Things That Comfort Me When Every Fucking Thing Goes Wrong: Carl Sagan’s Blue Dot.

Things tend to go wrong. This is a series of blog posts about the things I think about during those moments when the wrong things happen.

I had Mrs. Buckingham for 10th grade English. I don’t remember that much about her anymore; I do seem to recall that she had white hair, and she was slightly plump, but I’m not quite sure about anything beyond that; in my mind, I’ve kind of replaced her with Mrs. Doubtfire.

But I do remember that in the spring semester, she assigned each student something grammar-related and asked us to give a presentation about it. Some students were assigned punctuation marks, or something relating to syntax.

I was assigned the anecdote.

And then I did what 10th graders do on semi-meaningless presentations: I stalled. For a month, I did nothing. I watched other students give five-minute mini-lectures on the exclamation point and the semi-colon. But I knew I didn’t have to present for a few weeks.

So I did nothing.

A week passed. Then two. Then three. The weekend before my presentation — I remember I was presenting on a Monday — I decided I had to start on my big anecdote presentation.

Except that I didn’t. I watched some football on Saturday. Went out with some friends that night. And then it was Sunday — the last day. I was all set to figure out how to explain the mystery that is the anecdote to my peers.

And then my friend, Sam, called, and asked if I wanted to go play golf with our friend, Brett. I did. I had a red Oldsmobile 88 that had been handed down from my grandpa. It had these cloth seats that you just sunk into, and the front seat was actually a bench seat, so the thing seated three in both the front and the back. The 88 was as wide as a Suburban and nearly as long; parallel parking it felt a little like parking a small cruise ship. The 88 had a trunk that sunk down almost to the pavement, and it was plenty big enough for three sets of golf clubs. So we took my car.

I don’t remember much about the round we played. What I do remember is the drive back down I-270. I was in the left lane, and the 88 had a way of lulling me to sleep in those big, cloth seats. I looked up at the dash at one point and realized that I was doing 90+ in a 55. The 88 was deceptively fast like that, but it also wasn’t much designed for high speeds. I’m not sure Grandpa ever put the thing above 35 in all the years he drove it.

So the car started to rattle a little bit, but nothing too frightening. We pulled off the highway to drop off Sam. Sam lived down Seven Locks, a windy, up-and-down-and-up-again of a street, and when we got to Sam’s house, I remember going over this bump, and then I remember hearing a noise that sounded distinctly like a 777 flying by at low altitude.

I thought nothing of it, but when Sam was walking with his clubs into his garage, he looked back and noticed that part of the underside of my car was falling off.

Turns out that somewhere between the high speeds and the bumpity-bump of Seven Locks, the splash guard for my engine — basically, this piece of plastic that kept water from getting into parts of the engine that weren’t supposed to get wet — had lost a screw or two, and had started dragging on the ground.

But the three of us didn’t know this. We weren’t car experts. We were 16. My car knowledge was limited to whatever I’d heard on “Car Talk.” I was unaware that the splash guard is kind of like the human appendix; it has a purpose, but not much of one.

I saw this thing dangling underneath my car and assumed that it was the part of the engine that kept the rest of the engine from, you know, just falling out onto the street. I saw this part and assumed that it was, in the most meaningful sense of the word, essential to the working ability of my motor vehicle.

So we did what any 16-year-olds would do in a situation where our mode of transportation was on the verge of collapse: We went into Sam’s garage, grabbed a roll of duct tape and turned the underside and front of my car into a rolling 3M ad.

And then I drove off for Brett’s house at about 25 miles an hour.

Somewhere along the way, I started to fear that my 88 was basically turning into the sled from “Cool Runnings,” and that my carburetor or something equally important-sounding was just going to plop out and land on River Road, and my parents were going to kill me.

And then I realized that I was going to have to explain this whole thing — the whole, Uh, I think my engine is dangling by a thread and some duct tape situation — to my mother.

