Askida Ekmek

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In Turkey, there’s an ancient tradition called askida ekmek practiced in bakeries. Askida ekmek translates into “bread on the hook.”

When someone buys a loaf of bread, they can tell the baker they’d like to put some bread on the hook. That means they pay for an extra loaf.

But not for themselves. That extra loaf gets hung up on a hook on the wall. When someone who has fallen on rough times comes by the shop, they can ask the baker, “Is there any bread on the hook?” The extra loaf that had been paid for is then given to one in need.

It’s a way of paying it forward, and loving neighbors with a simple gesture. There are many ways to pay it forward.

One of the most life-giving ways is to put yourself “on the hook” by sharing your work into the world. It’s costly, uncomfortable, and downright scary sometimes to be on the hook.

Instead of just consuming, you create. The act of creation is an opportunity to nourish, share what you’ve learned — and, in best case scenarios, even delight your crew.

And creativity is not just drawing or painting. Creativity is the work of discovering or revealing a lost truth, shouldering the responsibility of solving problems, and serving people.

All around us, there are ways we can put some bread on the hook.

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill, former U.K. Prime Minister, soldier, painter, circa 1940s

Three-minute action:

Choose one step you can take toward putting something up “on the hook” for people around you.

(via Seth Godin, The Practice)

1885 Tall Ship Wavertree Plimsoll Mark

1885 Tall Ship Wavertree Plimsoll Mark

Cargo ships carry mysterious markings on their hulls’ midship. Turns out the marks are called Plimsoll Lines and they’re used for safety of the ship and her crew.

You see, the Plimsoll lines declare at a glance whether the ship is carrying a safe amount of cargo through various conditions. Overloaded ships are good for owners’ wallets but horrible risk to crews’ lives.

If the lines are visible, there’s a good chance the ship is seaworthy. Otherwise, you don’t want to board that ship until they unload some cargo.

Mark Your Life

It’s mission critical that we install and honor Plimsoll Lines in our own lives. Some might call them boundaries, or not-to-do lists, or rumble strips.

The specifics could be different for everyone. For me, it’s how I respond to frustration, how I relate to Wonder Woman Grace and the littles, or how little sleep I’m getting, or if eczema breaks out.

They’re signs that enable us navigate life and provide early warning indicators when we’ve surpassed our load-bearing capacity. Whatever stuff, projects, work is in your cargo hold, it’s not worth sinking the entire ship.

We need courage and faith to only carry what we’re called to accomplish on this leg of the voyage. We have to make difficult decisions about when we need to jettison weight — preferably before the storm hits, before you’re in panic mode.

Clear conviction and priority help define our Plimsoll Lines. It may even mean you should take a break, put anchor down in harbor port and offload any stowaways to avoid stubbornly pushing on and ending up as wreckage.

There’s no greater value than ensuring the sea worthiness of your vessel and those you carry on toward distant shores.

Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.

Benjamin Franklin, polymath, statesman, scientist, inventor circa 1750

Three quick action questions:

  1. What are your Plimsoll Lines?
  2. Where’s the water level on your Plimsoll Line today?
  3. What do you need to jettison to keep you (and your loved ones, your crew) above water?

(H/T South Street Seaport Museum)


Moonshots. Vision. BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).

They go by different names, but they all require the same fuel.

You gotta believe. You gotta go big. All in. You must see what your eyes do not.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, aviator, poet, and journalist, circa 1930

Of course there’s nothing wrong with small steps, quick wins, and slow progress or even staying still. These are not mutually exclusive.

Ignite True Courage

And counting the cost is the spark that can ignite true courage because you know exactly what you’re getting into. And still you go.

That’s because there must be a guiding North Star. A True North — to orient and calibrate the journey.

Not just for yourself, but for those around you. Your family, your friends, your community, your Church group, your business, your crew.

This will help you answer the questions that grow loudest when you’re stuck in the mud, or a crater smashes into your path.

Flak Jacket

The clarity and conviction forms a flak jacket around your heart when the enemy’s shrapnel explodes all around you.

“Why do I exist? Why do any of us exist? Why are we here?”

It is far better to reach high and flop than to be afraid and only stare longingly after those who fly.

Worst of all, we’ll never know who we were meant to be.


Do one thing every day that scares you.

Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat, and activist, former First Lady, circa 1940

When it comes down to it, we need to trust that when we dare beyond ourselves, on the other side is the impossible made possible.

Planes are designed to leave the safety of the ground. And so are you.

Ships are designed to push out of the shallows. And so are you.

Man is designed to give his life in pursuit of the highest. He can’t do that if he’s shackled by fear.

Whatever roadblock. Whatever obstacle.

Whatever naysaying resistance you feel today: Be. Not. Afraid. Only believe.

My Favorite Complaint

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In New York, there are stores that pay people to walk around wearing large sandwich board signs that point them towards the store. The other day I saw a guy in a bright, banana-yellow jacket with a big black logo that covered the guy’s back entirely.

At first I thought it was one of those sandwich board signs. The logo was courtesy of a big outdoor gear brand. I won’t name names, but you know.

I felt bad for the guy. The sneakiest head fake in corporate branding is tricking people into paying out the nose for the privilege of looking like walking billboards.

Not you, though. You are a legend in the making.

The Jacket is Not the Hero

Not the watch, not the knife, not the pen, not the car, not the house you own — you are the hero. And by hero, I don’t mean some ego-driven maniac.

I mean a hero in the sense of combating adversity with courage and endurance. It’s someone who lives a life that leaves a story worth telling.

There’s a life in you waiting to break out. Break through.

It’s who you are becoming.

Your legacy is waiting, but it will not chase you down. You will need to shed that heavy shell of who you once were, in order to get agile, go light, be nimble.

You make it. You write it. You build it. You live it. Creating in the chaos. Day by day, hour by hour.

My Favorite Complaint

The funniest thing to me is the people who complain that our watch dials look too empty. Too Spartan. Too austere. Feels unbalanced.

We’ve been so trained into having some logo plastered on our watches that we can feel uncomfortable without them. It can make people feel naked. Kind of exposed.

Of course I don’t think we’d ever admit it, but it’s like we’re afraid to stand on our own. We hide behind the brands we flash.

