The 3 Simple Words My Grandma Brought Me from the Spirit World

by | inspiration. LDS Living | no comments

Jesus Christ Beyond the grave


My grandma was in a coma for nearly 10 days. She had flatlined a few times and doctors said that things were not looking good.


It’s interesting how when someone is so close to death, memories of their life begin to flood your mind. I remembered her teaching me to let my little sister win at Go Fish, or her waking up an hour early to grind fresh wheat for her famous homemade pancakes after a cousin sleepover, or her gathering the family and making everyone say something nice about each person on their birthday (during family reunions these “Nice Talk” sessions could last a few hours).


But it wasn’t just what she did when everyone was around; it was the countless personal letters of encouragement, or the call right when I needed it, or simply pulling me aside to let me know that she thought I was special.


She just had a way of making everyone feel loved and helping us keep perspective. Everything she did was to bless others. Let’s put it this way—if she doesn’t make it into heaven, I’m quitting now because no one will!


She was the glue of my family and truly a best friend to me. So upon hearing the news that she wouldn’t live much longer, my heart broke. As I had done the previous 10 days, I made the hour-long drive to the hospital to be there—maybe for her, maybe for my family members, or maybe just for me, I’m not sure. But there I was, in her hospital room when all of a sudden—she woke up!


She was weak and her mouth was very dry from the ventilator, but she could whisper just enough to talk; only a few belabored words per breath.


She asked me about my wife. At the time, I was single—super single.


Upon hearing that I wasn’t married, she informed me that she knew my wife and that the woman I would marry was very beautiful and kind and that I was going to be very lucky. I tried in vain to get a name or address, but now, almost eight years later, I wonder if she knew just how right she would be.


After talking about other things for a few minutes, though, I asked her, “Grandma, where have you been these last 10 days?”


“Oh,” she responded, “I haven’t been alone.”


She proceeded to tell me about the life after death so casually and candidly that I found myself in near shock. She told me about her mother and mother-in-law and how other members of the family were doing who had long since passed. She had everything in her travelogue except pictures. Then came the part that changed my life forever.


“Zack, I was sent back with a very important message.”



To read what the message was, continue reading at




A 3-Step Spiritual Guide to Successful Dating & Marriage

by | LDS Living. Relationship and Marriage Advice | no comments

A loving young couple spending time together at home


I had just received the news through some not-so-subtle hints.

She wasn’t interested.


(Insert disappointed sigh here.)


Not that I was counting on it working out, per se, it’s just that . . . well, I was really hoping it might have. Yeah, it was just a crush; yeah, we might have only gone on a couple of dates; yeah, I wasn’t super emotionally invested . . . but I was at that point in life where it seemed that nothing was working out. (You know what I mean.) I was frustrated because whenever I liked a great girl, they weren’t interested; and when a great girl liked me, it didn’t seem right.


I was standing on a packed train when I had a prompting to open up to Doctrine & Covenants Section 90. I was not sure exactly what was there, but when I came across verse 24, I realized that God had put in a formula so that my relationships—in my dating life and in my future marriage—would really work! He packaged it up in three simple steps that could help me keep perspective. It filled my heart with hope—and it can fill your heart too.



To read those 3 steps, continue to



5 Steps When You Find Out They’re a TERRIBLE Kisser

by | Dates. Single | 2 comments


bad kisser


Most people have been there–they find out their person is terrible at kissing.


For the few who don’t think they have…well, you are probably the reason most have been there.


A few months ago, I got an email from a one “SassyBerries” who claimed she was using her 5th grade email account to stay anonymous. She asked,


‘What do I do when, on a 4th date, I find out that this guy I met on Tinder and really like is just awful at kissing? The kissing is sloppy at best and painful at worst. HELP!’


First, take a breath…put down the breakup text. Are they new to kissing, have they just not been taught correct principles or what? Give him a break before you do anything rash.


Second, train with nonverbal by pulling away when they do something you don’t like.


Third, congratulate good behavior and complement them on what they do well.


Fourth, ask them if they would be interested in kissing in new ways or tell them what to do. Avoid at all costs telling them “Don’t do that.”


