Don’t Forget to Celebrate

It’s important to remember to celebrate key moments in life.

We often set goals using vague language. We say things like, “I want to be successful” or “I want to be healthy.” This tendency typically surfaces when we are young and still figuring out life. As we grow older, it becomes challenging to know what success and health truly entail, especially when the concept of adulthood is abstract.

But what happens when an ambiguous approach to goal-setting persists with age?

Going to college is a commendable goal, but what happens after you’re enrolled? Landing your dream job is a great goal, but what’s the plan after securing it?

I believe there are two key aspects in the “what’s next” phase: setting definable goals and remembering to celebrate.

Vague goals are detrimental. They make achieving anything almost impossible because you haven’t clearly defined what you want to achieve or how to attain it. Even when you do succeed, you lack a clear framework to recognize and mark that achievement.

A goal must be specific enough that anyone, even an outsider, can determine whether you’ve achieved it.

“I’m going to be a professional musician.” is not a goal. “I will release a full-length album.” is a goal. 

“I’m going to be successful in business.” is not a goal. “I will open a second location.” is a goal. 

“I’m going to be healthy.” is not a goal. “I’m going to walk 10,000 steps a day.” is a goal.

The next critical step is what happens after you’ve achieved your goal.

Celebrate.

People who work hard often struggle to celebrate their accomplishments. When you blaze a trail through life and achieve remarkable things, the destination rarely looks like what you expected.

By the time you reach your goal, the landscape is vastly different from what you imagined when you set out. You cross an ocean only to find a mountain range on the other side of the beach. You climb the first peak only to find it was merely a foothill compared to the actual mountains beyond.

Define your goals clearly and share them with those around you. Remember to celebrate when you reach your goal, regardless of how it appears when you finally arrive.

If you never celebrate, you’ll never truly feel like you’re accomplishing anything.

And that’s no way to live

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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Drifters, Surfers, Drowners, and Sailors

There are four kinds of people you meet when you’re sailing the water of life.

This is a story that we tell on the roof of the tower. It’s a story about why Wizard Academy exists. It’s a story about the kind of human beings we hope to serve.

When you’re sailing on the ocean of life, the first type of person that you meet is The Drifter. You can tell a drifter because they’re floating along at the mercy of the wind, the waves, and the current. They don’t have their own energy, their own direction, or their own passions. 

You can often find a drifter by the default phrases they use. They’ll say things like, “Hey man, what’s the big deal? Don’t get so uptight. Just relax.” or “Hey man, it’ll all get figured out on its own. Just relax and let things happen. It’s no big deal.”

People sometimes choose that life. Or let that life choose them. They don’t tend to come to Wizard Academy because we ask them to accomplish things, make goals, and do something that matters. 

The second type of person that you meet is The Surfer. Surfers are doing a lot, but really they’re just fancy drifters. A surfer is a person who is always looking for the next wave to ride. They’re adrenaline junkies or opportunists hoping to take advantage of the ocean and the energy of the sea. There are some talents involved in surfing. But surfers don’t create the wave. They don’t create the current. They don’t create the moment. They just go looking for waves to ride. In business, they’re sometimes referred to as “shiny object” people. 

Sometimes surfers show up at Wizard Academy because they’ve heard we’re the new shiny object. But surfers don’t want to do the work, they just want to ride the wave. And that’s why we lose them. 

The third type of person that you meet when you’re sailing are Drowners.

This one requires a fairly large caveat.  

Everyone in their life will have to be rescued from drowning. Maybe chemically or financially. Maybe emotionally, or relationally. There are countless ways that life can take you down unexpectedly for a moment. That’s when you need your community to lift you back up and breathe air back into your lungs. 

That’s called life. That’s called being a human being. 

That is not what I’m talking about. 

What I’m talking about are professional Drowners. People who are relentlessly drowning. No matter how many times you lift them up, dust them off and try to help, they just drown themselves again. We try to avoid professional drowners because, if you don’t, you switch from living your life to becoming a full-time Coast Guard and Rescue mission. Drowners will suck the life out of everything that they touch, including you. That’s the time for healthy boundaries. There are other industries that rescue people, and we’re not one of them.

