Tag Archives: stupid things that i do

I Almost Burned Down My Apartment Because I Was Too Busy Watching Hockey.

I don’t post a lot of personal stories anymore on the blog, but I put this one up on Facebook this week, and it got such a response that I wanted to re-post it here. TL;DR — I’m an idiot.


It’s Game 2, Caps-Flyers. The Flyers are on a power play. Sally goes to the kitchen to get some water. She walks back and looks at me.

“Do you smell something burning?”

I don’t, and besides, THE GAME IS ON. I don’t think much of it.

Five minutes later, the period ends, and Sally goes to the bathroom and screams, “The sink is on fire!”

We’ve left a candle burning in the bathroom. OK, correction — I’VE left a candle burning in the bathroom. It melted the plastic candle holder, and it caught fire in the sink. The flames are a foot high. Smoke is pouring out of the bathroom.

Here’s the good news: My in-laws bought a fire extinguisher for Sally when she first moved in to this apartment. (And if this story is any indication, you should probably buy one, too! This is the one we own.) I grab it and put out the fire. We clean up the sink.

We’re OK.

But the point is: I nearly set fire to our entire apartment, but didn’t notice because I was too busy watching playoff hockey. I may need to adjust my priorities.

What It Feels Like To Quit.

There was a story that blew up on BuzzFeed this week about people who’ve quit their jobs in spectacular fashion. It makes sense why that story was so popular: A lot of people hate their jobs, and a lot of people dream of one day quitting their jobs in a way that lets everyone know just how much they hate it. It’s easy to see yourself as one of the people in that post.

I get it. I thought about it once, too.

It was my first job out of college, and I felt stuck. I started to have this fantasy of quitting in huge fashion. I’d bring in a marching band to the office, and they’d play as I walked right out the door forever. Maybe I’d hide a secret camera in the office and put the footage on YouTube.

But I didn’t do that. Instead, I started to listen to the voice inside me. I wanted to figure out what it was actually trying to tell me.

When I look back now, I remember a lot about that first job. I remember that I worked with some really talented people. I remember that I really liked and respected my bosses, which I knew was important.

I also remember realizing that what I was doing wasn’t enough for me. Not even close.

And I remember being afraid that if I didn’t quit, I was going to end up doing that job — or something like it — forever. That’s what my inner voice was telling me: I needed to go out and do something bold for myself. Even if it was the reckless move, I knew I couldn’t wait for the right chance to just come along. I was going to have to make it happen, and at that stage of my life — single and young — I was mobile enough to give it a try.

Was I scared to quit and do something on my own? Absolutely. But the idea of being stuck at a desk job I didn’t love was even scarier. It was the fear that motivated me — just not the type of fear you’d expect.

That photo at top comes via Flickr’s Kate Haskell.

People Have The Right To Be Stupid

I get annoyed when I read a story about someone who — rather publicly — makes a really dumb decision. When they’ve got an opportunity to do something amazing and instead do something… stupid.

I pointed this out to a friend last week, and she told me something perfect: “People have the right to be stupid.”

As in: People have the right to spend their money the wrong way.

As in: People have the right to hang out with the wrong crowds, or to waste time on the wrong projects.

As in: People don’t just have the right to — they’re going to. You can’t always stop these stupid decisions. Sometimes, you just have to stand there and watch stupid happen.

Now here’s the thing you have to remind yourself: It is not your job to stop other people’s stupid. Sometimes, in the course of doing the work, people get so wrapped up in the work that they make decisions that seem smart to them — but obviously stupid to everyone else.

I keep reminding myself: It’s not your job to stop other people from making those mistakes. You can offer advice, and you can reach out to help — but mistakes will be made.

Stupid just happens. It’s frustrating, but it happens.

(But hopefully not to you.)

That photo of a truly stupid sign comes via Flickr’s Chris Ingrassia.

It’s So Great To Be The Dumb Guy In The Room.

I am writing this on a plane, about 30 minutes from landing in London. I’m headed there for a conference. I’m speaking. While I’m there, I’m also going to write a few things for the site, and I’m really excited about that, too.

And I’m realizing now: This is the first time I’ve been really, REALLY excited about a work-related thing a little while.

Here’s the thing: I love my job. I love the people I work with, and I’m fascinated by the little world that I work in.

But this week, I’m stepping outside my normal routine. I’m giving this talk, which should be a blast. I’m going to learn a lot at this conference that I can bring back to work. I’m going to do some writing, which always makes me happy.

