Are You All In?

All in

“Only those with the courage to take a penalty kick miss them.” — Roberto Baggio

I was sitting on a park bench last week, waiting for a friend down by the Brooklyn Bridge. There was a man and a woman on the bench next to me. The man was hunting for a job. The woman was trying to offer advice.

And her advice was perfect:

I want to help, she told him. But I won’t be all in if you aren’t all in. I won’t be in more then you are.

I love that.

I’m in a funny place in my career: I’m 26, and I’ve had a few victories, and I’ve seen some stuff. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve figured out a few things.

And one of those things is that I really do want to help people. That’s why I’ve got the Tools newsletter. That’s why I try to take time to meet and talk with recent grads looking for advice.

So many people helped me when I was right out of college, and I want to pass that help along to the next wave of reporters.

But I can’t help everyone, and there’s a reason: Not everyone is all in. Some people aren’t willing to bust their asses to do something, and I’m reluctant to spend my time on and throw my weight around for someone who isn’t really going after it.

Prove to me that you’re in, though, and I’m much more likely to go in, too.

That photo of someone going all in at a poker tournament comes via.

The Solo Mission.

“Oh and we end up in Brooklyn / It was rainin’ so hard / Come up all day / And the rain clears it off.” — Joe Purdy

I was on a solo mission.

That’s what my friend, Emma, calls it. Sometimes, you want to do something — see a show, see a movie, see a game — and you don’t have anyone to go with. So you go it alone.

A solo mission.

And I was on a solo mission to Brooklyn to see a musician named Joe Purdy. I’ve loved his music for a long time. He’s been the soundtrack to many a road trip, and even more rainy days.

And I step out of my apartment and look up, and for the first time in weeks, see dark clouds. Rain? I wondered. This was last Saturday. I run back upstairs to grab an umbrella.

And then I get on the F train to head to Brooklyn, and the train comes right away. I look up at the board to see how many stops I’ve got left, and I don’t recognize any of the stops. A woman looks at me. This is a C train on the F track, she says. I ask if it’s making all the F stops. Oh, no, she says.

So I start recalibrating my trip. I pick a new, random stop on the C and hope.

And I get off, and my phone can’t seem to find the satellites, so I just start walking semi-blindly, hoping that I’m headed south.

And it starts to rain. Hard. At least I’ve got my umbrella — funny that I even decided to bring it, I’m thinking.

And I walk past a bodega, and pop my head in, and there’s a roll of plastic bags for vegetables right at the entrance. I grab one and wrap my phone in it. It’s the only bodega I’ll see on my walk — nice of it to appear right when I needed it most.

And I’m walking through this hard rain, heading south. I hit the park, and then I keep moving, through the rain, through the trees. I walk for a long time.

And then I see the line. They are standing there, in umbrellas, in ponchos. They are waiting for Joe, too.

And then rain is coming down, and then it isn’t, and we look up at the sky, and the sun is peeking through.

And I hear a cheer, and then a voice on stage, and this whisper of a song coming through, and then I’m through the gates, and there is Joe, on stage, and he is singing.

And he sings:

But I know that I love the rain the most
When it stops
Yeah, when it stops

And I start thinking.

I start thinking about the stories we tell. We want our stories to be epic. We want the journey to be hard, but we also want the pieces to fall into place at the right moments. That’s how it works in the movies: The hero struggles, and struggles, and then breaks through. We want that, too. Everyone wants that hero’s ending. Everyone wants to be standing in the rain when a singer walks onto the stage and sings about how the rain should end, and then the rain ends, and the story gets the finish it deserves.

We want those moments — for ourselves, for our stories.

And we don’t usually get them. Most of our stories aren’t epic. That’s just how it goes.

But sometimes, you go on a mission. Sometimes, you do things that are big — or at least big in your life — and you get those stories.

And like Joe sings:

And you never look back at where you came
Swore you’re never gonna be the same

And you really do swear. The story has changed you. The journey has changed you.

We let ourselves hold onto those things. We just want to believe. Because we want to tell those epic stories again and again.

That photo of Joe in Prospect Park comes via.

Everyone’s A Hater.


“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” — John Wooden

This is Landon Donovan. He has scored more goals for the United States Men’s National Team than any other player in U.S. soccer history.

This is George Dohrmann. He is a reporter for Sports Illustrated. Here’s what he had to say about Landon Donovan during yesterday’s 5-1 U.S. victory over El Savador:

So to recap: Dohrmann feels that Landon Donovan — the greatest goal-scorer that American team has ever had — is not that good at finishing off goals.

Donovan went on to score a goal and notch three assists in the game, but Dohrmann kept up the hate tweeting.

Point is: Haters are always gonna hate. Even the very best in the world get have to deal with the haters.

So just do your work. If you’re getting the results you want, then forget about what they’re saying about you on Twitter. Some people just hate because they love to hate.

That image of Landon comes via.

The Search For The Secret.

“When you feel like your work is not that good, you’re right there — you have to keep pushing. — Ike Edeani

You don’t want to hear this, but… tough. You’re gonna. Deal with it.

When I meet people who are trying to do something new in the world, I hear one thing over and over: They’re looking for the one thing that unlocks their world. The thing that unlocks their creativity. That unlocks doors and unlocks opportunity.

And the dirtiest, scariest, most terrifying secret is this:

There is no one thing. It does not exist.

People matter. Work matters. The willingness to learn matters. An ability to put up with weeks and months and maybe even years of sucking — that matters.

But there is not a secret thing that successful people know. There isn’t.

Successful people do the boring stuff well, and successful people surround themselves with other people who want to help.

That’s all. No secret spells. No secret ingredients.

