This is what I emailed to him earlier this year:
I think I found you!
With the help of an old friend who remembered your last name this week, some helpful secretaries at BYU who identified your first name, and some Google sleuthing, I think you’re the professor that unknowingly changed my life.
Let me explain. I majored in business because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had a couple of cantankerous English professors that mistakenly made me believe I didn’t like writing. That all changed when I met you.
The specifics are foggy, but I clearly remember you giving me the greenlight to write about my passions, anything I wanted really, which was all it took to flip the switch on falling in love with writing sentences for a living.
Shortly after taking your MCOM class, I started blogging everyday. I wrote every day. And I have done so ever since as a freelance writer and journalist. It took me a couple of years after graduating in 2004 to go full-time, but I soon did, and I’ve wanted to personally thank you ever since.
Thanks for altering my career course for the better. Writing feels more like a calling than a job. I’m so grateful for great teachers like yourself.
Better yet, I was thrilled to learn you live in Provo (I never left either). May I take you to lunch and hand-deliver my first two books sometime?
He answered yes, we’ve since gone to lunch, and plan on staying in touch. The world is an amazing place!
I start many of my conversations with the following: “I read an interesting article recently…” This week my twelve-year old daughter asked, “Dad, where do you read all these articles you’re talking about?”
Good question. In essence, she was asking how I stay informed and uncover a lot of interesting information and in-depth news. This is what I told her:
- I read three daily newspapers. They are: USA Today (for national news) and KSL and Daily Herald (for local news). I only scan the homepages and click on headlines that interest me. I sometimes skip weekends and weekdays on extra busy days. All told, I might spend 10-20 minutes reading these. I rarely read politics.
- I read Digg’s daily long reads. These are editor picks of some of the best long-form journalism and magazine articles on the web, from a variety of outlets. I stockpile them in several open tabs on my phone and read them throughout the week, spending a few hours doing so.
- I subscribe to weekly long read newsletters. They are the Weekly Top 5 Longreads and Longform’s Pick of The Week. Like Digg Longreads, I stockpile these and spend a few hours reading them each week.
On top of that, I read about 8-10 books a year, mostly non-fiction and biographies.
Fun fact: I used to spend a lot more time staying informed and reading dozens of websites and online newspapers in my twenties but have found since my thirties that the added distraction didn’t justify the amount of time I was spending. Since then, I’ve been a lot more productive and happy while still staying just as informed on the low-caloric, but nutrient-rich diet of the above.
Hope that helps.
Me at my desk. Photo by Lindsey Snow
I was recently on a podcast to talk about my education and career path towards becoming a full-time freelance writer for the past 16 years. If you have 30 minutes to spare, I hope you enjoy my remarks. If you don’t have that much time, the short answer is lots of luck and persistence. Either way, I’m still pinching myself.
Thanks for having me on the show, Doug.
I’m a firm believer that following your passion usually results in higher income. This is because doing what you love usually results in better work. And in a free market, the price goes up for better work.
This isn’t always the case. If you love liberal arts or cleaning buildings, you must understand that the market doesn’t value those things very much, so you won’t make much money. Not that you shouldn’t pursue those careers. You totally should if they make your day. But you must also temper your lifestyle expectations, especially if you’re not the entrepreneurial type.
That said, I’m also a believer in beating the system. So if you still don’t know what you want to do in life, why pay for four years of college when you can pay for two instead, still get a marketable job, and make a good wage until you finally transition to something you could do the rest of your life?
For that, a high-paying two-year associate degree might be a good fit, according to estimated salaries compiled by money.com, Reddit, and Google. They are as follows: Continue reading…
I whole heartily agree with Confucius when he said, “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute; the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”
Because of this, I’m always asking new questions of everyone I encounter in an effort to learn from them. Long-time family and friends. Acquaintances. Complete strangers. Everybody!
When it comes to getting better answers (i.e. more lively conversations), there are few better ice-breaker questions than these:
- What do you like to do? (more fun than the default and boring “What do you do for work?”)
- What is it like to live there? (asked as as a follow up to “Where are you from?”)
- What are you excited about right now?
To adopt for people you now, just add “now” to the above and voila! Instant learning. When you feel ready, you can really dig deep with, “What are your guiding beliefs?”
Hat tip, Ahmed Arshad
What grade would you give education technology? I asked around last month while reporting for Cisco.com.
To improve the future of education, America must focus on science, technology, engineering, and math fields (aka STEM). We must also meet, if not exceed, international test scores.
Or should we?
Said focus has increasingly been criticized in recent years—ironically due to a lack of scientific evidence. After researching “hundreds” of reports from the past six decades, for instance, Robert Charette of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers said the so-called STEM shortage “is a myth.”
Build character, not intelligence. That’s the gist of what parents, educators, and society should do to help children succeed, argues Paul Tough in his new book.
Many of Tough’s “findings” are obvious, mind you. More scientific validation of common sense than childrearing enlightenment, at least for balanced parents.
Nevertheless, Tough succeeds in synthesizing some important focal points for raising upstanding kids. Here they are, with my added commentary:
- Let children fail. It’s tempting to want to force a child to learn from yours and other’s mistakes. Life doesn’t work that way. You should certainly own up to your mistakes while showing them others’ and hope the child listens. But you must respect a child’s right to fail. It’s the only way they’ll feel the full experience of life. Let them own their failures as much as society lets them own (if not coddles) their victories. And let them know that failure is not who they are, it’s just something they do en route to winning. Continue reading…
I know because it happened to me this week.
I was in the living room. My five year old was sitting beside her mother on the sofa. All of the sudden, I hear the former speaking in this foreign language. Not an idiom. Music notation! She was reading aloud music! Passing off her piano homework to her mother!
“My kid knows how to read music!!” I thought to myself. “Even I don’t know how to do that!!” (Yes, there were exclamation points after all of these sentences.)
I can only imagine what other things she’ll learn as she grows older — things I never did.
You have no idea how proud this makes me as a father. It makes me want to sing “We are the world” or something. What an awesome feeling.