My little brother is — and I say this with all the love that I can muster — the laziest little shit I know.
I just got off the phone with my mother. She told me that ever since he got back from college, he’s been sleeping in until 2 p.m. every day. She wants to get him tested for mono. She thinks something’s wrong with him.
There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s just 19 years old, and the only difference between him and Garfield the cat is that Garfield sometimes makes his bed.
Sam O, despite that laziness, actually pulled off an amazing internship this summer. It starts Monday. He’s also got a dream job in mind, and that company has offered him the opportunity to do some volunteer work on weekends.
Whether or not Sam O takes advantage of any of this is really up to him.
There’s something I’ve learned over the years, and it’s that no matter the situation, there’s only one way you can really learn something:
Your own way.
You cannot be told to do something. Comments from friends and strangers can spark something in your head, but the only action comes when you decide to take it.
And often, that action only comes when you’ve hit bottom.
I hope Sam O takes advantage of his opportunities this summer. I hope he works hard. I hope he changes his sleeping habits. I hope he decides to get off his lazy ass and join a gym.
I hope all of these things for Sam, but I know that no number of calls or texts or emails will change his habits.
He will do what he wants to do. He will learn when he wants to learn.
It is his road, and the best I can do is to support him and hope that he learns sooner rather than later.
Today is my birthday. I haven’t wished for something on my birthday in a long time, but hell, I’m 25, and I’m feeling old. So here’s my wish.
This wish is for you.
Today, I wish that you’ll read this and do something that scares you. You’ll say something out loud that you’ve been afraid to say. You’ll try something that you’ve been afraid to try. You’ll do something a little bit crazy.
On this 25th birthday of mine, I feel so, so very lucky to have the chance to work on Stry.us. This thing scares the absolute crap out of me, but it’s a joy to wake up with that fear. It keeps me going.
I beg you today to experience some of that fear. Please: Go do something that scares you. A little thing or a big thing — it doesn’t matter what it is.
But every good thing in this world starts with action. Forget the fear. Today, you have my birthday permission to ignore it and try something insane.
I’m going to guess that you’ve seen the movie “Cool Runnings,” simply because I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t seen “Cool Runnings.” It’s one of my favorite films, the based-on-a-true-story tale of four Jamaican guys who somehow qualify for the Olympics as bobsledders. It’s funny, and goofy, and inspiring.
Think about the beginning of the movie. We meet our four intrepid bobsledders in unlikely places: Three are trying to qualify for the Summer Olympics in track, and one is a pushcart driver. But when the track thing doesn’t work out, they come together to try to qualify for the Olympics in bobsled, even though they’ve never seen snow, and the Olympics is only a few months away.
And somehow, they qualify for the Games. These four men — through sheer willpower, and also a few classic Disney montages — put in the work needed to learn how to bobsled, and they make the Olympics.
But on the first night of the Games, disaster strikes. They can’t get into the sled fast enough, and the driver, Derice Bannock, has a bad race, and Jamaica finishes the day in last place among all teams.
Then comes the key scene. The whole team is back in their room in the Olympic Village. Derice and his coach, Irv, are talking about what went wrong. Derice suggests that maybe they don’t know enough about the race course. Maybe they don’t know about bobsledding to win.
And that’s when their coach says:
“You know the turns! You know everything there is to know about this sport!”
Think about that for a second, and strip away the fact that this is a Disney movie. Imagine it by itself: An Olympic-caliber coach telling his team, You know everything there is know about the sport, even though you just started learning about it a few months earlier.
That sounds outrageous, and it is. Of course they don’t know everything about the sport! Hell, it’s not even clear that a single member of the team could name someone besides their coach who’d ever competed in an Olympic bobsled event.
But what if I told you that their coach was right? What if I told you that they knew everything they needed to know? — to start, at least.
What do you really need to compete in a four-man bobsled race?
1. A sled
2. A bobsled track
3. Four really big, really strong, really fast men
4. Four helmets
And that’s it. You don’t need fifteen years of bobsled experience to start. You don’t need to know who won the four-man event in the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Games.
