I Can’t Fucking Believe I Left My Windows Open Again.

yours truly, the idiot

I took my team up to Ha Ha Tonka last weekend. Ha Ha Tonka is a mid-Missouri park, and I could tell you about its rolling hills, or its castles, or its sinkholes, but all you’re going to remember is its name:

Ha Ha Tonka.

It has a funny name.

But I digress: I took the team hiking there last weekend. And in the Devil’s Kitchen, a giant sinkhole on the southern side of the park, in this majestic ampitheather, I gathered the Stry.us team and laid out the rules for the summer:

Let’s be builders.

Let’s be patient, but let’s also be persistent.

And of course: Let’s make mistakes. They’ll be mistakes, but they’ll be our mistakes, and we’ll learn from them.

At least, I hope we will.

See, here’s the thing: It’s 2:47 a.m. right now, and I’m typing this. Which means that something’s gone wrong.

Again.(1)

It happened once in Biloxi, when I couldn’t afford to make a mistake.(2) Biloxi was hot — there’s a photo on the Stry.us Facebook page of Weather.com showing a “real feel” of 119 degrees, to give you an idea of what July was like — and my car tended to heat up like a toaster oven most afternoons. I kept my windows open a lot.

I kept my windows open until that one night where it rained like all hell, and then I walked downstairs and found a small monsoon on my driver’s side floormat. The control panel on the left side of the car shorted out. Every other window I could make go up — but not that driver’s side window.

I took it to my mechanic there — the heat had made my engine fan go kaput, so I’d already found a mechanic — and Big Joe had to call up a dealer in Alabama to find the part. It cost me a few hundred dollars, and when I called my parents, my dad told me the thing that dads say:

It happens once, alright. It happens twice….

And he didn’t need to finish the sentence.

Which is where tonight comes in. There was a thunderstorm, and I knew it was coming — my laptop had forewarned me of it. But it was hot again, and I kept the windows open a crack. I’d expected to go out again at night for groceries. I came in, did some work, passed on groceries and went to sleep at the start of the first OT between Boston and Miami.

I woke up to thunder. And it woke me up, straight up, and I knew already. I went to my window and looked out.

I thought I saw a crack in the window.

I grabbed my raincoat and a small towel. The rain was blowing more in a sideways/upwards direction than down. The thunder hit every couple of seconds. The lightning looked like a strobe on full blast, or a lighthouse light spinning at triple time.

I looked at my car, and I fully realized what I’d already suspected: I’d left every window open an inch.

I ran. I hit the remote entry, and the lights came on. I went to the driver’s side door.

Nothing.

I tried again.

Nope.

And then, the ah-ha moment — the panel’s already busted. This door won’t open automatically.

Fuck.

The driver’s side rear door opened. The inside of my car was soaked.

I managed to get every window up — every window except the driver’s side.

So now I started running back into the house — more towels, all that I can find — and then back out into the storm. I started stuffing them into the cracks. I started toweling off the inside of the car.

It is 3:13 a.m. now, and there are several hours of thunderstorms left tonight.(3) My driver’s side door is being guarded by five hand towels stuffed into a one-inch window opening. This window will not go up, and it cannot be fixed tonight. The nearest garage — or covered parking area — is 20 minutes away.

We’ll make mistakes, I keep hearing myself say, looking out at my team at Ha Ha Tonka. But they’ll be our mistakes, and we’ll learn from them.

And now I am sitting here writing this note to myself, hoping that this time — the second time around — I actually do.

  1. See: Self-pic, at top, for proof.
  2. I mean that literally — I didn’t have any money.
  3. Again: My computer is telling me this.

We May Look Silly For Trying To Predict The Future. But We’ll Look Like Morons If We Don’t Try To Build It Anyway.

I just finished Michael Eisner’s autobiography, “Work in Progress.” It’s an excellent read, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the final chapter. It’s 1997, and Eisner — CEO of Disney — starts predicting the future of his corporation.