But then, while slowing down traffic and doing 25 in a 45, I realized what I had to do: When I saw my mother, I had to lighten the mood. I had to walk into the house and tell her something that would distract her from the disaster that was my car. I had to tell her something that would simultaneously make her laugh and help her understand the situation.

What I needed was an anecdote. Only an anecdote would do.

And suddenly, I knew just what I’d be talking about in Mrs. Buckingham’s class the next day.

Which brings me back to this:

When I’m convinced that every fucking thing is going wrong, what I find is that it usually helps to think about how absurdly tiny my problems are. This fantastic little narrative by Carl Sagan is especially helpful. It is the very definition of perspective.

In it, he points to a photo of Earth as taken from millions of miles away. The earth is just a tiny blue dot in the photo. And Sagan says:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.”

And holy mother of Buddha does that make every mistake seem a little less epic.

I Am 24 Years Old. This Is What I Believe.

I am 24 years old, and I’m going through a period of transition in my life. It’s that time of the year when I start getting all thoughtful about where I am and where I’m going, and at this very moment, I’m stuck in Kansas City Int’l, waiting for a flight home. So I wanted to write this down.

At age 24, there are certain things I’ve come to believe hold true. I know that my beliefs will change. I know that I will change.

But here, at 24, is what I believe:

-Try not to regret bad decisions. Just make the best decisions you can with the best information you have.
-When you find that you’ve done wrong, and you have a chance to make it right, don’t idle.
-Uncertainty breeds opportunity.
-Be spontaneous.
-Listening is an active process.
-So is life. Don’t be passive.
-Only the people who show up get to make change. So show up.
-Don’t be afraid to fail.
-It’s alright to get rejected. Getting rejected means you’re trying.
-At 18, you don’t know that you don’t know what you want.
-At 24, you know that you don’t know what you want.
-Sometimes, you’ve got to do it for the story.
-Do something. Be something.
-Define your greatness, and then go out and do something about it.

And most of all, this:

-In this life, you find things you love and people you love, and you make time for both.

I’m just trying to live up to that every day.

Those lovely people in the photo at top: My little brother and my little sister.

Things That Comfort Me When Every Fucking Thing Goes Wrong: My Membership in The Lucky Sperm Club.

Yes We DidThings tend to go wrong. This is a series of blog posts about the things I think about during those moments when the wrong things happen.

It’s my senior year at school. I’m in a photography class that I need to pass for graduation. The prof hands us a final assignment: A portfolio of seven photos. We’ve got a month to shoot it. These seven photos are worth half of our final grade.

I have a roommate working for the Obama campaign in mid-Missouri. The day after the election, I go with him to the office. They’re shutting everything down, and everyone’s saying their goodbyes. I spend the day there with my camera, shooting portraits, shooting the office. I get my seven photos. I’m happy.

About a week before the assignment is due, I pull out the grading rubric. I’ve got all the details down. I’ve got my seven photos. I’ve got a range of subjects and photographic styles.

Then I see this little sentence about halfway down the page:

“Please photograph only one person.”

Uh-oh.

I’ve got a lot of photos. And they’re of lots of different people.

I probably should have read the rubric a bit more closely before starting the project.

But this is no time to panic. I open up the laptop, tab over to Wikipedia and begin hammering out a 1,500 word essay on Albert Camus’ “The Stranger.” My essay is titled, “An Overly Complex Explanation of Why I Am Unable to Obey Rules and Instead Choose to Fight Unnecessary Existential Battles.” In it, I argue that I am presenting a portfolio of photos about Barack Obama in which Barack Obama does not appear. Instead, he appears through the faces of his campaign workers and volunteers — the people who fought for him, who worked for him, who took his beliefs and ideals and made them their own.

I write:

So I see this final project as a photo essay about the faces of one man: Barack Obama. Each of the people I’ve photographed was so involved with the campaign that on election day, they viewed the Obama victory as a clear validation of their own efforts and their own beliefs….

