The Crescendo Rises Again.

Crescendo

The crescendo, we called it.

My buddy, Ryan, and I came up with the title during our senior year. Amazing things had started to happen. Our school’s basketball team was experiencing massive success. We were dating women we liked. We were applying for jobs. We were really enjoying the last few months of college. (Maybe too much.)

We looked at our four years of school, at all the highs and lows. The almosts. The maybes. We looked at it all, and then we looked at senior year, as everything seemed to be coming together. We envisioned it all merging together in one glorious semester, our final semester, and eventually building into this one spectacular climax — the moment in which we would have it all.

The crescendo, we called it.

It didn’t work out quite like we’d hoped. Our basketball team came up one win short of the Final Four. Graduation didn’t greet us with the employment prospects we’d hoped for. The economy turned three shades south of sour.

But still, the hope for the crescendo lived on: One perfect year, of work, of effort, of hope, culminating in that singular point when we could look out and say, Yes, right here, we have it all.

Dare I say, though: Right now, I think I may be upon the rise of a new crescendo. The work I’m putting in with Stry, the work I’m putting into my personal life, my side projects — it’s coming together in a beautiful way.

Except that I’ve changed one thing about the crescendo. Back in college, I couldn’t envision anything beyond that climax. It would happen, and then…. well, I don’t know what I thought would happen. But the crescendo was the end.

Now I see things beyond that crescendo. And it’s not just a singular point. Everything I’m doing now is building towards dual goals — one professional, one personal — but they’re just a start. Once I get there, the cycle begins anew. New goals, new hopes. New crescendos to build towards.

I feel myself on the verge of something amazing, something I am building for the future. It is just the start.

The crescendo — the first of many — is upon us.

Let it ring loudly.

How To Make Friends In The Real World* After Graduation. (*You Know, The Real World? That Strange Place That Exists Outside of College?)

texas map

This post is really for anyone who’s about to graduate college and move to a new city. I don’t recommend graduation, but if you have to do it, and you’re moving to a new place, this post might help.

I graduated college on my 22nd birthday. I didn’t yet have a job. Three days later, I put all my stuff in my car and drove home.

Three weeks later, job in hand, I put all my stuff back in my car and moved to Texas.

I’d never been to Texas before, let alone San Antonio. I didn’t know anyone there, and I was very aware before moving was that making friends was going to be hard. Everyone kept telling me how hard it was going to be. It was always the fourth thing they brought up. Oh, San Antonio! It’s so nice there. Hot, but nice. Great Mexican food. And you’re going to have a tough time making friends.

I knew San Antonio wasn’t like DC. There isn’t much of a public transit system in San Antonio. The city is sprawling, and to get pretty much anywhere, you have to drive.

I figured — correctly, I should say — that picking the right place to live was going to impact the type of friends I’d make. So I decided to move into a loft near downtown, in the old Pearl Brewery. There was a 20-foot high beer can on top of my roof that lit up at night with the words, “Enjoy The Finer Life.” The Riverwalk was a block away from my apartment, and some of the city’s finest restaurants were steps away, and there was a yoga studio on the first floor, and nightly live music across the street, and a farmer’s market in my parking lot every Saturday.

It was a really great place to live. I miss that place.

The only thing was, I didn’t really have many friends.

Certainly not at first. Because as I started to meet people, I discovered two things:

1. Young professionals don’t live in San Antonio. They move to Austin, 45 minutes north.

2. If they do live in San Antonio, they live in the suburbs.

So I made friends in the suburbs. But that was strange. I couldn’t really drink with friends because I had to drive home. And forget about a cab. It would’ve cost $75 round trip just to get to a bar and back.

I like friends, but I wasn’t making nearly enough to be able to afford them, it turned out.

Anyway, where this is all going: I just finished reading a fantastic book by Rachel Bertsche. It’s called “MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend.” It’s about a writer like me — she even nailed the Jewish-but-not-all-that-religious journalism grad part — who moves to a new city and tries to make new friends. So she goes on 52 friend-dates during the year. She’s not looking for a man — just a new BFF.

And like me, she discovers: This is way, way harder than you’d think.

I’ve moved three times since San Antonio — to Biloxi, Miss., and then back to D.C., and then out to Columbia, Mo. And in each city, I’ve gotten better at making friends. In Biloxi, that meant actually becoming part of the Jewish community. (I was the 10th person in the minion most Friday nights, so they loved me.) In D.C., that meant kickball leagues and yoga and lots of live music. In Columbia, it’s meant infinite after-work drinks and meetups and lots of socialization.

The lesson that Bersche takes away from her friend search — and I’m happy to confirm that she’s dead on with this — is that making new friends in a new city takes work. Sometimes, it feels like a second job.