That leaves the fourth kind of person that you meet.. We call them The Sailors

It’s important to note, you can’t tell a sailor by their circumstances. 

You may meet a sailor when they’re in a moment with no wind and no current. That doesn’t make them a drifter. 

You may meet a sailor when the waves are going nuts, and they’re fighting to stay upright and ride it through to its finish. That doesn’t make them a surfer. 

You may meet a sailor who’s drowning. That doesn’t make them a drowner.

There’s two things that set the sailor apart from surfers, drifters, and drowners. A North Star and a Destination.

You have to have a North Star or a fixed guiding point. This is the thing by which you make all decisions. This is what everything else falls beside. This is the hill you die on. When faced with a choice, you look at which path takes you closer to your guiding point. That’s where journey will take you next.

But without a destination, a fixed point is simply an attractive sign post. The North Star is only valuable if you’re headed somewhere. 

You need to set in your mind where you’re headed, and more importantly, what it will look like when you get there. That means tangible, definable goals. Things even an outsider can see happen when you finally arrive. It can’t be, “Be successful” or “Be rich”. But it can be “Open a second location” or “Hire my tenth employee.”

And that’s why we’re here. 

Wizard Academy exists to help The Sailors find and define their North Star, find and define their destination, and equip them to get there. 

We’ll see you soon. 

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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You Are Your Influences

Take your Inspiration from wherever you can, and get your ego out of the way. 

In case you didn’t know, you are a product of your influences. 

When you’re an artist or a creator of any kind, there’s the temptation to think that your ideas have to be truly original and unique.Only the product of your natural innovative mind is an idea you truly own. 

And when you think that way, a couple of things will cause you to think you are a fraud or an imposter.

When someone else you trust and respect has an idea, and you use it and it works, it can be tempting to think you get zero credit for the impact. But that way of thinking reveals a flawed understanding of how creativity works. 

The truth is far more complex. There’s no such thing as an original idea. All the ideas and creativity that lead to amazing things are born from the raw material of our influences. Sometimes it’s a little more obvious than others, but it’s always there. It’s hubris to think otherwise. 

It’s easy to look at other talented people and feel inferior. You can never be that innovative or creative. But if you asked them this question and they’re being honest, all creators only own a part of their ideas. 

So much of what we create comes straight from the minds of other people. And then we make it our own. That’s how our brains work, and that’s how creativity works. Which is why it’s important to surround yourself with people who are way smarter than you and listen to them.

Get out of your head and off the bench. You are the product of your influences. That’s okay. 

Make them your own and go accomplish amazing things.

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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You Can’t Fix People

You can’t fix people. 

I have a pet theory that I’m going to tell you about, but keep in mind, it’s just a pet theory. It’s my version of one way in which the world works. 

If you have a strength that makes you powerful and amazing in a certain area, you also have an equally powerful weakness that causes harm, damage, and problems for people around you.

I call it the Superman theory. The source of your strength is the source of your weakness.

Imagine you know someone who is really good at forging a path that they believe in without regard for the critics on the sideline.  Against all odds, they don’t care what people think of them. It’s simply who they are. That superpower does not stop with the people they like. Sometimes people they love also have critical words to say to counter the damage and destruction that attitude can sometimes carry. But fundamentally, they also don’t really care what you think either. And you get lumped in with the sideline critics. 

These are not balanced people. They are beautifully unbalanced in a way that makes them powerful and sometimes harmful. 

I could give a dozen other variations on this theme, but I want to talk about the important part of being in relationship with these kinds of people. 

If you try to fix their weaknesses, you’ll almost always find that you break their strengths. 

Say you fix someone’s flaw, not because of their own internal motivations, but because you have finally accomplished forcing them to change. I guarantee you, you’ve also broken what made them amazing. And even worse, when someone changes because you forced them into it, it’s not real or lasting change.