But above everything else: I’m going to be spending time talking to new people — new people also happen to be a lot smarter than me. That’s hugely exciting. I’m stepping into a room this week that is a few notches above my head, and I’m going to have to be on my game. It’s going to be a good place for me to be.

And it reminds me, again, how important it is for me — for all of us — to surround ourselves with amazing people. They challenge us, they push us forward, and that’s how we learn to do better work ourselves.

Thanks for the reminder, London.

In March, Tomorrow Is Never Guaranteed.

“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.

The Night I Got My Mojo Back.

Photo of the D.C. Metro via @orettedaredaro

At this point in my life, I’m still learning how to produce good work. The quality of the work will change over time, but everything I do starts with a commitment to work.

That work ethic started about the 1st of this year, actually. That’s when the schedule I have today — the hours, the projects, the shipping — really began.

But the attitude behind this work ethic goes back a little further than that, actually.

It started with, of all things, a kiss.

I had gone out for dinner with a friend of a friend. This was about 18 months ago. She was working on a cool project, and we wanted to trade ideas about it. Dinner led to drinks. Drinks led to more drinks. Our dinner get-together moved into its fourth hour, than its fifth.

Sometime past midnight, we decided to call it a night. I wanted to ask her out. I needed to ask her out. I had only been in D.C. for a few months. Stry.us was losing momentum. I had just sent in an application for this fellowship I’d heard about at RJI. I was living in my childhood bedroom.

I really needed a win.

And then this amazing little night happened, and I was so giddy. I had to see her again.

I asked her out on the escalator down to the Metro. She said yes. Then she quickly said goodnight. She took another escalator down to her subway track. I walked towards my train.

The electronic signs said the Metro wouldn’t come for nine minutes.

Nine minutes.

Nine minutes to think about what had just happened. Nine minutes to work through the evening.

Nine minutes to beat myself up over the fact that I should’ve kissed her. I had really wanted to kiss her. You should’ve done it, Dan.

And then a part of me realized something that I’ve carried with me to this day: The fear of not taking action far outweighed the fear of taking action. The fear of having to sit on that platform for nine minutes and think about missing that opportunity was much more powerful than the fear of making a move (and maybe looking dumb in the process).

That feeling’s stuck with me. I know that I have amazing opportunities before me, as I try to build a better future for reporting and storytelling and community. I cannot let days just slide by. Motion matters. Action matters.

I got mad that night. I got mad at myself for being unwilling to do what I wanted. I got mad at myself for not chasing my curiosity.

I went down the escalator. I started looking for her. There were a few hundred people on that platform — some drunk, some tired, all unhappy to be waiting. She was down at the end of the platform.

I had something to say, and it kind of came out mumbled. But she smiled. I leaned in. We kissed.

Then I bolted. I was way too giddy to make small talk after that.

The relationship lasted a few months before it fizzled out. But I’ll always remember that first kiss. It reminds me not to idle, not to worry, not to regret.

It reminds me that amazing things happen in unexpected places, and that boldness and action matter.

We always complain about how little time we have. But I like to remind myself: Dan, do you remember how much time you wasted before you started?

There is no longer time to idle. There is only time for action.

I Can’t Fucking Believe I Left My Windows Open Again.

yours truly, the idiot

I took my team up to Ha Ha Tonka last weekend. Ha Ha Tonka is a mid-Missouri park, and I could tell you about its rolling hills, or its castles, or its sinkholes, but all you’re going to remember is its name:

Ha Ha Tonka.

It has a funny name.

But I digress: I took the team hiking there last weekend. And in the Devil’s Kitchen, a giant sinkhole on the southern side of the park, in this majestic ampitheather, I gathered the Stry.us team and laid out the rules for the summer:

Let’s be builders.

Let’s be patient, but let’s also be persistent.

And of course: Let’s make mistakes. They’ll be mistakes, but they’ll be our mistakes, and we’ll learn from them.

At least, I hope we will.

See, here’s the thing: It’s 2:47 a.m. right now, and I’m typing this. Which means that something’s gone wrong.


It happened once in Biloxi, when I couldn’t afford to make a mistake.(2) Biloxi was hot — there’s a photo on the Stry.us Facebook page of Weather.com showing a “real feel” of 119 degrees, to give you an idea of what July was like — and my car tended to heat up like a toaster oven most afternoons. I kept my windows open a lot.

I kept my windows open until that one night where it rained like all hell, and then I walked downstairs and found a small monsoon on my driver’s side floormat. The control panel on the left side of the car shorted out. Every other window I could make go up — but not that driver’s side window.