So if you’re graduating this May and moving to a new city, I’ll offer you this: Don’t feel alone in your new home. Making new friends is hard, and it doesn’t come easily. But don’t be scared. Go out, be friendly, do things, and be active in the friend search.

This comes back to something I’ve said before: In this life, find things you love and people you love, and make time for both. When you’re out in a new city, searching for friends, start by making time for things you love.

You’ll find the people you love soon enough.

Introducing…. VeryQuotatious.com.

I have a friend who is studying to become a doctor. On test days, I’ll often get a text or an email from her, asking for a word of wisdom. She knows I’ve got a Delicious loaded with inspirational links and ideas, and I’ll dig through there and send her something. I love helping, and she loves asking. It’s a win for both of us.

But I’d like to be able to share that joy with a wider audience. So I’ve launched a new side project: VeryQuotatious.com. The name comes for a quote from Shaq, he of a thousand quotable remarks. I’ve designed the site to be an internet home for inspiration, advice, thought and other wisdom suitable for quotation.

The quotes are all hand curated, and I’ve tried to bring in quotes from modern thought leaders — entrepreneurs, thinkers, scientists — as opposed to the standard grab bag of Gandhi sayings.(1)

I hope it brings you as much joy and wisdom as it has brought me.

  1. Though he’s still on the site.

One Dumb Thing I Used To Believe In.

Danielle LaPorte, Internet thinker person, asked a question on her blog today: “What’s one dumb thing that you used to believe in?” As someone who says/does a lot of dumb things, I felt qualified to provide this answer:

¶¶¶

I used to believe in radical, blunt honesty. In speaking without filter. In giving advice even when it wasn’t asked.

This is a really good way to lose friends and alienate people.

It’s also a really good way to completely diminish the power of your relationships. The more open I was with other people, the less open they wanted to be around me.

Because being open with others started out with a simple goal: Tell the truth, always, even when it’s uncomfortable.

But I started to realize that it was devolving into something worse. I wasn’t telling it like it was; I was using the veil of truth to be condescending.

I was turning into a dick.

I still believe in the truth, and telling it. But I’m also buying into the filter. Into giving advice only when it’s asked, and to being honest without needing to disclose everything fucking thing.

Once, I thought it wasn’t okay to stay quiet, even for a moment. You have a voice, Dan. Use it!

That was a dumb thing to believe in. I’ve learned: The people who talk most sometimes get heard least.

So shut up and listen, Dan. When it’s your turn to speak, nobody doubts that you’ll have plenty to say.

Things That Comfort Me When Every Fucking Thing Goes Wrong: Explosions in the Sky.

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 went to the Super Bowl once. It was fourth grade, and Dad got tickets. The Chargers played the 49ers in Miami. The halftime show was a combination of Indiana Jones and the Miami Sound Machine. There was a 99-yard kickoff return by the Chargers, and Jerry Rice scored the first touchdown for the Niners, and Natrone Means didn’t have a very good game, and I don’t remember anything else. The 49ers won big, and we got to take our official Super Bowl XXIX seat cushions home. That’s what I remember about the game.

But I also remember that we left the game early. Dad never leaves games early — never. We stay the full nine; we play the full 60 minutes. Always. That night was an aberration. We were driving my grandpa’s car, and we didn’t really know our way around Miami, so Dad wanted to leave before the crowds starting filing out.

On the way in, we’d found ourselves an easy target to help us find our car: A 20-foot tall inflatable Lombardi Trophy. We parked right next to it, and we figured that it wouldn’t be too hard to find the giant silver football on the way out.

Except that they’d moved the trophy.

During the pregame show, we’d actually seen it, down on the field. They’d brought it inside the stadium for the fireworks and the flyover and the anthem and all that. Dad had pointed it out; we just didn’t know that the NFL only had one giant inflatable Lombardi Trophy at the Super Bowl that night.

So we walk out of the stadium, and the parking lot is almost completely unlit. The only light’s the one coming out of the stadium, and the light and noise is flooding out of there. But out in the parking lot, it’s dark. And we’re looking around, and we can’t find our giant Lombardi Trophy, and we’re realizing that it’s long since been deflated and is somewhere underneath Joe Robbie Stadium.

Joe Robbie seats 75,000 fans, and there are 60,000 cars out in the parking lot, and we’re looking for a late 80s Mercedes station wagon, and we can’t see anything, because it’s pitch black, and any minute, 75,000 fans are going to walk out of Joe Robbie, and we’re going to be stuck in the parking lot forever.

This was fourth grade, when the keyless entry — or as my mother still calls it, the Boop-Boop — was just becoming a thing. Grandpa’s car didn’t have it. So we couldn’t even just walk around pressing the button on the keys, hoping the car might honk at us. We were really, really lost.

