Tag Archives: good things start with action

Four Things To Ask Yourself Before You Start.

Before you start the work, you’ve got to ask yourself:

Are you willing to struggle? Because you’re going to struggle with this. The work is going to kick your ass, and just when you think you’ve made a breakthrough, it’s going to kick your ass again. You are going to ride that struggle bus for a long, long time.

Are you willing to feel stupid? Because you’re not going to know everything — not by a long shot. You’ve got so much to learn, and it’s going to get to a point where you feel like you don’t know ANYTHING. It’s actually a good thing. It means you’re growing your skill set and pushing yourself into brand new areas. But it’s also really, really hard to cope with the fact that at times, you feel pretty dumb.

Are you willing to find the best people? Because you’re not going to get anywhere without the best people. You’re going to have to find people you love to collaborate with, and people who will push your work into brand new areas, and also people you wouldn’t mind getting stuck with in a room at 2 a.m. (Because, btw, you probably will be stuck in a room with them at 2 a.m. at some point. It happens.)

Are you willing to keep going? Because after all this, you have to be willing to push on and keep doing the work. You have to be willing to launch stuff that isn’t quite perfect, and then go back and make that work better. Above all else, you have to be willing to keep stepping out there and pushing your work into the world, because it’s the only way to do it.

So are you willing to do all that? Because if you’re not, you’re not quite ready to start.

That photo of a state fair comes via Flickr’s Omar Bárcena.

What Can Happen When You Put Things Out There.

So here’s what I love about that story, above, from the very talented Kishi Bashi:

Sometimes, you stumble into amazing things. Sometimes, you make a snippet of a thing, and people like it, and they ask for more. Sometimes, you unintentionally put something amazing into the universe.

Our world is full of happy accidents, of the times that you stumble onto something great. But the only way to get there is to put something out into the world first.

Go. Make. Share. It’s the only way to really know.

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.

Say It Now.

“Cause this is what you’ve waited for.” — Glen Hansard

When I was a kid, I was really shy about approaching people. An interview with a source, or just saying hello — I was always slow to make a move.

And at some point, I just got tired of dawdling. Waiting was exhausting.

I learned:

If there’s a goal that matters to you, starting talking about it now.

If there’s someone who matters to you, go tell them now.

If there’s work that matters to you, start doing something about it now.

Waiting doesn’t do anything for you. Get going, and start now.

17 Things I Learned From My Day With Warren Buffett.

Last Saturday, 35,000 shareholders gathered in Omaha to hear Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger speak. The two men lead Berkshire Hathaway, which is now the fifth-most valuable company in the world, valued at over $264 billion.

I was there, too — as the guest of a family friend, Steve, who’s a shareholder. I didn’t want to pass up the chance to hear one of history’s greatest business minds speak.

Here’s what I learned from my day in Omaha:

1. There Is No Roadmap

Some people come to Omaha looking for answers about the company, but many are there to find the secret to life. This isn’t an understatement: People really do think Warren’s figured out the secrets to the universe.

But the thing Warren said over and over again was simple: There is no roadmap. There is no right way forward. And there are no shortcuts.

2. But… Some Things Do Really Matter

Great people, mostly. Warren talked often about how great his management team was. He kept saying things like, “If I could clone so and so, I would.” When you have great people in place, and you give them the tools to do their work, a lot of great things can happen.

3. Have A Partner Smarter Than You

Warren’s partner is Charlie Munger, the whip-smart no. 2 of Berkshire. He’s been with the company for decades. He’s also a billionaire. His job is to know more than Warren. And he does, which is pretty incredible — Warren’s no dummy.

4. Make Sure That Partner Knows How To Call You On Your Shit

I love this about Charlie: Whenever he thinks Warren’s wrong, he’ll call him on it. “Just because Warren thought something 20 years ago doesn’t mean it’s a law of nature,” he told shareholders at one point. Everyone should have someone willing to call them out like that.

5. That Spark Matters

Have you ever seen that photo of Einstein with his tongue out? There’s something unexpected about that photo — something deeply human. Einstein is this towering figure in history, and yet, there’s a photo of him acting like a fool.

And there are all sorts of photos of Warren acting goofy. He’s got that spark, too — that mix of humor and childishness — and people recognize it. They light up around it.

6. Don’t Be So Serious

Warren was surprisingly funny at the meeting. At one point, he got asked about Harley Davidson, and then gave a long answer breaking down the numbers. Then he added:

“Any company that gets its customers to tattoo ads on their chests can’t be all bad.”


7. Go Where You Want To Go

At various points during the meeting, Warren was pressed for answers about what’s happening with GEICO, one of Berkshire’s largest holdings. Other companies are trying out new ways to measure insurance risk, they said. Will Berkshire follow?

Warren just stood his ground.

