Episode 177- Kings, Queens and Screens

About four months ago, my wife Elizabeth picked up a book called resetting your child’s brain by Dr. Victoria Dunkley and to say that this book has had an effect on our family and our life over that time would be a severe understatement. And the subtitle is “a four week plan to end meltdowns, raise grades, and boost social skills by reversing the effects of electronic screens.” I will tell you that even though we thought we were aware and we’ve been cautious in terms of how much screen time the kids have gotten, reading this book has really shifted our perspective on all of it. So in September with Elizabeth’s suggestion, we went on a complete screen detox for the kids. Now, I imagine that you could imagine that our kids were not particularly thrilled with this, but we were having some issues that needed to be addressed and we needed to check this out and without going into details on their lives, the effects of this have been nothing short of dramatic.

And like I said, our kids were not on screens for hours and hours at a time at all. But even what they were doing was contributing to moodiness and some other changes that needed to be corrected. So what happens when you pull screens away completely from three boys between 14 and eight years old, I can tell you lots of interesting stuff to begin with. They got more creative. Our 12 year old spent a month and a half building from scratch, his own Halloween costume made out of foam and it was amazing. It added so much calmness to the house, even in the throws of winter and has increased their creativity. But one thing started up that wasn’t happening until we pulled the screens away. Now we’ve always played a lot of board games and games together as a family, but that increased tremendously once this happened. But one game that was reintroduced to the family was chess.

And before we pulled the screens away, I don’t remember playing chess with the kids very much at all, but it didn’t take long as their sheer boredom for them kicked in after a while to begin exploring different games. And one of our kids came to me, he’s like, Oh, you wanna play a game of chess? I said, yeah, I’m not very good at it, but I’d love to play. And that began what it’s become now, a ritual. And as we rolled into November and then December, we were playing chess as a family almost every night, often multiple times. And then different tournaments that we would go through, we’d have somebody waiting in the wings to play winter. And this is one of the first times we had a game like this that involved everybody over a period of time. Even our eight year old was heavily involved in this wanting to play and wanting to learn.

And I learned so much about chess and the benefits of it since we started playing. And at first they were frustrated because you make a certain move and you can lose pretty quickly if you’re not thinking. And then we have some people in our family, I won’t say who, but are thinking short term or making short term moves. And the person that’s planning it out that’s thinking about a move with is going to lead to the next move that they do. They wind up dominating time and time again, which obviously led to some frustration and then more learning and then some more frustration and then an eventual unexpected victory. And we found ourselves noticing that this is really a tremendous gauge on the way the kids are thinking and the way they go about planning. Because you could see the more impulsive ones making impulsive moves.

And it’s unlike a lot of other games too, where if you do that and you have a weakness, it gets exposed by the person that’s thinking longer term. So I started looking up the benefits of the chess and I always knew it was the intellectual game and I never grew up feeling like an intellectual. So maybe that’s why I didn’t play. But I was really amazed when I saw what the benefits of playing chess are to begin with. Did you know that chess helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease? That is because when you’re playing chess, the most active part of your body is the brain. They say that playing chess decreases the odds of dementia and while you’re doing that, it also reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety and depression. Playing chess also raises your kid’s IQ. Another area that gets better that I suspected while we were playing is that it increases your kids problem solving skills, which is key.

Playing chess allows your kids to become problem solvers because it’s not about mindlessly moving pieces around a board. You have multiple facets going on with different pieces that do different things and they work in synergy together, but they all have different roles, so you have to understand what a Rook can do or upon or how the queen can work and how to use to its value, the Bishop and how to keep the King out of harm’s way. Kids playing chess also improves their memory because while you’re playing simultaneously, you need to remember the moves that your opponent made, which moves can help them in the future and presently and how that works for your game as well. So by doing that and doing it on a consistent basis has a major effect on improving your kid’s memory. Also, quite obviously when you’re playing chess, it’s going to improve your concentration.

And how many of us want our children to become better at concentration? And it’s so obvious playing, because I remember playing with Nolan and he’d won two games in a row and got a little bit cocky. Then he started not concentrating as deeply and he would make a move and you’d turn away and talk to his brothers. Then he’d come back and want to know what move I made. He wasn’t thinking and he wasn’t planning and he wasn’t concentrating. And when that happened he lost the game very quickly. And by the next game I’ll tell you, he was in full concentration mode. The last one we’ll talk about is probably to me the most important for their future. And it teaches them foresight and planning. And so often impulsiveness is going to get us in trouble, especially at a young age. And the sooner that they could develop planning and foresight, the better off they’re going to be.

