An Olympics Lesson: Keep Your Eyes On The Road — And On Your Work.

“Driving using only the rearview mirror will cause you to crash.” — Joshua Fields Millburn

 
So there’s this moment that happened in the Olympics road race on Saturday. In a six-hour race, this little moment — and it barely lasted 10 seconds — defined the event.

There’s less than two-tenths of a mile left in the race. Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and Rigoberto Uran of Colombia are dead even — and far ahead of the rest of the riders. They’ve been even since there were six miles left in the race, when the two of them broke away from the rest of the leaders. Right now, there’s a pack maybe 15 seconds behind them, and the full peloton is another 35 seconds behind that.

This is the home stretch, the final minute of the race. They’re passing Buckingham Palace. Vinokourov takes a peek back to see if there’s someone making a frantic push to the finish line. No one is. It’ll either be Vinokourov or Uran on top of the podium.

But Uran keeps looking backwards — once, twice, a third time, then a fourth. These men are traveling at speeds surpassing 25 miles per hour, and there’s less than a quarter mile left in the race. I don’t know why Uran’s looking back. He’s seconds away from the finish line. He’s on the verge of winning a gold medal in the Olympics.

With two-tenths of a mile left in the race, as Uran’s looking over his left shoulder on that fourth peek to figure out if someone’s behind him, he doesn’t notice the rider beside him. Vinokourov makes his move, takes his five hardest pedals of the entire race and pulls ten feet ahead on on Uran’s right. By the time Uran looks up, Vinokourov’s got a lead that can’t be made up. After 150+ miles of racing, ten feet of separation is too much. The Kazakh takes gold.

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 7.59.10 AM

It’s a massive mental error by Uran. After six hour of biking, with the finish line in sight, he started driving using the rearview. He kept his eyes on his competitors, not on his goal. That’s no way to do work — or to win an Olympic gold medal.

There’s only one way to do things: Looking forward, focusing on your work. When you think more about the competition than your own work, you let the competition govern what matters in your world. You can’t let that happen.

Uran was in control of his own destiny until the moment he took his eyes off the road. As soon as he did, he lost sight of the work he needed to do to win gold.

So keep your eye on the journey ahead. Focus on what you’re doing. Be a man of action, not reaction.

Your work — and your work alone — is all that matters.

Those images come via this video of the 2012 Olympics Road Race.

11 Things Every College Graduate Should Know To Exist In The Real World.

“Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” ― Conan O’Brien

 
I came home last night and found one of my roommates making pasta. This roommate had filled up a pot of water. The stove was on low heat. There was already pasta in the pot.

I wasn’t sure if I should groan or laugh.

But I know this is a problem. I’ve seen it with my roommates, all of them young, recent or semi-recent college grads. I’ve seen it with my friends.

You don’t always want to admit it, but it’s true: You have major blind spots when you graduate college. You discover that you have no idea how to hang a framed portrait, or how to change the broken front bulb on your car or — and I still find this amazing, but it really did happen — how to boil water correctly.

There are infinite things you really need to learn now that you’re an adult human. These are the eleven big ones I could think of:

1. Know How To Make Food.

Alright, pasta in eight steps:

1. Fill pot with water. If it’s a medium size pot, fill half or two-thirds of the pot with water.
2. Turn burner to “high.” Keep on high until the water begins to boil.
3. Add pasta to water.
4. Read box. Figure out how long the pasta needs to boil.
5. When it’s done, pour pasta through strainer. Leave a little bit of pasta water left in the pot.
6. Add sauce to that little bit of pasta water.
7. Add pasta to the sauce/water mix. Stir.
8. Remove from pot. Eat.

Cooking is easy. It’s also fun. Buy non-frozen ingredients. Use the stove and the oven. You’ll actually learn something, and your dates won’t mind it either.

2. Own Small Amounts of Things.

The Minimalists have this right. You want to own some stuff, but not too much.

In the 3.5 years since I’ve graduated, I’ve moved six times. That number seems higher than most people I know, but not by much. Owning lots of stuff makes it hard to move. So own less.

You only need to own a few things: Some plates, bowls, utensils and cups. Cookware is nice to have. Sheets and pillows. Some basic technology stuff.

But you really do need to have all that. I have one friend who, until three months ago, owned exactly one plate. Another owned only a fork and spoon. Do not be that person. Own the minimal amount of stuff that you need to exist as a functional member of our society.

What don’t you need? Anything that requires a U-Haul to move: Mattresses, desks, giant framed things. When you move to a new city, you’ll just end up leaving them behind.

