General, Real Talk

REAL TALK Q&A: Negative Thoughts: How to silence negative thinking about yourself, events, and life

The me of 15 years ago and the me of today would probably not be friends.

I used to be a highly negative person. For those of you who have met me in person this is probably a pretty big shock. My reputation today is that I can stay calm and polite in even the most stressful situations. My staff has in the past pulled me aside after a particularly rough situation and asks me how I didn’t blow up. Here is the answer. Today I’m going to talk about negative attitudes, where they come from, what happens when you are negative, and how I stopped being negative.

In 2010 I chose to put together a system to reprogram my brain’s default to be positive instead of negative. I gave it a duration of 3 years. A test. If my forced attitude change didn’t work to show improvement in my life by 2013 I’d drop it and try something else.

I am a huge fan of looking at myself as a social experiment.

How To destroy negative thoughts

I automatically assume I am a stupid asshole that needs to be observed and directed by my own self. This is how I’ve permanently broken behavioral patterns that weren’t serving me. I simply refused to become attached to myself and these patterns in the first place.

Not only did it work – it’s the main reason I’ve been so successful.

Understanding Negativity:

First let’s talk about what creates a negative perspective so that we can understand how to undo it.

Our perspective gets defined when we are young. Trauma and lack of support from parents, family, and/or school are some of the common things that can create a negative perspective. If we are set up to fail over and over again we expect to fail. If we keep experiencing trauma after trauma, we expect more trauma.

For example, if you wanted to be a musician and your parents simply told you that you may as well not try because it’s impossible and stupid they have set up a negative expectation. Maybe it won’t work, but starting a pattern of giving up before you start is incredibly damaging to a person’s life and ability to succeed and innovate. This can easily become the lens with which you view the world if you don’t take action to override it. These comments and experiences slowly filter through every aspect of your life until you expect everything to not work, give up before you try, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy that repeats over and over again.

The result is that the fictional parents in this example may have felt they were protecting their kid but instead prevented them from entering into a thought pattern that would have led to good behaviors that equal success – whether they literally become a musician, a corporate manager, or both. Our interests are varied pathways to many ideas and experiences. The worst thing we can do is shut down an interest in another person.

Fixing negative thoughts

How to Fix it:

The good news and the bad news is that the world generally responds to what you think and what you believe. The solution is simple but also probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do: You have to change “fuck this” to “Hell yeah!”.

My internal voice used to be a doppelganger for the TV version of Tara from True Blood:

This is maybe funny on TV but it’s not cool in real life. This is definitely not the type of behavior that gets anyone to advance in life. It only attracts more negativity to you and then the cycle returns and then you maybe die alone and no one cares.

There were some years where my brain would act like this but my mouth would speak in a more kind way. It was jarring. It was like my body knew what to do but my brain didn’t want to let go of the lens that trauma had created for me. I call it my nightbird because when I name a sonofabitch that means I can take control of it and own it.

I forced my nightbird to shut up with one simple step: Every time my brain would default to a negative statement – even if that was justified – I’d think of a positive statement related to the same situation immediately. Eventually my nightbird let go and defaulted to the positive programming.

If someone was driving stupid in front of me instead of saying “fn slow asshole!” I’d say, “This person may have been having a bad day. I’m glad they are able to go out and get their errands done.”

If someone pushed through me in a store instead of thinking that they should f off, I changed it to “that wasn’t personal – they are probably in a rush. I love their hair color!”

Even if someone is highly aggressive toward me I try to understand the pain they must have that is generating it and meet it with kindness and a kind thought.

This seems like some hallmark card bullshit but it’s actually just as difficult to change as it is important to change. If you want your life to be positive you have to act positive first. There are no exceptions to this. No one wants to set up their picnic blanket next to the biggest pile of dogshit. The only way I’ve found that works is to make it a practice to:

1. Don’t judge yourself. Understand where you are and what you need to change. Judging yourself leads to depression and weakens your ability to fix the issue.

2. When you emote something negative – IMMEDIATELY emote a positive in the same way. Make it a game. Cancel out your negatives with positive.

3. After enough repetition, this will become your true nature and you will have opened up the door to success and a better life. It works. I am your proof.