But they don’t own a piece of my wrist. They don’t own my identity. I want to remember that I own my time.

So you’ll never hear us tell you to celebrate how long we’ve been around. We don’t have fancy brand ambassadors.


I want to find the poetry in things people find plain looking.

Martin Bergström, textile and product designer

We Amplify Good Signal.

Not celebs. Not bling.

When we check the time, we don’t need to see a logo, like a billboard on your wrist. They can keep their pretty ads with pretty faces and airbrushed bods.

Of course, we all signal a part of who we are by the things we buy. The cars we drive, the clothes we wear, the gear we choose.

And there are brands that I respect and have no issues rocking. But they’re subtle and understated. It’s like a wordless head nod. A sign of respect. You know the one. It’s a quiet fist bump that requires no fanfare.

One of my favorite stories is when one of our crew members found himself in the hospital, and when the doctor came in he was wearing a COURG. It was a shared moment. A bond in the crew.

That’s why we only sign our crowns and keep the brand stealth — even on the dials. You and I know it’s there, and we got your back, and we don’t need to broadcast anything.

We’re a crew that tackles missions.


The Problem With Free Snacks

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Do you like free snacks?

Back in my day job, we didn’t have free snacks in the office like other companies had.

But one day, vending machines appeared. And no money was required!

Free snacks! We’d arrived.

Everyone was so giddy and gleeful — at first.

Somewhere around a month later, the gift had turned into an entitlement.

“Where’s my lemon-lime seltzer?!”

“How am I supposed to make it through my meetings today without my M&Ms?!”

Some began hoarding their favorites: Twizzlers, kettle chips, coconut chips.

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement, get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, theologian, philosopher, circa 1950s

If you’re reading this email, it’s likely that you — like me — are living in a veritable wonderland of opportunity and blessing. Not just in material goods, but most importantly in people.

I’m reminded to be amazed, humbled, stay hungry, and share.

Here’s today’s 3-minute challenge for you: 

Pause right now. Who are three people you kind of take for granted.

You know the ones. They’re just always there.

Just text them and say, “Thank you for being the amazing person you are in my life.” Add specifics as you think of them.

I think you’ll be amazed as I was, and maybe even slightly embarrassed at the riches we have all around us in plain sight.

Best part is there’s no money required in the priceless unexpected gift you give your friends this way.


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Thank you. I just want to say thanks for what you do. Thanks for the work you do, at the job, in your family, with your church, community.

You matter. What you do and who you are matters. And I know we often don’t get thanks or appreciation that’s important to hear.

Lighthouse keepers had a mostly thankless job.

Alone, in the Dark

Day in, night out — the lightkeeper had one mission: keep the light on. Trim the wicks, fill the lamp oil.

Through the darkness, no matter the wind or rain, the task remained for the keeper: Shine.

He usually lived at the base of the lighthouse. His home, his life, plunged in darkness but dedicated to the light.

While everyone slept, he was up through the dark night. Often in isolation— out in remote areas.

Sometimes it was a family mission. The job was shared and often passed through generations.

Passed By

And it’s not as though lightkeepers received thank you notes. Ships they served, just passed in the night. Yet their faithful work saved lives and averted disasters.

He would never fully know the difference he made. But he knew he must shine on.

And so must we.

We have to do what we do, and man up to the duty to show up every day. Regardless of whether or not anyone notices.

Whether or not there’s applause. Whether we know if people have been helped.

Best Kind of Head Fake

This reminds me of Michael Faraday‘s famous lectures about the Chemical History of a Candle, which he gave to spark the scientific curiosity of young people in Victorian England.

Faraday explained the wonders of chemistry through a simple candle, but in the end it was about more than the chemistry — it was the spark for more.

All I wish is that you may, in your generation, be fit to compare to a candle. That you may, like it, shine as lights to those about you; that, in all your actions, you may justify the beauty of the taper by making your deeds honorable and effectual in the discharge of your duty to your fellow-men.

Michael Faraday, experimentalist, chemist, physicist, circa 1848

(Faraday later worked tirelessly into his 70s to translate his electrical discoveries into improving peoples’ lives. He traveled all over England to install electric light bulbs to enable lighthouses to shine brighter — and ease the lightkeeper’s burden.)

Highest Contribution

Since lighthouse keepers were the only people around, they also rescued people fallen overboard or boats overturned from storms or faulty navigation.

On those days of rescue, their highest point of contribution was to jump in the water or row a boat to rescue people before they drowned. Undoubtedly, their lighthouse stayed lit during the rescues. But they didn’t stop at trimming the wick. Or say, I should go fill the oil right now.

Saving lives was the ultimate expression of their truest purpose.

Recently, I’ve been asking myself a different question instead of, “What’s my most important task today?” Assigning importance can be relative and often quite selfish when left to my own devices.

Instead, I’ve started to ask myself, “What is my highest point of contribution to the world today” — to enrich the lives of other people, my family, friends, crew … and you?

I find this a much more immediately clarifying and illuminating way to evaluate how I tend the flame and hopefully shine some light for anyone who may venture by.

Sometimes we get under a boulder. We carry it. Shoulder it. Drag it around. Trying to make progress.

But all the while it just feels heavier and you’re getting crushed under the weight. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to just lie down and let it smash you.

But the boulder is not meant to crush you. It’s not meant for you to carry.

It’s meant for you to climb. But first you have to drop it. You have to understand that your own strength will only get sapped. You’ll only falter and stumble. And all the while, you’re thinking,“Woe is me. Why is this so hard?”

But when we see it was meant to give us a foothold to a higher realm — to get beyond our own limited sight — we begin to really see. When we use that rock, not as something to carry, and not as something to just go around, but as something to climb — suddenly we can reach further, we can see further.

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards.

And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional.

Mark Udall, former U.S. Senator, mountaineer

But we have to make the first move.

First, we have to drop the boulder — the stress, the strain, the self-absorption. I’m not talking about giving up.

I’m talking about the strain and tension of striving. I’m sure each one of you has your own way to invigorate.

For me, I go for a walk. Pray. Meditate. Exhale. I have a fellowship of friends, a band of brothers to walk with. And I’m thankful for the crew. We’re in it together.

Second, we have to find a foothold for traction and start the climb.