3. Show Up and Network.

If you move to a new city, don’t sweat it. You’ll make new friends. You’ll discover new things.

The key is to show up and network. It’ll help you professionally, and it’ll almost make the adjustment to a new city — or just adult life — much easier. Check Meetup.com for things happening that you’re interested in. Go to public events. Ask co-workers for advice.

Good things happen to those who show up. Meet people, exchange numbers — hell, be a little pushy and get yourself invited to things. Being active is a very good thing.

4. Contracts matter.

I have gotten screwed on contracts before. It’s happened with employment contracts and it’s happened with contracts for apartments.

Before you sign anything, read it through with your boss/landlord. If you have a friend or family member with a law background, ask them for advice.

Do not sign something until you know what it says. Ask lots of questions.

You do not want to be caught by surprise — and caught in the middle of a legal battle. It’s a pain to deal with upfront, but it’ll save you time, money and aggravation down the road.

5. Manage Your Money.

If you’ve just moved to a new city — especially, like I once did, from a little college town to a big city — prices are going to surprise you. Everything costs too much, and you’re in an entry level job that doesn’t pay jack.

Know where you stand financially. Use the free tools at your disposal. Save. Be frugal.

Seek help with your taxes. Yeah, mom and dad decided they’re not doing them for you anymore. Learn how they work. The IRS doesn’t care that this is your first Tax Day.

And get a credit card. Treat it like a debit card — only spend what you can pay off at the end of the month. Do that and you’ll stay out of credit trouble.

Plus, you’ll start to build credit for when you actually need it — like when you buy a home or a car.

6. You’re An Adult Now — Dress Like One.

Own a suit. Own nice shoes. Get real dress socks, and get a bag that you can actually bring to work. (I’m a fan of Timbuk2u’s bags. That LL Bean backpack you got in 7th grade can stay in your closet for now. Sorry.)

If you want to be treated seriously, the first step is dressing like you belong in the adult world. You don’t have to look like you stepped out of a Bloomingdale’s catalog. You do have to put away the hoodie. (Again: Sorry.)

7. A Good Roommate — Be One.

Be clean. Don’t be loud. Do some chores. Don’t eat the leftovers that your roommate brought home.

And if there’s a problem, deal with it head on — and respectfully. Conflicts don’t get solved via Post-Its left on the fridge.

8. Know Where and How To Get Things Fixed.

Find yourself a toolkit — hammer, screwdriver, wrench, scissors. You’ll need it.

And for big things — your car, your appliances, your electronics — know in advance where you can get them fixed. When your car breaks down, that’s a bad time to go shopping for a good mechanic. Do it as soon as you can.

9. Seek Advice — And Listen Well.

Find people at work — or in your city — who can mentor you. Ask tons of questions.

You’re young. You don’t have all — or most — of the answers. You’ll need help.

So ask. Like 98 percent of recent grads, you probably have only a vague idea of what you should do with your life. You don’t have to pretend to be someone who’s got it all figured out.

Ask questions, and find role models who can help shape you and your future. Be willing to learn, and you’ll find there’s lots you still need to know. College, sadly, has left a few things out.

10. Work Hard.

This is the corollary to no. 6. You need to dress the part, and then you need the work ethic to match. If you want more responsibility in this world, you can either:

A. Be born into it, or
B. You can earn it.

Show up on time. Meet deadlines. Be respectful of your bosses. Do work you can be proud of.

11. Make Time For The Things And People You Love

I’ve said this many times before. Look: Adult life is hard. If you don’t make time for those people and things, it’s going to suck.

Work is hard. Adult life is — at best — insanely confusing.

So find what you love, and make time for it. When everything else overwhelms you, you need those people and things to keep you grounded and happy.

>>What else am I missing from this list? Send me your suggestions on Twitter to @danoshinsky.

That lovely photo of pasta comes via @shoval_peretz_94. The piggy banks are from @antonio301. The toolbox is via @luckylittlegirl. Also: A shout-out to Jordan Hickey for helping talk through some of the ideas in this post.

The Story That Never Got Told. (or: A Tale of Poor Hustle.)

The Beijing scuba guy

“You get a limited number of chances in life to do something really, really big. Take them.” ― Dharmesh Shah

 
Four years ago, I was in Beijing, reporting from the Olympics for the Rocky Mountain News. It was my first true experience reporting from a foreign country, and it was the Olympics, and the whole thing was pretty surreal.

I was pretty prolific that summer — once the Games began, I was churning out 4-6 blog posts a day. The Games only last two weeks, so I knew I had a limited window of time when the audience cared about what was happening in China. I wrote fast, and I wrote a lot.