You are not where you are. You are how far you’ve come. Keep going and keep it Real.

<3 Oni

General, Real Talk

REAL TALK Q&A WEDNESDAY: How to set goals you can actually reach OR why your New Year’s Resolution doesn’t work and how to fix it

Submit your question for a future Q&A Wednesday by emailing me via the top bar on this site.

If you have trouble setting and sticking to goals this Real Talk Q&A Wednesday is for you.

I never do New Year’s Resolutions. Since I am a business owner in charge of 3 events plus my freelance career as a marketing consultant who needs to set and exceed goals in order to be employed– this often surprises people. The real deal is that I set goals every day/week/month/year as an overall life practice so it makes New Year’s Resolutions a moot point.

New Year’s Resolutions are mostly marketing. I should know because I am a marketer. It’s great to sell people gym memberships and $65 planners but as far as sustainability and success the positive outcome tends to be low for many people. There’s nothing wrong with gym memberships and $65 planners, but if you give up in 2 weeks you’ve wasted your time and money. I’m going to tell you how you can set goals and win.

The most important thing to understand is why most New Year’s Resolutions fail.

You fail to reach your goals because you fail to understand how the human mind works when you are setting them.

Oh man, that’s a problem. But guess what? Every problem is an opportunity.

How to set goals & use problems as opportunities

I am ALWAYS telling my staff this because it’s the truth. I’ve achieved to where I am solely because I was able to take negatives about my situation, personality, and behavior and then transmogrify them into positives.

transmogrify your "bad" behavior and you'll always win.

In my case, I have the ability to hyper focus on 1 thing. It can be a big problem because the house could be burning down and I’ll still not want to get up to stop what I am doing. I figured out how to trick myself to turn this on and off. Similarly the problems I face in life, every time I’ve solved it something better came along later.

So let’s ignore the problems for now and talk about strategy. Let’s use the problem of not understanding how the human brain works to actually understand it and use it.

Here is an example: If you wanted to lose weight and your normal diet was to eat a lot of crap food and drink a gallon of soda every day you might be tempted to say, “Next week I am going to immediately stop consuming bad food and I’ll only eat lean protein and vegetables from now on!”

No, dude. You are probably gonna fail.

The person that does not fail in this example is an exception that probably makes up a tiny percent of the population (major congrats to them). People don’t like change. In my MMA and bodybuilding days every January the gym would be flooded with people incorrectly using the machines and by the end of January the gym would just be the regulars again. Did those people suck? No! They just set themselves up for failure by not understanding how the human mind works.

MAke your New Year's Resolution work - Super Mario style?
When you set goals you can’t slam your butt immediately down the Super Mario chomp chomp of life and expect to win.

People exist on various vibrational levels and none of them are bad – just different. To move from your starting level to a higher vibrational level is like jumping from Canada to Texas or becoming an Olympic athlete in 1 week. You just can’t do it. The distance is too wide.

Unrealistic Pressure:

The idea of a New Year’s Resolution puts a lot of communal pressure on people to “get it right”. All eyes are on you. Everyone is doing it. Peer pressure! But guess what? When we make mistakes our brains want to give up and go back to what we used to do. How do we fix this?

1. Make goal setting a daily and weekly part of your life no matter what time of the year it is.

2. Create small, realistic goals that add up to bigger goals.

I'd describe my average day as a butt flamingo that crashes through a window like Batman. Here's how I manage it.
I’d describe my average day as a butt flamingo that crashes through a window like Batman. Here’s how I manage it.

Weekly / daily task review:

If you know what you want to achieve you won’t need to spend much or any time on revisiting your big picture, but if you are still shaky and finding your path you may want to make a list of what you want to accomplish this year and even for the next 5-10 years. If you have trouble staying focused on the big picture you may want to keep this list visible in your workspace. If you don’t know your big picture your goal can simply be to experiment with several things that you enjoy to see if your big picture reveals itself this year.

I review my task list and strategy every night and/or morning for each day. Once a week I meet with Harknell to discuss bigger picture items that we have to collaboratively solve for my business.

