crew (all dudes, as it happens) made the three-block trip to Manhattan’s armpit, better known as Times Square. Mind you, when I worked for MTV in Times Square, I had daily panic attacks that I’d die by terror or tourist trampling on my route between the subway and the office, yet neither situation came to fruition, and this was just my neurotic self at work. Typically, I painstakingly try to avoid going from my Bryant Park office those couple of northwestern blocks, unless there’s a Tony Award-winning Broadway show being performed, or if there is no other possible way for me to get to some Hell’s Kitchen destination. Also of note: Other than a trip to the Olive Garden 10 years ago when I was in high school, I have proudly avoided all Times Square restaurants. (Restaurant Row on 46th is as close as I’ll get to the area, or Shake Shack on 8th Avenue when some lowbrow accomplishment must be celebrated.)

Unfortunately, as in wine tasting, the nose goes a long way when delivering initial impressions. And the foyer to Guy’s smelled pungently like some type of food-based staleness. This wasn’t a false sense for those looking to criticize. It was very real. As real as the pigeon shit that nailed me last week. All of us prayed that it wouldn’t be our individual choice of food that would give off this odor. With that, we ignored the kitschy gift shop (trying to use the word kitsch only once in this article is an accomplishment!), and 30 seconds after our 11:45 a.m. arrival, we were promptly seated.

Choosing iced tea to drink put me in a bit of a quandary. This was because it was served neat (without ice), though there was a lemon. That said, the drink, which would more appropriately be recognized as “room temperature tea,” was served unsweetened, which was a pleasant surprise from a restaurateur whose sole purpose in life appears to be to make me die younger. (Tasting note: Interestingly, the tap water did come with ice.)

For starters, I tried the $14.50 sashimi tacos with raw ahi tuna, mango jicama salsa, wasabi, and sweet soy. What the four mini tacos lacked in size, they made up for in crispiness. That said, their insides were heavy on the salsa, ultra-light on the tuna, and heavy on sweet soy (which might as well be known as teriyaki or hoisin!).

Faring better were the nachos that Wells skewered (no pun intended) by writing, “How did nachos, one of the hardest dishes in the American canon to mess up, turn out so deeply unlovable? Why augment tortilla chips with fried lasagna noodles that taste like nothing except oil?” In fact, our group shared and universally loved these nachos. My only criticism was that the meat on them tasted a little funky, perhaps like the “cold gray clots of ground turkey” that Wells recalled. However, as a most-of-the-time pescetarian, I’m not in the best position to judge.

Regarding the calamari, Wells wrote, “How, for example, did Rhode Island’s supremely unhealthy and awesomely good fried calamari — dressed with garlic butter and pickled hot peppers — end up in your restaurant as a plate of pale, unsalted squid rings next to a dish of sweet mayonnaise with a distant rumor of spice?”

My colleagues described the squid, in Zagatarian terms, as “OK,” and “it’s hard to mess up fried food” but it “didn’t really have any flavor.” So perhaps, again, Wells’ critique was warranted.

Onward to the entrees! While there isn’t much diet-friendly fare on the menu, I ordered the shrimp, with caramelized red onions, bell peppers, green apples, and crispy noodles topped with “Guy’s signature sangria glaze.” Yes, the shrimp were sweet. Yes, the jumbo shrimp were set atop a mound of rice (which was, oddly enough never mentioned in the food’s description). But perhaps these shrimp were too sweet. And it’s not worth $24.95, when a similar dish could be purchased at a run-of-the-mill Mexican or Chinese restaurant for half the price. But again, this seems to be the de facto Times Square tourist tax at work.

Our group’s vegetarian-in-chief went for the whole grain penne with fresh mozzerella, cremini mushrooms, onions, and a garlic cream sauce. Though he’s too polite to grumble publicly, he told me upon return to the office that he “feels sick,” citing that the entree, awash in its cream sauce, was horrid.

The pulled pork trio (three sliders, with bacon and coleslaw on top), paired with fries and fried onions didn’t fair much better. Our tester, a notable Bushwickian with a sophisticated palate, found them unmemorably mediocre. The same went for the “Big Dipper,” a steak sandwich, that is meant to be dipped in a watery “beef jus” gravy.