And fifth, get off Tinder, stop kissing and just take the next step in life.


Look, things are really complicated with relationships…in our minds. We over complicate them with a myriad of things–physicality being one of them.


I do want to applaud you for waiting until a 4th date to kiss him though. You shouldn’t give out your kisses like pretzels (that just leaves you thirsty for more).


When I was dating, I only had one rule with timing on kisses: don’t kiss the first day you meet someone.


Then I met my wife. But alas…another story that I’m sure my mother in law would love for me to re-tell.


See, kissing is a great part of dating, but trust, me, there are way better parts.


I’ve dated people that are great at kissing and there was no connection.

I’ve dated people that are terrible at kissing and there was connection.


The latter is always a better experience.


When it comes to physicality, I’d rather feel happy than satisfied.


No matter how many times you plug a lamp into a dead outlet, there will never be light. Look for the spark, then try the lamp.


The question shouldn’t be are they are terrible kisser, but are they a terrible person? And then, are they a great person? And then, are they a great person for me? And finally, am I a great person for them?
So miss SassyBerries, let kissing take its course as you give him your kissing course.



Stand Together; but Not Too Close

by | Family. Marriage. Relationship and Marriage Advice | no comments

old couple


A month ago, my wife and I were at a beautiful beach wedding in the Dominican Republic. The groom’s father stood up to give a toast, and instead of a speech, he simply read from the works of a turn of the century poet and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran.


The essence of the poem is found in the last stanza,


be pilars“Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart”

(“On Marriage,” The Prophet)


I was honestly bugged by that poem.


I mean, shouldn’t you stand by your spouse no matter what and be their everything and have them be your everything? Isn’t that the point of marriage for two to become one? A complete trust in giving your heart?


The poem and my confused frustration stuck with me until we found ourselves at another wedding sitting across from Lanor. She was a fast-talking, energetic, divorced New Yorker who had been a “shrink” for over 40 years focusing on family and marriage.


I asked her for advice. (…I mean, how could I not?!)


“Don’t make each other your sole source of happiness.”


That’s when it clicked.


It isn’t that we can’t spend a lot of time together and give of our hearts completely one to another, but that at the end of the day, we must realize that we are both human.

We both make mistakes.

We fall short.


As pillars holding up the short roof of the temple, we must remember that togetherness is at times apartness—for when one feels weak, the other can give more.


If our happiness is completely based on our significant other, then we’ll only be happy when we are feeling 100% and they are feeling 100%. Which happens far less behind closed doors than any are willing to admit.


Basically, we can’t rejoice in each other, but not rely on each other for joy.


Isn’t the scriptures even clear on this subject about not trusting in the arm of flesh?


If we first become content with ourselves and in our own individual happiness, then we can supplement that happiness with a companion and be more optimistic about life.


Because as with a mission so too with marriage—no matter how good life is, if the relationship is rough, everything is rough; and conversely, no matter how rough life is, if the relationship is good, everything is good (or at least we know it will be).


So as we stand in holy places under the temple marriage roof, truly, we must remember to stand together, but not too close.



Dating Never Works Zack Oates

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6 Reasons Marriage Will Never Make You Happy

by | inspiration. Love. Marriage. Relationship and Marriage Advice | no comments

marriage is hard


“Zack, you just can’t understand the happiness I feel—because you’re single.”


My friend had been married for almost a year and was telling me about the void he felt in his life before he was married. Marriage filled that void.


At the time, I was single and just couldn’t understand the ‘happiness that would forever evade me if I stayed in my pathetic lonesome state.’


He spoke as if happiness was this great ocean before me and I was stuck on dry ground.


It bothered me.


And it really bothered me that he was one of too many people who had told me the same exact thing: ‘Happiness is on the other side of singledom.’


I always knew that if I was doing the right thing, I would be happy; and in my opinion, trying to get married was the right thing regardless if I made it yet or not!


See, I really liked my single life.
I loved my friends, the dance parties, the trips, the hot tubing and meeting new people.
I felt close to God and genuinely happy.


I never understood what void I was missing.


Now that I’m married I can say I really like my married life.
I loved my friends, the dance parties, the trips, the hot tubing and meeting new people.
I feel close to God and genuinely happy.