Perfection doesn’t exist. Manage change instead:

Understand that these goals WILL change a lot – and sometimes even completely. That’s why I’m looking at them at least once a day and adjusting them. In theory I could have a day where I have to go into NYC on business (like this week) where I lose an entire day. Or like last year where I lost almost the entire year to eye surgeries and recovery. Obviously when I had eye surgery my task list changed almost completely. I had to get help from people to do things I would have normally done. It sucked but I still pushed forward the best I could with what I had.

Your goals are only guides to give you a baseline of what’s up. Your job is to manage change, not to be a robot. This is not about “getting it right” or being perfect.

You fail because you focus on perfection.

Be flexible:

List out all the stuff that you want to accomplish this week and imagine that they are in a reserve pool that you can flow out into the next day or week of free time depending on how your life is going. Realize that you are probably going to have to double the amount of time you think you need for most of these tasks. You might have to move some of those tasks to next week – that’s why I look at it as a pool. It allows for flexibility within a real life. To start you may want to test how much you ACTUALLY get done for the first week so that you don’t overload yourself and set yourself up for failure.

Start small:

There’s no shame in starting with just 1 thing for the first week. We all have lives and unpredictable events in our lives. Some of us work day jobs in order to be able to afford to go for their actual job that they want. All of these things can impact or destroy our goals for the week. Be at peace with that. If your tasks have to go back into the pool because your day job forced you to work 80 hours of overtime simply slide the task into your next available free slot, repeat the weekly strategy meeting and readjust your timeline. This is reality. Life happens. There will never be a perfect time to start this. If you think that you are just making excuses to not move forward and that’s the topic of another post entirely.

Life will happen. Plan for that and be flexible with small, achievable goals.

EXAMPLE: If you want to lose weight your tasks would look something like this:

1. Stop drinking soda. If this is tough stop drinking it for 1-3 days per week and work up to 7 days a week.

2. Stop eating fast food. Feel free to use the same 1-3 day duration to start and then work that up to 7 days.

3. Exercise. This can be a short walk once a day, moving up to a workout in your home once a week.

4. Increase exercise level. Work out at home 2 and then 3x a week. Consider joining a gym but only do that if it will help you exercise more and won’t be a deterrent. (I work out 5 days a week and don’t have the time to join a gym anymore because doing it at home means that I will do it. Understand your quirks and work with them instead of trying to make yourself some impossibly perfect automaton.

No one gives a crap how you achieved it, they only care that you did it.

You are building a house, not making it magically materialize in a second:

Imagine your biggest goal is like building a house. Your small goals = molecules of each brick. Your bricks = bigger goals or milestones. You don’t start out achieving a brick. That’s too big and almost impossible. You get the molecules and build your first brick, then your second brick, then before you know it you have a house. Your work processing this along the way is CRITICAL TRAINING for you being able to handle the increased responsibility that will inevitably be your reward for success.

Your process is more important than the actual goals.

Your process will have evolved your brain toward making good habits and it will also hard wire achievement into your personality. When you get to a more advanced level you’ll actually have the ability to handle the pressures that come with it. I can tell you right now that the me of 7 years ago could not handle the me of today’s life. The process was more important than the actual tasks. I had to go through all of that to be able to get through all of this.

People might be shocked today to know that I was a chunky kid with no athletic capabilities whatsoever. That chunky kid evolved into being fit and the first female black belt from the police training facility where I founded multiple self-defense classes. I didn’t do that overnight, nor did I have access to the best food and equipment.

I used to drink 3-6 cups of soda a day as a kid. As a very fit adult soda smells and tastes disgusting to me. You will almost never see me drink it because I just hate it. I vibrate on a different level that that now. When I was a kid I would have thought you were insane because it was what my entire family drank – I rarely drank water. The act of seeking out small goals distracted my brain from the length of the journey. I made those bricks and then made more and more bricks. I evolved myself from being an overweight low achiever to a very fit habitual overachiever.

This transformation could not and did not happen overnight.

If you focus on how great it feels to achieve something small that adds up to something large you will lose track of time and notice you’ve achieved a big thing before you realize it. Start small. DO NOT start large. Realistic achievement motivates the human brain to keep going – not trying to climb Mount Everest in a day. I actually knew someone who wanted to start hiking and decided to go on a 2 week long hike as their first hike. They ended up failing badly. The came home needing surgery because because they were not in the physical shape needed to accomplish this.