And a funny thing happens. You find that the muscles you were trying to use to lug the rock around are actually much better suited for climbing.

When you climb rock, you can’t only rely on your arms and hands. You’ll tire out immediately, and fall off the face of the rock. You need to find those footholds and use your legs.

The boulder is a step stool. It’s a call to the higher life.


Storm tossed. Toil. Violence. Sweat, blood, illness, fears, and tears. Far from comfort.

Back in the 1700 and 1800s, whaling boats, military, and merchant ships crisscrossed the ocean. The crews needed to work tedious and monotonous jobs together. So, they chanted songs to build a rhythm for work and combat boredom — a roughriders form of whistling while you work. Sea shanty songs lifted spirits, gave a sense of community, camaraderie, and identity.

We all need a good sea shanty now and then (especially now) to get into flow state. And while we won’t be singing songs together, we can at a minimum spur each other to carry on.

Here’s three thoughts for how we can reap lessons from the sea shanty:

1. Tension is Rocket Fuel

Sea shanties expressed tensions and followed similar themes. A longing for the deep blue ocean. Port calls. A longing for home. A tension. They were often call and response.

We all live in that tension. We’re on the way. Pushed out of the comfy harbor and out into the wild unknown. Yet we also yearn for the joy and comforts of sanctuary and loved ones. The best, of course, is when we’re all in it. No one left behind.

Rather than struggling or regretting the tension, we need to see this is where we’re meant to be. Sure, we could choose to sit on the couch. Watch some more TV. But we all know we’re meant for more.

Mission is written into our DNA — at the core of our being. We’re made for adventure. When we deny that, or numb out, it can be disastrous and poison our lives.

A resentment can brew that we don’t even understand sometimes. Resentment at ourselves, our circumstances — our inertia becomes bitterness aimed inward, but often smashes into innocent bystander loved ones and family.

But that tension is there to propel us into problem solving and taking things to the next level. Making things right. Better.

2. What’s Your Story?

Sea shanties usually included a story, a narrative thread that would bring the crew together with shared understanding and mission.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast endless sea.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, aviator, poet, and journalist, circa 1930

We’re an expeditionary force. There’s a calling on each of our lives, but it isn’t just for ourselves. It’s for one another. It’s when each of us shows up and delivers, that we’re greater than the sum of our parts.

Often it’s easier to make excuses. We have all kinds of reasons for not doing the work. The bed was just too comfortable. The chips were just so crunchy. I just needed to veg out. Just one more Instagram scroll.

This isn’t about the power of positive thinking or the stoic just-grin-and-bear-it.

3. What Fires You Up?

It’s about finding who and what lights you up. Sometimes it takes work and real awareness to recognize how to go beyond just survival mode.

But even when we find it, we have to decide. We have to choose. Roll up our sleeves and take action. And then the wholehearted pursuit.

Best part of the recent sea shanty redux is that the musician who sparked it never saw it coming. Nathan Evans, a musician who worked as a postal worker, loved to sing so he shared pop music covers on TikTok. He just kept going. Kept sharing. He did a sea shanty or two for fun.

But his relatively small group of fans requested more sea shanties. So he listened and sang the Wellerman.

Then, boom. Eight million views and counting. Now, he’s quit his mailman job and is in full pursuit of making music.

We all need a good sea shanty to help keep our shoulder to the stone, bind us together, and focus our force on the mission. For me, I’m reminded of why the worship experience is so powerful. For you there might be other meaningful rituals.

To calibrate us and remind us of why we do what we do. Day in. Day out.

And dare I say sometimes to have fun, or at the very least poke fun, at the drudgery we all grind through — hopefully with more grit and grace in the sharing.

p.s. VALOR:



Stop Moving Your Goal Posts

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The best feeling during a race is crossing the finish line. And that climax is giving it all you got right to the end.

Cranking your legs just a bit harder. Pumping your arms. Whatever propels you faster.

A nightmare would be kicking hard to smash that finish only to find the finish line keeps moving just out of reach. Almost there, but always further.

In that nightmare, some would just give up. Despair.

But not you. Not me. We get harder on ourselves. Feel like we’re doing something wrong. Failure.

But it’s not even close to reality.

The word I hear in my head a lot is, “Idiot!” What about you? Whatever it is —




A lot of that burden of achievement gets boiled down to expectations. I expect that it will turn out some certain way. That when I reach that goal it will be like XYZ.

Often it’s not even explicit. It’s just something subconscious I haven’t even realized.

But also, a lot of it is me moving the goal post.

For example, in years past, waking up around 7 was fairly standard for me. Last year I began waking up at 6. But then I felt like I could do better. I need to be up at 5. And then it became, I get so much more done when I’m up at 4. And suddenly waking up at 6 is failure.

We do this with so many things. Whether it’s that bonus, or number of followers, likes, promotions, sales.

Most of these measures are really meaningless at the end of the day. What counts is growing. Maturing and sharing life with everyone you encounter.

We need to count the wins along the way. We need to learn to celebrate.

Not as a way to hide in the past or numb ourselves with nostalgia. Not to stagnate. Not an excuse to get stuck in the status quo.

To recognize when you’ve grown and count that win. To recognize if and when it’s time to set the new goal post.

To take a moment to linger and savor your wins, which will set you up to propel forward.

Gain Momentum

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Sometimes there’s a lull in the action after you’ve started something new.

It could be anything that you’re working on. New habit, new project, new team.

Yet after the initial adrenaline rush, there are times of discouragement. You were expecting to accomplish so much. But now you feel stuck. In a rut. We all know this feeling.

The best way to eject from the rut?

  1. Look back to where you were before. Sometimes we get so hard on ourselves, we forget where we were and how far we’ve come. Tell that inner critic to settle down.
  2. Look forward to where you want to go. Keep your ‘why’ — your vision — clear in view. It’s so easy to get distracted by urgent and newfangled.
  3. Take the next simplest step.

But taking the next step can seem monumental and scary. You might feel paralyzed and don’t know what to do.

When you feel that way, shift your weight forward. Shift your perspective. Anything you can to lean towards what’s next.

Stack everything in that direction. And don’t worry about the mess.

Sleep in your workout clothes. Write the first sentence. Cut the leather. Ask a friend to keep you accountable. Sign up for guitar classes.