Marriage doesn’t make you any happier than winning the lottery; you may have more money, but studies have shown that happiness is all relative.
Marriage doesn’t make you any happier than going to church; you can be in the building and walk out empty hearted.
Marriage doesn’t make you any happier than you already are.


Yes, indeed, it isn’t marriage that makes you happy—it is your choice to be happy regardless of circumstance.


Marriage doesn’t change you, but it reveals yourself to yourself…and scarily enough…to another.


And no, marriage isn’t the same as being single, but it is as great as your attitude will allow it to be.


Charles Swindoll (author educator and pastor) said, “Attitude, to me, is more important than … the past, … than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.” (Daniel H. Johnston, Lessons for Living (2001), 29.)


Sure you can’t swim on the sand, but you also can’t build sand castles in the water. Both are great, if your attitude looks for the greatness.


But too often, we only see the sands of time slipping away our best years single while waiting to be happy when we’re married.


But waiting to be happy is like waiting for Godot.
Waiting to be happy is like starving to death waiting for a food truck while sitting on a loaf of bread.
Waiting to be happy is like searching the world for acres of diamonds that are hidden beneath your own home (that link is worth the read).


happy woman in marriage

But it isn’t like these married people are all lying. They genuinely (and erroneously) think that it is marriage that makes them happy.


So what is it then that all these married people are really talking about? If not marriage, then why are they happier than when they are single? It’s because…


Marriage gives you more opportunities to do the things that make you happy.


Let’s go through these six examples:


1. Giving genuine service makes you happy.
If you are seeking to always make someone’s day better, then you will be happy. You can do that single, but marriage puts you in fairly close proximity to one person every day whom you can serve.


2. Being loved makes you happy.
Whether or not you are single, there are people who love you, but it can be hard to see sometimes. Being married allows you to look down at your left hand and see that someone said, ‘Even you, Zack, are worth being loved.’


3. Best friends make you happy.
This ties very closely to being loved, but it is amazing knowing that I have a best friend who has my back. Marriage isn’t the only way to get this, though.


4. Purpose makes you happy.
We can have purpose whether we are single or married. Some people need a spouse to give them that purpose; others can have a spouse add to their purpose.


5. Having kids makes you happy.
Now I don’t know anything about this and quite frankly have heard mixed reviews about kids…but what I have heard in the end is that it is a sacrifice and service that goes beyond what I can now understand. I look forward to it and know that now that I’m married I’m one step closer to it—but whether or not you’re married, simply preparing for this step brings happiness. For are we not all mothers/fathers?


6. Coming closer to God makes you happy.
Yes, making promises with God and my wife brings happiness, but married people don’t have a monopoly on God’s love. As Jeffrey R Holland said, “The gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed” (“Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You,” General Conference April 2016, original emphasis). If you are honestly trying to get married, that is enough.


So, to my dear friend who said that I couldn’t understand happiness, I thought you were wrong on the shores of singledom, and I still think you’re wrong in the ocean of matrimony.


While marriage provides a wonderful venue to practice these 6 (and many more) activities that creates happiness in one’s life; it never will make anyone happy. (After all, have you ever heard of “unhappy marriages?” About half of my married friends certainly have.)


Now, when people ask me if I’m happier married than when I was single, I’d say yes—but not because of marriage. I’m happier now because I am able to do those things more frequently that bring me happiness.


Don’t look to marriage tomorrow for happiness.

Do the things that truly make you happy today.



Marriage Isn’t As Big a Deal As You May Think

by | LDS Living. Marriage. Relationship and Marriage Advice | no comments

help my marriage


It was late, and my wife and I were getting ready to go to sleep. I rolled over and looked at her.


“What?” she asked, smiling at me.


I asked her a simple question: “How do you know that I love you?”


Certainly, I thought, it is going to be the surprise cruise honeymoon that cost thousands. Or maybe the book of 100 reasons why I love her that took over 10 hours to make. Or maybe the rose petals I saved from our proposal and pressed for Valentine’s Day. Surely, one of those things is how she knows I love her.


Her response left me speechless.


