Tag Archives: keep going

Devour The Moment.

“Now is the time to go for broke.” ― Jeff Goins

 
It became an unofficial life motto of mine about two years ago. I was having a conversation with my friend, Ryan. We were talking about moments. I was about to leave my job to start Stry.us. He was about to finish his master’s degree and get a job.

There was a big moment ahead of us, we agreed. We should enjoy it. That was what people kept telling us. Enjoy it. Savor it.

But then we had this little breakthrough. We didn’t want to merely savor this moment ahead of us.

We wanted to devour it.

Savoring is for little moments: the ice cream cone that’s slowly melting away, the card rush at the Bellagio’s blackjack tables.

But this is life we’re talking about, and you have to devour it whole. You have to take it on. You have to squeeze out everything that you can. You have to take big leaps, big risks, big action.

Work matters. Hustle matters. Love matters.

For nine years of my life, I’ve been a reporter. I’ve been lucky enough to report everywhere from Biloxi to Beijing. I’ve gotten to see some things that most people don’t get to see. I’ve done this job long enough to see the spectrum of what exists in our world: the pain, the joy, the frustration, the hope.

This whole thing is so fragile.

And in a fragile world, there isn’t time to do anything less than go all the way. The moments come and the moments go. We don’t get back time; we have it now, and never again.

So show up and go hard. Smile. Laugh. Work.

Wake up in the morning and devour your moment. This is your time. This is our time. Let’s use it to do great things for our world.

That ridiculous photo of the hippo at top is via @bebopbebop.

Journey > Destination: Why The GPS Generation Has It All Wrong.

“I don’t know where I am going, but I am on my way.” ― Voltaire

 
I have friends who are addicted to their GPS devices. Without a GPS, they couldn’t find their own feet. They’re always plugging destinations into that device, and that GPS voice gives them the road ahead. Miss a turn? The GPS tells them how to get back on track.

It’s a type of traveling with one thing in mind: Getting to the destination as quickly as possible.

What I find is that so many people I know live life this way. It’s always about moving on to the next milestone. Graduation. Job. Marriage. Kids.

There are a number of names for my generation, but let me offer my own suggestion: the GPS Generation. We hit one milestone and start pointing towards the next.

But I don’t think life is meant to go this way, hopping from job to job, from destination to destination.

Isn’t the best stuff in life the stuff you find along the way?

“Wizard of Oz” isn’t a movie about the girl who makes it to Oz. It’s about the people she finds on the road.

“Into Thin Air” isn’t about reaching the summit of Everest. It’s about the power of the human spirit.

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” isn’t about getting where you want to go. It’s about getting lost along the way.

This life needs to be about the journey, not the destination. There’s value in being lost. There’s value in keeping your eyes open, in staying curious. In exploring!

We have to stop worrying about the perfect route. We have to be willing to wander.

I think we need to keep one eye on the road and the other on what’s happening all around us. Otherwise, we’ll wake up one day at one of these milestones and wonder, How the hell did we get here? And what did we miss along the way?

Put down that GPS. Go enjoy the journey. Go enjoy the ride.

That gorgeous image at top via the On Wander blog.

Hard Work + ________. (or: The Secret To Doing Better Work.)

About two weeks ago, I started swimming again. There’s a guy who’s been at the pool each time I’ve been there. He must weigh close to 300 lbs.

But every time I’ve looked up, he’s been lapping me. He’d be a lane or two over, and I’d start racing him, trying to beat him to the wall.

I’d get to the wall, and he’d already be on his next lap.

And this started to piss me off. I’m 6’5”, and I’m as skinny as I’ve been since college, and I’ve got big hands and big feet, and I’m just not fast in the water. I’ve made peace with the fact that I’ve got Michael Phelps’ size but absolutely none of his talent.

But to find out that I was way slower than this fat guy? It made me mad. What was his secret?

Yesterday, all the lanes were taken, so I shared with the fat guy. I hopped in the pool and looked down at his feet.

He was wearing flippers.

The secret was out. He was swimming with an outboard motor attached to his feet.

But it also reminded me of a common misconception. Many people will tell you that hard work alone guarantees success. It does not.

Lots of people work hard, but much of it is not the work that people are most passionate about. I know people who work long days, but their jobs are filled with conference calls and TPS reports, and they burn out. Hard work is a prerequisite for success, but it’s not the only prerequisite.

Hard work has to be paired with the right things — like passion, ideas, good people, the right tools and skills — in order to actually take you somewhere.

