The Daily

Fighting Depression

Morning Folks,

I sure wish the sun would come out. 

This morning I woke up in a thick fog of depression. I had zero desire to get out of the bed. In fact, despite waking up around 4, I didn’t get up until nearly 6. 

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I kept pulling the covers over my head and pretending the birds weren’t chirping. 

Y’all ever do that?

I struggle with depression from time to time. I come by it honestly though, it’s in my blood. Most everybody in my family has struggled with it at some point, some much worse that others. For one of my grandmothers it was so severe that she was hospitalized. Some folks in the family have even attempted suicide. 

And some succeeded. I never got the chance to meet my Uncle David, he took his own life long before I was born. 

I feel bad for people that have chronic, long term depression. I’m only rarely affected by it and it’s usually short-lived. I’ve learned, over the years, to recognize it. That alone is a huge help because I can say to myself, “look man, you’re depressed today. You know that it won’t last so you have to just go through the motions until you feel better.” 

And when I can do that things start to get easier. The next thing I’ll do is pick some small goal that I can easily achieve in order to have a sense of accomplishment. Today that goal was making the bed. And this sounds silly, I’m sure, but making the bed seemed like climbing a mountain. I really wanted to get back in it, not make it up. But when I was done, sure enough, I felt the sense of accomplishment that I was after. And from there the next thing I had to do was a little bit easier.

You know what else helps? Writing about it. The simple act of putting these words on paper is incredibly therapeutic. Even if nobody reads it I’ll still reap the benefits of having written it down. This might sound silly, too, but I already feel way better than I did when I started writing this 15 minutes ago. And the benefit is compounded. Since writing every day is a goal for me I’m now able to put another check on the to-do list. 

The bed is made.

The writing is done.

If I can do that, I can do anything.

What shortcut?

Morning Folks,

Reminder to self: there ain’t no such thing as a shortcut. 

Yesterday on Instagram I put up a video of my son playing the drums.

The caption: How do we become great?

The hashtag: #practice.

Later, on Facebook, my friend Travis posted an article about the differences between “teachers” and “gurus.” Gurus, he said, sell you a feeling. A fleeting, feel good moment disguised as motivation. When that moment is over you’re back to the drawing board looking for some other shortcut. 

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Gurus are the purveyors of of just that - shortcuts. Shortcuts to instant success, overnight riches, and a toned butt. 

A teacher, on the other hand, will tell you like it is: there are no shortcuts. It all comes down to practice. They’ll show you how to do it, but you have to put in the work. 

You play your guitar, every day. 

You go to the gym, every day. 

You shoot 200 free throws, every day.

Whatever you want to master, you practice it every day. 

Along with practice, though, you have to be vigilant because the Gurus are everywhere peddling their wares. They’ve gotten really sophisticated in their ability to make themselves look like legitimate, so if you’re not careful you’ll be the fool who is parted with his money. 

Trust me, I’ve been there. 

Many years ago, when I was getting started in real estate, I spent more that I care to discuss on all manner of snake oil promising me the shortuct to droves of new clients and instant riches. Of course, none of it worked. 

Likewise, a pill will never be a shortcut for healthy diet and exercise. Remember Hydroxycut? I tried that stuff after someone told me it was the shortcut to getting six pack abs. All I got was a lighter wallet and heart palpitations. 

And then one time, as a shortcut to get people to attend an event I was hosting, I bought a list of 10,000 email addresses from a company that sold what they said were targeted mailing lists. Along with zero attendees it got me a couple dozen responses from people I pissed off, a threatening letter from my ISP, and my MailChimp account suspended. 

It all comes back to advice we’ve heard all our lives. If it sounds too goo to be true, it probably is.

And, 99% of the time, shortcuts are too good to be true

Cold Beer, Simple Ideas, and Big Results

Morning Folks,

I got a note from Sam’s teacher last night that his behavior was dramatically improved. I knew that he’d tried his best yesterday when Julia and I picked him up from school. He was beaming and couldn’t wait to show us the smiley face on his agenda. 

Later, while he and I were at drum lessons, Julia took the other three to the library. Our lesson ran about thirty minutes long, so she took them up the street to Southern Range Brewing Co. When Sam and I walked up to join them the place was packed. 