Show up.

If you don’t know what the first step is, ask: What if? What if I tell people my dream? What if I share my work? What happens if I do what I’ve always done?

Once you have enough of your weight leaning in that direction, your feet will follow. It will feel good to gain some traction and push off the ground.

And the next step will help build that momentum as you get in motion.

Speaking of momentum, check out these 11 pieces of gear that keep me running (and riding my bike) through the winter.

3 F-Words to Destroy Distraction

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Lamborghinis, McLarens, and other exotic cars grab all the glory. Sleek, low to the ground. They speed across smooth, well-paved roads like the autobahn.

I’m not sure how your roads are, but here in New York City, the roads aren’t smooth and gentle.

Cobblestone. Potholes. Torn up asphalt. (Not-so-) neighborly cars bump, ding, smash, and dent those fancy paint jobs.

The exotic cars attract attention to themselves. All eyes on them.

But it’s the unglamorous tractors that pull the weight to break up the hard ground, to sow seed, to harvest the crops.

You know, serve others. It’s the beast of burden that’ll drag fancy cars out of the mud.

The tractor sports scrapes and dings from fieldwork as badges of honor.

The opposite of distraction is not focus. It’s not productivity.

You could be hyper-focused, crazy fast, super production … going in the wrong direction. And in the end that focus could send you hurtling into distraction.

The opposite of distraction is traction. And traction requires three things: Friction, Force, Formation.

Too little of those and you’re stuck. Too much and you’re spinning out of control.

As in the field, we need these three elements in our lives to defeat distraction as well. Especially with the off-road conditions we’re living through these days.

1. Friction —

Sometimes we feel stuck. Inertia. Mud and muck.

But we need to recognize that it’s that very friction that can help us get that first step in. The friction gives us a foothold to exert momentum.

Often, the friction is our mental state. “I’m too tired … too busy … too poor … too old … too young … too depressed … too _etc._!” And it’s frighteningly easy to drown in that morass.

You can break the spell quickly but you must be aware of it first. Listen to that inner dialogue.

“Why am I feeling this way?” Being self aware is not being selfish.

It is being sure you bring the best to people in your life. It’s making sure you don’t leak out your issues and make destructive friction.

Thoughts are not truth. Emotions are not reality.

A minimum effective dose of movement can spark a fresh insight. A few minutes can work wonders. Physically move.

Do something, anything, that gets your body moving, your heart rate up. High knees, jumping jacks, pushups. It doesn’t take long.

The posture of our bodies links with our mental condition to fire off the signal, “Ok, we’re moving, we’re in motion.” And it primes our hearts and opens our thoughts to see past oppressive lies sneaking through our minds.

That’s how I’m wired. But for you, a spark could be prayer and meditation. Could be that you’re actually hungry (but are you really?) — or much more likely, thirsty.

I know others find blasting worship music or singing a meaningful song resets their souls. I have a friend who jumps in the shower because that’s where he can drop all distractions and think best.

Sometimes I’m just not getting enough sleep and a power nap (25-30min,) is a game-changer. Even a quick walk outside can overcome the friction for me.

Figure out your spark plug. And use it.

Just like a tractor needs a spark to get that fuel firing. We don’t just expect that spark to happen by luck.

2. Force —

This begins with seeing our identity clearly. But it’s more specific.

It’s about translating your identity into the story you live into each day. It’s also the way we fight off the lies and resistance that often cause us to default to distractions — because distraction is the easier way than to plow into the work.

“You’re not good enough.” “You always fail.” “No one will like your work.” “Everyone else does it better.”

That’s not your true story. That’s not who you’re really becoming.

The good news is that the truth is usually hidden just on the other side of the lies.

“You’re good enough.” “Be. Not. Afraid.” “People need and enjoy your work.” “Your work is singular and unique.”

Force is the torque of courage and endurance to bear weight and turn our gears.

For me it begins with faith and how I relate to people in my life. For you it might be family, or philanthropy, or public service.

3. Formation —

You need to formulate a plan and system for your mission. Weigh the budget, constraints, size, weight, deadlines.

You know. Things like, you’d better harvest before the frost kills your entire crop, etc.

These limits feel like they dampen my fun. But really nebulous projects feed my unhealthy FOBO (Fear Of Better Options).

It’s these boundaries that really help elevate design and identify problem-solving opportunities.

Formation gives shape to your tire treads that adds friction to force, and multiples that into work done.

Otherwise you could head in this direction or that and never really get anywhere.

You’ve got seeds to plant, fields to harvest. Come wind, rain, or storms, you keep doing the work, day in and day out.

This enables us to persevere no matter what grit and rubble and potholes litter our road.

What works for you to combat distraction? What are some tactics that help you show up like a tractor?

Breakthrough Life

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Check out my scenic view next door to “the office” — formerly known as my day job.
Tree hazardous waste

Nestled next to a chain link fence,

behind metal waste canisters, busting up through discarded metal poles, asphalt, bricks, car exhaust — a vibrant and vigorous tree thrived.
At first there was no visible sign of life. In fact if anyone looked, all they would have seen is wasteland.
But day by day, the seed put out roots. Gathered whatever light, moisture and nutrients within reach. And when it was good and ready there was no stopping the life.
Sometimes, we think we’d really win if we had a better year, a better place, a better job, a better team, a better childhood, a better _______. If only we had fertile soil, organic, non-GMO, hormone-free, hand-picked, fair-trade, gluten-free, shade-grown, free-range goodness.
“Yes, yes, when we get there, get that, we’ll thrive and grow. For now, let’s just hunker down and survive.”

We’re made to overcome

fear and devastation. No one wants death, but that’s the start of all life — from burned forest, from flooded land, from project flops — from a pandemic.
You’re planted right where you are not for comfort, but so you’ll tap into what you need and not just what you want. So we’ll dig deeper into what really matters.

If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!

Catarina da Siena, circa 1300
We can allow the storm to paralyze us with fear or we can take the next right step and start the breakthrough.
This doesn’t happen overnight. Right now may feel like a wasteland. There’s so much that conspires to dull your mind, weaken your heart, and poison your life.
Whatever spot you’re in, seek the light. Dig for the hidden source of water. And fuel your life with the good.
Fire on all cylinders — spirit, soul, and body. Because life knows no other way but to breakthrough.