Here I am in the pool, kicking like crazy, and the 300-pounder in lane 2 has fins attached to his feet. Both of us are putting in the work in the pool, but when it comes to pure productivity, he’s far exceeding my output. With those flippers on, he can probably swim twice the distance I can flipper-less in an hour. He told me that he’s trying to swim a thousand meters each day. With the flippers, he can do that in about 45 minutes in the pool.

That’s fantastic. He’s pairing the right work with the right tools to meet his goals. He’s focused in how he goes about the work.

Then there’s me, flailing about in the water. Talking to the guy with the flippers yesterday, I realized that I hadn’t set any goals for the pool. I was showing up to do work, but I wasn’t sure what work I wanted to do.

As a result, I was doing empty work. I was sweating my ass off without any real purpose in mind.

I owe the guy with the flippers a thank you the next time I see him. Because the next time I go to the pool, it’ll be with specific goals in mind. I’ll be swimming with purpose.

When you’re trying to do good work, that can make all the difference.

Thanks to @hadleyvictoria for the excellent picture of flippers.

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Give Absolutely Everything You Have To Something You Love.

To partially steal a line from the band Dawes: If you can gives yourself to something, then you should.

Stry.us is the closest I have come to realizing myself in another thing. It is everything I care about — stories, the web, people, building, design, sharing. It is impossible to separate myself from this project. There is already so much of me in it.

And I am all in on this. There is no backing down from it now. There is no going back to normal jobs in journalism. Not after this. Not after I’ve put in the work. Not after I’ve learned how hard I can work.

You know how many athletes will refuse to retire even after their playing career is clearly finished? Oftentimes, it’s because these athletes can’t imagine a future beyond sports. This is all they know.

And on a much smaller scale, I’m starting to understand that mentality. I don’t know just yet what the next thing is for me, but I do know that this part of the Stry.us journey ends Sept. 1. And I know that to go from Stry.us to anything less than an equally absurd challenge would be a letdown. I’d be bored at a desk job, and life is too short to be bored.

I’ve gone all in, and I cannot imagine life on a lower plane than this.

There is something so incredibly rewarding about giving myself fully to this business. On a daily basis, I’m asking myself to do things that I couldn’t do the day before. I’m asking myself to take on challenges that I didn’t know existed a month earlier.

I feel the pressure. This is my baby, and if it gets screwed up, it’s going to be my fault. This thing goes as far as I can take it, and that means making the right decisions and hiring the right team to keep it going. I think I’ve made several excellent decisions so far. I really like my team. I think we’re kicking ass.

But we’ve got less than 70 days to go on this Springfield project. There is more reporting to be done. There are more stories to be told. I love the journey, but I’m also so excited to see where we’ll all be when Sept. 1 arrives. I have no idea where this thing will take us, but I believe that it will be somewhere great. I believe that if I keep pushing all of myself into Stry.us, if I keep reaching deep for all the talent and enthusiasm that I can muster from my team, we’ll have something awesome when the Springfield project ends.

There is more to give — so much more. I will give myself to this project, I keep telling myself. I will give it everything I can give. All the time, all the energy, all the joy.

I must.

Fortune cookie at top via @c_richa20.

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Finding The Energy To Do The Work On Days When It Just Isn’t There.

Navin R. Johnson: The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!

Harry Hartounian: Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing.

Navin R. Johnson: Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73 — Johnson, Navin R.! I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book everyday! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity – your name in print – that makes people. I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now.

¶ ¶ ¶

I’m seeing that Navin R. Johnson kind of excitement from my team at Stry.us lately, and it’s a wonderful thing. I can’t remember where I read it first, but it’s true: You can teach skills, but you cannot teach attitude. Right now, we’re at the start of this project, and everyone is excited about everything.

The challenge is in keeping that excitement going. I have to know how my reporters are running — right now, I can see that two of them are slightly overworked, and one of them is a little bored, and the fourth is right about at her maximum output — and when I need to step in and intervene. Because it’s really easy to lose a good employee to burnout, and it’s equally easy to lose a reporter to boredom.

Like Navin, I know how excited my reporters are to see their names appear on the site. But that excitement is fleeting.

So much of building your own thing is about bringing that energy. Many days, you just wake up with it.

Other days, you have to fake it. You have to smile big and try to find energy in those moments when it just doesn’t want to come.

You cannot just show up on the days when you feel like showing up. The work has to be done every single day.