Now I’ve been this bar a time or two, and I’ve seen it pretty busy, but last night was something else. It was slam full with people spilling out the doors. Standing room only. In fact, the children were banished outdoors to play because there was no room for them to sit inside. 

I forgot to take a picture last night, so this one of the outside will have to do. 

I forgot to take a picture last night, so this one of the outside will have to do. 

It was Trivia Night. 

(Side note, lest you think us in poor taste: we weren’t the only people who brought their children to a brewery, so they were in good company.)

Anyway the place was packed and we got our butts kicked at trivia before heading home for supper.

I woke up this morning wondering why it was so packed last night. What was different?

Was it the beer? Nope, Dustin brews it right, but it’s always there.

Was is the service? Nope, the barkeeps do a great job but they’re always there.

Was it Kiki's pimento cheese? Nope. That’s good stuff too, but you can always get it there.

The difference was the trivia. 

The trivia was the little extra, the add-on. The special touch that brought in an enormous amount of people on an otherwise mundane night. A simple idea that probably doubled or tripled their business while making a trip to the bar just a little bit better. 

It didn’t take much effort. Dustin, the owner, called out the questions as teams wrote their answers on sheets of paper. After a set of questions the papers were exchanged and graded by another team. At the end of the night, the team with the highest score wins. 

Trivia. So simple.

That got me thinking about my own business. Like Southern Range, we have add-ons that make our clients’ experiences just a little bit better. Things like including professional staging for our sellers at no additional charge and providing an up-front home inspection so there are no surprises later. We also have an in-house attorney so that folks don’t have to attend closings - they can sign right at our office. 

People love that stuff, so we’re happy to do it. But the thing the love the most came from an idea that Lloyd had years ago. 

We bought a moving van. 

Moving is a mess, and can be really stressful. By handing over the keys to our van when people stop by to sign their paperwork we save them the step of having to rent a U Haul truck. It’s a simple thing that makes their lives a little bit easier and the experience of moving a little bit better.

To be honest, I was amazed. I didn’t think it would really matter to folks, but I was wrong. I run into clients all the time who moved years ago and they still talk about how great it was to just pick up our van. 

Sometimes the simplest efforts yield the biggest results.

Don't Let Anyone Steer You Off Your Path

Morning Folks,

Wednesdays are hard.

The tough thing about having been divorced is sharing my kids with another person. It’s not so much the shared time, per se, that makes it tough. Having my kids 40% of the time isn’t easy, but let’s be honest, there is a silver lining. Kid-free weekend twice a month where I can intently focus on my wife?

Sign me up.

No, the hard part is the different households. Different rules, different schedules, and different expectations. Lily & Sam say my house is "the strict house." So when they come there’s always transition period where they have to settle in to the rules.

It’s “yes sir,” not “yeah.”

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School night? No screens.

Bedtime’s at 8:00, so y’all get your butts upstairs and into your pajamas.

It’s been that way for as long as either of them can remember but that doesn’t stop them, especially Samson, from having difficulty remembering.

“Daddy,” he’ll say, “for some odd reason, I can’t remember if you let me play games on the computer when we get home.”

Yeah right, kid.

Anyway we’re having some minor behavioral problems with Sam at school. He’s developed a hypothesis that the classroom rules don’t apply to him, and he’s been busy testing it.

Here’s part of an email I sent his teacher this morning:

“Dear Ms. Taylor

I understand that you continue to have problems with Sam’s behavior in class. . . let me know if i need come pull him out and jerk a knot in his head.”

This gets to the reason that Wednesdays are hard. There are four and a half hours between the time I pick Sam up at 3:30 until he goes to bed at 8:00.

Minus one hour of driving, usually with him asleep, leaves three and half.

Minus an hour of drum lessons leaves two and half.

Minus about thirty minutes for homework & school prep leave two hours.

Minus another hour or so for dinner and I’m left with just 60 minutes. 60 minutes that I have to split between 4 kids, so Sam’s lucky if he gets more than 15 of those with my sole & undivided attention.

