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The freedom of all to be lords of our own, personal skull-sized kingdoms… alone at the center of all creation.
The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline and being able truly to care about people and to sacrifice for them, over and over in myriad petty, little unsexy ways everyday. That is real freedom.”

David Foster Wallace


There isn't time by John Baldessari

When my son died I learned how flowers in vases don’t last long. So when I found this by John Baldessari it hit hard.

Frank Chimero on Marketing

I don’t expect to reach or change anybody I don’t already know. I realize there’s potential for that, but I don’t expect it.”

Frank Chimero

This has been rattling around my brain since I’ve heard it. In Fizzle I keep encouraging folks to think small, small, smaller. If you think about women who ride unicycles to work in north portland you can a). find those people easily (there are 10 of them), b). study and serve them well in small and meaningful ways that c). make a serious impact on that crew.

But in our online growing stuff — marketing stuff — for Fizzle and ThinkTraffic and, shit, even this blog, my mind defaults to “i need more people” mode.

Getting in front of new folks.

Making a good impression on them.

Creating an emotional experience with them on the page.

Making it easier and more enjoyable for them to find us.

But when I heard Frank say this I knew it was True™.

We still need to grow (maybe that’s another question to explore), but we can do it more like a family or a neighborhood than a “startup.”

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.”

Ray Bradbury

Well, what do you want?

Frank Chimero on the Bounty of Success

I now know that the work doesn’t last—and if it somehow does, it lasting doesn’t have much to do with me. The work went far because other people carried it. Disabusing myself of the idea that I did anything important or special has been really good for me. If the bounty of success is attention, and you feel like you don’t deserve that attention, then you have no responsibility to it. It has no power over you. That frees you up to take risks. If those risks pay off, then great. If they don’t: c’est la vie. At least you’re alive, tried something, and lived a little.”

Frank Chimero

Wow, what a great read. I have liked Chimero’s words for a while. Hearing some of his story, how he’s processing grief as a creative worker, only makes me a bigger fan. Here’s some other Frank posts I’ve written about.

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

Robert Browning

What is perfect? Perfect is just your pathetic attempt to hide inside technology.”

Ben Sidran

If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.”

Joseph Campbell

Of course you’re uncertain.

Of course you don’t know which is best of two possible goods.

Of course you’re not sure how to best spend your time.

Can you accept this as a necessary part of the whole thing, of your life and all of our lives, and have a little more fun in the deciding?

Maybe even collect a sense of adventure about it?

Because if you go looking around for the right answer all the time, if you need a sense of absoluteness, if you worship certainty, you’ll never know enough.

Self Portrait by David Whyte

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

Self Portrait by David Whyte

It’s the 1 year birthday of the day I launched my first product. I was a part of an amazing team with Corbett and Caleb. We worked our asses off, created the seed of Fizzle in a few months, opened it to our large and dedicated audience at Think Traffic, and sold out the first 150 seats in just over two hours. Today we sent this gif in a lovely email to the 40-odd members who signed up that day and are still with us today. Fired up, you guys.

CEO of Coke on Which Ball is Rubber

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca Cola

2 Months Since Rowan

This is where we were 2 months ago this morning, our second son, Rowan, dying during full-term labor. (For more of the story you can browse here from the bottom up).

I can’t believe it. It feels like 2 YEARS, not months. Rowan tore such a deep rift in reality.

We have these “see-through” moments, lightning fast glimpses into this massive, isolating, “wtf matters!?” feeling.

Parker Palmer says, “depression is the ultimate state of disconnection.” That’s what it’s been like. Moments of disconnection from reality, from ourselves, from our friends, from each other, from our plans.

And then regular life… arranging for friends to come into town, figuring out dinner, running out of clean undies, trying to get to the gym.

And you can go for days or weeks without a see-through moment. And then it hits you, and you’re, like, “Fuck. Holy shit. Rowan. Mellisa.”

Depression is disconnection. This is that. But there’s also connection. Through the see-throughs we connect harder to those in the pits with us and to what feels like the feebleness of everything, how slim our chances are, how small our concerns are, how lucky we are, how fucked up and wonderful everything can be.

How are we? I think we’re grieving well. Seems like we feel it and don’t feel it in the right ratio. We certainly could be doing worse. Who can tell?

I’m so proud of my wife. My biggest fear, the thought motivating so many of my decisions in the hospital, was the fear that this will split her right down the middle and turn her into full on batshit crazy pants. It didn’t. There’ is’s a crack. But as Leonard Cohen says, that’s how the light gets in.

What now? We’re working on some big life decisions. These include things like, “when do you want to get preggers again?” and “what will Mellisa ‘do’ for a living?” My wife is literally the most talented person I know, which makes these questions harder, not easier. But these questions, and our life together, feels good. It feels right. We didn’t allow ourselves to think of any of this stuff for the first month. It’s been percolating. We’ve got lots of things to talk through.

I’m working on my business. I love my partner and what we’re building there. It’s creating the undergirding direction of my life, my mission, and it feels like me to me.

