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 recently enjoyed this commencement speech by Ryan Smith and hope you do too. It’s sweat advice on being “all in” in work, family, and our underlying beliefs.
Frankenstein back with 28 staples (credit: Lindsey Snow)
Life isn’t fair.
I was born with an 80 year-old back. Not exactly 80, but old. It first broke when I was 29. After surgery, it worked again, but only for another six years. It teetered and failed again late this summer in the same spot — a re-ruptured L4/5 disc. The thing was so decrepit, my surgeon had to remove the remains and fuse my spine.
Now I’m resigned to a life of low impact and light lifting. I can’t even hold my youngest brown-eyed boy in his final months of baby-dom, let alone lift a gallon of milk for a month. I can’t return to full activity for six months until the vertebrae fully fuse. And after that, I’m advised to give up running, basketball, soccer, and maybe wake boarding or else.
But it’s not all bad. In fact, I’ve got a heck of a lot to look forward to—a lot more to live for. While having my body deteriorate ahead of schedule and the long recovery are both humbling, I also feel inspired by the experience. Here are 10 things I learned post surgery: Continue reading…
I made a boo-boo at work yesterday. The client I was working with was very understanding, forgiving, and even accepted some of the blame. But I felt pretty rotten about the oversight.
Now, I’m not a perfectionist because done is better than perfect. But I couldn’t shake my disappointment of letting them down. So much so that I continued to worry about my mistake into the night.
Then I awoke to the above new sign on display in our kitchen today, which was ironically crafted by my eight year old daughter. It immediately cheered me up. Partly because I learned some things from my mistake and instituted two immediate changes that will make me a better writer. But also because the sign reminded me that it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes.
Showing up really is half the battle. As my friend David says, “You gotta play some sour notes in order to make your sound sweeter.” I’m grateful of those simple truths that make moving on, closure, and even improvement possible.
PROVO, Ut. — Want to get ahead in this world? Work lots of extra hours — even nights and weekends — experts say, and it will all be worth your while.
“It’s easy to forget what’s most important in life,” says Bill Loney, a certified life coach who hasn’t quite made it in life yet. “Family, friends, and social activities that can often inspire and enrich the life of an individual… these are all distractions in getting more work done,” he adds.
Emma Royds, who hasn’t stopped looking at her smartphone every five minutes for three straight years, councils that most people actually die wishing they had spent more time — not less — working. “People never regret working too much,” she says. “My neighbor opted to do adventurous, social, and fitness-related activities with family and friends in his spare time.
“Now 80, he told me recently he really wishes he would have spent more time on TPS cover sheets, obsessively trying to turn his company into the next big thing, and reading email during every waking hour of his life. It’s kind of sad, really.” Continue reading…
Courtesy Amazon Studios
My wife and I recently watched Manchester by the Sea. It’s a beautifully-acted but heart-wrenching story about a Boston man (played by Casey Affleck) that is left utterly devastated and largely alone after a careless act and some horrifying bad luck. In fact, it’s one of the saddest movies I’ve seen in years.
Although I appreciated the film, I forgot the importance of tragedy while exiting the theater. “For someone who is living in a comedy, is there any value in being reminded that life sucks sometimes?” I asked myself. “Is there any harm in solely watching movies with happy endings?”
With the help of the internet, this is what I learned: Continue reading…
Craig Weiler has the answer:
You have one set of teeth, one set of knees, one set of lungs and one back. If you don’t take care of them, you can’t re-boot. You can get knee replacement surgery and you can get your teeth capped and wear dentures, or get new lungs, but it’s not the same as your originals. The back is much more tricky and if you damage it enough you’re never coming back from it.
You have one set of hands and feet. They are irreplaceable as is your brain. So if you damage them you’re never coming back from it.
Your body, in other words, is a one-off. You will never have another one as long as you live. If you start taking good care of it and you’re mindful in your 20’s, you’ll be far healthier and happier in your 50’s and beyond.”
I don’t always study philosophy, but when I do, I make it count.
Case in point: A friend and I were recently discussing the human condition over email. Exhilarating stuff, I know. I’ll skip to the best part.