Hindsight makes a book that’s only 15 years old seem like an absolute relic. Eisner offers his predictions for the future, but the stuff that matters most in today’s media — the Internet, Google, streaming video, HDTV — is barely touched upon. He mentions that Disney is expanding on the web, but only by mentioning Go.com.

And if you go to Go.com right now, you’ll see… a web portal that hasn’t been updated in five years.

The point is: We cannot see very far into the future. We are going forward, semi-cluelessly. We have ideas. We have dreams. We have leaders.

We have no idea what happens next. And we have no idea how the things that come next will affect the things we believe in now.

To quote a Florence & the Machine song that’s been in my head for a few weeks now:

A revelation in the light of day
You can’t choose what stays and what fades away

We do not know what is next. We are all out here making it up as we go along.

But future is ours, and we’re the ones who’ll be shaping it, in our own haphazard way. We may look silly for trying to predict the future, but we’ll look like morons if we don’t try to build it anyway — each of us — today.

Thanks to Instagram user @jpcherry for the excellent photo of Tomorrowland.

There Is No Such Thing As Bad Work. George Carlin Taught Me That.

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When I was in 9th grade, my family roadtripped down to Florida over winter break. My parents had always found interesting things to play in the car on long drives. My parents were big fans of D.C. parody group The Capital Steps,(1) and we listened to their cassettes in the car. We listened to the hysterical stories of Bill Harley, and the random baseball rantings of Danny Kaye.(2)

But on that trip to Florida, my mother decided — and I do not know why — to bring along some George Carlin for the drive.

That was the first time I’d ever heard Carlin’s famed “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” routine.(3) I’d never heard anything quite like it before. I’d never heard anyone use words — simple, clear, decisive words — to prove such a powerful point.

Things would never be the same after that.

One line in the routine hit me especially hard. There was this idea that certain words were inherently “bad.” Carlin said that was total crap.

“There are no bad words,” he said. “Bad thoughts. Bad intentions. And words.”

I’d like to say the same is true with your work. Again, it doesn’t matter what your work is — playing basketball, writing the Great American Novel, building a better mousetrap. All that matters is that there is no such thing as bad work.

The results aren’t what you want sometimes. But the work itself is always good. Always.

There are bad results, sure. But work? Passionate, driven, goal-oriented work never fails. It’s never bad. Through it, regardless of results, you’ll learn how to do better work.

There will always be people who tell you that your work isn’t any good, just like there will always people who tell you that you can’t say certain words, or that you can’t try certain things.

But I know what Carlin would say about those people:

Fuck ’em.

Go do the work instead.

  1. I still can’t hear Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” without singing, “Boris Yeltsin is the hardest rhyme.”
  2. “Oh, I say D! I say D-O! D-O-D! D-O-D-G! D-O-D-G-E-R-S! Team, team, team, team ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
  3. No need to Google it — the seven are shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.

How You Hug Is How You Do Everything In This World.

I am a large human, and as a large human, I tend to give out really big hugs. They come in many forms: Bear hugs, bro hugs and — best of all — lift-you-off-the-ground-and-swing-you-around hugs.

I have a friend who loves the latter type of hugs almost as much as I do. She’s amazing in every sense of the word. When we go to concerts, she’s the one dancing as though nobody else is watching. When she was at college, she was an athlete, and the football team bought this new accelerometer machine to measure how much impact a defensive lineman could make on impact. She was the only female athlete crazy enough to line up opposite this machine and run full speed at it.(1)

And her hugs — oh, the hugs! When she hugs, she does so arms extended, feet completely leaving the ground. She does not hug as much as she leaps into your waiting arms.

This is how she does everything.

It’s really an incredible way to face the challenges of this life. Embrace the world — and all its magic — with everything you have. Leave nothing behind.

Jump into the things you love best, and know that when you need it most, you’ll find amazing people waiting there to catch you.

Thanks to Instagram user @jimmyjoephoto for the amazing photo at top.

  1. She almost dislocated her shoulder in the process.

Why ‘Just Be Yourself’ Is Lousy Advice When You’re Young.