It’s no magic at all, really. Which is reassuring, I think. The gap between where you are and where you want to be isn’t nearly as big as you think it is. There is nothing you’re missing.

Just the work and the people to get you there. And that’s there for anyone who wants to find it.

That awesome photo at top comes via @zimagin2000.

Get Ready. Get Going. Get Yours.


“Life is a story, if you wouldn’t read the one you’re telling, write a different ending.” — Jonathan Fields

I went to the World Domination Summit last weekend. (1) And what I heard were a lot of great stories about how people do work:

I heard some people saying: Start! You have all you need to start right now!

I heard some people saying: Wait! Give yourself time to recover, to ripen, to grow.

I heard some people saying: Just tell me the secret thing that successful people do and I’l do it! Tell me! (There were, admittedly, a lot of these.)

And at the end of the weekend, here’s what I really heard: As long as you make time to listen, and make time for your community, you’re going to do just fine. The work follows people who are patient, persistent, and surround themselves with great people.

There is no right time for the work you want to do — just your time.

So get ready. Get going.

And get yours.

Ultimately, it’ll be there — something remarkable, something amazing — when you’re ready to put in the work.

  1. Strange name for a conference, but powerful stuff.

The Magic Hour.


“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” — John H. Schaar

There’s this hour right before sunset where the light is perfect. Photographers call it the Magic Hour. The sun is going down, and the world is bathed in this perfect, almost sepia tone.

It’s the hour when conditions are just right for photography. It’s the time when photographers love to work.

Other professions have a Magic Hour, too. Writers and athletes have their own word for it: The Zone.

It’s that brief window where everything you need to work is just there for you. The work pours out, and just the way you always hope it will.

Of course, such magic hours don’t exist daily for most of us. Most of the time, the work comes out slowly. Progress happens slowly.

We wish for those magic hours, but we shouldn’t resign ourselves to waiting for them. Most days, the work has to get out — whether or not you’re feeling it.

The good news is, you don’t have to wait for the perfect moment to get started. You probably shouldn’t. Part of doing the work is learning to struggle. Part of doing the work is learning how to start before you feel ready.

That advice seems almost impossibly easy. But until you’ve actually tried to do the work when you’re feeling out of the zone, you won’t ever know how hard it can be.

Why Money Doesn’t Buy What Matters.

“Joy is repeatedly being reminded that you believed in the right kinds of people.” — Dharmesh Shah

In 2011, three psychologists released a study about money and happiness. The title of their report summed it up nicely: “If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right.”

They dug in further:

“Wealthy people don’t just have better toys; they have better nutrition and better medical care, more free time and more meaningful labor—more of just about every ingredient in the recipe for a happy life. And yet, they aren’t that much happier than those who have less. If money can buy happiness, then why doesn’t it?”

And then they came to heart of their research: Money gives people opportunities. It gives people the chance to have resources and possessions and experiences that those with less cannot have. But money does not guarantee that the people with money will spend it in a way that will actually make them happy.

It’s not hard to guess what we think will make us happy: Just watch an hour of TV around Christmas-time, and see what the advertisers are selling. That fancy sweater. That new car. That dream home.

But what the psychologists found is that the happiness from those things doesn’t really last. We get excited about that new car, and then we sit in a traffic jam and forget all about it. We buy that new home, and special wood floors to match, and then we have to spend money on upkeep.

So what actually makes us happy? The psychologists point to two things in particular:

1.) Experiences: Going on trips. Spending money on an interesting new restaurant. Seeing a show. You’ll enjoy it in the short term, and even months later, you’ll think about something you saw or ate, and you’ll smile. (Think for a second about a restaurant you love or a concert you enjoyed, and you’ll understand.)

2.) Giving: Giving your time to charity. Volunteering. Any sort of helping — from mentoring to listening to a friend for a few minutes — tends to come back to you. Even giving gifts can make us happy. When we’re spending time and money on others, we’re usually happier than when we’re spending money on ourselves.

Of course, this all leads back to three simple questions: What matters to you? What do you actually care about?

And are you going to spend money on it, or not?

Photo at top via @russeyler

This One Very Good Break.

“Our lives happen between the memorable.” — Jack Gilbert

A year ago today, something funny happened in Springfield, MO:

Jordan and I had a booth downtown at the ice rink. This guy came up to us. We hoped he wanted to talk about the project. He didn’t.

“You guys got any jumper cables?” he asked.

Not really what we were there for, but hey, I did have cables. So we went outside and got the car started. The driver thanked me. We made small talk. He said he was from Joplin. I told him that the team was going to Joplin the next day to do some reporting.

He handed me his card. I know the mayor, he said. Give me a call. Maybe we can set something up.

And… he helped. He pointed us in the right direction. And we needed that. I don’t know what we do without that — a chance encounter 100 miles away from where we all wanted to go.

Little things, little connections, little moments — it’s funny how much those matter, and how often we forget.

The Thing I Learned From The Spin Doctors.

“Just go ahead now.” — Spin Doctors

I have been obsessed lately with this video of the Spin Doctors playing ‘Late Night’ in the early 90s. David Letterman introduces the band with huge energy. He introduces them to America as though they’re about to become the biggest thing since the Beatles.

I look back on this video — two decades later, with everything I know about what would happen to that band — and chuckle a little. I know the rest of the story. I know where this video fits into the story. The Spin Doctors fizzled out after a few years. The band never had an album as big as their debut.

But at the time, somebody watching at home probably did think the Spin Doctors would be an enormous deal in rock and roll music. Back then, based on that first album, huge success seemed likely.

This is why we let the story play out. We don’t know in the moment — only with work and time do we figure it all out. We tend to think that the story has been written already, but we don’t know.

Do the work, and see where it all takes you as you go.