In those 15 minutes I want to play. I want to hug him and love him and make sure he knows how special he is. I want to goof off and run around the house and throw him over my shoulder. I want to remind him that he’s my favorite (for the record, I tell all the kids that)

That’s the hard part. From the time I pick him up I already feel like a drill sergeant.

“Stop interrupting your sister, Sam”

“Pay attention to the instructor, Sam”

“Stop eating with your fingers, Sam”

“Hurry up and get in the bath, Sam”

And tonight, in those 15 minutes, I have to get on his butt about being disruptive in class.

That’s the last thing I want to do. Especially since the day started off with me Facetiming him to talk about his behavior. I told him I was disappointed, that always upsets him. Now I’m worried that he’ll dread me picking him up later. That he’ll feel like my house is a prison. That when I drop him off at school tomorrow he’ll only remember the discipline and not the fun.

Despite my worry I know it’s the right thing to do.

The same applies to almost everything in life, does it not? When you know deep down that you’re on the right path you can’t let other people - friends, family, or even your sweet little darling snot-nosed troublemaker kids - steer you in another direction.

You Can't Make It Work If You're Making Excuses

Morning Folks,

Last Saturday I was getting dressed for the daddy-daughter dance. The them was “hoe down” so I’d put on jeans, cowboy boots, & a swanky bowtie. I slipped on my sport coat and stepped in front of the mirror.

Julia gave me the look. 

I knew what was coming. 

“Baby, “ she said, “you cannot wear that coat!”

Ugh. She was right.

It wasn’t the coat itself. I’ve had it for decades and worn it countless times. Navy blue, pinstriped silk lining, dark buttons. It’s classic. I can wear it with jeans, slacks, with or without a tie, whatever. 

Regardless, I couldn’t button it. 

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So I didn’t. 

“It’s obvious that it doesn’t fit.” she said. “Not buttoning it is just making it worse.”

I sulked. Back in the closet I pulled on a pinstriped jacket I’d had let out for a recent funeral. Mustering a smile I walked back into the bedroom where LuLu, my 9 year old stepdaughter, had joined her mother. 

She just shook her head and walked off. 

“Nope, you can’t button that one either,” Julia said. 

She’s right, of course. They’re both right. 

Two years ago, as the result of a mountain bike accident, I sustained a class III-IV AC separation. In layman’s terms that means my left shoulder is all jacked up. The entire joint is separated from my collar bone which makes it appear as though that bone is sticking up. My left arm is 1/2” longer than it used to be. And it causes a lot of pain and makes certain things much harder.

Push ups and pull ups, for example. 

Not impossible, just harder. And I’ve used this as an excuse to avoid working out for the last year or so. The results are obvious; I’ve gotten over weight and out of shape. 

Yesterday on my way back from dropping the kids at school I listened to a podcast from Ryan France. He interviewed a fellow by the name ofMark Heaps who lives in Austin, Texas. Mark’s story is fascinating. The short version is that Mark was born into an incredibly wealthy family who lost it all, but he took control of his life and became wildly successful. If you’ve got 36 minutes, download the podcast from http://www.voicesofimpact.com/mark-heaps/. 

Part of his story punched me in my [oversized] gut. Living in a small town in Texas he’d lost his job. Being broke and with no place to live he called is brother in California and was invited to come. The problem was he didn’t have the money to get there.

Now ya’ll listen here - this man went to the Greyhound station. For two days he held up a cardboard sign.

WILL DRIVE TO CALIFORNIA IF YOU PAY FOR GAS.

It worked.

On the second day a woman approached. She needed to get herself and her two children to San Jose. She couldn’t afford the tickets but thought she had enough money for gas.

Mark thew his own luggage into the dumpster to make room for her and the children. 1,700 miles later and the rest history. 

That is the difference between making excuses and making it work. 

Following his hardship Mark Heaps found a way to make it work and became a success story. Following my own hardship I found an excuse and became a with an extra 20 pounds who had to go to his daughter's dance without a sport coat. 

That’s something to think about.

A Little Bit Closer

Morning Folks, 

It’s 4:45 AM and I’m sitting in my living room smiling from ear to ear. Most days I’d be at the office by now but there’s some stuff going on at school this morning, so I stayed home so we could leave extra early. 

