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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Entrepreneurship is hard, so don’t claim that it’s easy.

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Entrepreneurship has definitely become cooler and cooler in the minds of Millennials during the past 10 years: Facebook was founded in 2004. That gave the Millennial Everyman hope that he too could start a multi-billion dollar business and retain ownership of it to the end. Then, the 2008 stock market crash and the subsequent recession erased the traditional job opportunities that Millennials and others had grown entitled to.

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007, majoring in English and History. Why? Because I was told by countless professors and mentors to “study what I loved.” In retrospect, I should have probably focused on Marketing or Computer Science in tandem with one of my two humanities choices, but c’est la vie, those days are behind me.

Today, Millennials are unemployed in record numbers, and many see “entrepreneurship” as the only way out of unemployment. Plus, entrepreneurs wear t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops to work year-round, and don’t have to answer to anyone… But let’s get this straight: Being an entrepreneur is hard work. It is far more difficult to run your own company than it is to be a cog in a wheel at a large corporation. There are many late nights, sleepless nights of nervousness, and you never know where you will be in six months time. Plus, working on weekends isn’t the exception, it’s the norm. That’s stressful, and it’s not for everyone, despite what some pro-entrepreneurship organizations would have you believe.

(Yes, many entrepreneurs become depressed from this stress too.)

Before I started SkillBridge, I had worked at 3 funded startups and started 2 of my own businesses. Both businesses “failed” in the sense that they never were acquired by anyone else, but they were both incredible learning opportunities and earned me a bit of money along the way. However, as I wrote on LinkedIn, you are NOT wasting your 20s working at a large company. My article says, “Many of my most intelligent friends from the University of Pennsylvania and other fine institutions started their careers at Google, McKinsey, or other large tech or consulting firms. Some of them are still there — and those who stuck around seem quite happy. For example, my good friend Josh Steinberg works for Google and now lives in Tokyo, his dream city, and has traveled all around the world, on Google’s dime. My other good friend Anastasia Leng founded Hatch.co after working at Google for 5 years. Neither of them would change a thing about their 20s. They were able to pay off their student loans, travel, and live excellent lives.”

Alas, there is also a grammar problem in the world: You don’t have a “startup” if you are not seeking to scale your business. You simply have a small business, and that is an excellent accomplishment. No, your nut butter stand may never achieve the scale of Nutella, but it’s very cool that you can derive income from it.

There are so many “pre-revenue” entrepreneurs out there, who are great at selling themselves, but once you dig a bit deeper realize they’re all fluff. Putting up a LaunchRock page for your idea doesn’t make you an entrepreneur: Go build something, and then tell people you’re an entrepreneur. Go assemble a world-class team, and then say you’re an entrepreneur. Go make enough profit to live off of, and then call yourself an entrepreneur.

Too many people out there are selling this entrepreneurial dream but not detailing the amount of work involved to create it. Sorry kids, there are probably 100 people out there with the same killer app idea that you have, yet having the idea is only the beginning. Strategy and execution are everything.

I wouldn’t change anything about the path that I chose, because I value adventure and not knowing what is around the next corner. However, there have been times when I’ve been ready to turn in the towel. Unless you can tolerate high levels of uncertainty, you won’t go far as an entrepreneur.

Want More Millennials in Office? Then It’s Time to Ditch the Two-Party System

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If you’re reading this and you’re a millennial, there’s a high chance that you’re a a political independent. A plurality (45%) of millennials identify as independents, compared to 33% who identify as Democrats and 23% who identify as Republicans. I am proudly a member of this 45%. And this isn’t because I’m uninterested in politics, but because I am uninterested in the two political parties that I have to choose from.

At different times, I have felt disgusted by both political parties. Yes, there are certainly some smart people who accept their party’s faults and work within them to make changes… and then there are the slimeballs who we see on TV every day. It seems like most millennials would prefer to run the other way from the rats.

If America had a parliamentary system, like the UK or Australia or Canada, life would be very different, and I can almost guarantee that our generation would already have a strong political presence in Congress. But instead, the two-party system is dominant, and that has made life horrible for anyone trying to work from outside the political system to break in. The American political system has been carefully designed to screw over outside contenders from third parties and political independents, so that Democrats and Republicans gain instead.

Only in rare cases have independent politicians made any strides in America. Sure, George Washington is the most notable example, but it’s been all downhill ever since. Yes, we have Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate, and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) used some trickery to run (and win) under the Connecticut for Lieberman Party after he lost the Democratic primary in 2006, but that’s about all we’ve had at the national level recently.

But what happens when you try to run for office from outside the system?

For example, take Carl Romanelli, who was almost the Green Party’s 2006 United States Senate candidate for Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, to even get on the ballot, the cards are completely stacked against you if you are not a Democrat or a Republican. In order to qualify for the ballot in Pennsylvania, the major parties have to submit only 2,000 signatures, but third-party candidates have to collect 20,000 or more signatures.