What I’m arguing is that existentially, every single Obama volunteer ceased to exist as an individual for a few months and took on the personality and belief system of Barack Obama. They believed in him to the point where they could feasibly understand Obama and understand the emotions that he went through during the election. I am arguing, ridiculous as it sounds, that a person is not defined by the physical body but by the ability for rational, independent thought. And as every single Obama volunteer acted as a representative of Barack Obama, working for his thoughts/ideas/beliefs, these volunteers were merely an extension of Obama.

So what follows is my photo essay about Barack Obama, the day after the election. The catch is that the physical presence of Barack Obama does not appear.

I attach the essay to my portfolio. It is a historic piece of bullshit, and I am convinced that my teacher — who I have already pissed off a few times this semester — will call me out on it.

She does not. I am, instead, given an A- for my work, and my teacher commends me for my creativity.

I have gone from “Oh, fuck!” to “Fuck, yeah!”

Which brings me around to something my dad likes to say. I grew up an amazingly lucky kid. I grew up in a nice suburb, and I went to a great school. My elementary school had a planetarium — not the Hayden or anything, but still, a big dome on which you could trace the structure of Milky Way — and I didn’t think much of it. For the longest time, I assumed every school had a planetarium. I got to go on vacations to the beach and to the mountains. Before I graduated high school, I’d been to four continents.

This all seemed ordinary.

Dad likes to refer to me and my two siblings as The Lucky Sperm Club, and he’s absolutely right. I was born into a world that was far too good to me. My world was safe. My parents were — still are, actually — happily married. I had my own car, my own room, and all the Girl Scout cookies I could eat. Today, I’m not saddled by college-related debt because my family had the money to put me through school.

I was born into this Wonder Years of a life, and into a world that nurtured me and let me focus on just growing up.

The deck was absolutely stacked in my favor.

So when I end up in a situation where I’m convinced that everything’s going wrong, it’s not hard for me to remind myself to stop making excuses. I didn’t grow up in a world that threw roadblocks at me. My world was one where people got fast-tracked to opportunity.

I try to remind myself: Shut up and deal with adversity, Dan. It’s about time you had some in your life.

The Time I Met Colleen, My (Non-Creepy) Internet Friend.

The first words out of her mouth were, “You saw it on Twitter, didn’t you?”

Of course I did. Really, could it have happened any other way?

It’s last Wednesday night. I’m going to the Blue Note, Columbia’s big music venue, to see Jakob Dylan, son of Bob, writer of the 1996 smash “One Headlight.” The guy headlined the VMAs back when the VMAs featured songs played on guitar. I only really know three of his songs, but I also I live a block away from the venue, and I’ve pretty much made it my policy to see as much live music as I can while I’m here. So I’m going.

And it was just that kind of day. It started too early, and it ended too late, and whatever the Kübler-Ross equivalent is for startups, I went through it all on Wednesday: Excitement and terror and fear and hope and ambivalence and promise and anger.

And it’s the end of the day, and I’m just ready to see some live music, crash at 11:15 and do it all again at 6 a.m. I log onto Twitter to check on something, and I see this tweet from my friend, Colleen. The tweet’s not directed at me or anything. But she’s at the Jakob Dylan show, it turns out. I text her with a, “You’re at the Blue Note? Want to meet me for a pre-show beer?”

Two things are notable here, before I go any further:

1. My friend Colleen lives in Seattle, not mid-Missouri.
2. I have never met Colleen in person.

The first is a bit easier to explain. Colleen’s a Missouri girl who, like me, went to Mizzou. Then she moved out to Seattle for work. She was back in the midwest last week for two different weddings.

As for the second…

Colleen and I are both operating in a pretty similar realm: We’re both interested in telling uncommon stories. I’ve got Stry, with its undercovered stories in undercovered areas. Colleen’s got TabuTalk, and its mission to help young people give voice to the voiceless.