Now, when my hungriest colleague ordered the $31.50 steak diane, I knew he would have high expectations, as this is the most expensive menu item. Though it was served medium-rare as promised, the steak was smothered in the “brandy pan sauce” intended to accompany it. The sauce to steak ratio was approximately 3:1, making for a calorie-laden experience that was quite off-putting to my somewhat-health-conscious colleague.

We didn’t stick around for dessert.

While Wells discusses some ignorance, for us, the staff was nothing other than incredibly kind and helpful throughout. (A close friend of mine is the GM of another Times Square restaurant, and he always complains about how difficult it is to attract and retain decent staff … most of whom are actor types who are running off to auditions before, after, and occasionally during shifts.)

Regardless of how Fieri tries to position it, Guy’s is certainly a member of the TGI Fridays-Chili’s-Applebees-Ruby Tuesday casual dining family, and one shouldn’t be expecting Le Bernadin when walking into a place that has plastic American flags of the Betsy Ross variety, cans of cheap beer, and cast-iron moose heads lining the walls. But was Wells’ review over the top? In some ways he was fair, yet in other ways he was brutal. But it appears that Guy’s is already making changes: A well-dressed restaurant-consultant type did ask us some questions about our meal after we finished (and then took it upon himself to refill our untended-to empty beverages).

At the end of the meal, perhaps because of the five pounds I put on, I forgot my bag under the table. But I scarcely made it to the door before a kind busboy returned it to me, avoiding a potential disaster. That kind of attention to detail is appreciated, and once the chefs get their acts together, Guy’s will become the middle-grade American restaurant it is destined to be.

29 Things I Learned in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

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As anyone who’s been following me on Twitter or is a Facebook friend knows, I’ve been quite obsessive in trying to coordinate relief efforts post-Sandy. I’ve now been to many of the most affected areas of New York, and I know that recovery will take years. In this list, I mix the funny with the serious, hoping that we can laugh and learn.

1. New York State Troopers need a fashion makeover, ASAP.

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2. LIPA is the worst power company on the face of planet earth!

3. Hurricanes don’t discriminate between rich and poor.

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4. There is no shortage of bottled water donations to Sandy victims.

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5. Your and you’re will always be difficult … (especially when trying to stop potential looters!)

6. People have shotguns on my sister’s street, and are ready to defend themselves.

7. People who helped others for many years can find themselves in need.

8. People keep a boatload of junk in their basements.

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9. A petition can be an extremely effective tool for change and media will take note! (Heck yes, we stopped the marathon!)

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10. Minimalism should always be in vogue, because nobody needs so much stuff.

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11. Some people will profit from disasters, but it’s okay, because it’s necessary.

12. Don’t take your favorite local brewery for granted! (We’ll get you back on your feet, Barrier.)

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13. When there is no power, communication goes old school. (I spent time distributing flyers around Long Island with the latest information, and at times, when there was no paper, people even had to act, essentially, as town criers.)

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14. You sometimes need to turn into a press conference into an angry rally to get stuff done. (And for this, I am proud of the citizens of Oceanside, my home town.)

15. People are generally good except for the 0.1% who are absolute scumbags. (People have become known as “regulars” at donation sites, as they’re clearly hoarders who are stocking up based on the goodwill of others.)

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16. If politicians try to place sole blame for the lack of response post-disaster on a power company, they should be booted from office in their next election (or sooner!).

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17. You don’t feel the pain when you’re not in an affected area. (When I’ve been at work in Manhattan, I would never know that 10 miles away there are people who are desperate.)

18. Nor’Easters suck, and so does that mid-word apostraphe.

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19. Rebuilding should be strong and take advantage of technology.

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20. We need oysters to protect us from the next big storm.

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21. Hopefully evacuation orders will be taken seriously in future storms.

22. Zipping around Manhattan on a bicycle out of necessity isn’t as scary as it would seem.

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23. There are so many individuals who have gone above and beyond their call of duty, who will never get the recognition that they deserve. (The folks who take care of my grandma, for one.)

