May 9, 2017

Happy Birthday Josie May!

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You know how people say that everything changes the moment you see your baby for the first time? That you’re filled with overwhelming joy and purpose, and throughout the next few months you walk around in a love soaked stupor fueled by sleep deprivation? Well that’s all complete bullshit. Perhaps some may remember it that way, but what most parents don’t tell you, is that the first few months of having a baby SUUUUUUUCKS, big time. And I don’t simply mean because you’re tired all the time kind of sucks, but like legitimately dislike your baby kind of sucks. I have distinct memories thinking back, that consists more or less, of “Is this really my life now?”

And then around four or five months in, it all starts to change. Baby starts to smile and react. They look less like a shrunken, dehydrated version of you or your alien love child. In short, with luck, they are no longer hangry, squid-like, shit birds (side note: they are still little shit birds, but cute shit birds) and more like tiny humans who are entirely convinced that you’re at least one of the top two people on Earth.

So how does having a kid change your life? Well, for starters, I haven’t seen any of the movies that were nominated for an Oscar this past year. I’ve, for the most part, lost my favorite adventure partner, and now need to schedule activities in advance, as well as know exactly what those little numbers on the bottle nipples mean. Now that might all sound pretty lame, cuz it is, until you consider having a kid as an investment. Yea, I’ve mostly been absent from pop culture for the past year, but I’ve already started playing Josie my favorite music, and watching her respond and react to my favorite songs is like hearing them again for the first time. And while I’m short an adventure partner for the time being, it’s only a matter of time until that -1 turns into a +2. We’ve already successfully completed four consecutive nights camping in the desert, as well as have hiked and skied Empire Bowl at Deer Valley. Not to mention Josie shreds the driveway harder on her giraffe trike than any one-year-old has the right to.

Happy year one Josie May – can’t wait to see what adventures come our way in year two!


May 1, 2017

Reinventing Happiness Through Urbanism

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I’ve always been fascinated by place. As such, I’m one of those people continually perusing “best places” lists, real estate listings, as well as reading city data and reddit threads in an attempt to seek out the next Austin or Portland. While I’ve visited my fair share of places, I’ve really only made one major move in my life, which was from Indiana to Utah after college. While I’m constantly in search of that “next best place,” the truth is, I’m pretty happy in Utah and haven’t been able to come up with a good reason to leave, or moreover, a better place to go. Sure, Utah is one of those deep red states with it’s fair share of state sanctioned backwards-ness, but it has much going for it that makes it a worthy place to stay and try to change from the inside. Don’t even get me started on the potential there is here should a few like-minded folks put there heads together and collectively decide to make something cool happen.

Yet I digress. A couple months back, Mr. Money Mustache was on the Tim Ferris Show. I was previously unfamiliar with Mr. Money Mustache, but he’s a financial lifestyle blogger with a cult-like internet following. In addition to his frugal financial habits, he is also a huge proponent of optimizing one’s life for quality time and not the daily “busy-ness” and chores so many perceive as simply part of life or being an adult. For instance, choosing to live close enough to work so you can walk or ride rather than having to commute by car, and generally arranging your life in which friends/family, neighbors, and daily essentials are accessible by foot or bike — a practice I’m a huge proponent of and continually working toward.

Throughout the podcast, Mr. Money Mustache references the book Happy City by Charles Montgomery, a Vancouver based journalist and self-described “urban engagement specialist.” The book is all about the impact that our surroundings have on our level of perceived happiness, as well as how urban planning and sprawl has impacted societal levels of happiness since the industrial revolution, for both better and worse. His claim in the book, is that even though income and home ownership has steadily increased since WWII, general happiness has decreased in part because of urban sprawl and dispersed living. Where towns and cities were once built around plazas and mixed-use neighborhoods, they’ve since been replaced by parking lots, highway corridors, and singular building codes. Essentially, people have traded walkability & community for commuting and perceived cheap square footage. Montgomery also finds in his research, that those who commute by foot or bicycle as a whole report higher levels of happiness and health than those who make nearly double the salary and commute by car an hour every day. Yet the tide seems to be turning from suburbia back to urban life as for the first time in recent years, people are choosing to move back to cities and urban centers spurring a new generation of urbanist design & thinking.

Regardless of whether you have an interest in urban planning and design, I’d highly recommend giving Happy City a read, as it’s a telling insight about happiness and the choices we make. Additionally, check out Mr. Money Mustache. While I’m not on board with he everything puts out, I think there is a lot of wisdom in optimizing time and money for happiness, and not the other way around.


April 20, 2017

Un-Hacking The Life Hack

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When did everything become a “hack.” Life-hacking, diet-hacking, exercise-hacking — the list goes on. For something to be a hack than there is the implication that there is a correct way of doing things, and hacking is the shortcut. Here’s the thing, regardless of how we’ve been conditioned there is no “right way” to live your life. However it is you want to live your life, whether it’s only working four days a week, frequent travel, spending more time with your kids, chances are it’s within reach.