A mutual friend introduced us a little over a year ago. He thought that with both of us chasing the entrepreneurial dream, we should talk. So we went back and forth on Facebook for a while. Then upgraded to Gmail conversations. She’s made a few introductions for me to some of her TabuTalk co-conspirators. These days, I’ll see an interesting link and shoot it her way. When I sent out a call for postcards this fall, she sent me one.

Point is: Colleen and I have known each other for a little while now, and we’ve tried to be helpful to each other on these entrepreneurial journeys, and yet we’d never actually met.

We are, I suppose, Internet friends.

And no, she does not live in her mom’s basement. Neither do I (anymore, at least). We did not meet on Craigslist. This is not some rehashing of the plot of “You’ve Got Mail.”

We just both happen to be young, ambitious, semi-clueless (well, me, at least) and a little out of our minds as far as the startup thing goes. We’re trying to help each other out where we can. We have a few dozen friends in common, and all things considered, we probably should have met in college.

We didn’t.

We’re Internet friends, instead.

But then last Wednesday night. I check the Twitters for a moment. And there’s this tweet from Colleen:

And so I shoot her a text, and she sends one back. I walk over to the Blue Note, walk upstairs, order a beer… and she’s at the end of the bar. Of course I found out about her being at the show through Twitter, I tell her. We hug, chat for a bit. I tell her how funny it is to actually meet her in person. Feels like I’ve known her for a long time, I say, and I’d never even known what she sounded like.

Colleen processes this bit slowly.

“We’ve really never met in person?”

Nope.

“Are you sure?”

Yep.

She says she wants to take a photo to send to our friend, Chris. The bartender takes it. My head extends beyond the frame.

14 months as Internet friends, and we finally get photo proof that we’ve actually met, and it doesn’t include my face.

Really, could it have happened any other way?

Re-entering the Time Warp That Was the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Go!

I am in the midst of reading this fantastic new book, Tom Scocca’s “Beijing Welcomes You.” It’s about China’s capital city during the years leading up to and during the 2008 Olympic Games.

I was there myself, covering the Games for the Rocky Mountain News, and reading Scocca’s account, I find myself experiencing some very unusual flashbacks. As I read along, I constantly find myself saying, “Hey, didn’t something like that happen to me?”

And then I start wondering, “Wait, was I there when this happened?”

The parallels between our experiences are eerie. I find myself reading Scocca’s stories and flashing back to events that I did not personally experience but that so closely mirror my personal experience that I can almost predict the upcoming dialogue as I read along.

It’s a “Twlight Zone”-style warp I find myself in, it seems.

Take these two selections. The first is from Scocca, as he attempts to get an official media credential from the Chinese:

I turned around again, to Window 38. To one side was an unattended stack of application forms. I took out a pen and began to fill one out. I was halfway through when the case officer reappeared, now inside Window 38, looking down at me. Did I have a residence registration form? he asked. I did not. Then the local police would have to issue me one, he said, and I would have to come back with it.

Also, he said, you can’t fill out the form with that pen. He pointed to the instructions at the top of the form, which said, in English, to use “blue or black ink pen.” My pen was black, a medium-point Paper-Mate, the pen I always carried. The ink was black; the plastic casing was black. I held it up. See, I said, it’s a black ink pen.

That’s not a black ink pen, the officer said.

I handed it over. He took it and made a few test scribbles, black marks on the paper. He handed the pen back dismissively.

This is not a black ink pen, he said. This is a ballpoint.

I was defeated.

And here’s what I wrote about my own press credential drama in July 2008:

Another American journalist came, too. His name is not important. What is important is that he owns media in several large countries, countries that you’d want to control when playing Risk. His passport was thicker than a Robert Caro LBJ volume. But the Chinese were also giving this CEO a hard time about his visa….

John [the bureaucrat handling the credentials] explained the letters needed for the visa application. He looked at the CEO. “The CEO of your company must sign this letter,” he said.

“I am the CEO,” the CEO responded.