Stop Counting Your Bullet Holes

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We can all feel a bit like this plane some days.

WW2 plane Survivorship bias

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura patrol bomber, Image by McGeddon

The Allied forces in World War II suffered heavy bomber losses to enemy gunfire. Planes that survived flew back to base peppered with bullet holes.

The U.S. Military inspected the planes and found the most holes pierced wings and tails. Armor is heavy and expensive, so they had to figure out the most optimal placement.

The plan was to add armor to protect those wings and tails from enemy fire. And so more pilots could fly back to base after a mission.

However, the Naval operations research team made a different conclusion. A mathematician named Abraham Wald flipped the idea upside down.

Wald realized that planes which flew back with bullet holes actually meant they could survive those shots. But the ones that crashed and never made it back for inspection were likely shot in the engines and cockpit. And that’s where the military ended up armoring the planes.

My friend died this week in a motorcycle crash.

He was 49. We grew up together. Even when he was a college student he’d still hang out with our ragtag church youth group every weekend.

He was a big brother to me. He introduced me to comic books, yo-yos, pocket knives, made incredible drawings, helped buy my first guitar.

I always looked up to him. He pretty much did everything better than me. He wrestled and played football in school. I wrestled and played football. He was varsity. I wasn’t.

We lost touch after he moved to the West Coast for work. We only got to visit him and his family once out there.

He restored a vintage car, owned a few motorcycles, set up a special room to practice judo with his sons. He volunteered at his kids’ local elementary school teaching music because the school had no budget — even after his sons moved on.

I heard through friends there were rocky patches. I know how that goes — we all do.

We all get hit by enemy flak.

It’s the knee-jerk reaction to wonder what if he had made different choices. Maybe things could have been different.

What were his last words — to his motorcycle buddies who rode with him that day, to his sons, to his wife, his siblings, his mom?

I am reminded not to count the bullet holes.

I am reminded to pay attention to what made him soar when I knew him.

His faith, family, friends. Those are areas that need bulletproof armor.

It’s not even about his choices or his circumstances and more about a wake up call to us.

Guard your engines and cockpit.

These are non-negotiables.

These are the vulnerable areas that will shield us from enemy fire and equip us to tackle our missions and survive to fly another day.

I’m not saying we ignore the pains and hurts, mistakes and regrets. I’m saying not to drown in despair and focus on non-critical damage.

Heal, recover, press on.

Of course one day we will all land for the last time. But today we write another page in our legacy. What have we written?

The measure of who we are will be summed up not by our bullet holes but by the way we flew. And all the more when we debrief back at mission control to equip new recruits.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Fly fierce, fly true — armor up, my friends.

Storm Hunter Inflight Checklist

Estimated read time:

Hurricane Hunter NOAA42 Dorian Storm Flightpath


We are here. You are here.

You’re a pilot. And unlike an actual hurricane, you can’t fly around a storm system this massive. Hope your evasive maneuvers are navigating the turbulence.

Yes, there are circumstances and things beyond our control.

But you have choices. Choose your own adventure.

You could:

A. Ground the plane. Dig a hole, hug your bug-out-bag, eat canned beans until the vaccine arrives or you get abducted by aliens and/or the CIA.

B. Fly up and get above the storm. Flee to your vacation/country house in Costa Rica, lock down your nannies, butlers, security force, and stockpile gold, etc.

C. Cross your fingers and hope things don’t get too bumpy. Status quo. Numb out on Netflix, doughnuts, shopping, whatever your drug of choice is that drowns out fear, distracts you, and keeps you from getting too queasy.

Courage is knowing what not to fear.

Plato, philosopher, circa 400BC

D. Fly straight at and through the heart of the storm on a mission. Be a storm hunter. Learn as much as you can in the storm and blast out that intel. If you’re on this mission, here are just four preflight/inflight items for your checklist.

  1. Cut loose any extra weight. Chuck anything, entanglements, parasites that threaten the mission.
  2. Strap yourself down along with everyone and every instrument that is mission critical. You didn’t sign up for the sunset cruise. The turbulence will rock your flight, your mind, your resolve, like no other.
  3. Radio your coordinates to Mission Control and allies who will fly in formation with you and encourage your flight path.
  4. Go full alert mode. Learn the lessons, do the work. Invest time to be aware and amazed right where you are. And fly. Fly straight on through, and fly true. Enjoy the eye of the storm. Debrief.

It’s not about right or wrong answers. It’s your choice. It’s your adventure.

It’s how we answer “Who am I?” at the end of the day when we’re alone, and we’ve got one less day on earth. And we decide to live what we actually believe and not just what we say we believe.

Hunting the storm is not about frantic activity. It’s not about being a martyr. Hunting the storm does not mean you’re better, or fearless.

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President, conservationist, naturalist, historian, Rough Rider, and writer, circa 1900

It’s a decision to turn what was meant for evil into good — not only for yourself but for others.

Numbing out is not going to get you through this storm in any meaningful way. The status quo is the worst way to navigate a storm. Ignorance is not bliss. It’s a dead-end abyss.

The storm is an opportunity to take stock of what you have, who you are, and where you’re headed.

Now, is a good time to choose your adventure and calibrate your nav.


p.s. Fly with the Hurricane Hunters to meet the storm. The moment they breakthrough the storm’s eye wall is epic. Only the U.S. Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron and NOAA fly into hurricanes.


Heartbreaks and breakthroughs.

Insane highs and lows.

Experiments and new rhythms.

Hell and/or high water.

Wherever you are in the turbulence, do not lose heart.

Be strong and very courageous.

I’m reminded that we need compassion not only for one another — but more than ever for ourselves as we navigate these uncharted waters

I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.

Benjamin Franklin, polymath, statesman, scientist, inventor circa 1750

A Simple Brain Hack. 3 Letters.

And if/when you feel discouraged, add the word YET.

As in, when you think: “I’m not good enough.”

What we really need to hear and say is, “I’m not good enough … YET.”

What do you feel discouraged about?

Add “YET.”

It’s not wishful thinking. Not a mind trick.

It’s speaking truth against the tyranny of stuckness.

It’s a declaration of independence from apathy, condemnation, and shame.