Usually I don’t read my text messages or email until 8:30 or 9:00. Today though, with my schedule being different, I did. And I found that late last night, someone sent me the nicest compliment.

“I just wanted to reach out to you and let you know how much I enjoy your writing. I tune in weekly to see what you’re writing about. As a songwriter, I can really appreciate a good read, and you have a gift.”

So yeah, I’m smiling. I can’t help it. It’s a physiological reaction to the dopamine that’s coursing through my brain.

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“A gift”, he said. 

I don’t see it that way at all. I’m no writer. I’m just a guy who started putting his thoughts down on paper. Mostly all I can see are typos and punctuation errors and points that don’t seem quite clear enough.

Still, I’ll take the compliment. 

But that’s not why I’m smiling. I’m smiling because of what he wrote next.

Yesterday I mentioned the time that I almost drove to San Francisco with only a few hundred dollars to my name. I hinted at the fact that I regret not doing it. It’s true, I’ll always wonder how my life might have been different if I’d gone. 

The guy that wrote me though, he doesn’t have to wonder. Because he did it. In his email he told me the story of how, in his twenties, he packed up everything and headed out west to the Rockies. Six months of camping, fishing, biking, & kayaking. When the money ran out he got a job and hung around while longer. 

He sent me a picture, too. It’s thirty years old so it’s faded and worn but there he is, standing on a winding road with the snow capped Colorado mountains behind him. 

Smiling.

He’s older now and back on the East coast but still has ties to that place. He goes back every year. 

What a great story. 

Last week I talked about connection. About how my friend John always gives me grief for putting my life out there like I do. But see when you do, when you tell your story, then other people tell you their story. 

And then there’s a connection. And suddenly you’re just a little bit closer to that person than you were before. And before you know it you’re a little bit closer to another person, and another person, and another. . .

With all the insanity in the world, I can’t help but wonder if we wouldn’t all be better off if each of us was just a little bit closer.

Make It Count

Morning Folks,

Got 4 minutes and 37 seconds? I think I have a man-crush on Casey Neistat.

He’s the subject of a chapter in a book I’m reading this morning. I knew I was going to like the guy when I read his introduction. He ran away from home when he was 15 and became a father at 17, neither of which I advocate. But then went on welfare in order to get free milk and diapers and never asked his parents for money again.

That I totally advocate.

Not the welfare part - the never asking your parents for anything part. Often I see people dealing with an extraordinary about of pain as a result of staying overly intertwined with their parents after childhood. But that’s a story for another day.

Today is about audacity. I love this guy!

Imagine you’ve been hired by Nike to produce a video for a new product. What do you do next?

Think about it.

You’ve been to the meetings, pitched your idea, and they’ve hired you. You’ve got your studio and your cameras. All the fancy lighting, microphones, and editing equipment.

Nike signs off on the script and gives you the cash advance.

What do you do next?

If you’re Casey Neistat you take the money and run.

Literally.

In 2012 he was hired for a three commercial deal promoting Nike’s FuelBand and had produced the first two exactly as you might expect. $100-million dollar athlete endorsements, product placement - the usual stuff.

By the time the third one rolled around he was burnt out. A couple days before production was to begin he bailed. Instead he called his editor and said, “let’s do something I’ve always wanted to do. Let’s take the entire production budget and travel the world until we run out of money.”

They did it.

It took 10 days. 15 countries. 36,000 miles.

The result could have been a breach-of-contract lawsuit. 
Instead it resulted in this video which has gone viral and has over 27 million views on YouTube alone. It’s one of Nike’s most popular videos of all time.

Twenty years ago I packed up my Honda Accord with pretty much everything I owned. I was burnt out on college and desperately needed a change. My destination was San Francisco. I had a full tank of gas a maybe a few hundred dollars to my name. The details are foggy now, as is most of my college experience, but somehow my good friend  Eric talked me out of it.

I will always wonder how that might have turned out.

Some would say Casey’s stunt was reckless. Others would call it audacious. It’s fine line sometimes.

But there’s a lesson here. Casey took a big risk and reaped a huge reward. We can also take small risks that result in smaller, but cumulative, rewards. And we can do that without the specter of a complete disaster.

Small changes in our lives, our businesses, and our relationships can add up to massive improvements over time.