On those slow days, I like to think about the moments when the energy’s there, when the excitement is high, when I’m absolutely giddy about the work I’m doing. On a day when I’m down, I can always remember: Tomorrow could bring that excitement again. Today’s just a bad day.

Until then, I have to find a way to do the work I need to do with the passion I need to have. And I need to teach my team how to do the same.

Otherwise, we’ll wake up one day as that gas station owner, trying to figure when the days of getting excited about the phone book passed us by.

There are so many wonderful things about being young and stupid and excited. I will not let that go to waste.

Anything I’ve Ever Done Well, I Have Done Wrong First — Many, Many Times.


How about I just put this in the simplest way I can?

Everything I have ever done right in my life is something I’ve done wrong a half-dozen times first.

Every good idea, every well-executed plan, every romance — it’s all the result of complete, total, abject failure. I have never done anything right the first time.

The first time I tried to speak Spanish ended up with me locked in my closet, crying hysterically at the fact that I just didn’t understand the language.

The first time I interviewed a source using a tape recorder, I forgot to press record.

The first time I tried to play guitar, I sounded like an amateur.

The first time I wrote a blog post, the words came out all wrong.

The first time I tried to barbecue ribs, I nearly poisoned my friends.

Everything I have ever done right in my life — anything I have ever learned to do well, and to love — I have done wrong first, and I have done it wrong many, many times.

But what I have learned is that if it really matters to you — if it’s a thing, or a person, or a love, or a project, or a dream — then the first failure is no deterrent. And neither is the second, or the twenty-second.

Most of the people in our world see failure as an excuse to stop trying.

The builders in our world see failure as a chance to learn, and to try again.

I believe that the best things in this life cannot be had without failure — crushing, crippling, head-in-your-hands failure — and without the incredible bit of courage it takes to stand back up and fail again.

If you love something, then you must learn to love failure. It is the only road on which great dreams are made.

There Is No Set Path From A->B. There Are Only Steps. Take The First One.

Run, Forrest, Run.

When I first started Stry.us, I had this notion that I was going to create a company that was going to disrupt the Associated Press. It was going to do a lot of things — most especially, it would tell great stories — but it would be funded by news organizations who would rip up their contracts with AP and give me their money instead. All I needed was 100 news organizations who’d give me $10,000 each.

This was the very definition of cluelessness.

I got excited, and I got ahead of myself. Way, WAY ahead of myself. It was going to take way more than three months of reporting from Biloxi for me to raise money for Stry.us.(1)

The road from here to there — and for the record, the road has since changed, and I’m on a totally different path with Stry.us (2) — takes time. It takes a thousand tiny steps. There are no big leaps.

Think of it this way: Forrest Gump didn’t wake up and say, I’m going to run across the country four times.

No! He said: Maybe I’ll run down to the end of the block. And then to the end of town. And then to the end of the county.

And then you know what happens next:

My goal of getting people on board with Stry.us was one that was going to take time. It was going to take a certain amount of crazy before I got to that first follower, that first client.

It was going to take many tiny steps.

People quit too soon. If there’s one thing that I’ve done right, it’s that I haven’t quit on Stry.us. I’ve kept it going, and just by inching it forward, I’ve gotten it to Springfield.

It takes a thousand small steps to get to where you want to go. The first steps are slow. They are painful.

But if you really want to get somewhere good, you have to take the first one.

  1. And a million dollars! I thought I could get a million dollars! Lordy lordy was I dreaming big.
  2. And that’s totally okay!

We May Look Silly For Trying To Predict The Future. But We’ll Look Like Morons If We Don’t Try To Build It Anyway.

I just finished Michael Eisner’s autobiography, “Work in Progress.” It’s an excellent read, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the final chapter. It’s 1997, and Eisner — CEO of Disney — starts predicting the future of his corporation.

Hindsight makes a book that’s only 15 years old seem like an absolute relic. Eisner offers his predictions for the future, but the stuff that matters most in today’s media — the Internet, Google, streaming video, HDTV — is barely touched upon. He mentions that Disney is expanding on the web, but only by mentioning Go.com.

And if you go to Go.com right now, you’ll see… a web portal that hasn’t been updated in five years.

The point is: We cannot see very far into the future. We are going forward, semi-cluelessly. We have ideas. We have dreams. We have leaders.

We have no idea what happens next. And we have no idea how the things that come next will affect the things we believe in now.

To quote a Florence & the Machine song that’s been in my head for a few weeks now:

A revelation in the light of day
You can’t choose what stays and what fades away

We do not know what is next. We are all out here making it up as we go along.

