Try Weird Stuff.

I’ve written before about my love of the morning paper — the physical edition that shows up on my doorstep every morning. You never know when you’ll flip through the pages and find something unexpected.

For instance: the obituaries. I’d never go looking for them online, but in the paper, I try to make a few minutes for them. If these people made it to the New York Times print edition, they must have left some sort of mark.

Here’s one from this week that caught my eye:

“Ethel Stein, a weaver who created countless intricate textile artworks and one particularly influential sock puppet, died on Friday in Cortlandt, N.Y. She was 100.”

A particularly influential sock puppet? Go on…

“A more lighthearted part of her legacy came from a side business that grew out of her penchant for repurposing things that others might have discarded. She turned old socks into puppets, first for her son’s nursery school, then for a growing body of fans.

“She began selling them at a booth in a department store in Manhattan; a monograph published by her representative, Browngrotta Arts, says she sold 10,000. One wound up in, or on, the hands of a young puppeteer named Shari Lewis, who by 1953 was making a name for herself in children’s television in the New York market. Ms. Stein, the monograph says, designed several puppets for Ms. Lewis, who would later in the 1950s achieve national fame with Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse and the rest of her puppet pals.”

How incredible is that? An artist’s side project accidentally helped launch one of the most influential children’s TV shows in the country.

Reading about Ms. Stein, her side project reminded me so much of my old co-workers at BuzzFeed. Everyone there had something they did just for fun: a podcast, a newsletter, a weird Tumblr. Some people did physical crafts. Some people were in bands or choirs. Everyone did something.

Try something yourself: something fun, something weird. Make a new thing. You never know where it might lead.


That photo is by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.

Everything Will Go Wrong.

Watch this video of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the legendary guitarist, on “Austin City Limits” back in 1989. You’re about to see something extraordinary: About 30 seconds in, one of Stevie Ray’s guitar strings is going to break. He’s playing live, in the middle of a guitar solo. He’s recording for TV.

And he doesn’t miss a note:

Somehow, he plays through it, signals to his guitar tech for a new guitar, switches to the new instrument, and continues playing — like it’s no big deal.

Maybe because to a guitarist like Stevie Ray — someone with decades of experience on stage and in front of the cameras — it simply wasn’t.

All those hours of practice, all those hours on stage — they’re not just about helping you gain experience. They’re also preparation for all of the tricky situations that inevitably arise along the way.

There’s really only way to learn how to make things work when things go wrong: By screwing up, over and over again. The more things break in key situations, the more you learn how to handle it, and how to prepare for the next time.

That video of Stevie Ray? That wasn’t the first time — or probably even the hundredth — that he’d broken a string on stage. He’d been through it before, and so had his crew. They knew their roles.

Things will go wrong. Have you put in the work to learn what to do when it does?

Make Sure Someone Holds You Accountable.

I’ve only ever lost weight once — from 2012 to 2013, when I decided to compete against my Dad in a $1,000, winner-takes-all competition we called The Belly Challenge. It worked for a few reasons:

1) I didn’t want to lose to my Dad, and I definitely didn’t want to write him a check.

2) I moved into a building with a gym on the ground floor, so I never had the excuse that it was too cold outside to go to the gym, or too far away.

3) I was living in Columbia, Mo., and Springfield, Mo., working a ton, and too busy to drink much.

But mostly, one thing changed that helped me lose the weight: Other people started holding me accountable for my actions.

That was the year I started working out a few times a month with a personal trainer. Having someone there to push me and encourage me really helped — I was willing to try workouts that I would never have tried without a workout partner. I also tried harder knowing that someone was watching (and judging!) me. With someone else there for my workouts, I couldn’t be lazy, and I couldn’t quit.

The other thing that helped: Dad and I held each other accountable. I’d text him after my workouts, and he’d text me after mine. If I found out that Dad had gone for a long bike ride or a swim, I knew I needed to make time for the gym, too. One of us couldn’t let up if the other one was still working hard.

Accountability is what I love most about working with a team — your colleagues are the ones who hold you accountable and make sure you’re performing at the level you’re capable of. They can encourage you when you need help, and help push you to do better work. They can be honest with you when your work is holding the team back.

It can be hard to take on big tasks on your own — but with a team, a shared set of goals, and a sense of accountability, you can really do great work.


That’s me and Dad, back in 2011 before we started The Belly Challenge.