If you remember from a past episode when I asked Seth Godin as parents, what do we need our kids to learn and what do we not need our kids to learn? He said anything to do with memorization is useless because you can look it up. If you could teach your kids to lead and to solve interesting problems, they’re gonna be in great shape. And in terms of solving interesting problems at this age, I can’t think of anything better than learning and playing the game of chess. So if you haven’t started with your kids, I highly encourage you to do so because not only is it good for them as much as they got a bad rap, but I was in school for being a game for nerds. It’s incredibly fun and it’s surprisingly addictive. So if you’re doing it with your kids, keep going, and if you haven’t, I highly encourage you to give it a shot. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Episode 175- Failure Happens Inside Of A Vacuum

Failure Happens Inside Of A Vacuum

I want to talk to you today about a guy named James. James had an idea, an idea for an invention and he worked tirelessly on the prototype that didn’t work and he did the second one and the third one, and by the time he got to the 15th prototype their third child was born, but the prototype still was nowhere close to finished. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but somewhere around the 2,500th prototype of this one invention, him and his wife were just around broke. More than a thousand prototypes later, his wife was giving art lessons so they can make a little bit of extra money. He became obsessed through those years of doing nothing but making and testing these prototypes. His wife kept supporting the family and she supported this idea, but everybody else thought he was crazy. Things started getting really tight. They started going deeper in debt and his wife started making their clothes for their children and growing their own vegetables in the backyard.

The prototypes though kept piling up to over 3000 tries and then 4,000 tries. He tried meeting with the companies that would eventually become his competitors, but they eventually turned them down. Most of them saying that they weren’t interested in this technological advances years later as he was still working to make this thing a reality. Other companies who he had met with had started making machines just like he was trying to make legal battles now in sued to try to protect his own patents. In 1993, 14 years after he started working on this crazy idea, no banks or venture capitalists would even lend them any money. Eventually his bank manager personally lobbied Lloyd’s bank to lend him the million dollars he needed for tooling on the product and then he finally got a mail order catalog to buy it. This was now after 5,127 prototypes. Then with a little bit of momentum, a British department store began selling it and within two years it was the number one selling product in that genre.

By 2002 they finally got their first U S customer, which was Best Buy. This was twenty three years after the original prototype and not long after James Dyson’s dream to create the ultimate vacuum cleaner was now on its way to reality and that idea, that passion, those 5,127 prototypes turn Dyson into $1 billion business. There are so many incredible lessons from the story. It’s a big, big business, but it’s going to the independent heart. Dyson from the very beginning kept all the shares of his company. He owned 100% and that’s on purpose and it’s not because of money. He wanted to create the best vacuum that he can create and he only wanted to think about the products and not to worry about the shareholders. He said in that sense, they’re completely free. He believes that the product is the king. He also said to keep your ears open for the silly suggestions from the people around you. 

So many of the great ideas that came from either the building or the marketing of the Dyson vacuum came from what should have been silly or wrong suggestions from others that were tweaked or used for the success of the company. And through everything he went through all those years through people trying to steal his idea or all the rejections that came from so many different areas that galvanized him. He said to do it himself and he knows what he’s selling is an expensive vacuum. You can get so many different vacuums cheaper, but he wanted to build it differently. Unlike so many household appliances that are made for the short term that break so easily that years ago they would last for so long. Now we know they last a couple of years and then they’re done. He knew that people are going to keep cleaning their homes and they want to buy things that will last longer. 

So he said, we’ve got to make sure the product is right and this story is why I love entrepreneurism so much because this is how things get done. When we have personal responsibility for what we want to achieve and what we want to build, things get done. And it’s why there’s so much waste and delay and slow movement in government and bureaucratic environments, and it’s the nimble, free moving entrepreneur that will find a way to get things done, even if it takes over 5,000 tries over multiple decades. Because when the skin in the game is your own skin, there’s a passion and drive that will push you further than a command from a supervisor. I bring this story to you because you might be on the verge of quitting something that you feel like you’re done, but you really might not have even started yet. 

If you go by this story, Dyson had over 5,000 reasons to quit. He was obviously a smart guy. He could’ve done something else to make money, but he didn’t quit because he believed in it and you wanted to make it happen and that fire of rejection kept him moving strong. We talk about it so much. Let rejection fuel you and we’re taught so often in school that failure and rejection is a bad thing, but it’s one of the best ways to grow. It’s one of the best ways to learn and these stories inspire me because when things are going rough and things are not going the way that I think they should, I think about people like Dyson. I think about how hard it must’ve been in 1983 or 1988 what it was like eating dinner with his kids after the 2000 prototype wasn’t good. 