24. Suburban areas that are incorporated as villages or cities face an easier time recovering from the storm because they have government and emergency officials on staff. (My hometown, Oceanside, only has a volunteer fire department, a school board, and a library to absorb all of the administrative efforts associated with what will surely be a long relief process.)

25. Tragedies do ignite a strong sense of community that would not exist otherwise.

26. The Occupy Movement has been able to re-brand itself as a force for tangible social good with Occupy Sandy.

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27. Don’t go swimming around here for a while.

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28. Lydia Callis, NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s interpreter, deserves a Tony Award.

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29. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is here to help (even though their name is un-PC).

A Modest Proposal to Stop Tipping Bartenders

Note: This appeared under humor/satire sections at The Huffington Post, but went viral because many people interpreted it literally…

Bartending was, by far, the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had. Think about it: Get paid to listen to music, talk to attractive women, casually watch television, and comment on current events without people thinking you’re crazy.

But I don’t understand America’s tipping culture. Why don’t we tip the people who do our dry cleaning? The bus and subway drivers who get us safely from point A to point B (or pilots for that matter)? The people who serve us at casual cafes or fast-food restaurants or the security guards who protect us at work and at school from the filthy unaccredited masses, or for that matter, bouncers?

Why do we tip taxi drivers 10% to 15%, waiters and waitresses 15% to 20%,  and hotel chambermaids $1 per night, while bartenders expect to rake in $1 per drink (or more if we’re feeling generous)?

Why aren’t all professions created equally? And why is this hypothetical bartender the worst offender, in that he or she collects the same $2 for two drinks that required exactly 19 seconds of work as what I tip to the delivery person (dare I say man!) who has just braved rain, snow, sleet, and hail to bring me my bento box? (In the big city, we don’t tip our mail delivery folk either, because, at least in my case, we don’t even know who they are. That said, my dad has always made a habit to give the old Christmas bonuses to our letter carriers in suburbia.

During my years in England, I never once tipped a bartender. It would have been totally strange to do so. When I bartended in Dublin, Ireland, the vast majority of my tips came from American tourists and business travelers (thanks for keeping the Celtic Tiger roaring for a few more years!). Occasionally, some regular customers at Bruxelles on Harry Street would say to me, “Take one for yourself,” with the expectation that I’d charge them for an additional drink and either pound something on the job or put the cash in my pocket (mercifully, “management” looked the other way in the former situations). But tipping, in any form, was a very rare occurrence reserved only for instances when my performance was exceptional in the face of adversity (read: delivering large orders in a timely fashion when the pub was a rowdy zoo!).

In no place other than America are people paid $1 as a standard “thanks” for delicately removing the top off of a glass bottle or pulling a pint. And when America’s Bartenders do this 50 times in one hour, it ads up to quite a bit more than the $7.25 New York City minimum wage or $10.25 in places like San Francisco with “living wages.”

That overly-bearded hipster who has ignored you in favor of people who display more cleavage or douchebags who are more aggressive than you or jerks who flash large bills, is clearing nearly $500 — 80% in cash — during a standard 8-hour shift on a busy night. And when he doesn’t serve you for 15 minutes, despite your constant eye contact, followed by internal heeing and hawing about how you’re not going to tip the bastard, you do it anyway, for fear of retribution that if you don’t tip him this time, your 15 minute wait will be doubled to a half hour sentence next time.

As a non-cocktail drinker, I am particularly irked when I lay down $1 for the usually no more than 12 seconds to crack open a beer or pour a glass of wine. I’d happily keep a bottle opener on my keychain and then handle it myself, and charge neither friends nor fellow barmates for my services.

There are even folks who tip even better than the standard $1 per drink. Oftentimes, these people have worked at some point in their lives within the service industry, and say things like, “I know what it’s like to live off of tips.” And to that, I wonder, is it like being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, whereby you’re paid disproportionately well relative to the work that you’re doing?

Fact: It’s not hard to earn out-sized tips when people are drunk. And the $1 tip becomes, $50 on $35 worth of drinks and so on. But this is ludicrous. Bartenders, other than their value as untrained psychologists for the “regulars,” provide very little social value.