YET busts us out of despair.

YET opens us to finding new solutions.

YET roots our identities in learning.

YET calls for help.

YET means when you fail, recover and strengthen your brothers.

YET holds the “perfect plan” loosely.

YET looks forward, and doesn’t look backward.

YET invites you on an adventure not to a destination.

YET is the truth that can set you free from false limiting beliefs.


If you get a failing grade, you think, I’m nothing, I’m nowhere. But if you get the grade “Not Yet” you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future.

Carol Dweck, PhD, developmental psychologist, Stanford University, circa 2015


One of our fellow crew members couldn’t have children … YET.

In the depths of the pandemic, it seemed impossible.

But they kept at the mission — one step at a time.

And a couple months back after some miraculous circumstances, they adopted a baby son and brought him home.

While you have breath go at it.

Failure is not a definition, a state of being, or an identity.

Mistakes/missteps are just waypoints about how to improve next time.

Always on the way to better.

Add Another Critical Three Letter Word

As I mentioned last time, I bought an empty Fuente Fuente OpusX Bellicoso cigar box.

The wood box held my dream of a musical instrument.

But the box sat for 8 years. Taking space.

It found a secondary use, holding some stuff. But that’s not fulfilling its destiny.

At first, when I picked up the box to make a ukulele, I felt silly so many years had passed.

And then I heard Neil Gaiman explain how he had an idea for a story but realized he wasn’t good enough to write it … yet.

So, he put the story idea on the shelf.

Gaiman waited — practiced — before he took the story idea back out and crafted it into an award-winning bestselling book called The Graveyard Book.

How long? Ten (10) years.

Now, I didn’t make an award-winning best-selling ukulele. But I recognized now I wasn’t ready years ago to make this ukulele… yet.

I needed to learn patience, planning, and various tools.

I also needed a stronger ‘why.

Sometimes we’re not ready because we don’t want it enough… yet.

Yes, I wanted to make an instrument. But that wasn’t enough of a ‘why.’

But now, I made the ukulele to bond with my son — who wanted to learn how to play.

And it was important to me as well that he see me doing the work. Especially when I made a mess and I sent him sprinting down the hallway multiple times to get paper towels to wipe up glue.

He needs to see that there’s mess in the practice but when you persevere maybe you make something special.

Maybe you go from a box to an instrument. From taking space to making meaning.



Here are seven good books out of 20+ (also good) books I read this year — depending on how you count, some of these are trilogies / series.

Beyond the seven, I’ve organized the list in rough themes, some overlap of course.

Top 7

Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer.

Don’t go back to normal. Go to better. Reduce hurry. Ruthlessly. This book was easily my top book that I keep thinking about even though I began reading it right before lockdown, and it was a perfect companion.
Favorite quote: “Hurry is a sociopathic predator loose in our society.”


Master of One, Jordan Raynor.

This book covered a lot of familiar ground for me, but it was a good kick in the pants to get serious about mastery and stop being so darned scattered. Not only the why, but also very practical how-to. Raynor provides a kind of roadmap so you know where on the path you can pickup and move further into mastery.


The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch.

You have a few months to live. What is your message to the world, and more importantly, to your young children (who may not remember you)? Randy spent his last moments on earth mulling this over and shared what he learned living out his childhood dreams.
Favorite quote: “The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”

Breath, James Nestor.

You — like me — probably think that you know how to breathe. Think again. I picked up this book thinking it might provide some helpful tips about breathing, but this could totally changed the way I breathe — especially during workouts and before sleep. Nestor digs through the counter intuitive science and millennia of lost ancient wisdom. (Learn the Navy Seals “Box Breath” technique they use during ops.)

The Dip, Seth Godin.

For any of you who are creators, entrepreneurs, or on a mission, you know about the Dip. It’s that place in the dark valley when you feel like giving up. This book provides a solid framework to navigate or even sometimes to quit the Dip.


Show Your Work, Austin Kleon.

I’m constantly second-guessing myself and even anxious about my emails and blog posts to you all. Well, artist-blogger Austin wrote a little pep talk for me. Perfect for my short attention span, finished it in half an hour and it shoots down my many excuses.



The Road Back to You, Ian Morgan Cron.

I know. It sounds like pentagram, or something woo-woo. I thought so too. Amazing Grace and I have been in deep dive on enneagram. We’re shocked how little awareness we had of our own interior lives, let alone one another. This book provides a thorough overview of each type, providing tons of insight from childhood development to understanding how healthy you are.



Other Good Reads


Rocket Men, Robert Kurson.

Apollo 13 gets all the glory. But the story behind the Apollo 8 mission rocked my world. These astronauts made the first flight around the moon, in a mission that ripped up methodical plan in favor of a crazy 4-month sprint. Kurson is a masterful storyteller and I’m so glad I discovered him through Shadow Divers, the story of how some amateur divers discovered a lost WW2 U-Boat.


Development (Personal, Business, and otherwise)

Tribes, Seth Godin. 

Redux has always been about finding a Tribe. What I didn’t realize is that it requires someone to lead. I don’t consider myself a “leader” in the stereotypical figurehead, big headed way.
Favorite quote: “Leadership … is about creating change that you believe in.”


Achievement Habit, Bernard Roth.

Roth is one of the founders of the Stanford — D for design. This book is dense with ideas and creative ways to deploy design thinking towards a bias for action. Roth draws from his experiments teaching and learning with his students, and personal anecdotes. Think of this as a one year course from design school condensed into a book.

Favorite quote: “Don’t get caught up in how you’re going to get it just right. That’s what causes people to shut down and never get started. Avoid the desire for perfection right out of the gate. Instead, tell yourself that you’re prototyping your screenplay or your dress. The final version can come later.”

How to Have a Good Day, Caroline Webb.

This book is a neuroscience and behavioral science deep dive into a wide range of topics that might crush your soul from day-to-day. Webb tackles everything from how to boost energy and brain function to bringing out the best in others.

Favorite quote: “You make the most of your brain’s talents if you adjust for the limitations of each system. That means creating the conditions for your deliberate system to function at its best, and recognizing when to slow down and come off autopilot.”

Free to Focus, Michael Hyatt.