There’s a separate conversation to be had about the fact that everyone should be in the business of improving themselves as human beings. But true change can only come from inside motivation, even if it begins as outside influence. 

But I’ll finish with the other profound truth. 

What happens when you are in a business or personal relationship with somebody and they have dramatic flaws that are actually hurting you? 

That’s a different conversation and it’s called boundaries. There comes a point in relationships with people whose weaknesses cross a line that you’re not okay with. And at that point, you have the option of drawing healthy boundaries. It’s fair to say, “Hey, this thing that you do is not okay to do with me, and if you continue to do that, then we are going to be over.”

If they can find a way to manage their weaknesses so that line isn’t crossed with you, then it can be a manageable situation. But sometimes their response to your effort to draw healthy boundaries is, “Screw you, this is who I am! Get over it.” 

And that’s a relationship that you end.

That feels like a hard way to finish, but here is the bottom line. 

Don’t try to fix people.
Everyone is both strong and weak, usually from the same source.
Healthy boundaries are a real thing. 

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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Get Back To Love

How do you get back to love?

You imagine your dream job. You meet an amazing new person. You imagine an opportunity that could change your life. You look at them from the outside and see how amazing they are in every way. 

Then one day it happens. You get the girl, you get the job, you move forward on the opportunity. At some point down this path you discover what we all know but often forget. 

Nothing is perfect. People are broken. Situations are always a mixed bag of awesome and bullshit. You pulled back the curtain, and it’s just some old dude pulling levers and punching buttons.

Why does that happen with everything in life? Is it even possible to get back the feelings or emotions you had before?

I think we’re born with a built-in sense that something is missing. I also think we spend most of our life searching because we’re wired to hope. We hope that this sense of incompletion is temporary. We hope that someday we’ll find that missing piece and be made whole. 

There’s a Welsh Term called “Hiraeth” (pronounced Hee Rye th) which is a homesickness tinged with sadness. It was originally used to refer to a longing for old times of the past. Like nostalgia. Except it’s nostalgia for a home we’ve never lived in. A longing for a moment we’ve never actually had.

I think we all carry a bit of that. The hopeful part of us keeps thinking, “Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the thing?” And then it isn’t, and we take out our frustration and pain on the situation or the people for not being everything we hoped they would be. Which leads to bitterness. 

But I think you can have a shot at recovering some of the original joy by remembering that all people are broken. All situations are fragmented. All new jobs will be screwed up in their own ways. All relationships have arguments and offenses and hurts. 

More importantly we remember the same is true of ourselves. We’re often the cause of other people’s broken expectations. 

We can also remember that the magic parts we fell in love with or the sparkling gems that caused us to dream really are still magic. They’re just not the ONLY pieces of the puzzle. And that’s okay.

We can help them be more so. 

And we can help people remember. 

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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Be a Jack of All Trades

Sometimes it’s good to be a jack of all trades. 

I know I wrote an entire article about not digging a bunch of shallow holes. So here is where I will argue with myself. 

There’s such a thing as “general education”. There are some who trash it and view general ed as a basic waste of time. I understand where that comes from. So much of our current education system has resulted in mountains of debt with no clear path forward for graduates. 

But general knowledge about the world around you is the only way to be a true citizen of the world. Students who can approach the world with a Socratic style of critical thinking and implementation based on their own experiences across broad subjects can keep us from treading the same faulty paths. 

Part of being a well-rounded human is knowing a little bit about a lot of things. It’s also how we insert joy and delight into our lives. It’s how we avoid burnout.

When we’re training ad writers, one of the things we teach is that you need to READ GOOD to WRITE GOOD. 

If you spend all your energy consuming business journals, news articles, and nonfiction blogs, and books about “10 Steps to Being Better Than Everyone You Know at Literally Everything”, you can’t possibly expect to write beautiful or whimsical human ads. 

When you sit down to write, your brain pulls from the catalog of phrases and words and reassembles them. If you don’t read good, you can’t write good. 

This is why so much business writing and so many ads sound like regurgitated bullshit. 