Start small. Your process is the most important thing.

This is the main concept you need to grasp before you can do anything. If you keep chunking your tasks into tiny things, resetting your expectations every day when you review your list, and focusing on your process rather than how much you’ve achieved you’ll be empowered to adjust your plans for the amount of willpower and stress level that you may be experiencing in life. That’s when you will really start to shine.

You are not where you are. You are how far you’ve come. Keep going and keep it Real.

<3 Oni

Real Talk

Q&A WEDNESDAY: 3 things we can learn from Mariah Carey’s performance video on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest

Unless you have been hiding under a rock you have no doubt heard that Mariah’s Carey’s performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest did not go well.

New Year's Eve 2016 In Times Square - Mariah Carey: Dick Clark's Rockin New Year's Eve

This week’s question is from Kara:

“This [post that explains the situation] is all anyone’s talking about right now, and this article is the first I’ve heard from an even remotely business standpoint on the whole thing.

As you’re a public speaker and a C-level businessperson, I’m curious, what is your take on this — and what would you have done at the time/be doing in the potential aftermath in her (team’s) shoes?

tl;dr is there anything a visible presence like you or like myself can learn from this incident?”

Yes, there is – and none of it was told to me before I achieved any sort of success. I wish it had been.

1. Trust should be earned, not given.

I can probably count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve done a speaking gig and everything has gone smoothly. Technical errors happen quite often and it doesn’t matter how famous or not famous you are. I feel like there was no way Mariah’s team could have known that things would go this badly. It actually seems that she and her team were trying to be nice and to work with the DCP team when they were unable to activate her in-ears. To me this is a shame – I am willing to bet they will never trust anyone again in the future. I work with celebrities all the time who don’t trust easily at first and open up to me on the last day of our time together or the second time we work together.

This is why.

Mariah’s team seems to have done everything right and still this happened. My advice to people who are performers or speakers is to be OK with the fact that you may have to refuse to go on stage unless you get all of the assurances that things are working – especially in a high-profile event like a New Year’s Eve performance. But also know you will be painted as a villain for doing this and you will be faced with many lose/lose situations in your career. Being a villain is part of the job description because people will try to trick you at every turn for their own gain. There is no right answer that you can possibly produce.

Confused about that last sentence? Read the next point:

2. If people know your name you will be a target. You will have haters even if you’ve been as nice as a Saint. Know this.

Here’s a personal story from quite recently:

Random Person: What do you do?

Me: I organize pop culture events with celebrities and we promote education and the arts.

Him: How can you work with such shallow people?

I immediately corrected him. No – no one that I work with is shallow. Quite the contrary – they are all real people. Kind people. Many of these people I consider part of my extended family. You can see how an average person regards celebrity right here in the above interaction. Without having ever met the person (or even knowing which celebrities I work with) it’s automatically assumed that they are bad people. People seem to WANT to discount folks who have achieved.

Armchair hate is now the opiate of the masses.

When you have success – god forbid fame – you cease to be a human being to some. It’s not fair but it will happen and if you want to be upwardly mobile in any fashion you need to brace yourself for this.

I repeat for the folks in the back: Just because this person knew the people I referenced were celebrities – that was all he needed to know to jump to “Those are bad people”.

It’s unfair and judgemental, but you will encounter this even if you aren’t on TV and simply get a lot of promotions at your job. Leaders have targets plastered to their backs. I have had to sit quietly too many times while people online insinuate a celebrity I know said or did a terrible thing when I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE and can tell you that it never happened.

Understand that life is not fair and it’s not a reflection of who you are.

Why do they do this? I call it The Courtney Love Marketing Method.

3. The Courtney Love Marketing Method: Drama (often with you) is how some shrewd people will get attention so they can climb up the ladder.

The first time I ever heard of Courtney Love was when she threw things at Madonna while she was being interviewed by Kurt Loder at the 1994 MTV Music Awards. Madonna eventually left and then Kurt Loder then interviewed Courtney Love on what was at that time the most popular music program on TV. This was, to my knowledge, the first major interview that she ever did. Courtney wasn’t that well known before this interview. This is how I heard about her for the first time.

Courtney did it by screwing with someone who was more famous than her at the time.

