In the June of 2000, I found myself in New York City at the base of one the World Trade Center towers. Instinctively, I looked straight up. I’ll never forget the dizzying combination of the summer sun and what felt like sheer vertical mile of steel and glass.
At the time I was an 18-year-old on vacation from Fort Worth, Texas, and I wasn’t accustomed to that kind of spectacle. My skyscrapers didn’t look like that, nor did my city teem and smell and sweat like NYC.
I was out of my depth, nearly overcome by the crowds and concrete. We’d done so much walking around already — we’d already spent hours waiting and trudging to the tops of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. And so when we reached the World Trade Center, I just looked up.
“Want to go to the top?” my uncle asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said. After all, what was another big building at that point?
Fifteen months later, I watched with my college roommates as the towers smoked and fell, I thought back to my vacation.
Amid the terror and tragedy of September 11th, I couldn’t escape the thought that I’d stood at the base of those same towers and declined to climb them. I had an opportunity, and I didn’t take it.
I don’t mean to say that I suffered a significant personal loss on 9/11 — I didn’t, and my heart goes out to those who did. What I do mean to say is that one of the things 9/11 taught us is how quickly our structures and constructs can be toppled. That which stands tall today might give way tomorrow to age or progress or the wicked schemes of angry men. Even as we remember the departed, we who remain ought to see the present and its invitations for what they are, and respond accordingly.
Beginning January 21, 1998 (the morning after Dawson’s Creek premiered), I’ve been told I look like Hollywood actor man Joshua Jackson approximately 10,000 times. I used to avoid such comparisons, and perhaps even resent them, but today I’m looking on the bright side: it’s nice to have a built-in Halloween costume …
(Please note: I never take serious pictures of myself unless it’s for facetious purposes.)
My family and I just returned from a week at Horn Creek Camp in Colorado, nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It’s pretty up there, you guys. We went with a big group of foster and adoptive families, and we had a blast. It’s fun to see a bunch of kids running around who look nothing like their parents. Anyway, let’s bring on the bullet points:
- Thirty minutes into our 700-mile drive home, the lead car in our three-car caravan side-swiped a jay-walking black bear in the pre-dawn glow of another beautiful Colorado morning. The bear bounded away apparently unharmed, and part of me really wanted to run it down and wrestle it.
- I’m still amazed by the original iPad’s battery life. What a trooper. My daughter watched plenty of movies on the iPad throughout our 1,400-mile trip to Colorado and back, and the battery never let us down.
- A little less than halfway through Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative, I’m enjoying it. I find myself thinking and jotting down notes and eager to tackle work this fall.
- I’m also a little less than halfway through Gary Molander’s Pursuing Christ. Creating Art., to which I contributed introductory essays to two chapters. Here’s my tweet-sized review: Smiles, goose bumps, tears. If the title grabs you as a book that might be right for you, it is.
- I can’t overstate the magnificence of summertime in Colorado. While the highs were 109 degrees here in Dallas, our corner of Colorado topped out in the mid-80s.
- Camp food. Blargh.
- One day before we left, I turned 29. The big 3-0 looms large, but I’m choosing to look forward to it. I’ve decided that 30 is when I’ll magically become mature, confident, and successful. Can’t wait!
- Texas towns list their populations on their city limits signs (I think the smallest I saw on our trip was Hedley, Texas — population 379), while Colorado towns list their elevations (Westcliffe, Colorado — elevation 7,888 feet).
- Colorado’s state flag, pictured above, is one of my favorites. It was designed by Andrew Carlisle Johnson in 1911 (if Wikipedia is to be trusted).
- Well, it’s mid-August (what?!?) and I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. With a job, a family, and a few side projects in the hopper, that will be easier said than done. To quote an old episode of The Simpsons, “Pray for Mojo”:
In poker a tell is “an unconscious behavior that is thought to betray an attempted deception.” In other words, you’re trying to mask how you feel about your cards — jubilation or panic — by feigning indifference, but something gives you away. You breathe differently or tap your finger or scratch your temple, and a savvy player is on to you.
Over the course of the last year or two, I’ve figured out a few of my own tells. (Know thyself, right?) These days, I’ve been thinking specifically about my work-related stress tells, and it seems there are three reliable indicators of how good of a handle I’ve got on things in my professional life:
- the number of emails in my inbox
- the cleanliness of my computer desktop
- the cleanliness of physical desktop
Now, with Echo just four days, what’s the current status of those three indicators? Each one is an abject disaster.