What were the conversations going on at that dinner table? Somehow, I don’t think he’s complaining about the government or quitting because people are going against him. All that made him stronger. And that’s what we all need from you. Because if you believe in what you’re doing as strongly as Dyson believed in his vacuum, this is proof to show that the payoff will be there if you don’t stop moving. And it’s funny researching this story and now telling the story, because I still remember the pain when Elizabeth came to me telling me she wanted to buy a vacuum that was $500 I thought she was crazy. Who spends $500 for a vacuum, but she said all the same things that Dyson described here. And she sold me on the fact that we’re going to have this thing for years and it’s going to work better than any other vacuum we’ve had. And all these years later, aside from a couple of parts that needs to be exchanged, we’re still using it and it still works wonderful. So we appreciate all the effort he put into making this.

I’ll be back with you tomorrow.

Episode 174- Do You Know What No Means?

So the more kids grow, We have one teenager, another one that’s going to be a teenager this year, the more I’m starting to realize what a pain in the neck I was to my family as a teenager. I’m doing these podcasts. It’s kind of like a walk down memory lane. It really is like therapy. I encourage every one of you to start recording your stories, whether you publish them or not because you will learn more about yourself, both the good and the bad. They will question the way you thought and your own beliefs. Nothing has done that better for me than recording this podcast because hearing me say things out loud, I go, Oh, I don’t know if I believe what I used to believe anymore. I was an antagonist to my family more than I ever realized and there was one incident that makes me laugh and I see so much of this and our oldest son is the inability to take no for an answer and there’s a fine line, right?

I talked about often patience and persistence. I tried to teach him that. I love your persistence, but if you annoy the crap out of everybody, you’re not going to get what you want. So I don’t worry about him losing the persistence, but I really want him to understand patience. But there was one time I must’ve been doing the same exact thing to my parents and my dad said to me, I hope one day you have a kid just like you. And I think I got one. My dad said to me in complete frustration and exhaustion, he said, “Do you know what no means?” And I looked at him and with a straight face, I said “No.” And my dad just smiled at the absurdity of what I said. But it was one of the first times that I realized you can use wit to get what you want.

Because if I didn’t know what no meant, I couldn’t have answered no. And my dad didn’t give in very often, but he gave it at that point, because I think he understood what I just did. I think way too many people, accept no way too quickly. I was reminded of this when I was watching a YouTube video with Gary Vaynerchuk recently and he was given a speech, he flies all over the world giving speeches, it seems like every day. And some young kid came up to him, he was talking about this new business idea that he had, how excited he was. And Gary was encouraging him and say, Hey, keep in touch. I want to hear about this. And the guy got a little bit incredulous and he said, you know, we emailed you about it. And Gary said, Oh you did? He said, yeah we did.

And Gary smiled and said, how many times? The guy said once, and Gary just laughed in his face. He goes, once isn’t enough. He said, dude, I’m busy. You’ve got to email me more than once. Multiple times. And I think so often we stop ourselves at the first time of a no. And that’s why I think rejection is just so powerful. I think it needs to be addressed. I think it needs to be encouraged. I think rejection, it needs to be a badge of honor. Way more than success. Because I remember when I got inside one time I was talking to a man that ran a very successful business and he had a lot of people applying for jobs, a lot of people interested in working for him and he told me something that really got my attention. He said that they will never respond to the first three emails or phone calls.

And I was like, really? He said, yeah, it’s easy to make that phone call. Everybody does it. It’s kind of easy to make the second phone call and when you call twice and you get nothing, the amount of people that will call a third time is ridiculously low, but he said something that really interests me. If somebody calls three times and they don’t get a response and then they call back a fourth time, that is somebody that I want working for me. And I had never honestly heard it said that way before. He didn’t view it as an annoyance at all to him it was a test nobody’s getting through. On the first call, we get tons of first calls calling. One time to them didn’t prove anything but calling that fourth time that Ben something, and here’s why. If you’re in sales, you can’t just give up after one try.