“Because you brought me my water bottle.” I had completely forgotten that I had grabbed her water bottle on the way to bed and handed it to her. She usually keeps it on her nightstand, but it happened to be in the kitchen, so I just brought it in.


“And because you did the dishes.” But she had cooked . . . isn’t that normal if she cooks and I clean?


“And because you text me during work.” Doesn’t everyone?


“And because you give me kisses.” Isn’t that for me too?


To be honest, I was a little bugged at first. She had mentioned so many little things that I hadn’t even thought about that I felt like my grand gestures hadn’t been appreciated. But then I remembered something I had read when we were engaged: “Marriage isn’t any big thing, it’s a lot of little things. Acts of kindness every day create a happy marriage” (John Bytheway, What We Wish We’d Known When We Were Newlyweds).


It wasn’t until my wife answered her own simple question that the quote made sense. That’s when I stopped looking for one really big way to yell “I LOVE YOU!” and instead made a goal to find lots of little ways to say the same three words.


But this advice isn’t just about marriage—it’s about all relationships, even those in our business and personal lives. Studies have shown that…



To read the rest of this post visit (source of picture as well).



3 Habits That Could Make You Lose Your Testimony Without Realizing It

by | inspiration. LDS Living | no comments

This post had over 200k visits to Read the whole post there.


losing my testimony


It was a blistering hot day in NYC.


I was 23 and had graduated from BYU two months earlier. Now I was nearing the end of my summer internship at a very fast-paced advertising agency.


From my apartment window, I looked out over the Hudson River where a city that shimmered with opportunity lay before me. The whole world was looking bright, but inside, I felt…cloudy.


I had doubts.


I wasn’t sure where to live after my internship, what to do for work, and worst of all, I went from having a huge support system in Utah where everyone encouraged me to choose the right and where gospel conversations were a norm, to a bustling city where my thoughts rarely fell on the gospel. And when they did, it was mainly questions about Church history. I began doubting whether or not I believed in the Church anymore.


But how could I—someone who prayed every day, hadn’t skipped a day of reading my scriptures since I was 15—have doubts? In my mind, doubts were for those people who had serious struggles in life or who chose paths that took them away from the Church—not for an active returned missionary like me. Right?


It was at this time of great confusion that my friend called me from the airport, en route to his mission. After a few minutes of talking he said, “Zack, you don’t sound good.”




To read the rest of the post and the three things that that might make you be losing your testimony, go to



“How Did You Overcome Thoughts of Divorce?”

by | Love. Marriage. Relationship and Marriage Advice | 1 comment

Mormon wedding


Whenever I have the chance and the situation is right, I’ll ask people who have been married a few years a question that is met first with surprise, then with confusion, then with deep contemplation and finally with wisdom.


The question is simple–but oh, so complex.


“How did you overcome thoughts of divorce?”


I’ve asked this question over a hundred times, and while it seems really probing, it is surprising how much people will tell you if you just ask. 


There are three categories of responses:


1) A handful said, ‘It honestly never crossed my mind.’

2) A few said, ‘I divorced them the first time, but as for this marriage…’

3) But most just say, ‘Phew–tough question…’


In the end though, they all tell me that marriage is “hard.”


Five months into marriage, I can say that the only hard thing is staying humble as I beat my wife in Rummikub over and over and over or making sure I don’t overcook the burgers on our Saturday bbq’s or finding a baby to hold during church.


Now I know that most of you married folks are thinking, ‘Ha…just wait.


And I know that things will get hard, but for now we are just enjoying our single married life (all the benefits of being single AND married).


But I know that there will come moments when playing games will seem like a distant memory, bbq’s will be a great time for me to get out of the house and we are going to be looking for some young naive couple to hold our kids during church.


And it is those hard times that yield solid that hopefully, when they come, we are not surprised, but we are ready.


So down to it–the advice.


The advice that I’ve been given most of the time as a result of this question is just as simple yet just as complex:


Just keep going.


Lift your head up from the thorns and see the beauty that is the garden.  


Yes there are hard times, but if you keep perspective that everything will work out, it does.