“Well, the letter must be signed by the CEO,” John replied. “But the CEO’s signature cannot be from you.”

The CEO shot me a look. Welcome, I told him, to Dante’s innermost circle of hell: limbo.

So I read on in Scocca’s book, each page sucking me further into this weird state of déjà vu. His stories and my recollections are starting to blend together. Where his words end and my memories begin, I’m not really sure anymore.

Things That Comfort Me When Every Fucking Thing Goes Wrong: Townes.

Things tend to go wrong. This is a series of blog posts about the things I think about during those moments when the wrong things happen.

So it’s January 2008. My alma mater, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to allow me to attend a semester of classes in Alicante, Spain, a little town on the Mediterranean coast. Let that sink in: I am getting college credit for going to school by the beach. I’m flying out there before they can change their minds.

My grandma insists on helping me out with the travel arrangements. She’s got a travel agent down in Boca that she uses for international travel. Call her, she says.

So I do. The travel agent turns what should be a two legged trip — DC to Madrid to Alicante — into three. I pack my bags. I fly to Atlanta mid-afternoon. I take the overnight flight to Madrid. We get off the plane in Madrid and onto the jetway. Then off the jetway and into one of those special international terminal hallways that shuttles you straight to customs.

We stop moving.

But I’m feeling alright. Tired, but alright. It’s 6 a.m. in Spain, midnight back home. I’ve got Jack Johnson strumming in the earbuds, so I don’t even mind when an airline rep comes to the front of the pack and tells us: The door to let us into customs is locked. And the guy with the key to unlock the doors won’t be here for 45 minutes.

Still, I’m in no rush. It’s 6 a.m. My flight to Alicante isn’t until 11. I didn’t really sleep last night, so I’m a bit too tired to be mad. I just chill. Enjoy the surf music. Try to nap while standing upright. Ignore the crying children and annoyed parents and harried businessmen. I put myself in the zone, and I feel alright.

The keymaster shows up, and the door opens, and I wait in customs for a while, and then I’m through. Grab my bags, get on a shuttle and head over to the domestic terminal for the last leg of my trip.

My flight’s already on the board when I get there: 11 a.m. to Alicante. The line for Iberia, Spain’s national airline, moves kinda slow, but I’m in no rush. I get to the front. I throw my two massive bags on the scale. I hand the rep my confirmation number. She is a very pretty airline check-in lady sitting in a row of very pretty airline check-in ladies. It is hard not to feel at ease.

I try to start the conversation in Spanish, even though my travel Spanish is pretty much limited to, “Hi, here’s my photo ID.” The check-in lady starts typing my information into the computer. She types with the same fury that American gate agents tend to use while typing; she types as though hoping to inflict pain upon her keyboard. I try to wonder what this keyboard has done to wrong her.

The check-in lady stops typing, and looks up at me. And then she says something in rapid-fire Spanish.

I gaze blankly. I am far too tired to actually put together the energy to stare.

She switches to English. “Your 11 a.m. flight to Alicante has been cancelled,” she says.

I point to the board. “But what about that 11 a.m. flight to Alicante?” I ask.

“There is an 11 a.m. flight to Alicante,” she says. “You are not on it.”

So this is the kind of moment I am in: It is 9 a.m. in Spain and 3 a.m. in America. I have 70 lbs. of luggage with me. I do not have a cell phone. I am booked on an 11 a.m. flight that does not exist. I have not really slept in quite some time, and each moment I go without sleeping is making the lack of sleep more evident.

Things are not going well.

Of course, things get fixed. The check-in lady explains that my initial flight was cancelled, and then a different 11 a.m. flight was scheduled. She does not know why I was not re-booked. She mentions that I should have been notified of this weeks ago, and I start to wonder whether or not my grandma’s travel agent knew about my non-flight flight. The check-in lady says she cannot put me on the 11 a.m. flight, even though the flight is not full. She puts me on the 1 p.m. flight instead.

This is how it will be.

