Shut It Down.

“Be here now. Be someplace else later. Is that so complicated?” — Josh Pais

For about two weeks, I haven’t been myself. A combination of things — work, some weird breaks, some late nights — caught up to me. Friends started saying that I didn’t seem like myself.

And they were right.

For two weeks, I lost my routine. And without it, I didn’t quite feel like me. My work suffered, too.

Everyone has ways that they reset to normal. For me, it’s two things:

A trip to the gym in the morning, and some time in the kitchen cooking dinner after work.

If I have those two things to bookend my day, everything else falls into place. I find myself in a comfortable place, and when I’m there, I do really great work.

You probably have your own things that help you reset. My Dad does laundry when he needs to shut down at the end of the day. I know people who need a TV show, a drink with friends, or a book to finish the day.

But whatever you need, keep at it, and don’t miss a day. When you do, you lose a little bit of that routine, and your work gets slightly off track.

Do Weird Shit.

On Tuesday, I saw the Gregory Brothers — a band that has made some amazing viral videos — perform a mini rock opera about Jeff Goldblum. It was… well, borderline insane. I have no idea how they came up with the idea for it. But it was amazing.

And so the very brief point here: Go make stuff, but don’t worry if it’s weird. A lot of really creative people make some really weird stuff.

And frankly, if the Gregory Brothers can make something awesome about Jeff Goldblum, I’m open to the possibility that anything could be interesting.

There Has To Be Another Way.

“Awareness is the most precious kind of freedom.” — Joshua Fields Millburn

So we’re at the top of a mountain somewhere near Cold Spring, N.Y., and we’re lost.

And sunburnt. And tired. And out of water.

And there’s this guy at the top, too. He’s hiked here 600 times, he says. Every year for the past 30 years, entire weekends up here.

He seems like a good guy to ask a simple question: How do we get home?

The only way back is the way you came, he says. He points out a long trail home. Could be hours that way.

Not happening.

We thank him. We’re mad. We’re tired.

And then this other group comes to the top from the other side.

There’s a path there?

There is, they say. An easier way down. A better way down.

We thank the heavens and head home.

So what about that other guy? The expert hiker? The one who’d been hiking here for years?

I don’t know. Maybe he’d forgotten the other way home. Maybe he’d just never hiked it.

Whatever the case: There’s almost always another way to get where you need to go. Sometimes figuratively. and sometimes quite literally, up in the hills north of NYC.

Get On Stage.

“Shut up and make something.” — Danielle Morrill

I went to the Apollo Theater last night for Amateur Night. I went to watch, not perform. That’s probably for the best.

I have personally stood on some amazing stages, but I’ll never be on anything like the Apollo. For performers there, it’s just you, and this decades-old theater, and a crowd ready to boo you at the first missed note.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Apollo, read that sentence again: Bad performers really do get booed off stage. (They even bring out a guy called “The Executioner” to escort you off.)

But the Apollo is kind of brilliant in that way. Most places, if you’re on stage and you suck, people stay quiet. They clap politely when your performance is done.

At the Apollo? Hell no. If you’re bad, you’re getting booed off stage. You know immediately whether or not what you’re doing is working.

And that’s brilliant. That’s how all our work should be.

Do work. Put it out there. See what people say.

Then do more. And more. Keep putting it out there. Keep inviting reactions.

See what sticks. Learn what doesn’t.

Yes, it will suck sometimes. It will hurt.

But nothing really matters until you get on stage.

That photo at top is of the Apollo Theater, and I took it.

Don’t Wait.

Because yes, that’s the kind of thing that happens on April 14, the day before Tax Day.

That’s just how deadlines work. Bad things happen to otherwise good people — at least on deadlines.

You’re running late for a meeting and every train on the subway is delayed. You’ve got a paper to submit but the WiFi cuts out.

You get the idea.

Shit happens. It just happens.

So if it matters, start now. Start immediately. Don’t wait.

Very little good comes from idling. Just go ahead and start the work.

Apologies to Dan, who is a really good guy, and who I hope is able to file his taxes today. And that photo of the tax form comes via here.

Just Don’t.

“Percentage wise, it is 100% easier not to do things than to do them.” — John Mulaney


Just… don’t.

The work will be hard. It’ll be draining. You’ll be tired all the time. You’ll be working harder than you’ve ever worked.

And the work won’t stop. You’ll go to bed at midnight, having put in a full day of work, and you’ll wake up the next day with just as much — probably even more. It’ll just keep coming at you, work day after work day, and the only way to deal with it will be to keep going, deeper and deeper into work that won’t ever end.