Now I’ve met a lot of people where ‘working out’ means divorce and I’ve seem many situations that require divorce. Those are not the situations that people are talking about. Nor are they the situations that Dr. Alan J Hawkins, a man who has devoted his life to studying marriages was talking about when he said, “a large majority of individuals in unhappy marriages who hang in there and avoid divorce end up reporting their marriages are very happy a few years later.” (“Should I keep Trying to Work it Out”)


Or, in the words of Jeffrey R Holland, “Don’t give up…Don’t you quit….You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead–a lot of it…You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come” (“An High Priest of Good things to Come,” Oct 1999 General conference) 
I’m grateful for the wisdom of religious leaders, social scientists and the 100+ people who have helped me to see that building up enough momentum during the fun downhill parts of marriage will give you enough inertia and desire to get you through the hard uphill parts as well.



I Have an Idea for a Startup…Now What? Your First Hour of Entrepreneurship

by | Business. inspiration. StartUps | 1 comment

i have a business idea


It is late at night.

You are under the covers about to close your eyes—when it strikes you.

You got a business idea.


The muse of creative entrepreneurship knows no time zone and respects no alarm clock.


In a mad fever, your rush to your computer and start to write down an idea. At first a few words and then a flood of clarity! 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour pass before the brilliance is quelled, the muse satisfied and your heart content.


You are destined to become a millionaire.


The next morning you wake up and stumble to your computer to see if that dazed memory was actually a dream.

Alas no…you have a business idea.


(or maybe you were just walking and saw something can improve, or have been thinking about this one idea for a while or something far less dramatic…whatever…the point is, you have a business idea and should not let that sit by the wayside. It came to you, so see where it takes you.)


Now what?


Well, the first goal is to try to kill the idea.

And give yourself one hour to do it.


Yes, that’s right.


Your first hour of entrepreneurship should be spent trying to make it your last.


If you make it past that, then maybe you’re onto something.


I’m no expert on how to raise a million dollars for a startup, or how to sell a business or how to get featured in a national tech magazine—after all, experts can duplicate.


But one thing I do know, and something I have done hundreds of times over, is figuring out what to do with a brand new business idea.


I get the question, “Now What?!” so many times, I thought I’d finally put the six steps I tell people into a simple blog post.


The Six Steps of your First Hour as an Entrepreneur:



STEP 1: Think of every way a potential customer could find you online.

Write down a bunch of different phrases. Maybe 10, hopefully at least 20.


Not just for your product, but for the problem. So not just phrases like “a gift idea engine,” but things like, “how do I find gifts?” “best gift websites.”



STEP 2: Google all of the phrases.

Use exact match with double quotes and broad match with no quotes.


See what comes up.


This is your potential competition.


There are going to be companies trying to solve the same problem, or maybe even doing exactly what you are doing. Don’t worry yet. This is just the lay of the land.



STEP 3: “But Zack, what do I do if I didn’t find any competition?”

If there is no competition…you’re doing something wrong.


Keep Googling.


It might not be the EXACT thing you are looking to do, but who else is solving the problem and how are they solving it?

Life hacks? Substitutes? Work arounds?

If you still can’t find anything—go back to the drawing board because you clearly do not understand the problem.


Look, there wasn’t an iPhone before an iPhone, but there were phones and shoot, even BlackBerries (rest in peace). There weren’t iPods before iPods, but there were MP3 players.

Problems are being solved, but maybe just not the best way.

And that is where your idea can come in!



STEP 4: Kill or King?

This is the turning point for your idea. Are you going to keep going or not? Are you going to kill the idea, or make it your king?


Just because there is competition, doesn’t mean your idea is dead.


Ask yourself a few questions:

Are there thousands or a couple of other companies?

How similar are their products to yours?

Why are have you not heard of them already?

Can you do something better to give you an advantage?


If you have honestly, rationally and unemotionally answered these questions and are still ready to rock, stop— and take step 5 very seriously.



STEP 5: Realize what Entrepreneurship is NOT

If your idea passed through step 4 and you find yourself wanting to start a business just so you don’t have a boss, then my friend, call me, give me your great business idea, take a few percentage points and walk away.


I said that the idea will be your king for a reason.


You will never have more bosses than when you are an entrepreneur. Your investors, your employees, your family—everyone is your boss.