So it takes a while, and I’m not entirely alive by the time I land, but I do get there, and when I get there, I am immediately taken to a hotel on the beach. It is January, and it is 65 degrees.

This is comfort enough.

But I like to think of two songs by Townes Van Zandt at such moments. There are days like the one I had at Madrid Int’l, days that seem to confirm that whatever gods exist spend most of their existence seeking to make my life as difficult as possible.

Townes’ “Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold” is a song about those very gods.

But it’s also got this magic bit of wisdom at the end. The song is about two men, Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold, and a game of poker. Mr. Gold’s getting all the right cards. He’s winning hand after hand. And just when it looks bleak, the gods change their minds, and Mr. Mudd gets an unbeatable hand. Mr. Gold gets confident. Bets it all. Loses it all.

And the final verse goes:

Now here’s what this story’s told
If you feel like Mudd you’ll end up Gold
If you feel like lost, you’ll end up found
So amigo, lay them raises down

That’s always a nice reminder on the worst days. Stick with it. Be patient. Luck always evens out.

The other Townes song that helps is called “Rex’s Blues.” It’s one of his best. And this is the part that crushes me:

There ain’t no dark till something shines
I’m bound to leave this dark behind

Make of that what you will, but for me, it’s always said: We can’t really understand the lows until we’ve experienced the highs. I mean, really: How can we know what is good until we’ve known that which is not?

But once we understand it, we can always hope for something better. We can always hope for a little bit of sunshine.

Or in the case of my study abroad experience, six months of topless beaches and sunshine.

(How I got college credit for it all, I’ll never know.)

Things That Comfort Me When Every Fucking Thing Goes Wrong: Donut-Related Wisdom.

Things tend to go wrong. This is a series of blog posts about the things I think about during those moments when the wrong things happen.

My sophomore year of college, I loaded up the Ford Explorer and headed to St. Louis to go watch a football game. I had a giant cooler filled with ice, beer and semi-refrigerated meats. I was wearing a yellow, pinstriped blazer. I left around rush hour.

And 10 minutes into the drive, I heard a noise under the hood that sounded distinctly like a small reserve of Roman candles going off all at once.

I pulled over in Kingdom City, this little town east of Columbia, Mo., that’s most famous for trying to secede from the Union back when that was still in fashion. They’ve got a few garages there, and I pulled into one where they serviced 18-wheelers. I kept the car running while the mechanics took a look under the hood. They didn’t look long before delivering a verdict:

My engine was about to explode.

So I won’t be driving this thing to St. Louis, I asked?

Not if you want to live, they said.

And suddenly, I found myself very much stranded in Kingdom City, Mo., population 128.

But then I started to think about contingency plans. Could I get a ride in the morning? Did I know anyone else driving through to St. Louis that night? Should I just cancel the whole trip?

And then I remembered: There’s this van company that shuttles travelers from Columbia, Mo., to the St. Louis airport. They make a few trips a day. Sometimes, they make a stop in Kingdom City at the local McDonald’s.

I didn’t have a smartphone, but I did happen to have the shuttle company’s number stored on my phone. I called and asked when the next shuttle might be coming through Kingdom City.

It was coming in seven minutes, they said. I asked if I could pay with credit card over the phone. They told me: Forget about the credit card. Start running towards the van.

So I started running, the yellow jacket on one arm, the cooler of beer and meats and ice wheeling behind me. The lid was duct taped shut.

I beat the shuttle to the McDonald’s parking lot by a minute or two, but I was still sucking air when they pulled up. I asked the driver if I could pay by credit card. He said no. Cash only.

The exact cost of the trip is lost to memory, but I do remember that it wasn’t an even number. I think it was $42.

I opened my wallet. I had exactly $42 inside.

So that’s how I got to St. Louis that weekend.

Was I lucky? Absolutely. Everything was going wrong. My car was dying. I was screwed. But there just happened to be a garage that could help me when I needed help. There just happened to be a St. Louis-bound shuttle coming through town when I needed it. I just happened to have the to-the-decimal-point amount of cash I needed to pay for the shuttle.

