Going Above And Beyond.

There’s a saying you’ve heard before: “That person went above and beyond.”

And I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people go far beyond what should be expected to deliver something amazing. It really does happen.

But I’d argue that for the most part, going “above and beyond” doesn’t require us to go as far as we think.

What we expect out of people is… well, often not much. We don’t demand incredible things out of most people. Our expectations are low.

And so when people go just a little out of their way to help, we’re often amazed.

It really doesn’t take as much as you think in this world to get someone’s attention. A small act of kindness. A commitment to putting in the work each day.

We don’t demand as much as we should from other people, but that gives us a huge opportunity. Little things often make a huge impression. Going above and beyond isn’t nearly as hard as we think.

A Quick Lesson From Vine.

A thought about Vine, the social media video platform that everyone I know is obsessed with:

The reason Vine is so freaking great is because it has constraints. At 6 seconds per Vine, you don’t have enough time to make something big. So people are often turning to Vine not to capture the important moments in life, but the trivial ones, the goofy and the mundane and the silly. (Which, for what it’s worth, also happen to be the moments that are most universal.)

This is a wonderful thing about limitations: It forces us to be creative in new ways. It forces us to approach our work differently. And with Vine, the limitations have spawned some really amazing little videos.

The same thing can go for your work. Enforcing limitations — faster deadlines, stricter word counts — can force you to work in new ways, and sometimes, that leads to some amazing results.

The Thing I Learned From “Lost.”

I was a huge fan of the show “Lost,” and still am. It was an epic show — 6 seasons and 121 episodes. But a lot of “Lost” fans are still mad about the way the show ended.

I always thought that was funny. I stuck with that show for six years. It started when I was in high school. It ended after I graduated college. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent talking about the show with friends, trading theories and sending email after email about it. For six years, me and my friends shared that show. It became ours. There are some episodes and characters in there that I count among my favorite ever.

Which is why I think it’s so funny that fans hate the show because they hate the ending. That makes no sense to me.

Did you enjoy the journey starting in season 1? I’ll ask them. Did you enjoy most of the stories?

Yes, they’ll usually say.

So why does a bad ending invalidate everything that came before? I’ll say. What does it matter that it didn’t close the way you hoped? You watched, and you enjoyed the ride. Isn’t that what matters most?

Yes, endings can be fickle and strange and not all that we hope for. But that doesn’t make the journey any less rewarding. The ride to the end matters.

Following Up Matters.


I’m going to brag about my little sister for a second.

A few years ago, my sister announced to me that one day, she was going to move to Colombia and do… well, she didn’t know. But she was going to move there.

Okay, I said.

And then she graduated from college and moved to New Orleans. She worked at a school. She had a lot of fun. We weren’t sure if she was going to ever leave.

And then she decided that Colombia was back on her radar. She was going to go.

Okay, I said.

She applied for jobs, and applied for visas, and she waited. I don’t know how qualified she was for any of these jobs — in college, she majored in Spanish, and being fluent in Spanish in Bogota isn’t all that impressive — but she actually got an internship at an art museum. She got her visa, and we got her on a flight to Bogota. The internship was supposed to last six months. We didn’t know what would happen after.

And then she announced that she was going to stay in Colombia and get a new job as a teacher.

Okay, I said.

She applied to more jobs and more places, except this time was different. She was in Colombia, which let her interview in person — and that does make a difference.

And after each interview, my sister decided that she’d send a thank you note in the mail. Not an email — a hand-written note thanking each place she’d interviewed at for their time.

A few weeks later, my sister got a job at a school. They’d interviewed a bunch of candidates for the job, but they loved her note. It stood out, they told her, and they figured anyone who’d take the extra couple of minutes to write a note like that was the kind of person they’d want on staff.

I’m still amazed by this. A few hand-scribbled words made a difference for my sister. There were lots of candidates, but a thank you note got her the job.

Why aren’t we all doing this, again?

Saying The Things We Do Not Want To Say.

This past weekend was Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It’s a day where — most notably to the outside world — Jews fast from sundown to sundown.

To Jews, it’s known as the Day of Repentance. We gather together to ask for forgiveness — from ourselves, and from our God.

It is not a particularly happy day on the Jewish calendar, but it is an important day. It’s a day where we Jews are asked to take stock of our lives, and consider how we can do better in the coming year.

But something else occurred to me on this Yom Kippur: It’s a day where we get to say a lot of the things that we never get say.

On Yom Kippur, we are given the chance to apologize for things we have done. We get to hear others say the same. We get to talk about transgressions and misdeeds and mistakes.

And we get to do all this out loud.

There are certain things that we never really want to say, but on this day, we are given permission to do so.