“In the end, we know what we’re willing to do…,” he said. “And if we can’t do it, we will watch for a while…. You can’t afford to go along with the crowd.”

I love that. Go where you want to go — don’t go blindly chasing the puck.

8. Admit When You’re Wrong

It’s something both Charlie and Warren were willing to admit. They’ve made mistakes. They’ve owned up to their mistakes.

And the other thing that Warren reminded me: People often forget about this mistakes.

“We’ll be back here in 2 or 3 years, and I’l say, ‘I told you so,'” Warren said, “and hope you have a bad memory.”

9. Be Willing To Say ‘I Don’t Know’

One of my favorite moments came during a question about the Fed. Here’s how Charlie and Warren answered the question:

Charlie: “The basic answer is, I don’t know.”
Warren: “I don’t have anything to add.”

I love that. These two men have seen pretty much everything that can happen in a lifetime. They have lived through wars, through financial bubbles, through some amazing technological changes. So for them to say, “I don’t know,” that’s a statement that carries a lot of weight.

They know the power of their words. They know that their words can move markets. And so they make their predictions and their statements carefully. They won’t make a big statement until they’re sure — isn’t that something we should all emulate?

10. Community Comes First

There’s one thing I didn’t expect from the Berkshire meeting. It’s a gathering of thousands of people, many of whom are millionaires. And yet… it felt like a convention of like-minded fans. The way people talk about Berkshire and their staff, it’s like they know them. They feel a connection to this company and its staff.

That’s really amazing. Berkshire is a really inclusive place — shareholders feel like they’re part of a company that works for them. And that community supports Berkshire back and acts as evangelists for Warren and Co. It’s the community that’s made Berkshire what it is.

11. Don’t Get Jealous

“Envy is the one sin there’s no fun in,” Charlie told the crowd, and it’s tough to argue with that. Sure, there are times when your neighbor or your friend catches onto the Next Big Thing and makes it big. But Warren and Charlie cautioned against chasing that. Just do what you do, and don’t worry about everyone else.

12. Find Heroes Everywhere

Warren’s is a guy named Benjamin Graham, whose book on investing changed the way Warren thought about business. He told shareholders, “My life would have been different if Graham hadn’t written that book.”

But he also noted several other greats: Authors, fellow investors, mentors. Before you can lead, sometimes you have to find other people who’ve already started ahead on the trail.

13. Simplicity Is A Huge Advantage

Something Steve pointed out to me: Berkshire has almost 290,000 employees. But their headquarters has only 24 staffers.

So how do they get things done? By keeping things simple — from management structure to day-to-day routine. By not wasting time on the little details, it gives them more time to focus on the big picture stuff.

14. A Lot Of The Best Stuff Happens By Accident

You can’t plan out everything. Just show up and do the work, and see where it takes you.

“We are leaving behind a field that is very competitive and getting to a place where we’re more unusual,” Charlie said of Berkshire. “This was a very good idea. I wish we’d done it on purpose.”

16. Sell Sell Sell

At the meeting, there was a convention floor where you could buy products from Berkshire companies. Everything — literally dozens of products — featured Warren’s face. The man is shameless when it comes to sales. But that’s also made him one of the most visible businessmen in the world, and in turn, one of the most respected. You can’t lead if no one’e listening — so sometimes, you’ve gotta sell yourself a little.

16. Don’t Go Crazy

Another brilliant Charlie quote: “We’ve always tried to stay sane, and other people like to go crazy.” This is where staying grounded in your principles matters. When you go chasing stuff you don’t understand, you get distracted. Focus on your work, and focus on putting the right systems in place to do that work well.

17. Look Further

The more work you do, the more you begin to understand what’s possible. Warren talked a lot about cumulative knowledge. After a lifetime of work, he knows a lot about a lot.

So when he sees something that gets him excited, he’s willing to jump on it. “We see things that shout out to us: Think further, look further,” he said. Don’t be afraid to chase big things.

18. Love The Work You Do, And Do The Work You Love

“You have to love something to do well at it,” Warren said. “It is an enormous advantage if you absolutely love what you’re doing every minute of it. The nature of it is that that intensity adds to your productivity.”

And that’s it. When you find the stuff you love, you grind at it every day. You throw yourself into your work. You’ll work your hardest when you’re doing something you really care about.

So don’t settle for anything that doesn’t make you want to work that hard. Go out, find what you love, and do the work.

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.

What Is Long, and What Is Not.

“The NFL isn’t a career — it’s an experience. Most careers last 40-50 years, and people grow old in them.” — Alfred Morris

Two things got me thinking:

The first is that quote, at top. It’s from Alfred Morris, the rookie running back for the Washington Redskins. (That’s a photo of him sleeping on the couch. He still sleeps on the couch when he visits his parents.)

NFL players don’t usually have that kind of awareness, but Morris really seems to understand what’s happening in his life. The NFL is something most players have worked for since they hit puberty. It’s all they’ve worked for. The idea that it wouldn’t be forever is…. well, impossible.