You’ll be an emotional wreck. You won’t be sure that what you’re doing is right, and your friends will probably tell you that you’re crazy. Most days, you’ll agree. You’ll be a bad break away from a nervous breakdown, or a big break away from floating on air, and you’ll never be sure which way the next 90 minutes might take you. You will never feel like you’re standing on solid ground.

You will feel alone, and you will feel helpless, and you will feel scared.

You will want to quit. You will tell yourself that quitting is the way out.

And then you will wake up and do it all again the next day. You will want to quit, but you’ll be even more scared that quitting might take you to an even worse place.

So you’ll keep going, day after day, hour after hour, task after task. You’ll lose the ability to tell the difference between a step forward and a step back. Soon, all you’ll be sure of is that you’re taking steps — but you’re not sure where they lead.

The work will make you question everything. The work will bring you to tears. The work will hurt.

The work. It will take everything you have to keep it from crushing you.

So, just… don’t. Don’t do it. Not doing the work is the easy way out. Not doing it is the sane way out.

Unless you want to do something really great. In which case: You’re going to have to do the work. It is the only way.

And yes, you’re going to be tired, and scared, and totally unsure of yourself.

But you’ll be doing the work, and there won’t be a single thing you’d rather do than that.

Demand The Finish Line.

“I applaud the guy who has the courage to meet the confrontation.” —Kim English

I ran a 10k on Saturday — my first in six years.

And this thought popped into my head, somewhere around mile 4: You did it, Dan.

Yes, I knew I had 2.2 miles left. But I knew I was going to get the finish line.

You can’t always say that at the starting line. Or even at the halfway point.

But I knew, with 2.2 miles left, that there wasn’t anything that would keep me from that finish line. I knew I had the final few minutes in me.

At a certain point, the mind takes over. Getting to the end of a 10k — or whatever your race is — is about demanding of yourself the finish line.

You’ll see runners on the side of the race, telling themselves they aren’t “able” to go the distance. That’s bull.

A 10k is all about wanting to get there. Anyone can run six miles. Maybe not six fast miles. But anyone can run that distance — as long as you keep yourself moving forward. As long as your mind wants it more than whatever your feet are telling you.

In that kind of race, Want To > Able To.

Do you want to get to the finish line? Do you want to know you went the distance?

In these short races, want is all that matters. Want is what gets you to the end.

That photo from my 10k comes via @anasarbu.

How Things Change.

There is a quote from a “West Wing” episode I really love. It’s from season 1 of that show. It’s about a news story that’s just been leaked. It goes:

Leo: It’s gonna break… tomorrow?

C.J.: Yeah, it’s on the Internet right now.

That episode of the show aired on January 12, 2000. It was only 13 years ago — but frankly, I have the same reaction to that quote as I would a quote about telegraph machines in the 1920s. The story’s on the Internet now? And it’s not breaking until tomorrow? What the hell was journalism even like 13 years ago on the Internet?

Point is: In the past 13 years, we’ve experienced some incredible change in our world. I now have a tablet computer made of glass that can access all of the information ever produced by man. I can type this blog post, publish it on my blog, and have anyone anywhere in the world read it.

I have access and power and possibility that did not exist just 13 years ago. Things change fast.

I don’t know what the next 13 years ahead will bring us. But I want to be here for them, learning, adapting, changing — for whatever happens next.

And I hope to read these words that I’ve written and look back and think, Could I have ever been that simple?

People + Things.

There is a quote that I’ve been carrying around for a few years now. It’s one of the few core things I believe.

My little manifesto goes:

“In this life, find things you love, and people you love, and make time for both.”

Everywhere I’ve gone, it’s worked for me. It’s not exactly the most complicated formula, but it makes sense. And as long as I’ve stuck to it, I’ve been happy.

The “people” part is something that everyone gets. But it’s the “things” part that people misunderstand.

Things have to be passions or hobbies. They have to active. Not necessarily physically active — one of my things is seeing live music, and I see a lot of it — but it has to be you, out in the world, doing something.

If you try to replace activity with the other type of things — your possessions, your stuff — the formula doesn’t really work.

Shopping might make you happy. But just having clothes? Probably not.

Owning a big TV doesn’t really do much. But inviting friends over for movie night on your flat screen? That’ll do.

Look: Good things happen to those who actually do stuff. So be active. Make time for the things and the people you love.

It’s not exactly Gandhi-level thought, but I promise you, it works.