We can all bet that those bartenders from sea to shining sea, and most certainly in swing states, will be voting for Mr. Romney this fall, since they’ve got way more in common with him than the journalists, cops, retail employees, teachers, and non-profiteers who make way less dough.

Thus, I have created a modest proposal for fixing this problem. Maybe, the type of bar that I need to find, is the one that lets technology do the work, fully replacing the bartender. Let us, as they stay in start-upland, “disrupt” the bar.

My technical solutions? Well, 16 Handles got it right by charging people by the weight for frozen yogurt. Why not do the same for alcohol? Either use vending machines that distribute specific alcohols based on weight (perhaps using a credit card verification check) or let people distribute their own alcohol from taps. Of course, while firing the bartenders, it would be wise to have a couple of non-tipped bouncers around to make sure that drunkards aren’t getting served. And this also eliminates the waiting, the possibility of misheard orders, and the lack of a linear structure in determining who is served first.

After griping about this issue, a British friend recently told me, “I believe this is a substitute for a social welfare system here. However, like all welfare systems, it has been abused beyond its original, noble, intentions.”

What if you took all of the money that you would tip to bartenders in a given week, and then donated it to a charity? Then, you’d feel way better about yourself … and have a hefty tax deduction. In the mean time, you can use your “tax refund” to work on that bar disruption start-up.

32 Mantras to Live by Post College

I originally published this post on PolicyMic.com:

I recently read a fascinating and controversial blog post by a millennial who defended her (our!) generation from verbal attacks that Baby Boomers and other older folks use to discredit us. The irony is that these people, who are currently in positions of power … and, by many accounts, have screwed up pretty much everything (the economy, the environment, education, etc.) for future generations, are the cause of many millennial problems. This post inspired me to create a list of what I’ve learned since I graduated college in 2007, because when I look back at my own worldview at that time, I realize that I knew nothing about the way the “real world” operates. The point here is that there is still so much time to do amazing things, yet there’s got to be a focus in so many aspects of life:

1. This is just the beginning

You needn’t have changed the world yet, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Think of all the people who made their best accomplishments when they were 40, 50, 60, etc. (Betty White!!!!!!)

2. You’re not in college anymore, so don’t live like it

Do you really need to go to bed at 4 a.m. and then wake up still hung-over at 4 p.m.? Nope. You just missed a beautiful Sunday. Do you really need 19 drinks when splitting a bottle of wine will do? Nope! Do you really need to play beer pong in lieu of having interesting conversations? Nope!

3. Don’t eat garbage

Pay the extra couple of bucks to eat good food. Cut the fries for salad, but be totally wary of any dressing other than olive oil and vinegar! I’ve eliminated 99% of my meat consumption after reading “Eating Animals.” And I’ve noticed that my former bald spot has disappeared, which I attribute to the lack of antibiotics in my body. Stock your fridge with fresh vegetables and your cabinet with healthy snacks (Caveat: my mom recently gave me some sort of health bar that was made of corn and sugar, so read the labels or use the Fooducate app when shopping). Have it delivered if you don’t live near a grocery store.

4. Throw enough rolls of toilet paper at the wall, eventually one will stick


Don’t apply to one graduate school and think you’ll get in because you’re totally awesome. Maybe you are totally awesome, but chances are 50 other people are too. Don’t apply to one job because it’s like totally perfect for you. Believe me, there’s someone else out there who’s taking a pay cut and a lower position to get that job too.

5. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail


Why do things half ass? Don’t think you’ll get a job if you don’t know every little detail about the company where you’re interviewing. Don’t think your startup will be a success if you don’t know all about the technical aspects, marketing, advertising, branding, competition, and even the day-to-day secretarial work!

6. Your dream job at 21 might not be your dream job at 26

At 21, all I wanted to do was be a screenwriter and write movies. And now, having written quite a bit, now I think I’d dread sitting alone in an office all day, not having human interaction, and having my work changed 496 times before it appears on screen in a form that is totally different from what I created. I’m still writing, but I’ve had way more fun creating journalism, advertisements, blogs, and comedy than I’d likely have in a traditional screenwriter position.

