Celebrate the Wins.

Adeline Gray celebrates her silver medal

I watched an Olympic sport this morning that I didn’t understand: Freestyle wrestling. The broadcast had suckered me in. They’d done one of those big feature stories on an athlete, Adeline Gray, who wrestles in the 76 kg category, and I was inspired by her story. She’d won five world championships, but at the last Olympics in Rio, she’d been injured and didn’t medal. She fought her way back, and today, had a chance to win gold.

Instead, she came up short — a second-place finish, and a silver medal.

But in the post-match interview, you wouldn’t have known that she was disappointed. She spoke of the challenges she’d faced on the road back. She talked about how excited she was to finally win a medal. She spoke directly to young athletes, and encouraged them to chase their dreams — that they could go back to school for a Master’s degree, or start a family, or win an Olympic medal. That they could have it all, if they wanted.

I’m sure Adeline Gray wanted more. I’m sure she’ll be disappointed that she didn’t win gold. But to see her celebrating afterwards, even after a tough defeat, was inspiring.

She’s not the Olympic champion, but she’s an Olympic champion. Congrats, Adeline. Go celebrate. You’ve earned it.

———

That’s a photo of Gray showing off her medal to family via video call after the match.

The Things You Don’t Spot.

a screenshot from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games. This was the 100 meter backstroke final.

This weekend, one of my dearest friends, Allison, was in town to visit, and we spent a good chunk of the weekend watching the Olympics. She’s a former swimmer herself — she swam at our alma mater, and was fast enough to swim at the Olympic trials in her home country of Canada. (She finished two seconds away from qualifying for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.)

So I was excited to watch some of the swimming with her. What I didn’t realize is that we’d end up watching completely different races.

While I was yelling about the obvious stuff (“They’re so close to the world record line!”), Allison was noticing all the little details. During a backstroke race, a favorite was behind with 50 meters to go. “Did you see that moment of panic?” she asked me. I had not. We rewound and paused, and sure enough, there was a quarter-second where the swimmer glanced right, realized how far behind he was, and kicked it into high gear. It’s the kind of thing that you’d never notice — unless, of course, like Allison, you’d spent thousands of hours in the pool, competing at some of the highest levels of the sport.

Over the course of the morning, she pointed out tiny details over and over again. When one swimmer suddenly lost his lead coming out of the turn, Allison explained that he’d gone too deep out of his flip turn and lost momentum. When one swimmer was disqualified for an illegal touch on the wall, Allison spotted it seconds before the TV crew.

It’s gotten me thinking about all the other things I wouldn’t spot — and have been completely oblivious to all these years! — that a true expert can see right away. Having that depth of knowledge gives you a superpower: The ability to analyze in real time, at speeds that the rest of us can’t. It’s something that I know I strive for in my work: When someone throws a new problem or challenge at me, do I know enough that I could diagnose the problem — and suggest a solution — right then and there?

I’ll never be able to spot the things in swimming that Allison can spot right away. But it’s fun to know that if I ever have a question, I’ve got just the swimming expert a phone call away.

———

That’s a screenshot from this year’s 100 meter men’s swimming final. To be honest, I watched that clip three times to get the screenshot, and even now, I can’t recall what they were talking about when that swimmer got circled on screen.

Understanding How to Take Time Off.

that's me on the golf course.

I’m on vacation this week, out west visiting my family. I’m doing the stuff you do out here: Spending time at the pool, reading, taking afternoon naps, firing up the grill.

But I’m also working, pretty much every weekday morning, for a few hours.

This isn’t supposed to be some sort of treatise on the importance of hustle, some #nodaysoff mission statement. I’m a unique case: I’m in my 30s, I don’t have kids, and I run a one-person business — one I’ve built to serve a lot of small clients (instead of a few big ones). What I’ve done in the past is the traditional vacation: Shut down the laptop, turn on the out-of-office reply, and then return a week or two later to dive back in.

But with Inbox Collective, I’ve discovered that if I shut down everything for a week or two, here’s what happens:

1.) I return to a million unanswered emails (since there’s no one else clients can redirect their questions to).

2.) The week before vacation and the week after vacation are absolutely stacked with meetings, as clients try to squeeze in time before I leave.

The last time I took a week off, I spend the entire week stressed out about how much work I had the next week. I seemed miserable the entire trip.

So I’m making adjustments. On recent trips, I’ve tried to carve out a little time in the morning — about 2-3 hours — to reply to emails and take calls. I’ve blocked off every afternoon for myself, and I’ve turned on my out-of-office reply so people know I’m not going to write back right away. And it’s working: My inbox is manageable, my schedule when I return from vacation is fairly normal, and once the clock hits about 11 a.m., I shut down the laptop and head out do to something fun.

