Tag Archives: keep going

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.

How to Get Your Ass Moving.

jordan-butler-29125

Some mornings you wake up, and

-You can’t find your keys.
-The gym’s closed.
-The highway’s blocked.(1)
-Oh, and it’s raining, and you accidentally left your couch cushions outside on the porch to dry.

That was the last 45 minutes for me.

And I know from experience: I can let this drag on as long as it wants. There are mornings where it’s an endless parade of things that can and will go wrong. Give it 20 more minutes and I’ll be on the side of the road trying to fix a flat tire. And then it’ll start raining again.

Murphy’s Law rides shotgun, somedays.

So this is a restart kind of morning for me. Things get off wrong, and I have to bring it all back to zero. Turn off the engines. Breathe. Maybe sit down at a diner with a stack of pancakes and find my center again. Maybe I’ll hit the gym, or run an errand or two. I’ll go through what’s wrong and figure out how bad the damage is. Often, it’s just a series of little things that I’ve built into something much bigger.

Bad breaks happen. Bad things happen.

But I can’t afford to lose an entire day of work because things aren’t going my way. That’s why I have to know when it’s time to stop the slide. I have to know when it’s time to restart.

This applies to your work, too. You will do work that goes nowhere. You will have days where you hit dead ends.

Recognize when things just aren’t breaking your way. Step back and give yourself room. Give it a few minutes for something else to take hold in your mind. And then come right back to the work at hand.

Some mornings, it all lines up for you. Every light’s a green. You’re fully in the zone.

Those days are fun.

But they don’t come around every day. And the work has to get done every day.

Know when you need to stop and restart. Just stop. Breathe. Grab some pancakes.

When you’re ready, you’ll find the zone again.

———

That photo of a donkey was taken by Jordan Butler and published on Unsplash.

  1. Here’s looking at you, donkey in the road. And yes, Grandma, he’s the ass I’m talking about in the title. I wouldn’t use that kind of language on the blog otherwise :-)

This One Daydream I Had: Get on I-35 North. Never Look Back.

Probably around January of 2010, a few months before I left my desk job in San Antonio, I started having these daydreams. I’d be driving along I-35 to a Spurs game, and I’d start fantasizing about just driving beyond, past the city limits, past Austin, past Dallas. I’d started to think that I wasn’t ever going to leave Texas, and then I’d be driving up I-35, and I’d think: Why not now? Why not just leave? What’s stopping you?

And then I’d remember what was stopping me: I had a life in Texas. I had a job. I had an apartment. I had stuff.

I wasn’t just going to bail.

But the fantasies never stopped. They kept nagging at me. I couldn’t shake the truth: I wanted to do something more. I wanted to define my greatness and then go out and make it so.

I’ve learned since that what I felt is common among the American worker. People are unhappy with their jobs. People want more with their lives.

People are also scared to do. The fear of failure is often stronger than the desire to break away from a job that makes you unhappy.

Sometimes, it’s only when the dream keeps coming back that we actually admit that it’s time to do something big. When that dream nags at you, you have to explore it. Maybe it’s just about making time for a side project. Maybe it’s about going wild, quitting your job and chasing a career or a business or a lifestyle that makes you happy.

I had this dream of getting out of Texas. I wanted to do something big: I wanted to start Stry and get into the larger conversation about the future of journalism. But it wasn’t until the twentieth or fiftieth time that I had that day dream — I-35, heading north, just going without looking back — that I admitted that it might actually be time to think about taking action.

I did eventually leave that job in Texas. I did chase the dream I had for Stry.

But when I left, I drove right past the exit for I-35 North.

Turned out that the road I needed to take out of Texas was I-10 East.

Words Of Advice From an “Overnight Success.”

My startup songwriter-in-residence, Todd Snider, has a line that I find myself quoting a lot. It’s from a brilliant little song, titled “Easy Money.” He sings:

Everyone wants the most they can possibly get
For the least they can possibly do

And he couldn’t be more spot on. I meet a lot of people who want to be an overnight success. Problem is, for most of us in the creative/entreprenurial spheres, there’s no such thing.

Don’t believe me? Listen to the Twitter guys.

And here’s more proof. Meet Dave McClure. Out there in Silicon Valley, he’s what Ron Burgundy would call kind of a big deal. He’s worked with startups, invested in startups, immersed himself in startups. His latest extravaganza is called 500 Startups, and they’re a startup accelerator. They bring in a ton of startups — this year, they’ve worked with north of 50 startups. They mentor them, they groom them, they fund them — and then they send them out into the world.

Naturally, people thought this was crazy.

But then I saw this Twitter exchange tonight between McClure and Jason Cohen, an entrepreneur and investor who runs a popular startup blog:

Amen, guys. They speak to a simple truth: Want to make change? It can happen — one day at a time, one relationship at a time.

Things happen slowly. Success has to be earned. Trust has to be earned.

It happens: One day at a time. One relationship at a time.

Start there.