He who has never failed somewhere…

"He who has never failed somewhere..." Narration

by Tim Stiffler-Dean | Blog Posts Narrated

Writing can be a chore sometimes.

That is to say, when you’re in the middle of some great new discovery of self, writing can be an excellent way to spend your time, but when you’re putting all of your time and energy into your dreams and goals, writing can be a chore.

When your chores aren’t getting done, though, they tend to pile up.

I do enjoy writing. I enjoy the clattering of keys as I explore this ancient form of self-expression. I enjoy the sounds of epic music playing from my computer speakers and leading me into a mindset of adventure and grandiosity. I enjoy the silent satisfaction of re-reading what I had written and considering the edits that are needed to more accurately communicate my intentions.

Above all of that, I enjoy creating.

Which is why, for the last six months, I’ve been more silent than usual in my blog-formed ramblings.

You see, I have been busy creating.

Creating the physical representation of a great vision which I have had for nearly a decade now – opening a coffee shop.

My part in that coffee shop’s life, however, is now over, and at this time in my journey I am forced to concede that the title of, “Tim Stiffler-Dean, Coffee Shop Owner” is not meant to be.

Oh well. Life goes on. The Architect returns.

A Time For Silence

Whenever a big change in life happens, it’s important to take a step back and re-evaluate everything that has lead up to this moment. While one chess piece has been knocked off the board, other pieces have already been in play, and their potential energy should not be too quickly dismissed as useless.

I am now in the process of looking at these pieces and listening to how they want me to play the game.

And so it is that I find myself silent. No decisions to announce. No big new projects to show to the public. No major life changes to settle into. Just silent observations of the world around me, and the desires within me.

Writing helps the observing eye see clearly.

I have other dreams I could continue to pursue; like finally taking my book to print, or building on my project management system toolset.

I have friends whom I would love to support in their endeavors; like Sara and Aaron at Conceptopolis who are getting into the publishing game, or the many college-aged friends I have who are still running after dream careers.

I have small hobbies I should keep sharing; like spreading my love of good coffee with a chat bot, learning how to whittle wood into small trinkets and ornaments, or writing regularly on this blog.

I have relationships that I need to keep working on. I have music I want to write. I have websites that I envision building. I have passionate causes that will continue growing and moving with or without me.

I have a lot on my mind.

And so, I find myself silent.

Habits Being Formed

While I sit here, silently observing whatever is within and without, I must still make progress forward. In some direction, any direction, that will lead me away from this fixed location in time and space.

For your great reading pleasure (I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath for this moment), I give you my list of current activities. Though, if I’m being honest, this is more for me to re-read again in the future than for you to be engrossed with now.

  • I’ve taken back my position working from home as the developer at KrakenPrint, a custom book printing company based in Chicago. The team there has been gracious to me in immediately offering me my old job back after my work at the coffee shop ended. I’ll be building their internal systems of communication, operations management, and customer service over the next several months, and hopefully setting the company up on a great foundation from which it can grow.
  • I am staying in Nashville, TN, with my fiancé, Leah, and continuing to get to know our new community here. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of beautiful people, and I am finding that a great use of my time is exploring this place as much as possible.
  • I have picked up a few books, using some old credit I had in my Amazon account, and have already started back in on my old reading habits.
  • I’m going to eat healthier and at home more often. No doubt it will strengthen my relationship with Leah, but it will also strengthen my lifespan and endurance during the hard times.
  • I will continue heeding some great advice from my friend, the owner of Vibe Coffee in Elizabethtown, KY, and limiting my consumption of the news and sensationalist media as much as possible. This is a hard thing to do, but I’ve found myself much more focused and clear-headed when I don’t fill my day up with the news. I’d like to keep it that way.
  • I am reaching out to old friends that I’ve lost touch with and getting to know them again. Relationships are important to me, and so many people have had an influence on my life. It’s important that I become better at keeping relationships strong, no matter the time or distance apart.