Understanding what the NFL is — a job, an experience — and what it is not — a career, a lifestyle — is going to change everything for Morris. It’s going to let him make the most of this incredible opportunity.

But most of us can’t tell the difference between what is big, and what is not. We see a half an inch of water and we tell ourselves we’re going to drown. We hit a bump and think it’s a mountain.

We lack perspective, and that’s one thing we need most to understand the road we’re on and the places we’re headed.

There’s a second thing. I had a Latin teacher in high school, Miss Cherry. One of her quotes comes to mind now: Ars longa, vita brevis.

Art is long, but life is short.

And in high school, I remember thinking: What the hell is that? Art is long?


But that’s exactly what Morris is talking about, too. It’s this idea that some things are forever, and some things fade away.

The memories are long, but the job is short.

The ambitions are long, but the opportunities are short.

We work to build things that are long — but ultimately, the one thing we know is that the chances to make them are short.

Make things now, with the time you have now. To wait is to discover that now is very, very short.

Photo at top of Morris comes via the Washington Post.

Waiting Sucks.

“Find what moves you, and move. Find what keeps you up all night, and stay up all night.” — Nicole Antoinette

There is so much I want to do this year. So much to take on.

There really is no time to waste.

But more importantly than that: This is no time to wait.

Waiting sucks. Sitting around, waiting for other people/things/events to come around before you can do your work — that’s no good at all.

Or more likely: Waiting for the moment when you give yourself permission to start doing the work — that’s even worse.

So start now. Start with what you have. Start with as little as you need.

Waiting sucks. Find a way to get yourself moving.

Sometimes, We Need Other People To Help Us Make the Leap.

“There are three diseases in Panama. They are yellow fever, malaria, and cold feet; and the greatest of these is cold feet.” — John Stevens

Last year, I wrote about the time I went skydiving. I surrendered to the fear, I said, and jumped.

But that’s only part of the story.

I didn’t do a solo dive. I jumped with a guy. His name was Dave. He was an experienced diver. He was the one who packed the chute, who opened the door to the plane, who yelled, “You ready?”

He was the one who threw me out of the plane, with me attached to his stomach.

I was thankful that he was there. Without him, I can’t imagine finding the courage to jump.

I’m wondering now: How many steps are there in our lives that we couldn’t do alone? How many journeys are there that demand a partner or a mentor?

We all like to think that we’re strong enough to go it alone. But with the right team behind us, we’re capable of so much more.

Together, we can reach for the skies – or, with the proper equipment on our backs, jump from them.

The Three Things That Separate Those Who Do From Everyone Else.

“Ignore the money and the news. Find good people who make wonderful things, and help them do it.” — Erin Kissane

About once a month, I get an email from someone I don’t know. The email reads as follows:

Hi, Dan.

I’m a huge fan of Stry.us. I’m thinking of starting my own news site devoted to long-form journalism. I was hoping I could talk with you about how to get started.

I have gotten a lot of these emails, and I’ve followed up with almost all of them. Of the people who’ve emailed me, a small number have actually gone on and done something. A much larger number shoot me a couple of emails or maybe spend 20 minutes on the phone with me before deciding not to take on their dream.

This is what I’ve learned from the conversations with all of these people. The lessons here are from the journalism world, but they’re pretty universal themes, I’ve found.

1. People Rarely Follow Their Effort — People tend to think about their own passion first. They’re told that if they care about something, they should focus on that.

But I’m a believer in what Mark Cuban once said:

“Don’t follow your passions, follow your effort. It will lead you to your passions and to success, however you define it.”

Everyone I’ve talked to about starting a long-form project has been incredibly passionate. But only a handful have actually gone through with it.

Why? Because not everyone is willing to put in the time and deal with the pain that comes with starting something great.

I know this: Just proving that you’re willing to do the work is a differentiator in this world.

2. Having a Team Matters — The people who’ve gone forward with these projects always have a team/tribe behind them. Even if it’s just a few readers who are really excited about the project. Even if it’s just a few people who want to copy edit stories.

The people who go forward have always found other people who buy into the dream, too. It’s much easier to quit when it’s just you.

3. Experience Only Takes You So Far — Some of the people I’ve talked to have had lots of experience in the news world. Some have had very little.

But when you’re trying to start something big, experience is only a small part of the equation. I’ve said it before: You also need time to make it happen, and a great team behind you, and a lot of hustle.

The people who say they can’t do something because they don’t have enough experience are usually just making excuses for themselves.

If you want to start something, then do it. But please, remember: Anyone can start something. What counts is that you follow through. That you hustle. That you do the work.

There are people in this world who talk, and there are people in this world who do.

Be the latter. We need more of them.

That inspiration at top comes via @coffeeeater.