You can’t give up. After two tries, he was weeding out the people that were going to be successful from the people that were not going to be successful because if people called one time and gave up, they’re going to call one time and give up with potential clients. And this was why his business was so successful. He had built around him, an army of people that didn’t quit. They were all trained from the beginning before they even got there to not know what no means. And I heard Dave Ramsey talk about this one time. Somebody called into his a show one time. He said, I’m having a hard time motivating my people. And Ramsey said that he doesn’t motivate his people and the guy was so surprised by it. He goes, how are you so successful if you don’t motivate your own people? And Randy says, I don’t motivate my people.

I hire motivated people, and that was the answer. This guy that I was talking to did the same thing. He didn’t go by resume. He went by grit. He knew that if somebody went after it that many times and did not give up, they are somebody that understands it and they’re worth training and the investment of their time and money. I truly believe that this is a precursor to success, and this is something that more people need to not only know, but need to practice and make part of their habits. So after hearing this, do you really think that, you know what no means I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Episode 173- The Power Of The Podcast

Well, Merry Christmas. You are probably not going to listen to this this morning. I imagine you might be unwrapping gifts with your family, but maybe at some point when you catch up, you’re going to hear this. I just want to get on here today and talk about the power of the podcast. I’m consistently blown away that I could sit here in my office or beyond the road, just have my laptop, my mic, and a thought and record something just talking to myself, publish it without asking for any feedback, and then get responses that absolutely blow my mind. I did an episode about the night that our youngest son, Dylan, was born and I got messages from people that were crying all day long from listening to the podcast. I did a show recently about dropping off your youngest kid at school, at college, and it’s the last drive that you’ll take with them in that part of their life, and again, the same thing.

People messaging me that they’re teary-eyed and weeping. It’s just an amazing feeling to give business advice and have people listen to it and go and do it and start changing their lives. I got a message on my birthday from Jeremy Ginn who I know virtually, but we’ve never spoken to each other and he sent me a voicemail on my birthday, just wishing me a happy birthday. And he thanked me for the encouragement and he said three days a week he drives his kids to school and check this out. He said the first thing that his kids ask when they get in the car is can we listen to Vince’s podcast? And he said, his boys are 15 and 13 very close to our kids’ age and they’re interested in video games and sports. But as he said to me, the fact that they want to take 5 or 10 minutes to listen to some guy they’ve never met, that their dad thinks is cool is really cool in itself.

So Micah and Caleb, thank you so much. You have no idea how much I appreciate that. And Julia and Anna. Hi. I know you’re listening to. So thank you so much. And then the other day I get a message online and it’s from a guy named Jim Siniki and we connected in a Facebook group called the Beginner Photography Podcast that’s run by my friend Raymond Hadfield and Jim is starting his photography business. He’s building his business on the side before work and he gets up at 4:00 AM to work on a side hustle, which I just love. I love that dedication. He makes me feel lazy because I am not doing it that hard, so go get ’em, Jim. But he gets up at 4:00 AM and he listens to my podcast and it gives him the inspiration to keep moving out this and like I said in the very beginning, if you listen to one of the first podcasts I was, we’re going to record these.

I’m going to publish them every day and it doesn’t matter if there’s one person listening. I know that by doing this it’s going to help somebody and I’m going to keep going. I’m not concerned with millions of downloads. I’m not concerned with how to monetize this. I’m not interested in any of that. What I want to do is to put my heart and soul into these stories and to these lessons and make this as good as I possibly can so that it affects people and changes people for the better. So those are just some of the messages that I’ve gotten, but it’s just an incredible process because not a day goes by where I don’t get some type of a message about somebody that got something out of the podcast. And I shouldn’t be surprised because I’ve gotten so much out of other people’s podcasts. I’ve got my health changed by Shawn Stevenson.
I’ve gotten business tips and money tips from the Dave Ramsey’s and the Seth Goldens and the Gary Vaynerchuks and then the friends of mine who are doing incredible content like Andy storage, Brad Barrett, Jonathan Mendonza of Choose FI and many, many more than I can name. And as we roll into 2020 if you’ve got a podcast that you want to do, hopefully this episode pushes you over the edge to get started. Because I started this in 2019 I felt like I was way behind. I’ve been talking about it for years. I’ve thought about it for years. I felt like I’m too late and I went to Podcast Movement in August and I listened to where the world of podcast is going and I left there thinking, this is all just getting started. We’re in the infancy of this entire thing, so don’t feel like it’s too late. Don’t feel like you’re behind.