7. Your major kind of matters … if you want to go to school at all

I went to college before the recession, and I was frequently told, “You’re a smart kid, you can major in whatever you want.” So I studied English and history. And while the former is pretty useful for me, in today’s economy, I would suggest that you study something you are passionate about that will also lead to potential opportunities. If you can’t decide on a major, you probably shouldn’t be in school at all. If you can’t afford school, why get into debt? Get a job while you figure out what you’re passionate about. Take a gap year to work or intern in fields that potentially interest you. Having lived in Europe, where people typically work before embarking on their studies, I believe there is a greater sense of contentment that people are making the right choices rather than choosing majors based on having the fewest additional requirements, as I likely did.

8. Not everyone lives like they do in America


In Denmark, cycling to work is the norm. In India, many people prefer to drink water warm rather than ice water. In Spain, most people still take a daily siesta. It’s important to realize that the sheltered life you lived in America is not the norm: Not everyone owns a house, not everyone has a car, not everyone goes to summer camp, and not everyone has access to extra-curricular activities. Take the time to learn about other cultures, because there may be significant ways that you can improve your own quality of life.

9. Leave America … for a while


I am appalled that so few Americans have passports. (Only about one-third of the population, a historical record high, but still shockingly low!) Use the internet to plan a cheap trip. Do you really need another beach vacation? No, have an active vacation exploring a new place. And use Couchsurfing.org so you can actually meet locals! I recently ran into a guy from my high school who never left America but on a whim bought tickets to India for himself and his girlfriend when he saw a great deal. A three week trip totally changed his life. Jet Blue flies to Colombia for the same price as it costs to go to California. And tons of airlines fly to Panama for cheap … but if you go to any of these places, promise me you won’t stay at some isolated resort!

10. Stop being insular

I don’t care if you were in the Long Island Jewish sorority or the Indian-computer scientist a cappella group in college. Meet other people. Hang out with them. Learn from them. They will be better and more interesting than the people you already know. And as a result, your whole world-view will change.

11. You get jobs by knowing people 


It’s true. Sending out hundreds of résumés is usually a waste. Pound the pavement in creative ways. Informational interviews? Sure. Telling everyone you know that you need a job? Yes, don’t be ashamed. Contacting someone you met only once who work at an interesting company? Of course you should! Because if you don’t do all of the above, believe me, someone else most certainly is!

12. Take care of your body

I moisturize my face. And it makes me look younger. I use very few products, but I invest in the ones that make a difference.

13. You don’t need a lot to be happy

Cook a freaking meal yourself. It’s therapeutic. Walk in nature. It’s free. Explore an ethnic neighborhood. You will most certainly discover something.

14. Stop looking at what other people are doing

You are not Mark Zuckerberg. So what? Your dad is not a senator? So what? Yes, it sucks that you did not think of Facebook in 2003, or that you were not born into a gilded family with all of the connections of modern royalty. Wake up in the morning and be happy that you’re alive and plan something interesting to do that day, rather than rotting in front of your television or on the internet.

15. Do unpaid things but don’t be someone’s lackey

Write an awesome article for your personal blog, or become a blogger for a site that produces content that interests you. It will get you more attention than picking up a Starbucks latte for Mr. Middle Manager. (One day, I swear, I’d like to see some American kids grow a pair and start an Interns Union that spreads virally!)

16. Make it better for the next generation


We were most certainly screwed by the greedy, narrow-minded dingbats in Congress and at every other level of government. Now is the time to elect the next generation of leaders and use technology to our advantage! (Let’s make sure our next crop of leaders come from our generation!)

17. Have sex


Or if there’s nobody around, masturbate. You never have an excuse not to have pleasure. If you’re reading this, you ostensibly have internet access. That means you’re three-fourths of the way there for the latter. As for the former, the internet makes that part really easy too. Just use protection so you don’t get HIV or HPV.

18. Turn off sometimes

I’ve been actively shutting off all of my electronics after work and on weekends. And it feels great. Don’t worry. If there’s an emergency, you probably can’t do much about it anyway. This gives me time to think about doing productive things like thinking up this list and thinking of new awesome ideas, projects, and businesses.