Basically, we decided that humans struggle to internalize both complex and simple realizations. Complex ones because they’re harder to grasp, and simple takeaways because we’re usually too distracted by temptations, desires, and pleasures to see them through, even if we believe in them (or so argues Aristotle; more on him later).
At this point, I asked my buddy, “So if humans struggle to comprehend both complex and simple ideas, what in the HELL are we good at?”
His reply, “Entertainment. And nothing else.” Full stop. The gravity and strategic double periods of his remark made me do this:
At which point I enrolled in a 36-course undergraduate class from Smith College. Not exactly. But I did download the audible version of the class, The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Greatest Thinkers, from Amazon!
Having already graduated (go, fight, win!), I did this solely for my own enlightenment. Little did I know how much impact professor Jay Garfield’s masterful curriculum would have on my worldview, existential outlook, and shared beliefs with others.
Here’s what I learned: Continue reading…
Where should you spend most of your time? For maximum enjoyment, biggest impact, and lifelong fulfillment, the magic happens in the urgent/not important quadrant of President Eisenhower’s popular Decision Matrix.
Take nurturing a child or business, for example. Both are critical but rarely demand your immediate attention.
In other words, quality time is never urgent. Fostering future sales is easy to put off, especially when current income is steady.
Obviously Eisenhower’s matrix isn’t the end-all, be-all of decision making. But I believe the most successful people in life—both personally and professionally—are the ones that ignore non-critical/non-urgent distractions the most. They don’t check or even react to their “inbox” as much as others, opting instead to focus on forward-thinking but non-urgent tasks.
And they delegate or otherwise prioritize urgent but unimportant tasks better than most.
My talented friend Davey Saunders is at it again. The below was first appeared on his Facebook page and is republished here with his permission. Pessimists are encouraged to skip this post.
Metaphorical waves roll into our lives on a pretty regular basis.
Emotional. Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Some we are able to ride out, some we can tuck under, and some break right on top of us —driving us helplessly into the water and currents beneath, until we regain our senses and are able to right ourselves again.
Some waves are rogue, and some come in sets that seem to have no end. There are times I have been, literally and figuratively, pulled from the grasp of the relentless seas. And there are times when I thought I had already drowned.
I am not upset by the challenges the ocean brings. If there was no water, how would I learn to swim? If there was no current to fight, how would I build the strength to hold on? And if there were no waves, how would I ever learn to surf?
So let them come. Let them bring their wrath and their might.
Just remember: with each shove and push from the waves, we are brought closer to shore. And then suddenly we find the furious roar that used to beat us down is now the very soothing sound of the surf… playing its sweet rhythms as we rest in the sand.
Here goes nothing. If I missed anything, set me straight in the comments: Continue reading…
For most of my 20s, I largely existed to leave my mark upon the world and strike it rich. In order to achieve those goals, I labored through the day and voluntarily burned the midnight oil. In other words, I lived to work—how cliche of me!
As I approached 30, something happened. I experienced what I call my Montana Moment—cheesy, but catchy! I realized that my double life as a work-a-holic and present husband and father could no longer be sustained.
So I changed. I set strict boundaries on my time and never looked back. If I was going to be remarkable, I was going to have to do so in a set number of hours and no longer at the expense of my health, family, sleep, friendships, and self-improvement. (That change, by the way, was the catalyst behind my still unfinished book.) Continue reading…
For the record, I don’t consider myself a great writer. I’m certainly an effective, efficient, and sometimes amusing one. But I wouldn’t say great. The below, on the other hand, written by my friend Davey Saunders and published with his permission is great. I hope you enjoy it.
As I often do, I cold emailed a bunch of people today asking if I could write for them. It was a great day. Not because one of them did this:
(They didn’t.) It was great because American strangers are wonderful to work with. They’re so freakin’ nice. Continue reading…
A pottery teacher split her class into two halves.
To the first half she said, “You will spend the semester studying pottery, planning, designing, and creating your perfect pot. At the end of the semester, there will be a competition to see whose pot is the best”.
To the other half she said, “You will spend your semester making lots of pots. Your grade will be based on the number of completed pots you finish. At the end of the semester, you’ll also have the opportunity to enter your best pot into a competition.”