I remember dad saying that maybe our best option was just to wait for all the cars to empty out of the parking lot. Once all the rest of the cars were gone, it probably wouldn’t be that hard to find ours — theoretically speaking.

Dad wasn’t all that enthused about the prospect of us spending the night wandering around a Miami parking lot, just a a dad and a 10-year-old, two seat cushions, one wallet and a whole lot of dark. We were leaving a sporting event that was attended by plenty of rich people, and here we were, carrying around the keys to a Mercedes. We were eminently robbable.

We kept walking around.

I don’t remember when we found the car, only that we did. I don’t remember how long we walked around the parking lot — 15 or 20 minutes, at the least. It seemed longer. When you’re unhappy and lost, time always seems to stretch.

Now for a happier thought: High up on the list of things that comfort me when everything goes wrong, there’s Explosions in the Sky. They’re this amazing instrumental band from Austin, and they have this way of turning little moments in life into something worthy of Technicolor. I love one of their songs most of all: “Your Hand in Mine.” There’s a moment in the song, about two minutes in, where the song just breaks, and out of it comes this simple, soaring set of chords. No matter how fucked I am, no matter how bad things seem, that little melody reminds me of how things will pass. I listen to them, and good things always seem to come this way.

A Thought About Sam O’s Birthday, Exactly One Year Ago Today.


Today is my little brother’s 19th birthday. Exactly a year ago, I was thinking about how he’d just turned 18, and I wrote down this thought. I’m sharing it here on the Interwebs for the first time.

Sam O turns 18 today. 18’s one of those unimportant important birthdays. He gets to do nothing special, at least just yet. He can’t drink. He’s already driving.

But it’s a milestone. And we, as people, are geared to love milestones. They don’t necessarily tell us where we’re going, but they remind us from where we’ve come.

In a way, that’s frustrating. Because sometimes, it feels like we’re always just starting. Hit 13 and you’re starting life as a man. Hit 16 and you’re starting life as a driver. Hit 18 and you’re starting life as a college kid.

But on the other hand: we are always just starting. We’re always getting new beginnings. We’re always looking forward.

So maybe what milestones really are are an opportunity to remind ourselves of one of the reasons why life is so worth living:

The potential to make tomorrow better than today.

Do the Work. Always Do The Work.

Finish Line

I read this story last summer, and I didn’t fully understand it. I loved it, and I bookmarked it, and I read it a half-dozen times, but I didn’t really get it.

It was about Bob Bradley, the former coach of the U.S. men’s soccer team. The story was by Luis Bueno, who used to cover Bradley when he was the coach of Chivas USA. And the reporter remembers one thing about Bradley:

The work.

No matter the results on game day, at practice, all Bradley wanted to talk about was the work. Writes Bueno:

It seemed like every time I caught Bob Bradley after a training session, he brought up the work. The work was good, the work was getting better, the work, the work, the work… It was hardly ever about wins and losses, mostly always the work.

And when I read that story for the first time, it only kind of clicked. It had been a long time since I had worked really, really hard. I had gotten lazy. The passion wasn’t really there. I’d become one of those guys that Todd Snider was thinking of when he sang, “Everybody wants the most they can possibly get / For the least they can possibly do.”

And that story about Bob Bradley was one of the ones that got me moving again. I had to wake up in the morning and do the work. To miss a work day? Unacceptable.

But I still didn’t really understand what all that meant. It wasn’t until recently when it fully clicked. I’ve been on a heavy work binge — on Stry, on side projects, on the Belly Challenge, on my personal life. I’ve been putting in the work, and I’ve been filling up my TeuxDeux and crossing it off and filling it up again. Damn if I’m not as happy as I’ve ever been — even though I’m working as hard as I’ve ever worked.

Then I saw this quote by Jay Bilas, the former Duke basketball star and current ESPN commentator. He wrote a fantastic piece on toughness, and this quote absolutely floored me:

“I was a really hard worker in high school and college. But I worked and trained exceptionally hard to make playing easier. I was wrong. I once read that Bob Knight had criticized a player of his by saying, “You just want to be comfortable out there!” Well, that was me, and when I read that, it clicked with me. I needed to work to increase my capacity for work, not to make it easier to play. I needed to work in order to be more productive in my time on the floor. Tough players play so hard that their coaches have to take them out to get rest so they can put them back in. The toughest players don’t pace themselves.”

And there it was: Work begets more work. Until you put in the work, you don’t know how hard you can really go. Only with work can you understand.

So today is a work day. Today, I will do the work.

Will you?