It doesn’t matter if you love her or hate her. That’s not the conversation we are having today. (Yes, I anticipated that thought you just had because of point #2.)

Courtney’s actions in this video were a masterful manipulation. Coincidentally it’s also how almost all of today’s news sites now operate. The more clicks a post gets the more money they get from their advertisers. I would also argue that this was a key technique that President-Elect Trump used to get elected this year. People talk a lot about and share aberrant behavior and what they hate far more than they will talk about what they love. Courtney enjoyed a steady stream of press and coverage after this.

People will not stop voting for what they hate or want to laugh at to get stronger with their shares and clicks. We can’t seem to help it.

If you look at who is popular and what is shared in your Facebook feeds – not all of them are people who do what they are told. Most things shared on Facebook are now negative and the biggest problem I hear from my clients is “My work does a lot of good for the world and people – even my friends – just want to share rage posts instead.”

Mariah Carey is doing exactly the right thing by not addressing this head on and letting her team handle it. There is nothing she can say, do, or prove that would clear her in the eyes of the public because the public already wants to hate her. They want her to fail. She’s not a person to them – she’s a thing that they feel has a better life than most and for that “terrible sin” they feel she must be destroyed before she ever walked out on stage.

My best advice to folks who are facing drama is to not rise to it. Stay focused on your work and what you want to do to move forward. Those who matter will eventually realize the truth. Those who won’t frankly don’t matter. You won’t change anyone’s mind with a direct conversation.


When you are a kid people tell you that you can be anything you want and to go for your dreams. I agree with this, but what is not spoken about are the pressures, isolation, and dehumanization that come along with the package. No matter where you are in your career, whether you are just starting out with a small business or a seasoned pro you need to think carefully about who you let into your inner circle and cultivate a community who will still care about you no matter what happens, who you become or don’t become. Surprisingly enough almost none of your friends you begin your journey with may make it to the finish line with you. Be at peace with that because this story is the same no matter who I speak with about their career.

You are not where you are. You are how far you’ve come. Keep going and keep it Real.

<3 Oni

Daily Real Talk, General

DAILY REAL TALK: How to survive the holidays alone, without family, or with depression

The holidays are supposed to be a nice time of year but for many people it’s a depressing time instead.

The media sells us a story about the holidays that reinforces a falsehood – that everyone has some sort of perfect life with families who welcome them home every year. For many people this is not the case. People get sick, they die, they move far away so they can’t afford to visit, and some people have abusive families. Here are my tips on how to survive the holidays alone, without family, or with a depressing situation.

DAILY REAL TALK: Holiday Survival

STEP 1: Realize that the media lies: All of those images that you see on TV aren’t reality. I have had the privilege of meeting people from many walks of life. People who are alternative, people who are mainstream, people who are of every income level from completely poor to those in the 1%.

I call all of these people friends.

They all have the same thing in common. Dysfunctional relationships and hardship doesn’t always seek out people of a particular race, class, or situation. The more people I meet from various backgrounds, the more I realize that we are all the same. We may wear different pants or have more pairs of pants but the human experience is the same.

I will not give specific names to identify people obviously, but over the last 20 years I’ve met poor people who had wonderful families and terrible families. I’ve met extremely rich people with he same – some who had to live every day in fear that they’d be brutally assaulted by their family.

You need to realize that what you see on the surface isn’t necessarily truth.

Remember Cordelia, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer? If you haven’t seen this show, Cordelia was the more popular “mean girl” in the beginning of her story. Pretty girl, popular, rich – she seemed to have it all. But she didn’t. Her personality in High School was an attempt to fit in and make up for what she wasn’t getting at home. And she collapsed after High School.

That was some of the realest stuff I’ve seen.

Cordelia Chase: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

In the popular narrative she may have been characterized only as a villain toward Buffy. But she wasn’t. She was just a girl trying to get by. You may have started out hating her but eventually you grew to like her once you got to know her and even felt sad for her.

We are all the same. Your first step to freedom is realizing that the media lies and the image of a perfect holiday doesn’t exist for everyone.

There is no such thing as a perfect life or a perfect person.