According to Pennsylvania law, candidates who are not Democrats or Republicans must collect signatures equal to two-thirds of the number of votes that the highest vote-getter received in the last statewide election. This is complete and utter nonsense for anyone who wants to run as a third party candidate. (I made a feature-length documentary about Romanelli’s plight that you can watch for free.)

America also creates a system where there are many candidates who literally never face an opponent in elections: In the 2012 elections in Pennsylvania, of the 203 state House races, 96 were unopposed, and nine out of 25 candidates were unopposed in state Senate races. This would never happen in a parliamentary democracy, or in a society that values its citizens’ opinions.

As Melissa Daniels writes on Watchdog.org, “in many unopposed races, a strong party in one region may deter its opposition from putting up a candidate. For example, the majority of the House delegation running this year in Philadelphia is unopposed Democrats, and in northern Pennsylvania, incumbent Republicans run unopposed.”

So what is the real Step One in terms of how to create a true democracy in America? Change all of these laws that favor the ruling elite and prevent newcomers and those affiliated with third parties or no party at all from running in elections. Because right now, millennials are prevented from running for office our way, as independent-minded people who are not affiliated with the two major parties. And yes, in this case, Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame.

Millennials, It Was Your Moment, And You Failed

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Millennials, I love you, but you’ve failed. The government shutdown should have been your moment to shine, but instead, what did you (we!) do? We took to Twitter and kvetched, we took to Facebook and moaned, and we didn’t do a single thing to actually take political action. But there’s still time to change this.

It seems like it was just yesterday that the Occupy Wall Street movement gained tons of traction, but I, like many others, was not wholly on board with the movement. Perhaps it was because its “leaders” were a bunch of (dare I say…) dirty hippies, and people who it seemed like never had jobs to go to, and didn’t really want to do much other than complain. At least that’s what it appeared to be for me when I witnessed these events in New York and London. They weren’t the intellectuals, the elite members of our generation. But now, as all of us are getting screwed by the U.S. government, it’s time to do something.

Here, before us, we have 100 Senators and 435 Representatives (plus a few non-voting reps from Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.) who don’t want to work. But what will we do when the 2014 election cycle comes around? We will, in all likelihood, re-elect most of the people we are currently referring to as douchebags, scumbuckets, and lazy-ass mofos.

If history teaches us anything, and I can thank Mr. Kohut at Oceanside High School for teaching me this during my senior year, being re-elected to the U.S. Congress as an incumbent is one of the most sure things out there. Even with the “Tea Party Revolution” of 2010, some 87% of Congress was re-elected. And that’s just pathetic, since Congress had an approval rate of 13% that same year, just months before the elections! We are all fools though, because we decided to give these creeps a second (or 25th) shot!

But why do we keep doing this? Has the internet finally tipped the scales in favor of electing individuals who are not crazy, criminals, or otherwise incompetent people?

John Catsimatidis spent $419 per vote in his failed bid for New York City Mayor, and Anthony Weiner spent $190 per vote, and of course they didn’t get elected because neither man would have been competent enough to fill the role! These politico-wannabes are pathetic. And we knew it, in part because of the power of the internet. Anthony Weiner’s “Carlos Danger” scum-mongering alias flew around the web faster than he could pull off his pants! These failed candidates couldn’t hide their nonsense from anyone, because the age of transparency is here. (Yes, we can thank social media for this phenomenon!)

So what don’t we the people have? We don’t have money from special interest groups, that’s for sure. We don’t have cozy relationships with the lobbyists who throw suitcases full of money at us every single day. Nope. But we can fight that.

We do have crowdfunding, as President Obama’s campaign team showed us. We have the power of the internet. And we have tons of ideas. We have undiluted brains that are fed up. And we have lots of complaints, because there’s so much that should be changed.

If this shutdown mess taught us one thing, it should be that we need to elect new candidates in 2014. I’m talking to you! Yes, you may be 25 or 30 years old. Yes, you may not have political experience. But when we’re talking about a room full of criminals, you’re probably just as smart as they are, more willing to compromise, and have better ideas about how to run the United States of America.

Let 2014 be the year that the people rise. Let 2014 be the year where Congressional re-election rates plummet like never before. Let 2014 be the year that millennials make their way to the United States Congress and every other deliberative body in this country. (I’m talking state senates, assemblies, city councils, and even school boards.)

Yes, it is very easy to sit back and let the Baby Boomers (and their parents) run America into the ground. It’s very easy to say, “This blows!” and continue to kvetch. But why should we do this? Why should we not fight the idiots who made things bad, the people who won’t even show up to work to govern this country? We shouldn’t have the attitude that I know so many Europeans have, that they accept their governments are corrupt and inept institutions.

No, that’s not the American way. And it will be up to millennials to put our brains where our mouths are. Let’s all make a pact to run for some office in 2014, if only to ensure that the bozos in power now make sure they know we’re watching them. And you never know, you could very well win.

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!