The Experts Are Probably Wrong.

“Whatever you believe / You might be wrong.” — Paul Thorn

When I was in college, I was part of a small group of journalism students who took classes that were basically about the Internet. This was 2005 or so. Journalism on the Internet wasn’t new, but it was for journalism schools.

Anyway, we spent a lot of time in class talking about things that seem funny now. Was Facebook journalism? Was blogging?

Again: It was 2005.

But one thing was made very clear to me by my professors, and by pretty much every professional person I knew: We had to be careful about what we posted online. If we weren’t vigilant, we’d never get a job in the real journalism world!

Yesterday, my current employer hired a guy whose Twitter handle is @WeedDude.


And then there’s stuff like this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And here’s a presentation that the CEO of my company likes to give at conferences. It includes this slide:

And I could go on and on. Just know: All of that comes from respected, professional, important people who make stuff in our world.

Point is: Whatever the experts are telling you, there’s a good chance they’re wrong. Seven years ago, every professional journalist in the world would’ve told you that professionalism came first. That keeping the appearance of seriousness mattered.

It turned out that they were wrong. Newspapers might’ve been built for professional-looking/sounding reporters, but the web is a wonderful place where strange/eccentric/bizarre people flourish. Weirdness is celebrated here.

Anyway, if someone tells you something’s for certain, there’s a good chance they’re wrong. Don’t blindly accept the advice of experts. Question them. Challenge them.

Just FYI.

Seriously, Penny Lane.

“I always tell the girls, never take it seriously. If you never take it seriously, you never get hurt. If you never get hurt, you always have fun.” — Penny Lane

With all due respect to the immortal Penny Lane of the immortal film, “Almost Famous”:

That’s a load of crap.

Take your work seriously. Work hard. Throw yourself into what you do.

Overcommit to the work.

Yes, you get hurt doing great work. You get pushback. You run into haters. You struggle.

But if you never get hurt while doing the work, how much were you really putting into it?

You have to take it seriously. You have to get hurt sometimes.

Anything else is just work half-assed.

Finding The Difference.

“When everyone has good players, teaching will be a telling difference.” — John Wooden

Assume, for a second, that everyone in your world is smart. That everyone in your world is talented.

So, here’s the question: What’s the difference between you and them?

For legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, it was teaching.

For you, it might be hustle.

Or teamwork.

Or focus.

And if you can’t answer this question — What sets me apart? — then here’s the bad news:

You’re playing on everyone else’s level.

And that’s okay. But if you want to do great work, you’ve got to figure out how to elevate your game.

Now’s your chance.

When You Stumble Upon A Speakeasy.

“I’d like to suggest that the greatest risk we face these days is that of an unlived life.” — Jeff Goins

It’s 10 p.m., and I get home from a full day of watching football. My apartment faces the street here in New York. I hear a marching band.

A full-on, trumpets and tubas and drums marching band. At 10 p.m. On a Sunday.

I grab a coat and go back outside. I want to see what the hell is happening.

And I get outside, and it’s suddenly quiet. I start walking toward where I’d heard the sound. It’s gone.

And then I see this crowd up ahead. They’re outside a diner.

Inside the diner, there’s a 10-piece marching band, suddenly commandeering the restaurant. (That’s them in the photo above.)

And inside, they dance and they play, for reasons that no one can quite explain to me. And that’s okay.

Just the celebration itself is kind of wonderful.

I decide to go explore a little. I walk around the corner in search of a bite. There’s a hot dog place across the street that I notice for the first time. It’s in the basement of a building.

I pop in. I order a dog.

There’s a big crowd of people near the door. They’re just waiting at some tables. They don’t appear to be waiting for food.

I’m puzzled.

And then I see them start to walk towards this hole in the wall. Must be the line for the bathroom, I think.

I get closer. It’s not a hole in the wall — it’s a phone booth. And the back wall of the booth is suddenly missing.

And on the other side of the booth, there’s a tiny, hidden bar. A speakeasy, hidden inside phone booth inside a hot dog stand.

I could have lived here for a decade and never known it was there. But tonight, by accident, I stumbled upon a little secret place.

And I think now: Sometimes, you have to chase a sound you can’t hear, or a craving you have. Sometimes, those things lead you to the most unexpected, most wonderful ends.

What Is Long, and What Is Not.