The first half of the class threw themselves into their research, planning, and design. Then they set about creating their one, perfect pot for the competition.
The second half of the class immediately grabbed fistfulls of clay and started churning out pots. They made big ones, small ones, simple ones, and intricate ones. Their muscles ached for weeks as they gained the strength needed to throw so many pots.
At the end of class, both halves were invited to enter their most perfect pot into the competition. Once the votes were counted, all of the best pots came from the students that were tasked with quantity. The practice they gained made them significantly better potters than the planners on a quest for a single, perfect pot.—As told by Eric Scott
Several months ago, my wife and I were discussing truths we want are children to know. Although I’ve covered the topic before, I’ve since recognized several more while reiterating others.
Granted, you can’t expect to learn the below principles in a couple of sentences. But maybe, just maybe, this commentary will spark your curiosity and challenge your worldview for the better: Continue reading…
I recently finished A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. From a single book I’ve never learned so much and so little at the same time. I’ve also never read a more absorbing science book. Whereas I usually highlight a few passages from each book, I highlighted more than two dozen parts of this book upon completion — it covers that much ground. Continue reading…
Six years ago, I wrote about 10 things that scare me. Since then, I’ve overcome many of those fears and have adopted new ones, so I think it’s time I updated my list. Here it is: 10 things that intimidate or otherwise worry me at this point in my life:
- Writing a book. Thanks to blogging and an insatiable curiosity, I’m a self-made writer. Since 2005, I’ve written tens of thousands of posts. I’ve also written hundreds of 800-6000 word feature stories, and thousands of pages of special reports, columns, product reviews, opinion pieces and analysis. And yet, writing a 10 chapter book seems so daunting to me. Go figure. It’s probably because the required focus conflicts with my ADA more than a writing project that typically lasts no more than a half day to a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, it’s my biggest professional fear. Continue reading…
One of my goals in life is to become a centenarian, someone over 100 years of age. A few years ago, a team of researchers identified four areas that had the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world. They studied these people, wrote a book about them, then distilled their similar lifestyles down to a set of consistent life-giving habits.
And by life giving, I really mean death halting. Since there’s no brake on death, the best you can do is ease off the accelerator. With my added commentary, here are nine ways to do just that, as compiled by author Dan Buettner:
- Find a physical activity you enjoy and keep doing it. Do it for as long as you enjoy it. If and when you tire of that activity, find something else that pleases you. For example, you could start jogging, and if that becomes a bore, move to biking. Then swimming. Then Pilates. Then kickboxing. Then underwater basket weaving. Whatever it is, be sure to do it at least three times a week, moreso for idle or cubicle people. (In my case, since I sit at a desk and work from home, I have to move a lot more than most people to achieve the optimal amount of fitness.)
- Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, as opposed to being full. There’s a difference. About 20% less food per meal, in fact. In short, this is the best known way to eat less. Stop when satisfied instead of stuffing yourself. Continue reading…
When I was younger and dumber, I used to work 11 hour weekdays, half-day Saturdays, and was mentally distracted with work for much of the rest of time. Although I work for myself and have a ridiculously flexible of schedule, I vacationed very little at the time. I was seeking fortune and professional notoriety. I thought 60+ hour work weeks would get me there faster.
It did’t. It made me counter-productive, short-sighted, and less money on a per hour basis. In fact, Henry Ford discovered this 100 years ago, according to Inc.
Since first subscribing to the daily paper this summer, I’ve been exposed to more Dear Abby columns than a 1950s trophy wife. The last one I read was horribly political, so I decided to guide the advice-seeker myself. Here goes:
Dear Smooth Harold: My husband wanted to postpone having children until we were more financially secure. But I really wanted a baby, so he agreed, though only after I promised to return to work once the baby was born. That was a year ago. We now have a wonderful 2-month-old, and since “Avery” cam along, I realize how important it is for me to be at home with her. My husband disagrees. he says we need my salary in order to meet our financial obligations, and he is angry and upset that I won’t return to work. But I think there’s nothing as important as the nurturing a mother give her child. Who’s right?—R.F., Southern California
Dear R.F.: Why on Earth would you ask me, a complete stranger, such an important question without knowing my background first? I could be a baby-snatcher for all you know, or completely against everything you believe in! But alas, perhaps you’re at your wits end and have no one to confide in. If that’s the case and you don’t feel comfortable anonymously researching different opinions online or posting to a message board, then I’ll indulge you. And I assure you I’m neither a baby-snatcher nor a posturing moral hypocrite. Continue reading…
Fascinating book. To the point and practical.