So, two months. Goddam. Thank you for your support. For the cards, the flowers, the gins, the conversations, the awkwardness, the tears, the giggles and snuggles and music and story retellings and dinners. There are dried flowers hanging on the walls in our house. Specialty Gin has fueled many late night talks. Tears and conversation have helped us get perspective and feel less alone.

We love you.

The Third Tier

I was in Portland, OR this weekend for XOXO Fest 2013. I stayed with Myke and Matt. I say “stayed” but the proper term is “crashed like a goddam animal.” I mostly just assumed it would be ok and showed up to snuggle between two queen size beds. They were cool. It was damp.

We had a crew there in Portland. Dan, Tom and their gorgeous wives (these guys know how to pick ‘em), along with Jon and occasional dancing outbursts from my new favorite person ever Liam.

We really invested in one another. “Invested” sounds cute. It’s the kind of word that would be printed on something and then you’d click to Pinterest it. But it’s the right word. We devoted our time and effort to each other.

The word (and our efforts in that direction) means something to me because I’ve left too many social situations and conferences and such regretful, feeling like I made poor choices, like I missed the point or missed my chance or missed my wife or something.

I have a theory, a tier theory. There’s people at the top. They’re celebrities. People people know. They walk in and the room changes, everyone’s looking at them out of the corners of their eyes, some are full on staring.

These first-tier folks got there due to work they did, or jokes they made, or something like that. These are the people we look up to and admire… like, a lot.

And we all want them to like us. I, for one, have spent a lot of time and effort trying to get my fav’s like Merlin Mann to like me. I’ve wasted a lot of emotional energy, extended my resources in unnatural ways to try to stand out and be someone who’s easily cool… this never works. This leaves me feeling that “missed the point/missed the chance/miss my wife” kind of feeling.

And then I met Brad and Patrick and Matt and Maja and others who had relationships with all the 1st tier people, but seemed to always be hanging with each other. They wouldn’t line the edges of a crowd around John Gruber. They’d be standing somewhere else, with each other, making each other laugh, buying each other drinks.

Also, they were real welcoming. So light and fun and enjoyable. I felt more like myself when I was around them (as opposed to whatever else I was trying to be with 1st tier folks).

By the way, I totally think this is silly and sorta dumb; putting people into tiers and classes… but I’m going to keep going. It’ll come around. Promise.

Brad and Patrick, et. al., defined a new tier for me. I saw these lovely, kind, funny, welcoming people, I saw how wildly talented they all were, how they were doing work they were proud of, how they’ve been around for a while, long enough to know the first tier people and the fact that first tier people are just regular fucking people who now get approached more than they’d like to be…

And the thing I saw the most was how they invested in one another. They seemed to realize they really liked each other. They turned towards each other and said, “let’s start a club there.” They were for one another and acted accordingly.

Then I saw myself and these guys and gals I was getting close with. We were the 3rd tier. Unknown-ish. A little younger. Just kind of coming of age in our careers. High hopes. Sensitive to the whimsy of our 1st tier swooning. We have heroes. We’re idealistic. We’re adorable and hopeful and earnest and would really like Merlin Mann to listen to our podcasts… like, so much.

And the danger is we could miss out on all the goodness in one another — the birth of each others’ first born kids, the big project launches, the arduous bug fixing nights, the giggles at breakfast as we recited lines from the previous night’s events, the awkward bathroom bonding moments, snuggles — we could miss out on all this due to spending too mcuh emotional energy trying to get Marco Arment to like us… by investing too much in the idea of someone liking us just cuz they’re important. We’d miss out on real love and relationships with one another because we were trying to be somebody to someone who was something.

Now, here’s the thing about the tiers: there are no fucking tiers. The reason why those second tier folks looked so awesome to me is not due to their proximity to the 1st tiers. It might be a by product of that. They spent enough time with the Merlins and Grubers to realize there are no fucking tiers. Just people and desire. Some people a lot of people desire. Some people not many people desire. It’s just people and desire. “So,” they said to themselves, “fuck desire. Let’s find the people we enjoy.”

They didn’t care about the tiers. But saying to myself, “don’t care about the tiers” doesn’t help me very well. It always creeps in.

So what I say instead is, “go all in on the 3rd tier.” Find the people you enjoy. Invest in them. Plan every dinner, lunch, walk, conference, breakfast and hotel choice you can with them.

And welcome others. Delight in the stories of fabulous nerds and hackers and help everyone you rub up against realize we’re all in this together, we’re all lonely humans, we all want to be seen and to be told we don’t look that fat with our shirt off and that the thing we’re making is OK or “pretty cool” and we all want to have someone to go to lunch with and to try a new beer with and to show our super embarrassing sword tattoo to and to sit next to and to wave at us and point to a saved seat when we walk in late. We all want the same shit: we just want to feel comfortable in our own skin.

This is the good stuff. We all have stinky bits, we all need undies, we’re all uncomfortable and worried, so lets make a club there.

The Reeves Tier Theory™ reminds me to dig in, think more human and ask if anyone needs another drink before I go get mine.