It seems a little odd to still do some work on my time off. But if this is what I need to do to make sure I actually enjoy the time off — to work 10-15 hours a week, even on vacation — then it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

———

That’s a photo of me, on one of my afternoons off, on the golf course. A beautiful day, but a pretty terrible lie for that particular shot.

Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry.

UCLA's basketball arena, Pauley Pavilion

There’s a great quote from John Wooden, the UCLA men’s basketball coach who won more than 600 games and 10 national championships: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

I was thinking about that yesterday. I was playing golf — my pandemic hobby’s continued into 2021 — and on a par 5, hit one of the best shots I’ve ever hit, a 7-iron that rolled up to the green and landed about four feet from the hole. I had a chance to make an eagle — two shots better than par — for just the second time in my life.

Everyone else in my group was further away from the hole, so I waited for them to putt first. As I got over the ball to finally putt, I realized: My ball had come to rest in a sizable divot. A quarter of the ball was essentially submerged below the surface of the green.

The logical thing would’ve been to pause, mark my ball, fix the divot, and then putt. But I looked at my playing partners, who were waiting for me to putt. I thought about the group behind us, who were standing over their balls in the fairway, waiting for us to clear the green so they could hit their next shots.

So instead of taking an extra 10 seconds to fix the divot, I tried to putt out of it. Naturally, the ball hit the lip of the divot and started spinning sideways. It stopped six inches from the right of the hole. I tapped in for birdie — still a great score, but a disappointing result considering the initial opportunity.

As I moved to the next hole, I had to remind myself: There’s a difference between moving with urgency and rushing. There’s no need to hurry. Take your time, do what you need to do to prepare, and then take the shot.

———

That’s a photo of UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, the arena where John Wooden once coaching. It was published by Francisco Lerma on Unsplash.

It Never Gets Easier.

skiier going off the jump

There’s this lie that we tell ourselves when things are complicated and hard: “Once I get through this stretch, things are going to get easier.”

I’ve told myself this more times than I can count. Dan, if you can just finish this task… if you can just get through this month… if you can just take care of this deadline — it’s going to get easier from there.

But that’s not really how this works.

It’s OK that things can be hard. Things can be hard because you’re trying to learn new skills or taking on new challenges. Things can be hard because you’re in a new role or a new job. Things can be hard because you’re pushing yourself to get better. Things can be hard because life gets in the way — you’ve got more responsibility or more people to care for than you did when you were younger.

Every so often, I have to remind myself: Things are never going to be quite as easy as they are right now. Work — and life — tends to get more complex over time.

But you’re going to find a way to push through and keep doing the work. You’ve done it before, and you’ll do it again in the months and years to come. Things never get easier, but you’re also getting smarter and savvier, and building the team to help you take on these challenges. You’ll be able to take on tomorrow’s obstacles as they come.

So enjoy this moment, right now. Yes, things seem overwhelming some days. But these challenges and obstacles will beget new ones. One day, you’ll look back on these moments and tell yourself: What I would give to merely have those types of problems today.

It’s not getting easier, but that’s OK. You’ll be able to take these challenges head on anyway.

———

That photo of a skiier going off a jump comes via Unsplash and Maarten Duineveld.

Share As Much As You Can.

When I was getting started with Inbox Collective, I made a conscious decision: I wanted to help as many people as I could, which meant I needed to share a lot.

Not a Newsletter remained free — even as others built large, paying-subscriber-only lists — because I knew that keeping it free and open would allow me to help newsrooms, non-profits, and individuals who couldn’t afford to pay.

I launched new resources for readers to download and use, like my list of growth ideas, because I knew it would help them take the next steps with their newsletters.

I gave away time every month for 1-on-1 calls, so I could dig in with my readers and really help them figure out specific challenges.

And I’ll admit: I was worried at times about this! Was I giving away too much? Would people think, “Well, I guess he’s shared everything he knows! No need to listen to this guy anymore!”

But the results are clear: By giving away a lot, it’s brought even more people into the Not a Newsletter audience: New readers, and, yes, many new clients. By sharing tools, resources, and strategies, it’s attracted a larger audience for me to help — whether they’re working with Inbox Collective or not. (And many clients tell me: We’ve learned so much from you already, so we’re excited to hire you and learn even more!)

The ultimate metric of success, for me, isn’t revenue — it’s impact. So I’ll keep sharing, as often as I can, as much as I can. I know there’s more I can do to help.

Don’t Waste Your Time on Worry.

sculpture of a man lost in thought

A few weeks ago, I noticed that I was spending a lot of time worrying.

I’d look at my calendar at the start of the week and think: Wow, I’ve got a lot to do! Lots of calls, lots of presentations, lots of little tasks. It felt overwhelming, and instead of trying to take on all of this work, what I found is that I’d spend a few hours, walking around my office in circles, worrying the hours away. Then I’d get to the next week, and I’d have even more work to do — since I hadn’t accomplished all that much in the previous few days thanks to all the hours worrying — and the cycle would repeat.