All you need is a sled, and a track, and four dudes, and some helmets, and some ice, and you can start racing.
Again, here’s the key concept: That’s what you need to start racing.
Yeah, to win a gold medal, it’s going to take years and years of practice. It’s going to take thousands of hours of work, and then some luck, and Jamaica wasn’t even close to having enough practical experience to win.
But to start, they had everything they need to know.
That’s the idea I want to drill into your heads. If you’re thinking about becoming the world’s best painter, well, yes, it’s going to take some time. You’re going to have spend a lot of time painting, and you’re probably going to spend a lot of time studying other painters.
But to start? All you need is a brush, a canvas, some paint and a little free time.
The world’s best basketball players all started with a ball, sneakers and a court. You think Michael Jordan waited until he’d watched a decade of basketball games before he felt he had enough basketball knowledge to pick up a ball?
The truth is, to start, you don’t need to know all that much. So start before you’re ready, because as Travis Robertson once wrote, you won’t feel ready until long after you’ve already started.
Let me give you another example. I was at a startup event in the fall and heard a guy pitch a lending business. He talked about how he’s been studying the field for five years, reading everything he can about lending, and he’d finally decided that he was ready to start.
The judges asked him what he’d actually done for his business idea in those five years.
Well, he said, I’ve read the books, and I’ve…
No, no, the judges said. What have you done? What actual work do you have to show us?
Nothing, he said.
And where do you think you’d be if, five years ago, you’d started building something instead of just thinking about it?, the judges asked.
The man’s face went blank.
You don’t need to know that much to start. You just need to know that you can do the work, and that you’re passionate about doing the work.
You need to start before you’re really ready to start, because that’s when you’re going to learn the most about what you’re doing. What you’ll read about in books is helpful, and important, but it’s nothing compared to the self-discoveries you’ll make along the way. The most important knowledge is what you’re going to learn during the process of the doing.
If you already know what you want to do, then ask yourself: What are the most basic tools I need to start?
If you have them already, then the only thing truly keeping you from starting is you.
Something changed in me this year. I know, because I was on the phone with a friend a few weeks ago. I was telling her about all the work I’m putting in with Stry and Very Quotatious and the fellowship, and she didn’t say anything.
And then I saw her a few days later, and I told her that I was speaking at TEDxMU, and I mentioned that I’d started working out with a trainer for the Belly Challenge, and she just stared at me. It looked like she was trying to X-ray me, to look straight through me, to figure out whether or not she was talking to the Dan she used to know.
She knew something had changed. She knew that I’d started to find a new center.
I started to realize it, too. And I started to think about what had changed. And then it hit me. It feels like just a moment ago that I figured it out:
I fell in love.
And here I am writing it, and not caring how cheesy it sounds:
I fell in love.
And again, and again, because it is too wonderful not to say:
I fell in love.
I fell in love with the waking up in the morning absolutely full of awesome. With the feeling that I have when I’m absolutely exhausted after a workout. With the smile I have on my face when I cross something else off my TeuxDeux.
I fell in love with doing. I fell in love with building things. I fell in love with the work.
And then I started to notice a whole world full of fellow builders. Turns out I’d lived in this world the whole time, and I’d barely noticed.
I used to be stressed, and I still am. But now, stress is good stress. Excited stress! The “We’ve got a deadline to make because we’ve got shit to do!” kind of stress.
I find myself smiling a lot. I find myself in front of journalism classes, running around and jumping on chairs and yelling about building things and being awesome, and the students look at me wondering how much Starbucks it takes to make me this loud at NINE FUCKING O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING ON A TUESDAY, and then I tell them that I don’t drink coffee, and they look at me like I am absolutely mad.
And I am. You have to as mad as I am to do the things that I want to do.
There is so much to do, and there is not enough time, but that’s okay. The truth is, there is enough time for now.
And the truth is: When you are as in love as I am, it feels like I have all the time I will ever need.
And the truth is: When you are as in love as I am, time hardly matters at all.
What we build is what matters, and time is only there to show how long it can last.