Actionable as always with straight forward pointers to learn to chop things out and make sure each day is maximized. But more than that it’s a roadmap for how to move towards a more meaningful life — and more rest on top of it.

Favorite quote: “If you design your life so that you spend most of your time working on things you are passionate about and proficient at, the discipline to do those things comes easily.”



Everyone Always, Bob Goff.

Bob is a crazy man who brings balloons to war torn Syria and desperate children in Uganda, and then somehow gets world leaders to sit together and talk. He’s also full of stories about how true love changes the world.

Favorite quote: “I had flown two thousand feet over the highest mountaintops because I wanted to be safe; these (fighter) pilots flew through the valleys because they wanted to get better.”

Renovation of the Hearth, Dallas Willard.

This is a deep dive into what it means to follow Jesus and how character formation gets worked out. It’s pretty dense reading, but Willard fills the pages with tons of insightful gems.

Favorite quote: ““A carefully cultivated heart will, assisted by the grace of God, foresee, forestall, or transform most of the painful situations before which others stand like helpless children saying “Why?””



Forward Collection, N.K. Jemisin.

This is a collection of short stories where each one is based around a look at the future of technology. From quantum mechanics, to artificial intelligence. Each one is a mind warp and really fascinating to catch a glimpse of possible outcomes/consequences. Last I checked, it’s also free to borrow if you’re an Amazon Prime member.


Star Wars Trilogy, Timothy Zahn

I didn’t believe my nephew when he told me Disney ruined the Star Wars story line. He was right. This trilogy was originally part of the authorized cannon. But Disney disavowed them after they bought the franchise. These stories pick up five years after the first movies with the original crew: Han is married to Leia, Luke training Jedi, Chewbacca doing his thing. The main villain, Grand Admiral Thrawn is a much more nuanced character who is a ruthless and brilliant tactician that leads through attracting loyalty rather than outright Darth Vader style fear.

Favorite quote: “Concentration, focus, long-term thinking—those are the qualities that separate a warrior from a mere flailing fighter.”

Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I’d read The Hobbit three times and loved it, but always felt I didn’t have time to wade through Lord of the Rings. I’m still boggled by the intricacy of Tolkien’s world making.

Favorite quote: ‘The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman.

This anthology of short stories is a mind bending journey. It wouldn’t occur to me to call this horror exactly, not in the gruesome kind of bloodfest. But there’s much darkness, but not for darkness sake but for elucidating the human condition.

Favorite quote: “Where there’s a monster, there’s also a miracle.”


The Wholeness of Father Brown: The Complete Collection of Detective Mysteries, G.K. Chesterton.

Where Sherlock Holmes is about looking at evidence, Father Brown is about understanding the interior of the criminal’s minds. The priest-detective is afterall in the habit of hearing all sorts of confessions, so he has some insight into all kinds of evils humans are capable of. Sherlock is kind of flashy and prone to mood swings. Father Brown is even keeled, quiet, and unassuming. A very unlikely detective indeed.

Favorite quote: “You see, I had murdered them all myself…. I had planned out each of the crimes very carefully. I had thought out exactly how a thing like that could be done, and in what style or state of mind a man could really do it. And when I was quite sure that I felt exactly like the murderer myself, of course I knew who he was.”


Team Sport

I’ve also rediscovered that reading can be better as a team sport. Amazing Grace and I have read a few books together in the past.

However, during the lockdown, we’ve been intentional about reading some books at the same time.

This has been huge for a several reasons:

  1. We get to externally process the book and discuss stuff that stands out. Often the same points resonate, and that’s a great way to reinforce.
  2. Sometimes different things stick out to Amazing Grace, and that’s extra helpful because that adds depth to the experience.
  3. What if we’re not interested in the same stuff? That’s OK, take turns picking books. You’ll likely be surprised. There’s never any obligation to finish. No guilting or pressure.
  4. No more awkward silences at date night. Sometimes in the busyness of kids, work, and other daily grit, we might get disconnected from one another. And sometimes it might be difficult to actually find things to talk about besides the kids or work. Reading a book together provides a nourishing common ground and bridges the gap that can sometimes sneak into a marriage.
  5. Taken together, all these add up to a sense of nurturing one another and growth and progress in a marriage.


Thriving in Love and Money, Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn.

Finances can be such a touchy subject, and then especially sometimes a tripwire in marriages. This book is a culmination of years of extensive surveys to understand how best to communicate and strengthen marriages not in spite of but through better understanding one another’s’ values.


And if you’re not married, reading books together works just as well with a friend or two. A group of friends from our church group read Lord of the Rings together and it was illuminating to chat and even trade funny insights.

Family reading is fun and bonding as well. We read together a lot, starting with each morning and evening.

On weekend mornings we started reading novels together, and now it’s something special we all look forward to. We just finished:

Kingdom’s Dawn, Chuck Black. Knights, swords, quests, evil enemies, this book has it all. The story is well written, easy to read, and each chapter has a few discussion questions in the back to aid reflection, discussion and more critical thinking. Black is a former captain and Air Force F-16 fighter pilot and tactical combat communications engineer so he knows all about missions and adventure and weaves a wonderful story. Chuck is also a father of six kids, so he knows what it takes to capture attention. This series of six books grew out of his desire to share a parable that would captivate his kids. For those of you in The Way, the protagonist also serves as an allegory of Biblical narratives.

You , Me, We, Erin Jang.

This one’s not a conventional book. More of an invitation to creativity and bonding opportunity with your kid. Each book is actually two books. One for you, one for the little. You take turns filling out matching pages and then compare what you wrote/drew. Scout loves doing these together, and would have done the entire thing in one sitting. But I wanted to savor the excuse to just sit and have a good laugh with him.

… technically, I resigned. Friday was my last day at the day job. 


I worked that day job for about 7.5 years, longer than Scout has walked the earth. The job began as a comfy pit stop.


The original idea, nearly 8 years ago, was to finish journalism school, then land for a year or so to pave the way for Scout’s arrival and our transition to a family of 3. Years later, we’re a family of 4+1 (we sometimes jokingly refer to Redux as our second child, born when Scout was a toddler).


I really did enjoy my job. I built things, made experiments, launched projects. I learned tons. 


But I knew that job wasn’t where I was meant to be long term. Somehow the years crept, then blurred, and flew by.