But future is ours, and we’re the ones who’ll be shaping it, in our own haphazard way. We may look silly for trying to predict the future, but we’ll look like morons if we don’t try to build it anyway — each of us — today.

Thanks to Instagram user @jpcherry for the excellent photo of Tomorrowland.

Just Once, I Wish Someone Would Ask Me: How The Hell Are You Still Here?

So it’s Tuesday afternoon, and I’m in an almost empty TV studio in the middle of Springfield. I am sitting next to Leigh Moody, news anchor at the local ABC station. I am the guest for the 4 p.m. news “Close-Up” interview.

The countdown goes “4.. 3… 2…,” and then Leigh turns to me and asks me the question that a lot of people ask, which is: How did Stry.us start?

And it’s the funniest thing. Because everyone — EVERYONE — wants to know how this thing started. But hardly anyone asks the really big question, which is:

How the hell is this thing still going?

I’ve started plenty of things that never went anywhere. But I’ve never started anything that’s lasted quite like Stry.us.

And that thought was rattling around in my brain when I hopped in the car after Leigh’s interview and turned on the radio. Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” was playing, and Bob was already through the first verse. And he sang:

How does it feel /
To be on your own /
With no direction home

And it all just kind of hit me at once. That’s what this has been — this solo journey, with no discernible course. Some projects are linear. Some have a definite road.

The path for Stry.us has been more of a squiggly.

I didn’t know what this thing was going to become two years ago. In my initial pitch for Stry.us, I talked about filming YouTube videos and wearing sponsored logos — like a NASCAR driver. (Seriously.) I was especially clueless back then. This thing’s gone through so many iterations that I’ve lost track of them all. It’s been a solo operation. A news syndicate. It went through a period of nothing, and then a few periods of serious somethings. And now?

Now it’s taking real shape, because I’ve paired it down to an incredibly simple mission. Stry.us is about two questions:

1. What matters to people?
2. And how do we tell great stories about those things?

It is the simplest thing in the world. And people get it. In my meetings this week in Springfield, I’m seeing that twinkle in the eye when I talk about Stry.us. People love the idea. They get the idea. The love what we’re doing with our reporting.

After two years, I finally got okay with the idea that we’re just a band of reporters in pursuit of really great storytelling, and we don’t need to be anything more. We’re focused, we’re uncomplicated and we’re really starting to go places.

So, Bob, you wanna ask me, How does it feel?

It feels pretty damn good.

Keep Stabbing. Keep Going. Keep Working.

I remember seeing the band Phoenix in Austin three years ago. It was at the Austin City Limits Festival. It was just an afternoon slot on a Friday — not quite primetime –but a massive crowd showed up. Even the band’s lead singer admitted that day that it was the biggest crowd they’d ever played for.

And it showed. They were very good — Phoenix’s songs are layered and powerful and super dancy — but they weren’t electric. Their music was fantastic, but the band didn’t look quite ready to perform on such a big stage.

Then I saw them a year later in Denver. It wasn’t even the same band. The singer was climbing up scaffolding on the stage and singing from high above his bandmates. At one point, the band just stopped mid-song, their instruments still reverberating, and walked off stage. The crowd — this was at another festival, mind you — started to leave the stage. And then the band rushed right back out and kept playing. The crowd flooded back in, a stampede of people jumping and screaming and generally losing their minds.

It was epic.

Maybe they weren’t ready for the big stage in Austin. Maybe they didn’t know what they were doing yet.

But they went out and played anyway. They started before they were ready, and they found themselves through doing the work, night in and night out.

The same holds true for Florence & the Machine. I saw her open for U2 last summer in Baltimore. She was very good. The crowd knew her music. But there was simply no way she was prepared to play for 60,000 people that night.

Then I saw her on Thursday in New Orleans. She blew the crowd away. She looked completely comfortable on stage. Her banter was good. When she told the crowd to jump, they jumped. When she told every guy in the crowd to grab their girlfriends and put them up on their shoulders, 500 women popped up in the air.

It’s an amazing thing to watch someone find who they are and embrace it, and to watch the crowd embrace it, too. But even the best — even the biggest rock and roll acts in the world — struggle to find themselves at first. I’ve seen it with Phoenix, and I’ve seen it with Florence.

It’s only through doing the work that we find our way.

Like Teller (of Penn and Teller) once said:

Get on stage. A lot. Try stuff. Make your best stab and keep stabbing. If it’s there in your heart, it will eventually find its way out.

Go out today and put yourself into the world. Take a step towards doing the work you really want to do.