So I’ve been trying a few different things lately. One is that every month, I’ll go ahead and block out some time for focused work, blocking it out well ahead of time so that others can’t grab that time. Another is that I’m giving myself time to worry — but only in certain moments (in the shower, in the car) when I can’t actually be working. And lastly, if I catch myself worrying during the day, I’ll give myself a break, even if it’s just to walk around the block or head to the store, as a way to mentally reset.

Yes, I’ve got a lot going on. But it’s not more than I can handle — as long as I don’t idle away the day worrying about whether or not I can do it all.

Worry when you can, Dan, and then get back to work.

———

That photo at top comes via Unsplash.

One Day Chicken, Next Day Feathers.

A few weeks at the PGA Championship, I watched as Garrick Higgo — a 22-year-old South African — teed off on Sunday at 7:40 a.m. That’s what happens when you’re eleven shots over par, as Higgo was after three rounds. (For the non-golfers out there: The pros typically shoot several shots under par.) He’d had a tough tournament, and I was mostly watching because, well, it was something to do while eating breakfast on a Sunday. I watched Higgo for a little while, and it was clear that he could play — it just hadn’t been his week. He hit several shots close to the flag, and seemed to play freely without the pressure of having to worry about winning the tournament. The announcers mentioned that Gary Player, a retired South African golfer and winner of nine major championships, was a mentor of his. (Not bad when your mentor’s in the Hall of Fame.) That Sunday was Higgo’s best round of the entire event: He shot a 69, good for three shots under par. The PGA Championship was his first-ever PGA Tour event.

I remember watching and thinking: Here’s a pro golfer — he’d never played on the PGA Tour, but he’d won several events in Europe — who clearly could play. In his previous four pro events, he’d finished in the top ten all four times, and won two of them. But even a pro sometimes can’t seem to find his swing.

Anyone can have a bad day, or a bad weekend, even if you work hard and have all the talent in the world. As a friend from the midwest once put it, folksily: “One day chicken, next day feathers.” Bad days happen.

Still, you keep moving forward. The PGA Championship was Higgo’s first-ever PGA Tour event. But I imagine Gary Player told him after the tournament: Pick up your head, kid. If you do the work, and keep competing, you never know when you’ll break through.

Turns out he didn’t have to wait long. A month ago, in his first PGA Tour event, he finished in 64th place, fourteen shots behind the champion. Today, in his second PGA Tour event, Higgo won the whole thing — and the $1.3 million grand prize that came with it.

I suppose there’s another fowl-friendly quote that my midwestern friend would’ve used for an occasion like this: Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Thirteen Years In, and Still Writing, Just For Me.

The very first blog post on danoshinsky.com went live this month, 13 years ago. I did some occasional posting over those early years, but the blog didn’t really get going, in its current form, until 2011, when I started writing more regularly. With the exception of 2014, I’ve written something for danoshinsky.com pretty much every week for an entire decade.

This started as a way for me to write — and write as much as possible. That’s all it was, really: An outlet for me to make sure that no matter what I was doing for work, I was always making time to write.

And even as the blog audience has grown, that’s really what it continues to be. The work is far more professional now than it was a decade ago, and I write fewer things here about my mother, but as I approach 950 posts on danoshinsky.com, this is really all I’m trying to do: Making time to write. Some of the posts are good, and many are not, but that’s OK. The important thing is that I make time to practice.

There was a time when “writer” was the first word I would’ve used to describe myself. That wouldn’t be the case today, and I’m not sure if there will ever be a time when it’ll be something I consider myself. But I know that I would hate — absolutely hate — to stop writing, and to wake up one day, years from now, only to find that I couldn’t do it anymore.

There are the things you do for your career, and there are the things you do, just for you. This is the latter. No matter where your career takes you, or how busy you get, you still have to make time for both.

———

That’s a screenshot of this website from 2011. I wasn’t kidding about the “fewer stories about my mom” part.

Be Patient.

that's me, onboard a recent flight

I’m writing this from an airport, waiting to fly home to New York. I’ll admit: It’s been strange to take flights again. Airlines, hotels, and restaurants are understaffed, and under all sorts of new rules and restrictions. Travelers are often a little tense about flying. I’ve seen a few freak-outs at the check-in counter already.

So if you’re traveling again, just remember: Be patient. Things are different, and more complicated than before. We’re in whatever this new normal is. Everyone’s trying their best under complicated rules. Take your time, and let things happen when they happen.

And if I may offer some advice: If you can, try to maintain a sense of humor about everything. You never know when a joke or little bit of kindness might mean the world to someone working a stressful job.

———

That’s me on a recent flight. I promise, I’m trying to smile underneath the mask!