It’s the perfect time to start a podcast. Media is now being built for it. The cars are being built to make podcasts more accessible to listen to and the power of audio branding as my good friend Jody Krangle talks about in her podcast, Audio Branding, The Hidden Gem of Marketing. This medium is more powerful than so many people realize and the fact that you’re listening to this is proof of that. So on this Christmas morning, I want to thank you all for tuning in and listening to this showing, giving up a few minutes of your day to listen to me ramble on and rant sometimes and I just want you to know how much I appreciate it. I appreciate you and I am dedicated to making this better each and every day and with just another week left in this year. If you’re thinking of doing something like this, if you’re thinking of starting a podcast, please go do it and get started and start changing lives for the better. Have an incredible Merry Christmas. I’ll be back with you tomorrow.

Episode 172- Our New Christmas Eve Tradition

So today is Christmas Eve, Happy Christmas Eve, everybody. And this is the most fun day that we have as a family. And it’s the day that our kids start looking forward to more than Christmas, believe it or not. And this is done intentionally and is done because Elizabeth and I wanted to take the focus off of the relentless pursuit of more stuff that they’re going to get for Christmas. So a couple of years ago, the kids were getting really just very into their gifts that they’re gonna get for Christmas and their Christmas lists and what grandma and grandpa are going to bring them on with Santa is going to bring them. And we just sat down and said, this is too much. Not only is it too much stuff, which they don’t need, but it’s too much self-involved thinking about what gifts that they’re going to get. So we changed the pattern around.

We said instead of what you’re going to get, I want to know what you want to give. And until that point, they hadn’t looked at Christmas as much of a giving holiday as a getting holiday. I mean it’s the season of giving, right? Not the season of getting at least it’s supposed to be. So we said, okay, we’re changing things around this year and if we want to teach generosity, we need to show generosity. So we decided we’re going to take a bunch of money out of the bank and we’re going to buy a whole lot of candy bars and a whole lot of ribbons and we’re going to wrap the money with the candy and Christmas Eve after church. We’re going to spend the evening driving around the rougher areas of Pittsburgh and we’re just going to give out money. Now, we had never done this before, but we were inspired because we had spent some time in Padre Island in Texas the month earlier and we were listening to the podcast of Dr. Kevin Leman and he was talking about this was a tradition that they did with their kids.

And I truly believe in stealing ideas from smart people because he talked about how it bonded their family and how the kids still do it together and often they all do it together still. So he said, okay, this is a family tradition that we want to start. So we went out that night and we’re just driving around and it’s dark and it’s cold. And the kids were all scared to do it and we pushed and we’re like, you’ve got to open the window and offer them the candy and the money. I think the first person we went to was at a bus stop and we’d really needed like a hidden camera because the faces are awesome. You know what? First are ignoring you and then they’re kind of confused or they’re a little bit scared. We think you’re going to do something to them. And they see a little hand reach out of the car and there’s money in a candy bar and they hesitantly walk over and they take it and we say Merry Christmas.

And they cautiously say Merry Christmas. And you see them smile and you see the person next to him at the bus stop. Ask them what just happened. And they must be saying something like, these people just gave us money. And we did that over and over and over. And it became addicting and the next day the kids were talking about the night before about Christmas Eve and the next year Andrew asked as we’re planning Christmas, he says, what are we doing Christmas Eve? How much money are we giving away? I said, did you like doing that? And he goes, I liked it better than Christmas. And I was like, Oh, this is working, this is working. We went out again Christmas Eve and this time we took out more money and we did it a little bit longer, but I don’t think there’s really a limit to it because it’s so easy to give it away.

I’ll be honest with you, at first it’s hard because you’re just giving away cold hard cash. It’s your money and it’s just gone. But when you see the smiles on the faces, when you go to the gas stations and you see the people working at night, you know that they need that money. If they’re working Christmas Eve night at a gas station or a restaurant or a 7-11 and there were so many moments that just hit, we had two more packages two years ago to hand out. We didn’t know where to go. So we went to the 7-11 which is about a mile from our house. And there were two people working there and they were by themselves and they were cooking chicken or whatever it was. And we came in at like 8:30 at night and we sat in the car and we let Nolan and Andrew walk in and hand him the money.

So we get to sit from the outside and we have to wonder what they’re saying. Can we see the looks on their faces? And they’re confused and they’re surprised. And after the kids gave the money, we’re watching the two people because it’s such a study in psychology and they both look at the car and they look at each other and they start crying and they just hugged each other. And we’re like, Holy crap. This is impactful. Way more than we ever imagined. And then we were driving in Dormont outside of Pittsburgh and we pulled up to this woman’s apartment and she’s getting her key ready and it’s dark. And we pull up and we said Merry Christmas. And Nolan handed her the money. And she looked at it and she stared at us. She was stunned and a tear started coming down her cheek and she said, “I can’t remember the last time somebody gave me something for Christmas.”

