“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.
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?
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.
On Friday, Florida Gulf Coast — a school that did not exist when I was born — beat Georgetown in an NCAA Tournament basketball game. It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of March Madness.
There were a lot of moments in the game where it looked like FGCU could pull the upset. But the moment when I knew, when I was absolutely sure it could happen, came with 2:17 left. FGCU’s Dajuan Graf stepped to the free throw line. His team was up 8.
And his free throw hit every part of the rim. It hit the backboard. It hung up there forever. It had no business going in.
There is a funny misconception that exists in the general public about building big companies. They see something like Instagram, which sold for a billion dollars, and think: The path from A to B(illionaire) doesn’t take that long.
Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
I work at BuzzFeed now. That photo at top is what our office looks like today.
But this is what it looked like in 2007, in the earliest days of BuzzFeed.
Not quite as exciting, right?
I remember those types of days at Stry.us. I remember sleeping on the floor in a small apartment next to a cow pasture. I remember that when I hit the “Sleeping On A Floor In A Small Apartment Next To A Cow Pasture” point, that was actually a big milestone for Stry.us.
Good things come slowly. You build with good people. You find ways to hang in the game as long as you can.
The road is slow and long and kind of boring sometimes. If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, that’s okay. Building big things isn’t for everyone.
But if that sounds like something you like? Well, start as soon as you can. You’re going to need all the time you have.
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” — John Wooden
So that photo at top is of me. That’s me from, I believe, my sophomore year at the University of Missouri. Yes, that is my yellow pinstriped jacket. (Also, yes, that is very bad sophomore year beard.)
I went to Missouri, and I love my alma mater. The sight of our colors makes me happy. Tigers, in general, now make me really happy.
And I love rooting for my Missouri Tigers. There aren’t a lot of Missouri fans outside of the state of Missouri. But we are a passionate few.
This year, Missouri has a strange basketball team. They have a really good point guard, and several really good shooters, and two really good big guys. They rebound extremely well, and they have lots of experience. They should be an exceptional basketball team.
Except that they are not. In this last two months, Missouri has lost six basketball games that were decided in the final 30 seconds. Missouri has lots of talent, but it just can’t seem to win close games.
As a Missouri fan, this crushes me. I WANT them to win. I absolutely love it when we win.
And this year’s team is SO dangerously close to being a really good team. But they are not. Great teams win games — they win blowouts, and they win close, and they win when it does not seem possible that winning could ever happen — and this Missouri team does not do that.
When I look back on this season, I feel a sense of disappointment. This team is that friend that everyone has, that friend who has lots of talent — who has ideas, and ambition, and decent skills — but who can’t figure out how to put it all together.
This team is disappointing for another reason: They cannot figure out how to put it all together IN THE MOMENT in which it matters.
Doing the work well matters, but doing it well in the time you have matters even more. There is a moment for your work, and when it passes, it passes.
So it goes for my Tigers. There will be other seasons, sure. But for this team, for this moment, time is almost out. The work is almost over. The season will be over with one more loss.
This time won’t come around ever again. You put it together now, you get better, or you find yourself watching others get their moment instead. How it goes.
“There is no great genius without some touch of madness.” — Seneca
So this is the part of the year where I lose touch with reality and start watching about 12 hours of college basketball a day.
It has always been like this. I love college basketball. I cannot really explain why I love it the most. I just do.
And this month is MY month. Six months watching these teams play, and then, in a week, in a day — it could all be over. Lose, and the season’s done.
But I love March for those moments when it’s all on the line. Like this moment: This was the game-winning shot hit by Valparaiso in the Horizon League tournament this week. This shot saved their season.
An awesome shot, right?
Now take a closer look at their coach, though. Watch his reaction.
Their coach’s name is Bryce Drew. Maybe that name rings a bell? It’s because he’s also the man responsible for this shot:
Bryce Drew hit one of the most famous shots in college basketball history. But there he was, in a game against Green Bay, played in front of just a few thousand fans, still losing it over the chance to play one more day.
In March, we remember: You play today, but you really play for the chance to play again tomorrow. Tomorrow is offered, but in March, it’s never guaranteed.
“If you’re not scared, you’re not focused.” — Jonathan Swanson
There’s a pizza place around the corner from me that’s pretty good. They’ve got a good pepperoni and mushroom slice, and they’ve got this chicken caesar pie, too, if you’re into something kinda different.
But what I like most about this pizza place are the guys behind the counter. There are two guys I see most often working the counter, and they’ve each got a catchphrase.
The first guy waits for you to order, and when you announce your choice of slice, he says, “Why not?”
Order another slice, and you’ll hear, “Why not?”
Hang around the restaurant for 10 minutes and you’ll hear him say it over and over again.
The second guy behind the counter has a different way of responding to each order. Each slice is followed by a simple question: “What else?”
And usually the customer pauses and says, Well, maybe that one? Or that one?
Maybe that one…
I really like this pizza place, because I really like those two questions. I like how, subtly, really good questions can challenge a captive audience. The right questions can force someone to take action that they might not otherwise take.
I’d like more people to ask questions like that when they’re taking on new work. Something too big? Too scary? “Maybe I shouldn’t do this,” you find yourself saying.
Well, why not?
And when you think you’ve hit the end of some work, and you’re trying to figure out if there’s anything left to do.
Well, what else? Is there something more to do?
Those two really good questions could unlock a lot of really good work. Don’t thank me, though. Thank the pizza place on the corner.
“The journey is all. The destination is beside the point.” — Leo Babauta
Let me pose a hypothetical to you for a second. Tomorrow, I’m going to give you the chance of a lifetime:
I’m going to make you a lottery winner. You’re going to get $20 million. You’re never going to have to work again.
But there’s a catch: In exchange for that $20 million, you’re also never ALLOWED to work again.
You can take the $20 million, and never work another day in your life — never ever — or you can stay on the path you’re on, grinding it out, trying to make it in this world.
What do you choose? A life without work but lots of money, or a life with a lot of work and whatever money you can make along the way?
If it’s me, I take the latter. Yeah, the $20 million would be nice for a while. A few months on the beach somewhere, swimming and napping and drinking away the day. I could do that.
But after a few months, where would I be? What I’m doing matters to me. I want to make a big contribution to this world, and my work is largely how I make my stamp. Take away that, and what am I?
People say they want the easy way out, but I’m not so sure I buy that. The road ahead is tough. It’s going to suck.
But it’s also really rewarding. There is satisfaction in putting in the work, day in and day out.
So me? I’d reject the money and stick with the road I’m on. I know it’ll be rewarding. I know it’ll be hard. Maybe it’ll make me a little money along the way, or maybe it won’t. But it’ll my road to make.
I probably won’t get the months and months of drinking on the beach on this path, but if I do good work, I might get a few good weekends a year in a sunny place. That’d be alright by me.