If you want to write beautiful things, you have to consume beautiful words. Become a connoisseur of poetry and well written fiction. It will put amazing words and phrases into your head and they’ll come out in your writing. 

You do need to focus your time and resources on becoming truly magnificent at something. But spending all waking hours doing that one thing is a recipe for burnout and staleness. It’s how you grow to hate the thing you loved. 

Carve out time to learn about things, get good at things, and explore things that have absolutely nothing to do with your primary purpose. 

Choose them carefully. Choose them only because they bring you joy. 

Spend your time on them. Let them fill you back up. Take that energy back to your main thing. 

That’s how you live fully.

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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Unique Selling Propositions

There’s no such thing as a unique selling proposition. 

In marketing terms, a “Unique Selling Proposition” is something that sets you apart from your competitors in a way that will drive sales and customer traffic. 

If you google it, you’ll find lots of “educational” examples. They’re mind-numbingly inane. Please don’t do it. I’d like to spare you from the truly terrible writing I just had to wade through. 

The problem with most marketing consultants is they spend all their energy trying to identify a unique selling proposition. Something that makes their client’s product or service unique. 

Let’s say you have a truly unique product. It’s brilliant. Everyone will want it the moment they realize it exists. Like sliced bread. Or pet rocks.

It’s unlikely, but go with me here for a second. Any product that is truly unique AND valuable will only be yours for a very small window of time. The moment the rest of the industry catches a glimpse or stumbles onto the idea themselves, it will cease to be unique.

Side note: If no one else in the industry is doing it AFTER they’ve seen you do it, then the odds are it’s not that valuable. 

But even assuming that’s a possibility, most businesses STILL don’t have a unique selling proposition. 

What do you do when your service is replicated by a dozen other businesses?

When small-minded marketing people try to force something “unique” into existence, they have to crawl further and further down the stairwell of “Important Things” until they find something unique in a musty basement closet. They strike a match, hold it up to the light, and are elated to discover a Truly Unique Thing (trademarked). Unfortunately it’s also Irrelevant (trademarked).

How do you stand out from your competitors? How can you be different from the people in your category so that your people can find you. How now, brown cow?

In short, you. You are the thing that makes your business unique. It’s not the product or service. It’s your personality, your flaws, your strengths, your passions. It’s the way those things change your delivery of a product in a certain way inside a category. 

It also helps that YOU are the one thing your competitors can’t replicate. 

Well that’s awkward. It turns out there IS a unique selling proposition. And it’s YOU.

Now what?

You need to find a way to tell your story as a part of the brand and process. Tell people why you care, and what drives you. Show them how your story overlaps with the common fundamentals of the human experience. 

You may have a unique process to your service or product. But it’s your personality and approach that led you to the unique process. 

That’s only a small piece of the story of who you are and why you do what you do. Tell your own story. Tell the whole story. 

Stop looking for bullshit “selling propositions”. 


Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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Be Careful What You Admire

Wise-ards and pretend knights. Those are the heroes of Wizard Academy

Don Quixote was written in 1605 by Miguel de Cervantes. Don Quixote the adventurer. Don  Quixote the madman. Don Quixote the delusional chaos creator. 

He’s sort of a Rorschach character, meaning you see in him what you bring to him. Or that you can choose which version of him you prefer. We find him the foolish knight on an adventure while the world around him wants him to just “get with the program and face reality”. 

There is a scene in Don Quixote goes after windmills thinking they’re dragons. His sidekick Sancho, tries to tell him they’re not real dragons, just windmills. Quixote replies, “It seems well,” quoth Don Quixote, “that thou art not yet acquainted with the matter of adventures. They are giants; and, if thou beest afraid, go aside and pray, whilst I enter into cruel and unequal battle with them.” 

That is our kind of crazy. Others may see the entrepreneur souls of our community launching into the world tilting at windmills. But we know, it’s all just one grand adventure. 

Then there are the three wise men, or as English re-interpreted that word “wise-ards” or “wizards”. We’re not a religious institution, but there’s something archetypal about men who found a north star and followed it to the end against all odds. 