And we just drove home stunned in silence. And Dylan was like, “What does she mean?” Because they have no idea what it’s like to not get something for Christmas or not. To have somebody give them something for Christmas. And the lessons that come from this for all of us, for the kids to see the life that they’ve been fortunate to have and to see what some other people have to deal with. And that could be them. And then last year put it over the edge because we run a little bit bigger and we’re in the North Shore of Pittsburgh, not far from Heinz Field where the Steelers play and it was dark and it was cold and we liked to go to places where people are working so we can give the workers money cause you know, like we said that they need it. But this woman was in a wheelchair and she came out of 7-11 and Andrew said she’s not wearing any shoes and I’m not sure what the temperature was but it was cold.

So we quickly said, okay her. But she had already passed our car. So we started the car up and we started driving and she’s riding in the middle of the street in a wheelchair. She’s got no jacket on and she’s got no shoes on and it’s dark and we are determined to not let her get away. And we finally pull up next to her and Andrew reached out and said Merry Christmas and gave her a $20 bill wrapped with a candy cane. And she again gave a similar reaction to what the others give. And that’s when we noticed that she had no jacket so she couldn’t have gotten more than 15 feet. We said, let’s give her another one. We pulled up, the kids gave her another $20 and she was so grateful and so thankful and we just sat there watching her still probably heading home in the wheelchair with no shoes and no jacket and no one was like, let’s give her another one.

And we pulled up to her for the third time, it was getting comical, give another $20 and more candy. And she thanked us again and she turned into the apartment complex where she lived. And so now hopefully we have created a tradition that will live on in our family and then hopefully can inspire other people to do so. And what’s fun is Ken Carfagno was a great friend of mine, him and his wife Teresa and their kids, they started doing this last year as well. And what’s really wonderful about it is to see the shift in the kids, to see them not so focused on what they’re getting, but really enjoying giving. And now they all look forward to it. They all ask about it, and for some reason their Christmas wishlist has gotten smaller each year. And I just hope this is something we could do together as a family for years to come, and that they bring it on with their families as a tradition as well. So Merry Christmas Eve, everybody. I hope you have a fantastic time with your families, with your friends, and I’m sure you’ll be busy opening up gifts, but I’ll be back with you tomorrow.

Episode 171- How Do You Follow Something Great?

I’m going to start by saying that expectations can be killer if you let them and quite often we allow other people’s expectations of what they want from us to shape the work that we need to do and that is a dangerous precedent and road to go down if you truly want to create something unique within your own work and not allowing your vision of what you want to create to be influenced by people that do not have skin in the game of what you’re doing is something to really be avoided. When I was a journalism major in college at Ohio, I was put into a unique spot. If you heard my episode from way back titled, do you need an audit? It was about the photo story that I did on the F Train in New York City. I spent 30 days on that train to document what life was like for the people that wrote a subway that went through all different areas of New York, all different diversity, poor and rich and everything in between and that story went up.

Winning the William Randolph Hearst National Championship, not only for best picture story but after going to San Francisco for a competition, winning the whole thing altogether. So it started out as a little story for myself that I wanted to do, that I really wanted to document all of a sudden with all this acclaim that came from these awards, I was back at Ohio University but now all the students wanted to know what I was working on. All of a sudden I’m the flavor of the month and the expectations on me on what I’m going to produce was something that I wasn’t expecting. So this went into my last semester and my final photo story project and I had full reign over what I would choose and what the project it would be and it would be a couple of months that I’d be working on this.  I decided to not pick a hard hitting project, something controversial or cultural or even deep.

I really wanted to document what life was like for a group of high school baseball players in a small town in Ohio. What day to day life was like for them. And to do a behind the scenes documentary project on something like that. So I was in the midst of that project when I was flown out to San Francisco for the shootout and the awards and then when I returned now as the quote unquote, the chosen one, which I never wanted that label to begin with, I headed back into Nelsonville, this little town with these kids that were on a quest for just a small town baseball title. And I loved the project. I loved the coach. He gave me total access. I got to be on the bus with them. The arguments, the disagreements, the jokes, just a real small town feel that somebody from the York had never quite experienced.