“The NFL isn’t a career — it’s an experience. Most careers last 40-50 years, and people grow old in them.” — Alfred Morris

Two things got me thinking:

The first is that quote, at top. It’s from Alfred Morris, the rookie running back for the Washington Redskins. (That’s a photo of him sleeping on the couch. He still sleeps on the couch when he visits his parents.)

NFL players don’t usually have that kind of awareness, but Morris really seems to understand what’s happening in his life. The NFL is something most players have worked for since they hit puberty. It’s all they’ve worked for. The idea that it wouldn’t be forever is…. well, impossible.

Understanding what the NFL is — a job, an experience — and what it is not — a career, a lifestyle — is going to change everything for Morris. It’s going to let him make the most of this incredible opportunity.

But most of us can’t tell the difference between what is big, and what is not. We see a half an inch of water and we tell ourselves we’re going to drown. We hit a bump and think it’s a mountain.

We lack perspective, and that’s one thing we need most to understand the road we’re on and the places we’re headed.

There’s a second thing. I had a Latin teacher in high school, Miss Cherry. One of her quotes comes to mind now: Ars longa, vita brevis.

Art is long, but life is short.

And in high school, I remember thinking: What the hell is that? Art is long?


But that’s exactly what Morris is talking about, too. It’s this idea that some things are forever, and some things fade away.

The memories are long, but the job is short.

The ambitions are long, but the opportunities are short.

We work to build things that are long — but ultimately, the one thing we know is that the chances to make them are short.

Make things now, with the time you have now. To wait is to discover that now is very, very short.

Photo at top of Morris comes via the Washington Post.

Go On.

“There is a direct relationship between your ability to handle uncertainty and your happiness.” — Joshua Fields Millburn

We’re all going to make mistakes in our work. We’re going to go directions we didn’t expect. We’re going to make choices we don’t like.

It happens.

But here’s what happens next: It’s normal for us to ask forgiveness of others. We make a wrong choice that hurts someone else, and we tell that person, I’m sorry.

That’s normal.

What doesn’t happen, I’ve found, is that we forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make in our own work. I know I’m guilty of this myself: Something goes wrong in my work, and I won’t let it go for months.

I have to learn how to forgive myself for making the mistakes that I know I’m going to make along the way. Screw ups happen. It’s okay.

And it’s not like the screw ups were in vain. I really have learned from many of my mistakes. They’ve taken me a step further in my work.

Sometimes, I’ll look back on these mistakes with amazement.

You did THAT?

You chose THAT?

You said WHAT?

Yes, mistakes happen. And I know now: Time makes things better. Time lets you move on.

But you have to find ways to move on long before then. Otherwise, your work gets held up along the way.

Life goes on, no matter what the hell you do. It really does.

Give yourself permission to go on, and then get on with it.

I Need A Race.


“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you need to find a better room.” — Chris Conrey

I’ve been going to the gym for a few weeks now without a goal.

At the gym, especially, goals are huge. Last year, I had the Belly Challenge. And then I had the sprint tri.

Both gave me something to work for. Something to strive for.

Without a goal, I now find myself aimless at the gym, spending 30 minutes on the bike, or 20 minutes on the elliptical, and calling it a workout.

Sometimes, I won’t even break a sweat.

Seriously, Dan?

I need a new race. I need a new challenge.

All of us do, I think.

Without new goals to shoot for, we get stagnant. Our work gets lazy.

If you’re not setting and re-setting the bar, what the hell are you doing? Are you getting better?

I know that right now, I’m not.

So I’m picking a 5k for the spring. I’m giving myself something to shoot for.

I suggest you do the same. We all need a race to run.

Photo at top via.

Waiting Sucks.

“Find what moves you, and move. Find what keeps you up all night, and stay up all night.” — Nicole Antoinette

There is so much I want to do this year. So much to take on.

There really is no time to waste.

But more importantly than that: This is no time to wait.

Waiting sucks. Sitting around, waiting for other people/things/events to come around before you can do your work — that’s no good at all.

Or more likely: Waiting for the moment when you give yourself permission to start doing the work — that’s even worse.

So start now. Start with what you have. Start with as little as you need.

Waiting sucks. Find a way to get yourself moving.

What Really Matters.

“To practice courage and compassion is to look at life and the people around us, and to say, ‘I’m all in.'” — Brené Brown

What really matters in this life?

People. That’s it.

Get good people in your life. People who lift you up. People who challenge you. People who help make you you.

People matter.

Money, anger, jealousy, things — the rest of it is just filler.

Find good people, and you’ll understand what makes this life all it can be.