There was one story that didn’t end up in the Rocky, though, and it’s my fault that it didn’t.

I’d found a local businessman who taught scuba diving in Beijing. But there was a catch: Beijing’s nowhere near the ocean, and there aren’t many public places to swim in the city. So this man taught his classes in the local aquarium.

It was a damn good story, and I had the photos — like the one above — to match. Best yet, the business owner went to school in Colorado, which gave me a local hook for the Rocky.

But I didn’t want to spend my final couple of days in Beijing writing up a 1,500 word story for the print edition on a scuba diver in China. (1) Instead, I waited — about two weeks. When I finally sent it to my boss at the Rocky, he told me it was too late. Why would readers care about this guy now?

I’ve had stories killed for a number reasons. I’ve had them killed due to bad editors (“Dan, this story on the uncatchable serial robber will be better once the police catch this guy!”) and bad timing (“Sorry, Dan, so and so paper ran a similar piece a year ago.”)

This was the first story that ever died due to a lack of hustle on my end.

It hurt. It wasn’t fun knowing I screwed up a good story because I was too lazy to get my work done on time.

There is a limited window for the work we do. The longer it takes to get the work out into the world, the faster that window closes.

So hustle. Your bosses will appreciate it. Your co-workers and friends will notice it.

And the world will get to see your work. That’s an excellent reward in itself.

  1. A funny aside: I really wanted one more print edition clip from the Rocky. In 2008, having a story in print was still a big deal to me.

I Now Pronounce You Husband… and Tribe.

“Revolution is whatever you want it to be, and it’s wherever you want it to go…. And the people you meet, from the mundane to the most inspiring, are the ones who will unlock it, break it open, or help you find it.” ― Jonathan Kalan

 
I went to a rather lovely wedding this weekend. It was a small wedding — just about 80 guests — and it felt even more intimate than that.

One of the couple’s friends, a pastor, led the ceremony. He said one thing that really struck me: Weddings are traditionally not just a joining of two people. They’re a joining of two families.

They’re a joining of the community behind this new couple, the community that will support and love and push these newlyweds forward through the world.

I love this idea. It’s at the root of what’s behind Stry.us — and every other business, venture, project or love that’s worthy of sharing.

To build something amazing, you need a community to support you and your work. You need that love. You need that tribe, to steal a phrase from Seth Godin.

Without a community of supporters, “Titanic” is just a movie about a boat sinking. “Seinfield” is just a bunch of actors talking about nothing. Starbucks is just a place with a large supply of coffee beans.

But when you bring community into the mix — when you add in family and friends and people who obsess over and love what you do — then you can create things that are truly powerful. Then you can create epic movies or TV shows or brands.

When you launch any sort of work into the world, what you’re really doing is joining together your work and your community. Together, the two can make something incredible.

The work alone is not enough. You need that community, too.

Get your work out into the world quickly. Your tribe is out there waiting for it.

That gorgeous photo of a bride comes via @yuanachan

Some Advice to the Kid Who Was Afraid of Jumping Into the Pool This Morning.

“The best way to truly crush your self-doubt is to take action immediately. No plans, no ideas, no considerations, no excuses, no tomorrow. Just go do it right now.” ― Andrew Olson

 
I’m at the pool this morning, doing my weekly swim. There’s a six-year-old over in lane 1. He’s wearing a red Angry Birds bathing suit, and he’s clutching a noodle like its his last nickel. He’s squeezing his eyes as tight as he can. He standing on the edge of the pool. There’s a swim coach standing in the water, maybe five feet away.

I stop swimming and start watching the coach. He wants the kid to jump in and doggy paddle that five feet. This seems like an entirely reasonable request.

Except, for this six-year-old, this is the scariest thing he’s probably ever done.

“This is the last thing you have to do,” the coach says, “and then you don’t have to do it again today.”

“I don’t want to do it again for forever!” the kid calls back. His eyes are still screwed up tight.

I watch the kid on the edge of the pool, and I remember when I was once him, a young man full of fear.

I remember when I first started out in journalism, and I had to psych myself up before each phone call to a source.

I remember the day before my bar mitzvah, when I screwed up a line in my Torah portion and ran to the bathroom and locked myself in a stall for 30 minutes, crying and worrying that I wouldn’t get it right on the big day.

I remember every big leap, every first kiss, every terrifying step that felt like it might crush me.

It never did.

Fear lurks behind us. It waits ahead of us. It surrounds us, always.

But we cannot let it own us. We cannot let it destroy us.

The fear never goes away. It adapts. It’s crafty, fear is, and it finds way into our lives.