Life is a series of choices, and when you start making those choices on a conscious level, as opposed to simply falling inline with how the masses operate, you begin to create a pattern. That pattern can be one of happiness or misery. This doesn’t come without sacrifice — there is no having it all, at least not at the same time. However, once you identify what you value most, you can begin to evaluate all your daily decisions based on whether or not they support those values. For some it’s building a business or career. For others it’s living in a place such as New York City or other far-off destination.

Early on I made the decision that I valued my time, and how I spent it, the most. This meant I would never thrive in a 60+hour/week work environment working towards someone else’s goals. Which meant I would probably never find my way into that “top agency” or reap the type of accolades which go along with such a career. It took some time to accept this, for a while I wanted to have it all. Was I guilty of wasting my life, being lazy? For a while I was unsure. However, now it seems obvious that my values were simply different from of the mainstream career culture. I’ve accepted the fact that I may never win an award, work for a premier agency, or make as much money — but I will have more time for being active, riding my bike, hanging out with my kid, making, and reading & learning about things I otherwise wouldn’t have time for.

All successful projects have a core objective, ie; “Our goal is to X.” Once that is established, every decision can be evaluated against said objective, “Does this help achieve X?” If yes, great — move forward. If no, scrap it. Life should be approached the same way— once you figure out what your X is, solving for it starts to seem within reach. The real challenge is defining your X.
The bad news is there is no hacking life. The good news however, is if you make conscious choices and live with intent, no hacking is required.


March 14, 2017

These Days

“These Days” is an example of the beautiful contrast which every artist tries to render through their work. It’s at the same time simple but profound, peaceful yet haunted. In a first listen, the song appears to be a casual reflection of a life well lived, taking place perhaps on a porch over a glass of lemonade. Upon a closer listen, it reveals itself as coming from a place of deep regret over a life riddled with missed opportunity.

However, perhaps what’s most fascinating about the song, is the fact that it was written by a sixteen year old Jackson Browne while working as a staff writer. How someone who’s not even been to a senior prom can write such profound lyrics about the human experience is beyond me. Originally titled, “I’ve Been Out Walking,” the song was then given to Nico of the Velvet Underground fame to record for her 1967 solo album Chelsea Girl, for which will be indefinitely linked in my mind to the The Royal Tenenbaums some 30 odd years later.

In addition to Nico’s version, “These Days” was also famously recorded by Allman Brother, Gregg Allman on his 1973 solo album, Laid Back. Here the song takes on a slow southern drawl and sounds just at home in Gregg’s relaxed manner as it does when paired with Nico’s German accent and somewhat unconventional delivery.

Oddly, Browne didn’t release the song himself until later that same year and arranged his recording of the song similarly to Allman’s take. In each case, the artists changes the phrasing slightly to best suit their delivery, and it’s one of the rare cases in music in which each cover feels as though it’s the original – regardless of the version you heard first.

Please don’t confront me with my failure
I’m aware of it

Those last two lines though… simply brutal.


March 13, 2017

A Successful Life…

A successful life & career means loving the process – the every day – and not just the harvest. This means choosing a way of life, and a body of work that’s reflective of our values. The eventuality of the work is secondary.


March 8, 2017

Jack White’s Imagination

White wore me out. I wasn’t prepared. He had a big Mercedes, with a custom sound system, and he drove like hell through Nashville traffic, with Slim Harpo at defcon 1 volume. We pulled into a filling station, he jumped out, gassed up, jumped back in, and tore ass out of the station and made a bad U-turn in front of traffic. He worried me a little. What if he’d left the pump hose in the tank? What then?

Jack White has always fascinated me, and recently The New Yorker’s Alec Wilkinson did a short profile on his seemingly ‘infinite imagination.’ The above was taken from the piece as recounted by Ry Cooder and left me smiling with the mental image of White terrorizing the streets of Nashville with the blues cranked to 11 on his Mercedes’ custom stereo.

Additionally, I love White’s approach to business:

Over the course of any day, White is boss, bandmate, producer, project supervisor, businessman, pragmatist, and idea man. “Mr. American Work Ethic” is how an acquaintance of White’s described him to me. White says that Third Man Records is not in business to make money. (It does.) He wants the company to produce objects and projects he cares about, in the belief that if they appeal to him and his staff, they will appeal to others, even if they appear pointless.

On self-imposed rules & constraints:

With computers you can use three hundred and ten tracks if you want to, but it’s too much freedom. I always have my own rules, and I can bend them if I want. I can see the confines I’m working in, but nobody else knows I’m doing it

Read the full piece on The New Yorker.