Not to mention you will be your own boss.

There aren’t too many professions where you vacation with your boss, sleep with your boss, shower with your boss. Your boss is ALWAYS there and if he/she is not driving you crazy to work harder, your business is likely never to see the light of day.


So if your business idea has made the cut, then you need to think if you want to.


Keep in mind, there’s no shame in being an advisor to your own idea. Coming up with an idea doesn’t qualify someone to be CEO. Confidence will help you in business, pride blinds you. I flanked myself with 50 years of business with my first idea because I knew how little I knew. Now that I know more about entrepreneurship and have an MBA, I’d probably find even more experience to help me.


But if you are still pumped and revving to go—THEN LET’S GET TO IT!



STEP 6: Simply Socialize

Put together a 3-slide PowerPoint.


– Slide 1: Write down clearly what the problem is you are solving and who your customer(s) is/are (very important to realize that you may have more than one customer. A coupon company, for example, is selling both to the companies and to the end user.).

– Slide 2: Write out the solution. Make it 12 words max. You can have a more detailed description below including how you plan to make money, but the solution sentence should be 12 words or less.

– Slide 3: Write/Draw/etc. a simple diagram of how it will work. Do NOT start looking for app developers or investors.


This deck is just as much for you as it is for the people with whom you will share it.


Call up a few friends and family and talk to them about the idea. Ask them if they know anyone who can help give advice. Then go to LinkedIn and search for your network to see if there is anyone who can give you really good insight. And please, never ask someone to sign an NDA at this stage. The only people who will are the people who you shouldn’t trust.


Now this last step will take you beyond the first hour, but then you are at least going in the right direction.



After your first hour is over, your life will never be the same. The passion that awaits you, the excitement of any small success, the joy of bringing something into this world from your mind that never was before—it is a thrill.


So buckle up and and start running—it’s gunna be a wild race!



And really though, if you do want to ever talk through your ideas—shoot me an email with your three slides. Always happy to chat with a thoughtful entrepreneur!



Counsel that Helped me Get Married: “Date Less”

by | Love. Marriage | no comments


Hot Pop Tart

“How’d your meeting go?” my roommate asked.

“Well…he gave me the oddest dating advice I’ve ever heard.”


It was a few years ago and I had just met with a respected PhD in behavioral science to get his advice about life and the topic of dating came up. I told him that I was dating and felt that I was really on the path to marriage.


As he asked about the name of the girl I was interested in.

A chuckle escaped my smirk.

“THE girl?!” I responded.

He smiled in slight confusion.

I pulled out my phone with the list of 7 girls I was perusing.

His smile quickly faded.

Mine swiftly followed as I realized how stupid I looked.


I felt like a dog showing off an album of chased car bumpers or an old man displaying a list of kids he had shaken his fist at from the front porch. Not only did I not catch any of them, but had I—I don’t think I would have known what to do.


He rubbed the bridge of his eyes, trying to wipe away the disbelief of my naivety. “There’s an old proverb, ‘chase two rabbits, both escape.’ Think about that.”

“All I’m trying to do is get married. I mean, shouldn’t I hedge my bets?”

“No, Zack, you are being selfish. What you need to do it date less.”


His words stuck to me and burned like piping hot toaster-fresh Pop Tart filling.


I soon realized that I didn’t date a lot of girls at once to hedge my bets, but to make sure that I wasn’t left alone and feeling hurt. I had gone after too many girls who didn’t feel the same way and I didn’t want to have my heart broken, so I distributed it among enough supports, that I never had to feel the pain of falling…falling in love alone, or out of love together.


Yes, my heart was in the right place, but my mind wasn’t. I truly was thinking about myself. I gave no thought for how the girls I was dating would feel if they knew they were on a list I arrogantly showed off.


I used to judge those who never dated and assumed they were just too afraid of getting hurt and just needed more courage.

I realized then, that I was no different for dating too much.


Now I’m not saying that when we are looking for a spouse we should only ever go out with one guy or gal at a time, but I am saying that you should be honest and be careful.


Be honest with yourself to really take a good look at why you date the way you do.

Be careful with others, realizing that true love is only found in one.