The only way to own it is to push through it. The only way to own it is to do what the kid eventually did at the pool today.

He jumped, and he doggy paddled his ass off — all five feet to the swim coach. He was hyperventilating when he got there, and scared out of his mind. But hell, he’d made it.

So here’s to you, kid. Way to go. Today, you took a damn big leap.

And remember: Don’t let fear crush you. Sure, the leaps will get bigger. They will get riskier. Scarier.

Don’t let fear stop you. You’ve crushed it once. You can do it again. I promise you that.

That excellent photo at top of the leap is via @devfairfax.

Check It Off The List: The Stry.us Team Made a Live Event Happen Last Night.

“Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is at hand.” ― Henry Miller

 
On Jan. 12, 2012, I laid out six goals for the then-TBD Stry.us project. I did not have a location set for the project. I did not have a team.

I only had these six goals:

  1. Put together the team.
  2. Lead them.
  3. Tell amazing stories.
  4. Syndicate our content.
  5. Host a live event.
  6. Package our stories into a final printed/digital product.

So 1 through 4 — check ’em off. No. 6 on that list is coming in August.

Yesterday, we made the fifth thing on that list happen.

We got a panel of five Springfield experts to come to the Library Center here in Springfield and help answer questions from the community. In one hour, we got real answers to eight big questions in town. We streamed the thing live on the City’s website. We had a small audience watching from the Library.

Getting to yesterday wasn’t easy. It took a long time to figure out what the event should be, and a long time to get the letters. It took weeks to lock down our panelists, and then to go through everything with them and make sure that they understood what they’d be doing on the panel. There were lots of concerns and questions.

And then there was this: I was leading a panel of six, for an hour, and I’d never done anything quite like that before.

So many things almost went wrong yesterday. But only one actually did: One of the thumbtacks holding up the Stry.us sign broke, and our sign titled awkwardly during the talk. (Oops.)

In the end, the event was a fantastic showcase for Stry.us — and for our partners, and for the role that journalists can serve in our community.

I’m so proud of the Stry.us team for making the “Letters to Springfield” panel happen. It’s not easy to make things happen in this world. It’s not easy to follow through.

This team made it happen, and I’m just thrilled about it.

Five down, one to go.

Devour The Moment.

“Now is the time to go for broke.” ― Jeff Goins

 
It became an unofficial life motto of mine about two years ago. I was having a conversation with my friend, Ryan. We were talking about moments. I was about to leave my job to start Stry.us. He was about to finish his master’s degree and get a job.

There was a big moment ahead of us, we agreed. We should enjoy it. That was what people kept telling us. Enjoy it. Savor it.

But then we had this little breakthrough. We didn’t want to merely savor this moment ahead of us.

We wanted to devour it.

Savoring is for little moments: the ice cream cone that’s slowly melting away, the card rush at the Bellagio’s blackjack tables.

But this is life we’re talking about, and you have to devour it whole. You have to take it on. You have to squeeze out everything that you can. You have to take big leaps, big risks, big action.

Work matters. Hustle matters. Love matters.

For nine years of my life, I’ve been a reporter. I’ve been lucky enough to report everywhere from Biloxi to Beijing. I’ve gotten to see some things that most people don’t get to see. I’ve done this job long enough to see the spectrum of what exists in our world: the pain, the joy, the frustration, the hope.

This whole thing is so fragile.

And in a fragile world, there isn’t time to do anything less than go all the way. The moments come and the moments go. We don’t get back time; we have it now, and never again.

So show up and go hard. Smile. Laugh. Work.

Wake up in the morning and devour your moment. This is your time. This is our time. Let’s use it to do great things for our world.

That ridiculous photo of the hippo at top is via @bebopbebop.

Big Auto’s Failures Can Teach Us A Ton About Building A Better Future For News.

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” ― Henry Ford

 
In the late 1880s, Karl Benz built the first modern automobile. In 1908, the first Model T rolled off the assembly line.

And then came the dawn of a new age in America: The age of the automobile.

You know this part of the story.

When most people talk about the birth of the American auto movement, they talk about companies like Ford and Oldsmobile. They talk about the handful of companies that broke through and got their cars into driveways across America.

But they leave out names like Auto-Bug and Biddle and Vulcan, three of the 2,000-some car companies founded in America that have since closed their doors.

2,000 companies entered this space, and today, we’re left with about 15.

This is how it often works at the start of a big movement. In the wake of a breakthrough invention, there’s a rush of people who enter the field to offer up a product. Some survive; most don’t.