So, going with the idea of a tell, if you know what to look for in my office, you know I have a tenuous grip on my sanity. But because it’s Echo, I’m okay with that. I guess when you love someone or something, a little stress can be a good thing. And hey, by this time next week, Echo 2011 will be in my rearview mirror, and I’ll have a chance to do some tidying at the office.
I’m almost back home from a whirlwind trip to Canada for Create Conference. A few notes and observations:
- The drive from Buffalo to St. Catherine’s, Ontario is beautiful. Trees, hills, rivers, lakes — things Dallas kids only see in picture books.
- Canadians are incredibly friendly and generous.*
- *Except for Canadian border agents. I got the good cop/bad cop routine minus the good cop.
- Our oldest daughter, Elise, turns three on Saturday. Amazing! Too bad she came down with strep yesterday.
- Our youngest daughter, Maggie, is four weeks old today. Time flies.
- It was honor to be invited to participate in Create. After teaching a few breakout sessions and workshops the last few years, this was my first keynote.
- I was nervous.
- A lot of people have asked me how it went, and I realized I’m probably the wrong person to answer that question. Personally, I’d love to ask the audience members how they thought it went.
- Chicago’s O’Hare airport remains my least favorite airport. I don’t even travel that much, but when I do, I dread the letters ORD.
- I love visiting other cities (LA, Austin, and Chicago remain my favorites), but there’s nothing like coming home.
- Grantland.com launched today. If ever there was a site I’d visit every day, that’s it.
That’s it for me. It’s great to be back on US soil!
Two weeks ago, I embarked on the first leg of my 2011 world tour, which took me to sunny Southern California. If you don’t mind, a few quick hits from the trip:
- I love my iPad. On the plane I watched a two-hour movie and the battery went from 100% to 85% — that’s incredible.
- And for what it’s worth, I love that a single device can offer me video, audio, books, and games while I’m shoved into an airplane seat.
- Gale force winds at DFW airport meant that my flight was delayed 50 minutes. Then it meant that the takeoff was the roughest I’d ever experienced.
- Being an avid fan of Lost has changed how I process turbulence on an airplane.
- I love my large Timbuk2 messenger bag. For me, it’s the perfect travel bag.
- The Holiday Inn in La Mirada offers free wifi, and the speed and signal strength were excellent. It’s the little things …
- Speaking of which, wouldn’t it be cool if every hotel room featured a built-in iPhone charger?
- There’s no such thing as a decent TV in a hotel room — it’s either brand new or 15 years old.
- Either way, the remote is going to be terrible and the channel lineup will be baffling.
- I believe hotel housekeeping should be required to turn off the alarm clock when they turnover a room. I came to this conclusion at 4am Pacific Time.
- I’ve lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex my entire life, so I’m always struck by places that have trees. With leaves on them. Not to mention hills and mountains — they blow me away every time because D/FW is about as flat as flat can be. Southern California is the best.
- It only takes one evening of wandering around the uninviting parking garages at DFW airport to make one aware of the importance of documenting the location of one’s car. I learned this lesson a few years ago, and let me tell you — no matter how hard you scour the massive garage at Terminal C, you will not find your car if it’s parked at Terminal A. I promise.
Well, that’s it for me. Thanks for bearing with me on the first installment of Cavalcade of Bullet Points!
For one reason or another, messy food stresses me out.
One of the hardest things for me as the father of a two year-old (pictured above with pancakes and syrup) is to avoid saying, “Here … let me do it.” I’d rather cut her food, squeeze her toothpaste, and lift her up into the car than let her make a mess of things. In the short term, my way is probably cleaner and quicker. But I’m realizing that in the long term, it’s no way to raise a kiddo.
She’ll never grow if I keep saying, “Here … let me do it.” It seems that human beings never get from inexperience to excellence without sticky syrup fingers, spilled juice cups, and slightly askew Dora underwear. I want her to grow, and so I’ve got to get out of the way. And really, she’s just a cute little metaphor.
We all need permission to make a mess, whether we’re learning to use chopsticks, assemble IKEA furniture, or lead a team at work. We also need to look for opportunities to give this permission to others. Again, none of us can get from inexperience to excellence any other way.
Maybe tomorrow morning I’ll put an extra helping of syrup on her plate and let her have at it. Hopefully, by the time she’s eating pancakes in the college cafeteria, she’ll have mastered the technique. But I’m sure I’ll find something else to stress out about.
“What’s that, Elise? You’re trying to choose your major? Here … let me do it.”