Here’s a piece of advice I don’t much care for, especially when it’s directed towards young people: Just be yourself.

You’re giving a talk? Just be yourself.
You’re writing a paper? Just be yourself.
You’re going on a date with Cindy Crawford? Just be yourself.

But the problem is, What if you’re not really sure who you are yet?

To the confused souls among us — and yeah, I’d put myself in that category some days — “Just be yourself” is lousy advice. Before you can be yourself, you have to find yourself.

That takes time. We find ourselves through trying new things, through experimenting, through stepping out beyond our boundaries and seeing what we like and what we don’t.

And we never really stop searching for who we are. There will come a time when you find a version of yourself that you really like. That’s fantastic.

But it’s only the 1.0 version. You cant stop there. You can’t stop growing. You can’t stop trying new things.

I’d like to do away with “just be yourself.” I’d rather tell someone, “Do something that scares you.” Action leads to discovery.

Don’t settle for being someone you’re not totally sure of. Do the work, and through that, you’ll find yourself.

Spread Love, or Just Keep Your Damn Mouth Shut.

In 2009, I wrote something that I thought was clever.

Turned out I was just being a dick.

I had gone to a concert with my roommate, Nate, at the Blue Fugue in Columbia, MO. There were a couple of bands playing that night, and one of the openers was from Utah. They were called Mad Max & the Wild Ones. They were a family band. (That’s them in the photo at top.)

Nate thought they were really good. I did, too.

But I also thought something was weird. The band was all children. The lead singer hadn’t hit age 10.

It bothered me. I went home and blogged about it.

And that was that. Until, of course, the band’s manager — also, the band’s mom — went home and searched Google. She found my post.

We traded some comments on my blog, and later emails. She was pissed, and understandably so — some asshole on the Internet was writing snarky comments about her kids!

It’s just that in this case, that asshole was me.

The conversation eventually settled down, and I eventually apologized. I never took the blog post down, because I didn’t want to forget the incident. The Internet is written in ink, and this blog is no exception.

What I’m building towards is this: There’s nothing clever about Internet hate. I know a little more now about what it feels like to be on the other side of that hate. Victories are fleeting, but hate stays with you. Especially Internet hate, where it’s often anonymous, and especially vicious. Somebody you’ve never met has just seen something you’ve done and taken the time out of their day to tell you exactly how much they think you suck.

Look, friends: Spread love, or just keep your damn mouth shut. Opening it to spew hate — especially on a blog, or a YouTube comments section — does you no good.

That night at the Blue Fugue, I could’ve just gone up to the band and told them what I thought. I didn’t, because I would’ve been a giant jackass to tell them to their face what I thought. Instead, I went home and wrote the thoughts on a blog, where I figured they’d never read them.

How is that any different?

I traded emails with the band last week. They’re getting older, and getting offers from legit bands to tour. They’re still out on the road, taking their stabs, making it happen. That’s awesome.

They’re coming through Springfield in a few weeks, actually. If I’m here, I’ll go to the show, and apologize in person, and tell them what I could’ve said the first time:

You guys may be young, but hot damn can you play. Don’t let the haters get you down.

Me included.

My Little Brother is Lazy. But What I Can Really Do About It?

Sam O

My little brother is — and I say this with all the love that I can muster — the laziest little shit I know.

I just got off the phone with my mother. She told me that ever since he got back from college, he’s been sleeping in until 2 p.m. every day. She wants to get him tested for mono. She thinks something’s wrong with him.

There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s just 19 years old, and the only difference between him and Garfield the cat is that Garfield sometimes makes his bed.

Sam O, despite that laziness, actually pulled off an amazing internship this summer. It starts Monday. He’s also got a dream job in mind, and that company has offered him the opportunity to do some volunteer work on weekends.

Whether or not Sam O takes advantage of any of this is really up to him.

There’s something I’ve learned over the years, and it’s that no matter the situation, there’s only one way you can really learn something:

Your own way.