I challenge you to look at Facebook over the holidays and see how many people you think have it all are complaining about the torment they have had to go through on that day from their family. I see it every year. If storybook happiness doesn’t exist for you, that’s OK. It doesn’t exist for that many people because it’s a fake idea.

If someone’s life looks perfect, they are probably just good at putting on a good front and dealing with crap.

STEP 2: Cut out the noise: Turn off or cancel TV service. If Christmas music bothers you shop online or use headphones in the store just like we do in NYC. Define what makes you feel bad and do your best to remove it from your life. We aren’t babies anymore. it’s our turn to control our lives.

STEP 3: Create your own tradition: We feel disappointment when we expect X and get Y. If you know X is impossible, throw X out the window! Are you setting the bar too high so that it’s unrealistic?

Stop torturing yourself right now. There are children with terminal cancer who are happier than some folks during the holidays. Consider that for a second and take responsibility for the gift you have – life.

If you can’t get to your family this holiday or have family who you don’t get along with you need to identify in your life who your chosen family is. If you don’t have anyone near you you also aren’t alone. Most people’s friends are on the internet nowadays and hundreds or thousands of miles away.

This is not a rare or unique feeling. You are not alone in this.

Take control. Define what a good holiday means to you and do that. Don’t allow TV’s fake definition of the holidays to crap on you every year. Is your best holiday a week long video gaming party? Is it a week of fitness? How about art? Maybe you get in the car and take an epic road trip since Christmas Day has almost no traffic on the roads. I do that a lot myself, actually. Vroom vroom.

Define what your truth is. Define your own tradition. Do that. Don’t use a false success metric (that almost no one truly achieves) and set yourself up for failure.

Most of us do not have perfect lives, but people often fall prey to the trap of editing out what they don’t see and assuming other people do have perfect lives so that they can beat themselves up for not having something that just plain does not exist!

Cut that shit out and you’ll be much happier. Your life is about you, so own it – even if it takes you some years to work up to the point that you can.


BREAKING: Maryland’s Harry Potter Convention happens this Sept and I’ll be Showrunner

I am proud to announce that I’m the Showrunner of Maryland’s Harry Potter fan Convention. It takes place in Baltimore this Sept. 8-10 2017.


It’s already gone viral. It’s going to be a big deal. Below is 1 of many anchor posts I put out yesterday. Doing the math, it’s gotten over 56,000 people interacting positively with the con in less than a few hours.

Baltimore Maryland Harry Potter Convention

I learned some things this week that I’d like to share.

I’ve been a pro marketer for a long time. I’ve launched cancer drugs with a million+ dollar budget and products in the financial space with a similarly large budget. My geek event company is a start up. We don’t spend on ads much and we didn’t spend a dime in this particular case.

I’ve never seen a launch that went this viral with no budget and not even any guests announced yet. (Re)Generation Who, my Doctor Who convention in Maryland was huge and it never did these share numbers.

This reminds me of something that I wanted to share with you all today: An overnight success takes at least 10 years.

You can look at all the data you want, pay as much money as you want, and optimize your internet presence all you want, but what truly made this work is my reputation that I’ve been building since 2003 coupled with the data and knowledge.

It’s an extremely great idea to use data and optimize all of your stuff – don’t get me wrong. But the glue that makes it all work is your getting involved in other organizations and events in your space and helping with no strings attached. Almost every geek convention in the mid-atlantic (and elsewhere in the northeast) USA knows me. I’m well-known for mentoring and helping people and in cases where money is a thing, I will always pay out even at my own expense to do the right thing – even if it means a temporary loss.

Basically I work like the book Never Eat Alone, but I was doing it before I heard of that book. (If you haven’t read this book, you should.)

I learned this week how powerful researching trends and data can be. Truthfully that was something I refused to do until recently. I’ll be writing very soon about how much power harnessing these concepts has brought to my marketing game and I’ll show you what I did. I also learned how powerful proactive marketing and networking can be when it’s put together just right.

I hope this inspires someone to conceptualize the link between your online and offline work! If you feel stuck with your online marketing efforts – GO OFFLINE and interact. I promise that you’ll feel better and see results. They won’t be overnight results, but it will happen.

Every overnight success takes at least 10 years.

Register to join us in September in Baltimore at PotterVerse and get more information here on our Harry Potter convention website.