Most importantly, I’m going to be writing again. A lot.

It’s not a chore if you enjoy it, right? Especially not if it helps keep the mind focused, and with an audience that can hold me accountable to my desires for continued growth in work and play.

Stay tuned for more. Thanks for sticking with me.

Photo credit: Kolby Schnelli

Albert Einstein: The Genius who was Nothing Special

Albert Einstein was not the man we often think of. He was not some magician, mad scientist, or unnatural superhuman who could use a larger percentage of his brain than the rest of us. Contrary to popular belief, we all use the same percentage of our brain as the man we compare all modern-day geniuses to: 100%.

That’s not the only thing you’ve got in common with this guy, though.

Often times when we think about Albert Einstein, we see the man in his later days with a smoking pipe in his mouth, a wild puff of hair on his head, and a tired look in his eyes, contemplating his greatest achievements and looking to the next great leap for mankind.

I bet he looks something like this in your mind right now:


This man that we see has already laid the groundwork for the atomic bomb, has already accepted his Nobel Prize for Physics, and most certainly has been teaching his Theories of Relativity to younger students that would succeed him in their genius.

The Einstein we see above is older, wiser, more experienced, and has more than earned the grey hairs that are standing up straight on his head.

That’s the point, though… he earned those grey hairs. Through years of hard work, struggles, and plenty of failure he earned those hairs; and when we start to look at his life we realize he’s not that different from the rest of us at all.

A Lie: Only the “Special” Can Succeed

“Failure is success in progress” – Albert Einstein

How could a man that is often said to have lived with dyslexia, autism, schizophrenia, ADHD, and a dozen other mental illnesses, a man who achieved massive success throughout his life because of those so-called handicaps, have any understanding of what “failure” truly is? How is he qualified to speak on that subject at all? Or be quoted by millions to this day, just as I did a few sentences ago?

The quote from him up above loses nearly all significance if we come with a perception that Einstein was so entirely unlike us that he was bound to succeed from the start. After all, if Einstein was a genius from birth, or if he had a chemical imbalance (or, again, a mental handicap) that forced him to act in ways that geniuses typically act, then success isn’t found through failure at all… it’s reserved for the people that aren’t “normal”. People that aren’t like the rest of us. People like Einstein.

When we look at Einstein’s photo, without even admitting it to ourselves or out loud, we recognize a man that was set apart from birth to change the world. As the fictional Teddy Roosevelt would say in the movie Night at the Museum, Einstein was one of those men that was born to be great. He was autistic, or dyslexic, or otherwise special, after all… and we all know those people always end up being incredibly intelligent.

This statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Besides the fact that there is no evidence that shows Einstein was ever mentally handicapped in any way (there are only hypotheses based on conjecture), it is also true that Einstein did not fail miserably as a child. He could speak and comprehend German fluently at a young age (many believe incorrectly, as I did, that he couldn’t speak well until he was 12), he was reading books at the age of 10 that would set the foundation for his explorations into vast worlds of scientific study, he could seduce women with ease, he was perfectly capable of scoring in the highest percentile of his classmates at school, and he completely killed it on the violin:

This heavily retouched photograph shows German-Swiss-American mathematical physicist Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) as he plays a violin in the music room of the S.S. Belgenland en route to California, 1931. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

This heavily retouched photograph shows German-Swiss-American mathematical physicist Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) as he plays a violin in the music room of the S.S. Belgenland en route to California, 1931. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)


Yes, he did fail the entrance exam at Zurich Polytechnic Institute… at the age of 15, a full year and a half before he was even technically allowed to join the program there. And yes, his application was rejected by the University of Bern, but only because he refused to send in a thesis paper with his application, which was an explicit requirement at the time.

He was absolutely incredibly intelligent, albeit stubborn, and in his life he met dreams that many of us could never imagine happening for ourselves.