Wizard Academy is a place that helps people find their North Star. And then helps people build the systems to follow it regardless of what those around them shout from the sidelines. 

This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far. 

Why does it matter?

There’s a quote from a book called the Engines of God, by Jack McDevitt that says “Show me what a people admire, and I will tell you everything about them that matters.”

That’s what we believe.

We show ourselves with every painting, every sculpture, every random piece of art on a wall or in the woods. All of them should hint at what we think is important about life. They should be a cracked glimpse of what we think matters. 

And so I would say to you as well, be careful what you admire. Make sure the things you admire and focus on are colors of the person you would become. 

The things you admire and surround yourself with will give you away. For better or worse. 


Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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The Heart Moves at the Speed of Agriculture

Change is the ponderous task of shifting mountains. Give it time. Be patient with yourself. And don’t skip the hard parts.

I think we’ve fooled ourselves into believing everything moves faster in our modern world. We can know within minutes when something occurs on the opposite side of the planet. We can get on a plane and be on another continent in hours. All the information our species has collected is dancing at our fingertips.

The last few years have included major heart wrenching changes in my life. To cope with it, I read books. I studied psychology and growth theories. I spoke to a psychologist and shared late nights with friends in person and over the internet. 

This question kept floating through my head. “I know all the things. How come my heart is still a wreck? How come I still feel like a hollowed out ship?”

Dr Nick Grant was on the board of directors at Wizard Academy for over a decade and served as its chairman multiple times. He’s also spent 40+ years practicing as a counselor and psychologist, an author of several books, an instructor at University of Texas, and a world renowned specialist in MBTI. He also teaches at Wizard Academy, and I’m lucky enough to consider him a friend. 

And he’s kind. Not just brilliant. Like if you mixed Bill Nye with Mr Rogers. 

I asked him this question. His answer surprised me. 

My question for Dr Grant was, “Why am I not changing at an emotional level at a pace that keeps up with my head knowledge and learning.” 

And he said, “Daniel. The brain moves at the speed of sensory data and information. But the human heart moves at the speed of agriculture.”

He went on to explain that we as humans are fundamentally tied into time and seasons and the base patterns of the universe. We can change access and speed of information, but psychologically we move at the speed of seasons and the pace of change in the earth itself. 

It takes a minimum of four full seasons for a truly dramatic and extreme change to find any sense of landing and stillness in your heart. Even then, it’s only if you’re paying attention all the time to every single moment that it’s speaking. 

A few weeks ago, I was in the vault and picked up a bottle I didn’t remember. There was a small squiggle of silver ink on the side, so I tilted it sideways to read it. It was the signature of a friend of mine that donated that bottle to the Whisky Vault. He passed away unexpectedly in November of last year. 

It’s been four months. I’ve cried and mourned him with friends. I’ve looked at old photos. I’ve read through our texts. It feels like a tender but healing wound now. The shock and surprise is being replaced with acceptance and fond memories. 

At least I thought it was.

That bottle cracked me like an egg. I discovered tears streaming down my face. At that moment I realized I still wasn’t ready. I’m not ready for him to never drink whisky with me again. I’m not ready for him to not answer his email or pick up the phone when I call. 

I’m not ready. My heart isn’t ready. 

I’m still moving at the speed of agriculture. I need these moments to truly mourn.

Don’t skip the hard parts.

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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Dig One Big Hole

You can dig a bunch of shallow ditches or one big hole. 

That was a sentence told to me by Mark Blanpied, one of the best harmonica players I’ve ever met. 

I started backing up my dad on drums at age 12. By 15, I was playing all over town and pretty damn good for a teenage upstart drummer. 

I picked up guitar at 15 when I realized you can’t sing love songs for your girlfriend with a drum kit. Or at least, it’s really hard to take it camping.

I got pretty good at guitar fairly quickly. Good enough to sing songs I knew and loved. Good enough to write my own. Good enough to get a song on the local Waco radio station at 16 with my first band. 