But there’s more to this story than that. I’m thinking now about this breakfast place I love. They’ve got these words inscribed on the top of their menu, and I’m rather fond of them:

Keep your eye on the donut, and not on the hole.

I love that. When things go wrong, we lose focus on what’s important. We focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have.

I didn’t have a working car at that moment, but I did have all the tools to get me to St. Louis that weekend. That was the goal: Get to St. Louis.

I kept my eye on the donut, even as everything was going wrong. I made it to St. Louis that night.

Words Of Advice From an “Overnight Success.”

My startup songwriter-in-residence, Todd Snider, has a line that I find myself quoting a lot. It’s from a brilliant little song, titled “Easy Money.” He sings:

Everyone wants the most they can possibly get
For the least they can possibly do

And he couldn’t be more spot on. I meet a lot of people who want to be an overnight success. Problem is, for most of us in the creative/entreprenurial spheres, there’s no such thing.

Don’t believe me? Listen to the Twitter guys.

And here’s more proof. Meet Dave McClure. Out there in Silicon Valley, he’s what Ron Burgundy would call kind of a big deal. He’s worked with startups, invested in startups, immersed himself in startups. His latest extravaganza is called 500 Startups, and they’re a startup accelerator. They bring in a ton of startups — this year, they’ve worked with north of 50 startups. They mentor them, they groom them, they fund them — and then they send them out into the world.

Naturally, people thought this was crazy.

But then I saw this Twitter exchange tonight between McClure and Jason Cohen, an entrepreneur and investor who runs a popular startup blog:

Amen, guys. They speak to a simple truth: Want to make change? It can happen — one day at a time, one relationship at a time.

Things happen slowly. Success has to be earned. Trust has to be earned.

It happens: One day at a time. One relationship at a time.

Start there.

Things That Comfort Me When Every Fucking Thing Goes Wrong: John Prine.

John Prine

Things tend to go wrong. This is the first in a series of blog posts about the things that I think about during those moments when the wrong things happen.

I remember the very first time that everything went wrong for me. I think I was in first or second grade. My family was up in Pennsylvania at Sesame Place, a Sesame Street-themed water park. My dad and sister and I were going down a water slide. I went down first, and waited for them to come down after me. But they never came. So I waited and waited, and then I got upset, and then first-or-second grade me started to cry, and then I got hysterical, and then I started to think I’d lost my family forever, and then dad found me and everything was fine. The whole scene — from me thinking my family had abandoned me to me finding my dad, going back on a water slide and completely forgetting about it — took five or 10 minutes in real time, and several hours in elementary school time. In the moment, it was terribly scarring, and it seemed to take forever to find my dad, and then I was over it before I’d even gotten all the way down the next slide.

Since then, I’ve been through more a few more situations where Every. Fucking. Thing went wrong. There was the time I almost got deported by the Chinese. The time I did a mile-long sprint through Houston Intercontinental in sandals. The time my mother nearly dropped the Torah during my Bar Mitzvah.

You get the idea.

But not everything is a full-on disaster. What I’m learning is, when everything goes wrong, it’s usually never as terrible as it seems in the moment. I’m learning how to put things into perspective.

This one song by John Prine helps. It’s one of my favorites, called, “That’s The Way The World Goes Round.” And the chorus goes:

That’s the way that the world goes ’round
You’re up one day and the next you’re down
It’s half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown
That’s the way that the world goes ’round

It’s that third line that I love the most: “It’s half an inch of water and you think you’re gonna drown.” Isn’t it almost always? I find that the worst mistakes, the biggest fuck-ups… well, they’re really not that bad at all.

It’s just that in the moment, every other thing in my mind gets blocked out, and all I can think of is how everything is going wrong. I lose all perspective.

And then I remind myself that it’s just a half an inch of water, and the moment tends to pass.