You cannot be told to do something. Comments from friends and strangers can spark something in your head, but the only action comes when you decide to take it.

And often, that action only comes when you’ve hit bottom.

I hope Sam O takes advantage of his opportunities this summer. I hope he works hard. I hope he changes his sleeping habits. I hope he decides to get off his lazy ass and join a gym.

I hope all of these things for Sam, but I know that no number of calls or texts or emails will change his habits.

He will do what he wants to do. He will learn when he wants to learn.

It is his road, and the best I can do is to support him and hope that he learns sooner rather than later.

A Dan Oshinsky Birthday Wish: Today, Do Something That Scares You.

It's my birthday? It's my birthday.

Today is my birthday. I haven’t wished for something on my birthday in a long time, but hell, I’m 25, and I’m feeling old. So here’s my wish.

This wish is for you.

Today, I wish that you’ll read this and do something that scares you. You’ll say something out loud that you’ve been afraid to say. You’ll try something that you’ve been afraid to try. You’ll do something a little bit crazy.

On this 25th birthday of mine, I feel so, so very lucky to have the chance to work on Stry.us. This thing scares the absolute crap out of me, but it’s a joy to wake up with that fear. It keeps me going.

I beg you today to experience some of that fear. Please: Go do something that scares you. A little thing or a big thing — it doesn’t matter what it is.

But every good thing in this world starts with action. Forget the fear. Today, you have my birthday permission to ignore it and try something insane.

Today: Do something.

That’s my birthday wish.

We Should All Be a Little More Like The Most Interesting Man in the World.

This is not a ground-breaking statement, but I’ll say it anyway: Life is confusing. We have so many questions and so few answers.

And it’s tough to know who our role models should be. There are so many great leaders and thinkers and builders in our world. Who to model a life after? Gandhi? Lincoln? Joan of Arc? Da Vinci?

May I suggest a simple answer:

Do as The Most Interesting Man in the World does.

You know who I’m talking about. The Most Interesting Man in the World is a remarkable guy. I mean, he can speak Russian — in French! Sharks have a week dedicated to him! He’s clearly figured out something about this life that’s worth taking note of.

And I think I’ve figured out his secrets.

Watch enough of his ads, and you’ll notice a few things in common. The Most Interesting Man is almost always:

1. Smiling.(1)
2. Sharing his experiences with friends.
3. Trying new things.
4. Getting into (and out of) trouble.
5. Traveling.

This is the answer, friends. Smile. Share. Try. Do crazy things. Travel.

You don’t need to grow a beard to do as the World’s Most Interesting Man does. You don’t even need to drink Dos Equis. Just follow his five rules.

Do them, and watch your world become more satisfying.

Stay interesting, my friends.

  1. Except in promotional photos for Dos Equis, because that would be unprofessional, obviously.

Ferris Bueller, You’re Still My Hero.

I had a Twitter back-and-forth with Therese Schwenkler last week. She’d just written an awesome post about Derek Zoolander and finding yourself.

And I joked: “Zoolander” is a classic, but I think my lifestyle (and Stry.us) is more based on “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Except I wasn’t really kidding.

There’s a whole lot of Ferris in everything I’ve been doing these last two years. The attitude. The rejection of norms. The inability to play by any sort of rules.

Seriously, it’s all there.

But don’t take my word for it. Take Ferris’s:

Ferris: Hey, Cameron. You realize if we played by the rules right now we’d be in gym?

The rules were laid out pretty clearly for me in high school: Get good grades. Get a good SAT score. Go to a good school. Get a good job. Go to a good grad school. Get a better job. Have kids. Coach a soccer team. Send your kids through the same cycle. Retire. Move to Boca.(1)

I can’t remember a single class that taught me that doing what I’m doing now was possible. I was trained to go out and be a part of the existing workplace, to serve my bosses well, and to maybe get the chance to work my way up to boss one day.

This? They mentioned lawyer, doctor and firefighter, but they never mentioned this.

If I played by the rules, I’d be out in the journalism world starting a second or third job as a professional Facebooker by now. Instead, I’m building a start-up.