And I found it fascinating and I knew that this was not a hard hitting award-winning project like the F train was. That’s one just had so many layers. I mean the big city thing, the cultural thing, the diversity of the storyline, it really had so much to it. But to me this was diversity as well. This is something that I really wanted to do. It was interesting, at least to me and with me wanting to more of a professional sports photographer as I got out of school, I thought that having a longterm, deep documentary project like this would be beneficial to my portfolio and my career. And as it came to the end, they didn’t win any type of championship. I’m not even sure if they made the playoffs, but it really turned out to be a great storyline. I was really happy with the images and I was excited to show it to the class, but I really learned a lot about how people treat you or how they look at you depending on the success that they perceive you’re having.

Because when I set out to do the F train story, there were no expectations. Most of the people didn’t even know who I was, so I got to do exactly what I wanted to do. And because of that I produced something pretty solid. And to me I was doing the same thing with the baseball project, but it was different. I stepped into the classroom for the final exam. I guess that’s what you’d call it. It’s where we all put our work out and everybody looks through it and critiques it and talks about it and something happened that was different this day. Being that I was an undergrad, the grads never came into our class, but for some reason actually there was a reason. The fact that I won the William Randolph Hearst national championship and I was the grand champion that was being in articles and was being promoted.

All of a sudden everybody was interested in my work and to be quite honest, it really pissed me off because I was like, nobody cared before, nobody was interested or was curious, ors looking to help. They became interested once I was a winner, so not that I was mad at anybody, but I was not interested in their opinion because I knew they were there simply because I was that person that won the award, not because of me. So they all came in and they were all excited and interested to see what I did. They weren’t interested really in anybody else’s stuff and they went through them one by one. I see them going through it and looking at my work and looking at the story and the book that I put together and the response was one of complete underwhelmed and I’m totally honest here.

I wasn’t expecting anything different. I wasn’t disappointed by it. I wasn’t sad that nobody was raving about it. I didn’t do it for them, but as we did almost every single time we had a critique or we had class we’d want to go over Tony’s, which was the bar that most of the photojournalists went to often, and a few of the grad students laid it out for me and one of them told me to my face,” I was really disappointed in your project” over a beer. I asked why and he said, I thought after seeing the F train story, it would be some real hot button, deep story. And again, I asked him, why would you think that? He said, that’s what you do. That’s just what everybody expects. How are you going to take this to the next level? And I said to him, I’m sorry you were disappointed, but I wasn’t trying to take anything to the next level with the F train.

I wasn’t trying to take to the next level. I was just trying to tell a great story and each story I tell is going to have its own intricacies, its own struggle, its own message. And I said to him, why is it always have to be bigger? And he didn’t have an answer and I had a couple of the conversations that same night in the same realm and I know I didn’t convince them of anything, but I did convince myself of something and what I learned early on to base my career on after that was that I’m not interested in doing my work on the basis of other people’s expectations. I need to do the work that is to my heart that is truly about who I am and what I believe in as opposed to how do I follow up in a ward because other people are expecting something different.

And I walked out of OU and it wasn’t with the perception of having knocked it out of the park to the grad students on my way out. But that lesson of doing it the way that I needed to do it, and being thrilled that I did a project that was based on my vision and not other people’s expectations, gave me the confidence to go out into the real world and stick to my guns on the work that I needed to do and not allow outside influences to get me off that course. And sometimes people are going to be disappointed, but those aren’t the people that I’m concerned about letting down.

And I will talk to you tomorrow.

Episode 170- Regrets

So this might be the same for you, but I get asked a lot what I fear. So my fears now are way different than what my fears were 10,15,20 years ago. And oftentimes it’s a collection of different things that you fear. But I could rattle off a laundry list of fears that I’ve had over my life and often fears that I’ve had at the same exact time. The fear of not having enough money, the fear of not being successful, the overwhelming fear that comes with what are people gonna think about me if they’re not going to accept me? Letting people down, playing too small, the fear of choosing something and then finding out it’s the wrong thing. And then it gets deeper. When you think about as you get older, your family, like the fear of not being the best dad or husband, that it could be the fear of making the wrong choices with them.

But through time and experience, I’ve learned that so many of those things aren’t fears anymore to me. But there is one fear, one fear that stays with me that pushes me and that forces me to get uncomfortable to do the things that I know I want to do. But in the moment I’m too scared to do it because oftentimes the practical thing is to not do it. It’s not practical to sit down and start writing a book for everyone. Listen, writing a book is a challenge. It is time and it’s effort. It is struggle. And writing the book is such an ultimate challenge because there is no absolute immediate reward to any of it when you do it. That’s why it’s such a deep respect for people who have written their own books. But my big fear, the only one that really sticks with me is the fear of regret.