What a wonderful thing, this opportunity. If only we had more days like it — more chances to say the things we want to say, but rarely do.

Stop Worrying About Endings. Just Keep Going On.

A lot of things have been kicking around lately, and it started with this tweet:

And I thought: Well, that’s not right at all.

I don’t think about endings that often. I think about the journey a lot, and I think about the next steps, but I don’t think about endings. That’s for another day — somewhere far off, I hope.

But I do think about the journey. I think about the steps I take every day to get somewhere, and the goals I keep setting and resetting for myself as I go. There are a lot of steps — but no true endings in sight.

And when I read a quote like the one above, I think: What’s the flip side of that? If things are working out, does that mean this must be the end? And what happens at the end, anyway? Do I quit? Do I give up on the work I’m doing?

That doesn’t sound like much of a happy ending to me.

So that’s the first thing that’s been kicking around in my head.

And the second is this video that’s been on the internet for a long time. It’s from a Texas high school football playoff game in 1994. One team is up 41-17 with three minutes left in the game, and that’s when the comeback begins. There’s a touchdown to cut the lead, and then a recovered onside kick. And then another touchdown. And another onside kick recovered.

And then another touchdown. And another onside kick.

And then one final touchdown — from 41-17 down to 44-41 up in just three minutes.

Which is where the story should end. Which is where we want it to end.

Except… that’s not where it ends.

Because life isn’t about where it ends; it’s about where you go. It’s about what you do along the way. It’s about what you make of all of this — the good, the bad, the everything else.

We search for endings because stories must end eventually, and each of us is writing our own story. But our stories are not over yet.

We keep going. We keep pushing. We resist the urge to write that ending.

There’s still more to do.

That image at top comes via @_michelada44_.

Being Normal Seems Weird.

“I don’t do normal. I have a reputation to uphold.” ― Joan Bauer

I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about the idea of normal. They usually start with a statement like this: “Dan, there’s nothing even remotely normal about you.”

To which I usually say: Why, yes, thank you.

And then: Do I really want to be normal?

If someone describes me, I’d hope they use a better word. Like remarkable. Or ambitious. Or even crazy.

I’d want to hear that I’m doing something with my life that’s making an impression, and that I’m doing it in a way that stands out.

Normal? That just doesn’t sound right to me at all.

My Computer Died This Morning, And That’s Probably Okay.

“Life is 10% how you make it and 90% how you take it.” — Irving Berlin

So I woke up this morning, and my laptop died. It died while I was in the middle of writing the daily email to BuzzFeed subscribers, and I tried to restart my laptop twice, and each time the screen came up with an image of a folder wrapped around a blinking question mark, and that was a pretty good indicator that was I screwed.

I’m not that happy about this, obviously. My laptop is non-functional, possibly even dead, and I’ve had it for less than a year. Gah.

But also, there’s this: My parents always told me that there were certain things I couldn’t control, and I shouldn’t worry about them. And I always thought that was kinda stupid.

Because of course I’m going to worry about those things! If my car breaks down, or my computer freaks out, of course I’m going to worry! These things are valuable, and I don’t own a lot of valuable stuff!

And yet, over time, I have started to notice that I worry less about the things I can’t control. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m mellowing, or if it’s just because I’ve got lots to stress about, and so when things break, I just move onto the next thing.

But whatever the case: I found myself not all that mad about the laptop this morning. It happened, it’ll get fixed, and things move on. So it goes.

Things Move Forward.

“The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel — these are the things what will endure and these are the qualities that are so much more important than any of the events themselves.” — Vince Lombardi

Football kicked off this weekend. This is fantastic news. I love football. A football Saturday or Sunday is a special thing.

And yet: This football season feels different than any that’s come before, because for the first time, I feel like the majority of fans have accepted these two simple facts:

Football is ridiculously dangerous, and will have to change, because it is too dangerous for humans to play in the way that modern football is played.

Football is really fun to watch, partly because it is so dangerous.

Something is going to happen to football as a result. Maybe parents will start keeping parents from playing, and will shift kids to other sports — soccer, lacrosse, wrestling. Maybe the rules will change dramatically. Maybe the technology for helmets and pads will get better.

But something is going to happen. And football fans will be outraged. They will bemoan the death of tradition. They will complain.

But this is how things works. Things change. The rules change. The game changes.

I do not know what happens next, but I know that things will change, and I know that a lot of people are going to be unhappy. But we won’t keep doing what we’re doing — we know there’s something wrong, and we fix our wrongs. It will not happen fast — this is just how our world works. There is too much money and too many players involved for it to move fast.

But it will change. We change, or we watch it change us.