19. Don’t buy crap

Why do you need clutter? Why do you need nine pairs of jeans? Why do you need 14 pairs of shoes? Live simply. It’s easier. That said, spend good money on products that will last rather than spending multiple times on junk. <—A uniquely American problem.

20. See doctors sparingly

Preventative medicine and staying healthy goes a long way. Look for natural treatments before you fill your body with pharmaceuticals. Eat lots of raw garlic if you ever feel sick. Works for me every time.

21. Work on a project you care about 

For me, journalism, in all of its forms, is my way to try to make a difference, even if I’m not getting paid. Maybe it’s volunteering at a hospital. Maybe it’s creating a non-profit. The world needs more good ideas.

22. Learn that you’re not always in charge 

While independence is awesome, existing organizations sometime have it right. Be humble by helping others with their ideas rather than working on your own! It will teach you quite a bit about getting more done with a team than you would on your own.

23. Don’t get stepped on by authority

Just because someone wears a uniform doesn’t mean they’re right. (And I’m not just talking about rent-a-cops and meter maids!) Stopped and frisked? Issued a citation for an offense you didn’t commit? Fight it in the courts and you’ll learn way more than you would by paying even the most trivial fine! (Yes, I have been wrongly cited for parking legally in front of my own apartment and I have another interesting story that I will discuss in a future post, but for now, listen to these examples of injustice!)

24. Find mentors

Good mentors don’t come along every day, so when you do find a person willing to share their knowledge and wisdom with you, thank them, cook them dinner, and provide them with a never-ending flow of red wine so they continue talking. Cultivate mentors so it’s not even a question that they’ll be there for you when you need them.

25. Find mentees

If you’re smart, don’t just tell me, show someone else why you’re so awesome. It may be your mentee who’s working with you/for you that makes an idea a reality, or even crazier, a mentee could one day be the person you’re working for, on the next big thing.

26. Back up your data (regularly!)

Jesus! I never want to meet another person who has their hard drive wiped out without backing it up. (Hello cloud storage!)And one more addendum: Do not keep liquids on the same surface as any of your technology. You should know by now that this stuff isn’t covered by warranties.

27. It takes hard work to do anything 

Sure, there were those few employees at Instagram who worked there for about four days before the company was bought for $1 billion by Facebook, and that 18-year-old kid from Brooklyn who won the $1,000 a week for life lottery game, but these people are the rare exceptions. It feels a lot better to be working for a goal, rather than waiting for something that to fall into your lap that will likely never even happen. That said, don’t be that person who is in the office working on nothing until 10 p.m. just to look like you’re busy. You oftentimes get your best ideas from talking with others or being outside of the office.

28. Save money

Do you really need to take a taxi 20 blocks? Walk! (Or take public transportation). Invest in a bicycle! Do you really need that second $40 bottle of wine with dinner? Leave the restaurant and buy the same bottle for $10 at the store! Do you really need a third winter jacket?,,,Don’t get into debt. Do you want to wake up every morning thinking, “50% of what I earn today goes to some douchey bank?” Nope, you don’t. Nothing is free, especially not money. So wake up and smell the real world!

29. Love people … or pets … or both

Take the time to love people. It’s much more important than watching a TV show, or a sporting event. Do good things for those you care about, and you will find immediate rewards. Be passionate. (And if you do love pets, remember, loving people is also really important…and most people don’t care how cute your dog is.)

30. Get lots of sleep


Yes, Ariana Huffington has said this before me, but I agree wholeheartedly. Not only should you sleep well, but sleep in appropriate conditions, such as in a very, very, dark place or with an eye mask.

31. Take risks now

When you’ve got a wife or husband, and kids who will go hungry if you don’t feed them, and a mortgage to pay, you will be much more risk averse. Since you probably don’t have these things now, start that company, take that trip, try that new sport, take that language class, and indulge in that passion project!

32. Paraphrasing George Orwell, break any of these rules sooner than doing anything outright barbarous.

PS -I am not a self-help guru, but now I’m starting to think it wouldn’t be so bad if I was!