I took it to my mechanic there — the heat had made my engine fan go kaput, so I’d already found a mechanic — and Big Joe had to call up a dealer in Alabama to find the part. It cost me a few hundred dollars, and when I called my parents, my dad told me the thing that dads say:

It happens once, alright. It happens twice….

And he didn’t need to finish the sentence.

Which is where tonight comes in. There was a thunderstorm, and I knew it was coming — my laptop had forewarned me of it. But it was hot again, and I kept the windows open a crack. I’d expected to go out again at night for groceries. I came in, did some work, passed on groceries and went to sleep at the start of the first OT between Boston and Miami.

I woke up to thunder. And it woke me up, straight up, and I knew already. I went to my window and looked out.

I thought I saw a crack in the window.

I grabbed my raincoat and a small towel. The rain was blowing more in a sideways/upwards direction than down. The thunder hit every couple of seconds. The lightning looked like a strobe on full blast, or a lighthouse light spinning at triple time.

I looked at my car, and I fully realized what I’d already suspected: I’d left every window open an inch.

I ran. I hit the remote entry, and the lights came on. I went to the driver’s side door.


I tried again.


And then, the ah-ha moment — the panel’s already busted. This door won’t open automatically.


The driver’s side rear door opened. The inside of my car was soaked.

I managed to get every window up — every window except the driver’s side.

So now I started running back into the house — more towels, all that I can find — and then back out into the storm. I started stuffing them into the cracks. I started toweling off the inside of the car.

It is 3:13 a.m. now, and there are several hours of thunderstorms left tonight.(3) My driver’s side door is being guarded by five hand towels stuffed into a one-inch window opening. This window will not go up, and it cannot be fixed tonight. The nearest garage — or covered parking area — is 20 minutes away.

We’ll make mistakes, I keep hearing myself say, looking out at my team at Ha Ha Tonka. But they’ll be our mistakes, and we’ll learn from them.

And now I am sitting here writing this note to myself, hoping that this time — the second time around — I actually do.

  1. See: Self-pic, at top, for proof.
  2. I mean that literally — I didn’t have any money.
  3. Again: My computer is telling me this.

Spread Love, or Just Keep Your Damn Mouth Shut.

In 2009, I wrote something that I thought was clever.

Turned out I was just being a dick.

I had gone to a concert with my roommate, Nate, at the Blue Fugue in Columbia, MO. There were a couple of bands playing that night, and one of the openers was from Utah. They were called Mad Max & the Wild Ones. They were a family band. (That’s them in the photo at top.)

Nate thought they were really good. I did, too.

But I also thought something was weird. The band was all children. The lead singer hadn’t hit age 10.

It bothered me. I went home and blogged about it.

And that was that. Until, of course, the band’s manager — also, the band’s mom — went home and searched Google. She found my post.

We traded some comments on my blog, and later emails. She was pissed, and understandably so — some asshole on the Internet was writing snarky comments about her kids!

It’s just that in this case, that asshole was me.

The conversation eventually settled down, and I eventually apologized. I never took the blog post down, because I didn’t want to forget the incident. The Internet is written in ink, and this blog is no exception.

What I’m building towards is this: There’s nothing clever about Internet hate. I know a little more now about what it feels like to be on the other side of that hate. Victories are fleeting, but hate stays with you. Especially Internet hate, where it’s often anonymous, and especially vicious. Somebody you’ve never met has just seen something you’ve done and taken the time out of their day to tell you exactly how much they think you suck.

Look, friends: Spread love, or just keep your damn mouth shut. Opening it to spew hate — especially on a blog, or a YouTube comments section — does you no good.

That night at the Blue Fugue, I could’ve just gone up to the band and told them what I thought. I didn’t, because I would’ve been a giant jackass to tell them to their face what I thought. Instead, I went home and wrote the thoughts on a blog, where I figured they’d never read them.

How is that any different?

I traded emails with the band last week. They’re getting older, and getting offers from legit bands to tour. They’re still out on the road, taking their stabs, making it happen. That’s awesome.

They’re coming through Springfield in a few weeks, actually. If I’m here, I’ll go to the show, and apologize in person, and tell them what I could’ve said the first time:

You guys may be young, but hot damn can you play. Don’t let the haters get you down.

Me included.

A Dan Oshinsky Birthday Wish: Today, Do Something That Scares You.

It's my birthday? It's my birthday.

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.

Today: Do something.

That’s my birthday wish.

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.