What My Head Feels Like Right Now With All The Things Happening With Stry.

First Steps

Fast. It’s moving so damn fast. So many things to cross off the to-do list. So many things happening all at once. So many tasks. Knock one off, another one takes its place.

Slow. It’s moving so damn slow. So much time between now and May, and May just won’t come. Why can’t it all just come faster?

So fast, and so slow.

And yet I know: A thousand baby steps to get to where I need to go.

One Great Story Could Make You $50k. (So Steal This Idea If You’d Like.)

Another Gift Box Cake
You’re a newspaper. You’re looking for a way to tell an interesting story, to engage users and make $50,000.

Quick: How do you pull it off?

I’m thinking about calling up the team at Quarterly. It’s a new subscription service for interesting people and brands. Alexis Madrigal of the Atlantic, Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project and Maria Popova at Brain Pickings are all early contributors to the site. Customers can sign up to get a package from a contributor of their choice. You get one package per quarter. The package is hand curated, with items and notes that combine to tell an interesting story. Customers pay $25 per quarter for that package.

So let’s say you’re the New York Times. You have a massive library of infinite things. Why not set up on Quarterly? Make it an exclusive thing — only 500 customers can subscribe. That alone is worth $50,000 per year.(1)

And use that money to tell an awesome story. If Mike Monteiro can tell a story about awkardness with his Quarterly package, then I’m confident the Times can tell an equally awesome story.

Send me newsprint, guys. Send me something from the Times archives that I couldn’t get elsewhere. Hell, sell me a bolt from the printing press or a Post-It off of David Carr‘s desk. I don’t care what it is; I’m sure it’ll be awesome.

But these guys at Quarterly are in the business of telling interesting stories, engaging customers and making money. News organizations should be in business with companies like them.(2)

They’re the ones who we should be working with to make money. This one might only make you $50k.

But it’s a start.

  1. $25 per month x 4 packages per year x 500 = $50k. Well, a little less after Quarterly takes their cut. But you get the idea.
  2. And their founders are from the news world!

Before You Sign, Read The Contract. Always Read The Contract.

Contracts
“People change. Circumstances change. Legal documents don’t change.” — Brent Beshore, CEO of AdVentures

At my first job out of college, I was told that I would get health care. Dental, medical — the usual. This sounded good to me, even though I didn’t know what a co-pay was, or a deductible, or anything else related to health care. My boss told me I got health care, so I got health care. That was that.

And about four or five months in, some co-workers were talking about their health care plan, so I decided to ask my boss about my plan. She sounded surprised — We haven’t taken care of this already? — and called in the company’s HR person. And that HR person called our parent company’s HR person.

And that HR person, on speakerphone, told me that I had declined health care.

What now?

The HR person said that an employee of my stature was eligible for health care benefits starting in the third month of employment. I had one month to sign up for health care, and then my window closed. They had sent me an email about it, the HR person said matter-of-factly. The company had a record of me opening the email, so since I had received it, that was as far as the company was legally obligated to go to notify me of my rights.

In fewer words: We did what we had to do. Case closed.

This was my first experience with contracts. I missed a single email, and I missed out on health care. This was not a pleasant first experience with contracts.(1)

I’ve learned even more about contracts in my time working on Stry. And if there’s only one takeaway from all of my experiences, it’s this: Before you sign your name to any document, read it, review it and understand it. If you have any questions or concerns, ask them before you sign.

I’ve signed contracts the way I agreed to the Terms of Service for iTunes — mindlessly, and as though the other party has my best interests in mind. This is an easy, easy way to get screwed.

When you fail to understand what you’re signing, you’re likely signing away your rights. Once the signature’s there, it’s too late to change anything.

Here’s a real-world example. Apple’s recently released a new platform for selling books electronically. But the iBooks contract isn’t author-friendly. For example:

“The nightmare scenario under this agreement? You create a great work of staggering literary genius that you think you can sell for 5 or 10 bucks per copy. You craft it carefully in iBooks Author. You submit it to Apple. They reject it.

“Under this license agreement, you are out of luck. They won’t sell it, and you can’t legally sell it elsewhere. You can give it away, but you can’t sell it.”

Somewhere out there, an author is going to agree to this contract, and they’re going to go through that nightmare scenario. They’re going to get totally screwed. It’s not because they’re dumb. It’s because they’re not careful enough to really dig into what they’re signing. That’s because nobody’s ever told them that they have to pay attention to what comes before that dotted line.

But now you know. Before you sign, read the contract. Always read the contract.

  1. This is a common experience. Mule Design’s Mike Monteiro has a great talk about working with contracts. It’s called, “Fuck You, Pay Me.” That should give you an idea of how badly things can go when contracts are involved.