And new competitors enter the field, too. Henry Ford wasn’t thinking about skateboards or bikes or subways or buses or helicopters when he built the Model T, but today, they’re all players in the field of transportation.

The point is, at the start, it’s chaos. Over time, chaos weeds out much of the competition. Some companies innovate, but far more die off.

Out of many, few.

So here’s what it means for news:

Right now, we have the web. We’re still not sure how to make this thing work. But we’ve got lots and lots of people entering the field.

We know that what we’re doing really isn’t sustainable. We have readers; what we want are paying customers and partners.

But what I want right now is more competition. I want more people entering the field. I want more people bringing great ideas to the table.

Like Clay Shirky said: Nothing will work, but everything might.

We need more doers. We need more action. Most of us will fail, but that’s alright. It’s entirely possible — maybe even probable — that Stry.us will go the way of the Auto-Bug or the Biddle, just another company forgotten in time.

But in order to build a better future for storytelling, we have to actually do things. I so admire the 2,000 founders behind those initial car companies. They had the right idea, just the wrong luck or team or execution.

But they made something happen. I hope my colleagues in news don’t give in to the inevitability that many of us are going to die off, and that we’ll be left with a few big media conglomerates running the show.

We have to build. We have to create. We have to do.

The rush to build a better story is just beginning. This is no time to idle.

Image of the Model T at top via @erinslomski.

How I Learned To Stop My Selfishness And Share Stry.us With Everyone.

“Just remember what was yours is everyone’s from now on.” ― Wilco

 
Two years ago this month, I officially moved to Biloxi to start Stry.us. In July 2010, it was just me, an apartment, some really expensive photo equipment, and an idea that was way bigger than myself.

A lot of people want to know if I was lonely in Biloxi. I wasn’t. I was so on fire with all the work I was doing that I never much noticed it. But I do remember wanting a team. I so badly wanted others to help me. I needed help. I was in over my head.

And a funny thing happened between Biloxi and now: I stopped wanting help and started looking for ways to share.

The difference has been enormous. What I wanted in Biloxi was selfish: Please, come copy edit this, fix that, do this — and do it all for me! In Biloxi, Stry.us was mine and mine alone. When you did something nice for the project, you were really doing something nice for me.

What I want in Springfield is totally different: I want to share this thing with everyone. I want to bring a community together to build something awesome for all of us. For the Ozarks. For journalism. For communities everywhere that want to learn how to better tell their stories.

When you help out Stry.us, you’re actually helping out everyone associated with the project — our team, our stakeholders, our readers, our friends — and everyone who might one day learn from the project.

At first, Stry.us existed to serve me. Now I exist to serve Stry.us.

See the difference?

There are so many people who own a little piece of Stry.us now, so many people who’ve come on board and helped take this thing far beyond me. I look at where we are right now, and I hardly recognize the Stry.us I launched two years ago.

What we’re working on now is really an incredible thing, and it all started the day I stopped being selfish and learned to share.

This thing is ours, and I’m so very thankful for that.

That gorgeous photo of a sunset over Biloxi via @katiewhite727

Journey > Destination: Why The GPS Generation Has It All Wrong.

“I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way.” ― Voltaire

 
I have friends who are addicted to their GPS devices. Without a GPS, they couldn’t find their own feet. They’re always plugging destinations into that device, and that GPS voice gives them the road ahead. Miss a turn? The GPS tells them how to get back on track.

It’s a type of traveling with one thing in mind: Getting to the destination as quickly as possible.

What I find is that so many people I know live life this way. It’s always about moving on to the next milestone. Graduation. Job. Marriage. Kids.

There are a number of names for my generation, but let me offer my own suggestion: the GPS Generation. We hit one milestone and start pointing towards the next.

But I don’t think life is meant to go this way, hopping from job to job, from destination to destination.

Isn’t the best stuff in life the stuff you find along the way?

“Wizard of Oz” isn’t a movie about the girl who makes it to Oz. It’s about the people she finds on the road.

“Into Thin Air” isn’t about reaching the summit of Everest. It’s about the power of the human spirit.

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” isn’t about getting where you want to go. It’s about getting lost along the way.

This life needs to be about the journey, not the destination. There’s value in being lost. There’s value in keeping your eyes open, in staying curious. In exploring!

We have to stop worrying about the perfect route. We have to be willing to wander.

I think we need to keep one eye on the road and the other on what’s happening all around us. Otherwise, we’ll wake up one day at one of these milestones and wonder, How the hell did we get here? And what did we miss along the way?

Put down that GPS. Go enjoy the journey. Go enjoy the ride.

That gorgeous image at top via the On Wander blog.