 

 

Are you disciplined?

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Yesterday I kept thinking about how Elon Musk had to be so damn pumped up watching that Tesla float through space.

Today I woke up thinking about what it is that makes him so different from me. On the surface we’re not so different. We were both born in the 70’s. We both went to boarding schools (he toughed it out, I quit after 42 days). Neither of us have a post-graduate degree. We’re both smart. 

OK, he might be just a little bit smarter than me. Still, how is it that he’s achieved mind-blowing accomplishments while I’m over here in the land of the mediocre? 

Earlier this morning I was reading some stuff from Jocko Willink. I like Jocko because, like me, he gets up really early. Unlike me, he’s a total badass who spent 20 years in the US Navy during which he commanded the most highly decorated special operations unit from the Iraq War. 

Jocko says, “Discipline equals freedom. If you want freedom in life - be that financial freedom, more free time, or even freedom from sickness and poor health - you can only achieve those things through discipline.”

That stopped me. I went to the computer and Googled “Elon Musk discipline.”

Sure enough, in the last 40 years he’s been much more disciplined than I. Compared to him I’ve essentially had zero discipline. 

One example: as an undergraduate, he gave himself a budget of $1 per day for food. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to be sure he could survive setbacks. Meanwhile I was surviving on a daily beer budget that was ten times that amount. 

Another: as a teenager he regularly read two books a day. I read only what I had to for whatever class I was taking and watched MTV the rest of the time. 

That one word, discipline, that’s the real difference between me and Elon. I have routines, but I don’t have discipline. I wonder how much more I might accomplish in the next 40 years if I did. 

Elon's Rocket

Did ya’ll see this? By now everybody’s heard about SpaceX launching the Falcon Heavy rocket Tuesday. The media was blowing up about it yesterday, and with good reason. It was badass!The most powerful rocket on earth with a Tesla Roadster strapped to it was successfully launched AND two of the three rocket boosters safely landed and can be reused. We now have a dummy named Starman driving an electric car towards Mars. But did you see this picture? It was on Elon Musk’s Instagram. 

Made on Earth by humans. 

Made on Earth by humans. 

Musk is the founder of SpaceX, Tesla, and The Boring Company. Three companies with big ideas. Ideas that, if successful, will literally change the face of the earth. Printed on a circuit board of the Tesla are these words: Made on Earth by humans.

Yesterday I got an email from Travis Crow, a buddy out in Arizona, talking about Elon Musk and the launch. In it he said, “But when I watch an interview with Elon, I don't see a shrewd businessman. I see a Dreamer. A dreamer that the world hasn't seen since Walt Disney came along.”

True! His dream is to enable humans to live on other planets so that we have somewhere to go when something happens to the Earth. His vision is a giant rocket, codenamed BFR (Big F**king Rocket), that carries 100 people out into orbit before returning to earth to be launched again. Yesterday he proved the concept of the returning rocket. It looked so futuristic watching them land that Julia thought it was some sort of CGI promo video.

Big freakin’ rockets. Big freakin’ dreams.

Didn’t we all have big dreams at some point? When you were a kid, did you want to go to space? If not space, some other big dream? Hollywood, The Olympics, maybe The Grammys? What’s the difference between Musk and most of the rest of us? Why is he watching a car he invented float through space on a rocket he also invented while we punch a time clock?

This morning on the way to school my daughter, Lily, wanted to listen to “Laugh or Cringe” clips on YouTube from a show called X Factor. It’s one of those reality shows where people try to get discovered, in this case as singers. Y’all, it was pretty bad. I mean there were some pretty terrible singers. But you know what? They still did it! And there’s absolutely no way that, along the line, people told them they couldn’t. Friends, family, teachers, coaches, whatever - telling them it couldn’t be done. But they did it, AND, several of them actually made it to the next round despite what Lily and I thought was a horrible performance. 

Just this morning someone for whom I hold a good deal of respect told me that my writing is nothing more than “poorly framed jokes.” I don’t give a shit, I’m going to keep right on writing. People are always going to tell you something can’t be done. It can be challenging, damn near impossible, to ignore them. But watching that car float through space sure serves as a good reminder of why you should.