So I’m not big on rules these days. I think we make our own rules around here.

Cameron: Okay Ferris, can we just let it go, please?
Sloane: Ferris, please. You’ve gone too far. We’re going to get busted.
Ferris: A: You can never go too far. B: If I’m gonna get busted, it is not gonna be by a guy like that.

There have been times when I’ve been told it’s time to give this up. It’s gone on too long. It’s gone too far.

Hell, no.

Every time I get that sense, I push it even a little further. I’m not going to let the doubters keep me from taking Stry.us as far as I can take it.

Our site’s getting old? Let’s build the most beautiful new news website on the planet. Our team’s not big enough? Let’s hire a few guys. Hell, let’s hire five.

Let’s try some live events. Maybe one live events partner’s not enough. Let’s find another.

Let’s tell some stories online. And while we’re at it, let’s syndicate ’em. Online. And in print. And hey, why not?: Let’s do it on the radio, too.

All that’s happening this summer with Stry.us.

Ferris was right: Don’t set limits for yourself. Break beyond them.

Ferris: Look, it’s real simple. Whatever mileage we put on, we’ll take off.
Cameron: How?
Ferris: We’ll drive home backwards.

Yeah, I had a couple of crazy ideas when I started Stry.us. Some worked. Most didn’t.

The crazy ideas keep coming. I’m not sure if any of them will work, but I’m going to push my team to try them anyway. One or two might turn into something big.

Do first, ask for forgiveness later.

Cameron: We’re pinched, for sure.
Ferris: Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.

One of my earliest Ferris lessons: Get yourself out of a jam once and you’ll know you can do it again.

And again.

And again.

I’m not trying to end up in trouble. I swear I’m not.

It’s just that… trouble sometimes finds me. And when it does, it’s good to know that I’ve always been juuuuuuust smart enough to get myself out of it in the past.

Knowing that I can find an escape again helps in tricky situations.

Ferris: This is my ninth sick day this semester. It’s pretty tough coming up with new illnesses. If I go for ten, I’m probably going to have to barf up a lung, so I better make this one count.

Part of me keeps thinking about the end. About the untimely demise of Stry.us. I have this recurring fear — not a nightmare, just a fear — that somebody’s going to show up one day and tell me, straight up: Dan, it’s been a nice ride. But, uh, we made a mistake. It was supposed to be somebody else on this crazy journey. Turn in your press pass. You’re needed on the fryer at McDonald’s now.

I still might end up on the fryer. But I’m not going to go quietly. I’m going to do like Ryan Adams told me and burn up hard and bright.

Hell, I might end up in a place I didn’t expect/want, but I’m not going to spend my days there wondering what might’ve been if I’d just put in a little more work on Stry.us. I’m not going to leave any “what ifs” on the table. I’m trying everything I can right now.

Ferris: A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus.

The -ism here: All those conventional journalism beliefs I was taught. Time to challenge them all.

And another thing: Be yourself! Not a bad lesson, either.

Ed Rooney: I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind.

I like it when traditional news folks tell me that I’m messing with their shit. It means they’re scared of what I’m doing. And if they’re scared, that probably means I’m trying something a little bit risky.

Risky is good. Journalism needs some risk right now. It needs experimentation.

It needs something like Stry.us.

I’m not trying to leave anybody’s cheese out in the wind, but if we do this right, the Stry.us team might build something that saves somebody else’s bacon.

Ferris: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

The best Ferris Bueller advice of all.

I’m 24, almost 25. I’m not waiting around for retirement here. I’m young, I’m dumb, I’m hungry. These are amazing years, and I’m trying to build something great with them.

So I tell you now: Be like Ferris. Be a little too bold. Get up and dance a little too hard. Drive a little too fast. Kiss the girl a little too long.

We may not be able to save Ferris, but I want to keep his spirit going.

Bueller? Bueller?

Yeah, he’s still alive here at Stry.us.

  1. Okay, maybe not the Boca part.