At this point in my life, I’m still learning how to produce good work. The quality of the work will change over time, but everything I do starts with a commitment to work.
That work ethic started about the 1st of this year, actually. That’s when the schedule I have today — the hours, the projects, the shipping — really began.
But the attitude behind this work ethic goes back a little further than that, actually.
It started with, of all things, a kiss.
I had gone out for dinner with a friend of a friend. This was about 18 months ago. She was working on a cool project, and we wanted to trade ideas about it. Dinner led to drinks. Drinks led to more drinks. Our dinner get-together moved into its fourth hour, than its fifth.
Sometime past midnight, we decided to call it a night. I wanted to ask her out. I needed to ask her out. I had only been in D.C. for a few months. Stry.us was losing momentum. I had just sent in an application for this fellowship I’d heard about at RJI. I was living in my childhood bedroom.
I really needed a win.
And then this amazing little night happened, and I was so giddy. I had to see her again.
I asked her out on the escalator down to the Metro. She said yes. Then she quickly said goodnight. She took another escalator down to her subway track. I walked towards my train.
The electronic signs said the Metro wouldn’t come for nine minutes.
Nine minutes to think about what had just happened. Nine minutes to work through the evening.
Nine minutes to beat myself up over the fact that I should’ve kissed her. I had really wanted to kiss her. You should’ve done it, Dan.
And then a part of me realized something that I’ve carried with me to this day: The fear of not taking action far outweighed the fear of taking action. The fear of having to sit on that platform for nine minutes and think about missing that opportunity was much more powerful than the fear of making a move (and maybe looking dumb in the process).
That feeling’s stuck with me. I know that I have amazing opportunities before me, as I try to build a better future for reporting and storytelling and community. I cannot let days just slide by. Motion matters. Action matters.
I got mad that night. I got mad at myself for being unwilling to do what I wanted. I got mad at myself for not chasing my curiosity.
I went down the escalator. I started looking for her. There were a few hundred people on that platform — some drunk, some tired, all unhappy to be waiting. She was down at the end of the platform.
I had something to say, and it kind of came out mumbled. But she smiled. I leaned in. We kissed.
Then I bolted. I was way too giddy to make small talk after that.
The relationship lasted a few months before it fizzled out. But I’ll always remember that first kiss. It reminds me not to idle, not to worry, not to regret.
It reminds me that amazing things happen in unexpected places, and that boldness and action matter.
We always complain about how little time we have. But I like to remind myself: Dan, do you remember how much time you wasted before you started?
There is no longer time to idle. There is only time for action.