Stop right there, though, and keep yourself from believing that this means he had a greater imagination than us “normal” folk, giving him the ability to dream bigger and therefore achieve bigger goals. If there is one thing Einstein likely understood better than anyone, it was that everyone had the ability to dream and achieve great things, but only a few of us would sacrifice the time and energy that was necessary to cross the finish line.

He knew that because, like all of us, Einstein put a lot of his life into his passion, the study of physics, before he received the payout that he so desperately sought after.

It took him years…

16 years after Einstein began his great adventure in the world of science, he finally achieved his annus mirabilis (or his “miracle year”). 16 years! Many of us give up on our dreams after just a few months (or at most a few years) of not seeing grandiose applause, or we wallow away in endless negativity every time we are dissatisfied with our work.

But it was for 16 years Einstein dealt with trials, refusals, rebutting, and, I am sure at times, a great lack of hope. He experienced the struggles of normal human life with a full-time day job, a family that was struggling financially, and a turbulent romantic relationship (which his parents were staunchly against).

All of this, for 16 years, while trying to redefine how we all look at the Universe. Meanwhile, we find ourselves trying to redefine how we look at each of ourselves individually, and then quit after we hit a few roadblocks and fall over a few hurdles.

Einstein was similar to us because he experienced the human condition, he was not a deity after all; but he was different from many of us because he continually pushed forward towards his goals. Even after losing a child (born out of wedlock against their parents’ wishes), even after being rejected dozens of times for various jobs and positions in the scientific community that he applied for over the years.

He did not begin to taste success until more than 1/3rd of his life was behind him.

Then there’s this:

After his annus mirabilis, when much of the scientific community began to recognize his name and speak highly of him, Einstein still had to work for another 4 years before he was able to quit his day job as a paper pusher at a patent office, and begin to pursue future scientific discoveries full time as a Dr. of Physics.

Again I wonder how often we believe we stop growing in our careers, how often we believe we’ve “made it”, when people begin to call out our names and applaud our achievements, no matter how small or great those achievements are, and in all actuality we’ve only just begun the journey.

Let this sink in for just a moment: Einstein took 20 years before he could fully envelope himself in the scientific community as a career physicist.

Yet many people believe today that in order to be a success like Einstein, or this distant character in our minds that we call “Einstein”, we must be breaking through milestones and cementing ourselves in careers even before we reach our mid-twenties; that we have to have been born with some superhuman mental capacity or lots of money; or that we must absolutely know the exact day that we reach monumental success.

What is failure?

I often wonder how many times Einstein looked at his life to question his successes and failures. Until the age of 26, he hadn’t really achieved much of anything. He was a genius dreamer with an idea that only a few people believed in. Even in 1921 when he received a Nobel Prize in Physics, it was for his understanding and explanation of the photoelectric effect (the basis for quantum physics) and not his Theory of Relativity (which, even as a major contribution to science, wouldn’t be accepted by his scientific peers until later in his life), or even his papers defining E = mc2.

If that same thing happened today his supporters would be outraged and Einstein would probably get on Twitter to rant about how little respect he had from his peers. Instead, he continued to grow as a scientist and contributed over 300 additional papers to various journals and publications around the world.

According to Einstein, “Failure is success in progress.” Nothing is truly failure until we quit, and we only quit when we believe that the sacrifice of time that is required of us in order to see our dreams become reality is not worth that outcome.

Luckily for us, Einstein never quit following the vain passions of his 10 year old self.

At the age of 76, while he was writing a speech for Israel’s 7th anniversary that he would never have the chance to present, Einstein suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. When he died, Einstein left behind a legacy and a life that spoke about more than just scientific equations and theories of a physical universe; his life also told the story that we must all be prepared for a long journey towards success, a journey that might look and feel like failure for a massive portion of our lives, if we ever want to be written down in history as one of the great contributing members of the human race.

Einstein journeyed for years through a life full of failure; it’s because of those failures that we can now tell his stories that are full of success.

What’s your story gonna be like?