That’s when I reached out to Mark to see if he would teach me harmonica. I wanted to be like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. But he said no. 

WHAT?!  

When I asked why, he said, “Daniel you are already a great drummer and you’re becoming a great guitar player. You can either spend the time you have perfecting those things and become world class, or you can keep branching out and be mediocre at a bunch of different instruments. You can dig a bunch of shallow holes, or you can dig one big ditch.” 

I took that to heart. 

And it still drives me today. 

I find many things interesting. I dabble in a lot of random pursuits and random facts. On a regular basis, I find myself diving into things I love and following the rabbit down the hole. Sometimes it becomes a part of my life. Sometimes it becomes things stuffed in a closet  discovered years later under boxes of Christmas decorations.

In the moments when I’ve followed the trail so far that I’m arguing with the Queen of Hearts and talking to a disappearing cat that I realize I’ve forgotten that advice. 

It’s when I find myself, like Frodo feeling , “….like  butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” 

I’m reminded to pull back, simplify my life, focus, and do my best at a few things. 

I’m grateful that one of them is Wizard Academy and Whisky Marketing School. It’s an honor to be a part of this journey with so many fascinating humans. 

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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Always Replace Yourself

You should always be replacing yourself. 

There will be milestones you achieve in work or in a community. Sometimes it’s a promotion, a new level of prestige, or a new title. It’s a great moment to celebrate and take a beat for a job well done. 

Now what?

I believe your thoughts should immediately be focused on finding the person to replace you. Someone who can do it better or take it further. 

If you are doing something important, then its survival and long term success depend on your ability to get out of the way. If something dies the moment you stop touching it, you don’t have a functioning company. You have a micro-management hell-hole that will burn you down along with all the people around you. 

There’s also the fundamental truth that you learn more by teaching than by just doing. You gain a better understanding of your role the moment you start attempting to teach it to someone else and they ask questions you never have. It makes you take a new look at your own processes and habits. 

So what happens when you work your butt off teaching people, and they leave? 

My rule with staff is, “You won’t be here forever. So what is it you’re trying to accomplish? How do we help you get there?” I’m in charge of job titles. I’m in charge of job roles. We can work you towards the thing that you want while you help build the company we need. 

I always hire with the immediate assumption that this person won’t be here forever. If I’m training them for my job, I need to be ready for the reality that they’re not cut out for it, or that they learn it’s not what they want.

I need to be willing to invest and grow people regardless of what direction that knowledge and growth takes them. 

What you gain in the long run by living life with an open hand is far more powerful than the small micro gains you cling to with grasping fingers. 

Live life with an open hand. Become a launching point for magical human beings. 

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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Do You Have a Reason to Exist?

Do you believe businesses need a reason to exist?

I have a friend who is a blender at a world renowned distillery. He believes there needs to be a reason for a new whisky to exist. It’s not enough to just fill a bottle and slap a label on it. There needs to be a “why”. It’s easy to make things because you can, but it’s more powerful when there’s a driving motivation behind bringing something new into existence. 

Thoughtless creation just adds noise to the room. It results in products with no defining purpose and companies with no real vision..

Or in the words of Jeff Goldblum – “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they ‘could’, that they didn’t stop to think if they ‘should’”

Some people start businesses because they know they can, and there is money to be made. They give their work the bare minimum of effort and time. Real Life starts when the workday ends.

Roy Williams often says, “Passion follows commitment. Not the other way around.” 

Sometimes you do something because you’re good at it, and people need it. You may not be in HVAC because you were born to repair AC units. Maybe you have a knack for fixing things and a talent for people skills and they were hiring. It’s an honorable and valuable thing to choose to offer a service to the world. 

It could be the reason to exist comes from the impact of your business instead of the technical aspects of your business. Helping people in need, solving problems, feeding your family, and providing for your employees are all noble acts.

I think it comes down to intention and thoughtfulness. 

Add your voice to the world, and leave a positive mark on people in your path.

I don’t care if it’s an already crowded market. 

There’s still room for you. 

Daniel Whittington – Chancellor

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