For example, the best way to describe a retail bank is to call it a piggy bank. The best way to describe an investment bank is to call is a casino, which is precisely what each are.
Who knew a book about high finance, banking, and The Great Recession could be such a fun read?
Since quitting Facebook in May, I periodically visit My Life Is Average for a good chuckle. Here are some of my favorite recent stories:
- Today, my brownie got detained in airport security. MLIA.
- Today, I discovered you can reuse calendars every eleven years. Guess who is using their 1999 calendar this year? MLIA.
- Today, I pushed a door that said pull. It opened. MLIA
- About a week ago, I went to the optometrist. While the doctor was looking at my eye, he told me to “open wide.” He was talking about my eye, but I automatically opened my mouth as wide as I could. MLIA.
- Today, I decided to make a grilled cheese sandwich in the toaster. Tomorrow, I’m getting a new toaster. MLIA
- Today I found a book called “How to Read a Book.” MLIA
- Today I was walking across the park and there were a bunch of teenagers. First kid smoking. Second kid smoking. Third kid smoking. Fourth kid was eating a apple. I think we know who the biggest rebel is. MLIA
- Tomorrow, my school has a spirit day. The theme is “Gender-Bender,” where boys wear girls clothes and vice versa. My father, knowing nothing of this, comes downstairs to find me in a jean miniskirt, gray tank top, black leggings, trying to put my hair in a suitable girly fashion. We stare at each other awkwardly, and without saying a word, he turns and walks back upstairs, shaking his head. MLIA.
- Today, I read last year 4,153,237 ppl got married. I don’t want to start any trouble, but shouldn’t that be an even number? MLIA
- Today, my shoe laces came untied. I tied them back up and carried on. MLIA
- Four years ago, when i was 18, i noticed at night that my front window is very reflective, so i was pretending to dive in slow motion and shoot, dual pistol style. Suddenly a really hot girl walked past and i was startled and fell over. Embarrassed i waited for a bit and then stood up. As i stoop up i saw her slowly shooting an imaginary rifle from behind a car. We then proceeded to do this for 10 minutes until she did an extremely dramatic death. She wasn’t getting up so i went outside to meet her. Once i got to where she was, there was nothing but a piece of paper with a mobile number on it. Today, we are getting married. MLIA
This is an interesting survey of half a million Americans, according to Yahoo News:
People’s emotional well-being — happiness — increases along with their income up to about $75,000, researchers report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For folks making less than that, said Angus Deaton, an economist at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University, “Stuff is so in your face it’s hard to be happy. It interferes with your enjoyment.”
Happiness got better as income rose but the effect leveled out at $75,000, Deaton said. “Giving people more income beyond 75K is not going to do much for their daily mood … but it is going to make them feel they have a better life.”
In a temporal sense, I believe it.
BBC recently cited a study that found the more friends you have, the more you earn. After observing 10,000 U.S. students over a period of 35 years, the study showed that the wealthiest people were those that had the most friends at school. Each extra school friend added 2% to the salary.
The take away: The more people you talk to (i.e. network with), the more chances you have to sell yourself as a likable person. The more likable you are in the eyes of others, the higher chance you have of being retained for professional help. That goes for “in school” and in life.
So don’t be an introvert. Talk to people. Take an interest. It takes a village.
I just got done reading Malcolm Gladwell’s How David Beats Goliath: When underdogs break the rules. It’s brilliant. The most inspiring essay I’ve read in at least two years. Instead of getting in the way, I’m just going to point you there, admonish you to print the 7,000 words, and read it. Afterwhich, you should full court press, challenge conventional wisdom, and display chutzpah for the rest of your life.
These are great! [via Digg]