The Architect

Every so often, usually when things are going pretty great, my life starts to feel a bit out of control. Not necessarily in a bad way – just in a, “I have no clue what’s going to happen next” sort of way.

This is one of those times.

I have too many dreams, ambitions, goals, and projects that I’m working on all at once, and I don’t entirely feel secure in any of them.

It is at these times that most people start to realize they are overcommitted, and work to clean up their act a bit.

Normally my approach to this period in my life would be to continue wandering aimlessly in the same general direction, with the same general goals, until some of the pieces of this character I’m building named “Tim Stiffler-Dean” would start falling off. Thus, lightening the load a bit and giving me the boost to keep moving.

I would take that approach because I believed that these phases were inevitable. “Just keep swimming and wait for the break in the storm.” I would tell myself, “You’ll come out on the other side very different, but you’ll come out nonetheless.”

Often, after the period of insanity ended, I would feel a bit burned out, quit a few of the projects I was working on, and try to make a fresh start of things and get my feet under me again.

I don’t know if I can take that approach any longer.

It seems strange to me, when I look at the many examples of successful individuals in my personal life, that I have so many dreams and ideas that I try to pursue at the same time, only to come up with nil accomplished.

Other people have similar ambitious outlooks on life, and accomplish a lot of what they put their mind too… so what is it that I am doing so differently?

The key must lie in the blueprints

Architect Designs

I was reading an article recently from Michael Hyatt, called, “Why Not Architect Your Own Life?” In it he describes three elements that most architects keep in mind when designing a large structure. They are:

  • The Vision
  • The Priorities
  • The Actions

Architects begin with exploring their dream and drafting a vision of what they want to create.

The famous Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, wished to put on display the “soul of our own civilization” in his architectural designs, and that shows quite clearly in his many beautiful works of art. While Louise Henri Sullivan wished to build bigger and stronger buildings to emphasize the confidence of the US – he is now known as one of the Fathers of the Skyscraper.

From the vision, architects define very clearly what their limitations and priorities with the structure are.

Buildings intended for use as a school will differ drastically from those meant to be hospitals, even if both start with a similar architectural vision. Likewise, a bridge in the wetlands of Florida might not fare too well as an apartment in the mountainous regions of Argentina. Each structure has specific needs, and the architect must know exactly what those are.

Finally, after chasing down their vision and defining their priorities, architects lay out a list of actions to take to finish the construction.

They would not, for example, begin construction of a house by working on the roof. Neither would they pour the cement for a bridge before setting the substructure in place. When proposing the development of a project, they define the steps and timelines for putting all of the materials into place.

Then they act.

It is not enough to create a plan and then walk away as if the project is done. The vision is not realized! The priorities are not met! The actions have not taken place!

The architect must bring a team together, made of exactly the right people, and then ACT on their plan in order to accomplish it.

Becoming Your Own Architect


I, too, must follow this process to become an architect. Not of a building, however, but of my own life.

While I was reading this, it suddenly dawned on me: I’ve always had a general plan for what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be, but I never followed the architect’s steps to designing my own life.

  • I had the long-term vision, but not the short-term priorities to match up with it.
  • I had the long-term priorities, but no day-to-day habitual actions to see those priorities eventually met.
  • I had the daily activities and hard work ethic, but none that specifically matched the grand vision of the type of person I wanted to be.

These three things combined have only contributed to the labyrinthian lifestyle that I cyclically find myself living in.

The cycle must be broken.

This week I am giving myself an ambitious goal. I will continue to work hard on the tasks at hand, including the development of so many projects at Aether CS and the brewing of so much coffee at Kofenya, but I will also develop a full blueprint of what I want to see happen in my lifetime.

I will find out exactly who I want to become and create a vision statement. I will lay out my strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and goals as priorities within that vision. I will create a list of habits I need to build, activities I must add to my daily list, types of people I need on my inner team, and timelines I must press toward in order to achieve those priorities.

And I will act.

Then we shall see what type of life this architect can create.

I’m excited. 🙂