In the past I’d allow my failures and my disappointments to guide my decisions. They would slow me down, they would be the log jam that would build up and I realized the only cure for that was just to go do it, whatever it was. But the fear of regret, man, that is the thing that worries me because I see it, I see it all the time. And people that I talked to, people in their mid forties and their 50s and they didn’t do the things that they thought they were going to do. And it sucks because there’s still plenty of time to do these things, but they’re already beaten down. And it’s sad because in 10 or 15 years when they realize, man, I was really young, but I was worried about that when I stopped myself, they’re going to say, man, I thought it was too late then, but it really wasn’t.

So it’s interesting with regret compared to accomplishment, the accomplishments I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about, but the regrets, those are the ones that stick with me. And I think back on them and I tell myself what if for instance, what if in high school, and there’s a story that comes back to me in my life that I think about often now, I don’t have very many regrets from high school. I knew school wasn’t my thing. I knew the classes weren’t my thing. I knew there was a world out there outside of the structure of that that was going to be the world that I lived in. But when I was a junior in high school, I had a dream to play the football team and I signed up and I tried out and I had arrived in the locker room in the middle of the summer and a blazing heat and I was ready to go and I didn’t know what position I would play.

I mean I was pretty good all those years playing on the street with my friends. So I figured I’ve got to give it a shot. And I knew I was behind from the beginning because all the guys seem to know each other. They all had the right equipment and the cleats and I didn’t have any of it. So I was kind of made fun of from the beginning. But I got up every day. I walked that mile to school. I practiced out there in the heat, I did the drills, I did the sprints. I tried figuring out what position I was going to try out for and throughout the entire time I was teased and kind of pushed around, not mercifully, but enough to not feel like I belonged, but at that point I wanted so badly to belong in. The first day of school showed up and I wanted to show that I was a part of this team and I wore my Jersey number 33 into school for the first day of classes because I wanted to show that I was a part of that team.

I walked around school all day with that jersey on. At the end of the day, I still was not accepted with those guys. Nobody came up to me and said, Hey, this guy’s our guy. He’s a part of our team. I didn’t get invited to the lunch table. I wasn’t a part of any of the conversations and the next day I didn’t go to practice. The day after that I didn’t go again. And when nobody was looking, I pulled my jersey out of my backpack and I threw it in a bin next to the gym and I never went back. I quit. Like I said, I never actually officially quit because I never told anybody. But more appropriately I gave up. I let those guys opinion or lack of opinion of me to get the best of me and not one person asked where I was. Nobody asked if I was coming back.

Nobody cared. And that’s my fault. It’s my fault because I let them get the best of me. It’s my fault because I never proved myself that I even belonged to be on that team. And during that fall I questioned why I even tried out. I knew it was going to be difficult. I knew it was going to be something that I had never done before. I knew these guys weren’t my friends. I tried out, I believe, because I wanted to prove something to myself and to them and to everybody. I didn’t believe in me. And I quit. And when I look back on that story, I don’t look back on any of it with fondness. Not proud of myself that I wore jersey for a team that I wasn’t even on to school to show that I was part of something that I wasn’t really a part of.

I’m not proud that I gave up. And I believe in quitting very often. I believe you quit the wrong things, but I quit too soon. I quit before I knew I quit before I even had a chance to prove myself. And when you talk about regrets, that’s one of my regrets because if I knew then what I know now, there’s no way anybody would have stopped me from taking the hits and probably winning over some of those people and that I needed them to be my friends. But man, I sure would have loved to have earned some of their respect. And I can tell you, not only did I not earn their respect, but I was forgotten. And quickly, and I’m telling you this because I don’t want you looking back and having the same regrets. And you might be listening to this nodding because you did that in the past, or you’re doing it now, quitting something that you shouldn’t quit just yet.

But the lesson I learned from that was the silver lining. Because if I want to do something, it truly doesn’t matter if I’m the biggest success in the world with it. What matters is if I want it, I’m going to go do it. And I’ll say I’ve quit a lot of things since that September morning in my junior year, but the things I’ve quit are things that I wanted to quit because they weren’t right for me. And I don’t look back with regret to any of them. But this one, this one still eats at me. And the reason why is I’ll never know if what I really wanted would have happened because I didn’t try. And I want you to have as little of those regrets moving forward as possible. So do not let other people’s opinions or disinterest or dissatisfaction help determine what it is that you want to do.

And I’ll talk to you tomorrow.