For years my passwords were some iteration of “learn” and “go” with the current date. i.e. I was there to learn what I could, and then go, and the passwords were a constant reminder to myself. And every few months I’d update it and wonder why I was still there.


Resign sounds like defeat to me. Nope.


I quit.

There was no dramatic throwing of things across the room or yelling something and storming out the door. I just gave my 2 weeks. Thanked my team and appreciated an unexpectedly nice farewell on Zoom. And *POOF* a new start.


I quit thinking managing better was the answer.

I quit trying to make it all cram into one day. 

I quit having my attention pulled in too many directions.

I quit an entire set of others’ priorities.

I quit a constant drip of emails and Slack messages.

I quit the excuses that a salary wraps a comfy blanket around inertia.

I quit being dragged here and there by the tyranny of the urgent, rather than driving at the important.

I quit feeling cranky and dismissive of Scout and Storm, not to mention Wonderwoman Grace. 

I quit the blur.


Of course, this wasn’t some random impulse. The thought had germinated for years.


After we launched COURG via Kickstarter, one of my co-workers asked why I was still there, since I’d launched my own business. Big looking numbers can lead to big daydreams, apparently from others.

It was tempting to think I should have cut loose then and went all-in on Redux. I often wonder whether that would have been the right move.


But I know I wasn’t ready.


And now, 2020. It’s not that things have somehow become clearer. Quite the opposite.

Every time I send a newsletter out, I get a chorus of unsubscribes. 

What did I say to annoy them? Maybe it was too long again. Maybe I made no sense.

But I’ve had to settle it in my mind and for my soul that maybe it’s just not the right fit for those people… at least not yet. 

And maybe all they want is new watches and discounts.

I totally understand. I’m all for less emails, especially if they don’t add value for you right now.

It’s ok. No hard feelings.

And I also recognize that I’m not where I want to be on the level where I hope to equip and encourage you. 

We have a vision for what we hope to build, but as far as the nitty gritty of how to get there, well that’s being worked out.

And I feel it requires my full focus.



We decided to take a six month runway and see where it leads.

I certainly don’t have it figured out. 

But I’m not going to let that stop me from exploring and pushing out into the deep. Because that’s all I can do.

I’m quitting from the shallows. I’m quitting from clinging to the shore. 

A couple years ago I felt the words, “Let us go over to the other side” resound deeply in my soul. In every fiber of my being.

I still have no idea exactly what that means, but I’ve been working it out, and I’m thankful to be on the way.

I know that the “other side” isn’t just some meta meaning, just some way of thinking.

We began to shove off shore in many ways.

Finding footholds to make a start.

I knew deep down that the Other Side meant a radical upside-down stomach lurching change. Less evolution and more revolution.

I’ve seen the horizon of the Other Side in my own work in spirit, soul and body. I feel more at peace than I ever have in my life.

I’ve glimpsed the other side in my marriage in the most profound and meaningful way with Wonderwoman grace.

I’ve glimpsed the joy and fulfillment of being present with the littles. 

And I’m not shy about my faith because I feel closer to Jesus than ever before. 


We started 2020 with ideas that it was meant to be a year of big change. We would run a Kickstarter. We hoped we would find confirmation that COURG was not a one hit wonder. And with that assurance we would leave the day job.


Well, that’s not how it worked out. And I’m thankful. 

Thankful that I’m leaving for the most important and right reasons. 

Thankful that in the end it was our call and not something that just happened to us — even if a severance package would have been nice to have.

I’m brutally aware that this is all probably too much information.

But I’m risking the overshare because I figure if I can just open up my soul a bit and show up, maybe it’ll help someone. Maybe someone will be encouraged.

To quit.

Doesn’t have to be your day job (unless you should).

Of course the follow-up question I’m repeatedly asked is: “Where are you going? What’s your new job?” As in, assuredly you have another job lined up already?

Well, yes. Just maybe not in the obvious way.

It’s not just about quitting, it’s about going.

Going to hit hard reset.

Going to learn how to homeschool Scout. Too many hours staring at a screen remotely learning. Remote in every sense. Scout asked to be homeschooled since even before the lockdown. It’s time.

Going to focus on serving you all better.

Going to start a new chapter.

Going to the Other Side.

Who’s with me?


A Clarifying Potion

Estimated read time:

No matter what, storms leaves wreckage and loss. What can be shaken must flex — or break.

And yet on the other side of a storm … all things are new.

We’re not through this storm yet, but we decide how we’ll navigate trauma.

We’ve all heard of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

But there’s an opposite. Post-traumatic growth.

Transforming trauma to growth. Resilience.

I didn’t make that up. It’s when you emerge from trauma, shaken but unbroken.

Clarified. Focused. Lessons learned.


The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.

Aesop, author, circa 600BC

Sometimes (often) I get stuck in a project muddle. Especially during the year of massive delays.

A new watch design or project idea lights me up and I dig deep.

It’s almost like a fever. Consuming. Obsession.

But sometimes that fire loses some fuel as I wrangle watch design details or wrestle with manufacturers that say, “That’s impossible.”

From mountain highs of vision to valleys deep in drudgery.

Many hundreds of decisions that chip away at resolve.

For example, here’s tiny details on COURG/42. And this is just one round out of months of revisions.

COURG/42 Corrections

A Clarifying Potion

I think it’s similar to when I haven’t picked up my ukulele for weeks.

A big reason is because I’ve gotten bored with the songs I know.

I’m no longer playing. I’m just going through the motions.

We all need the new song spark.

Exploring. Stretching. Trying new things.

Because nestled amid the awkward, stiff, twisted fingers of learning a new song — there’s a special moment.

A click. The notes start to ring clear. Then the rhythm springs to life.

When the sounds become the shape of a song.

When I start to feel the music, or maybe it’s the music filling me.

It’s flow state in the stream of melody and it’s a taste of rapture.

Intoxicating — not in a drunken sort of blurry way. A kind of clarifying potion.

And then I return to what muddled me before with renewed vigor and fresh insight.

A heightened state of awareness — even appreciation for a project to pick up and work through.

On Your Mark, Get Set — Make Your …

Whatever way you make your music — designing watches, restoring cars, writing code, serving your community, loving your family, flying planes, teaching kids, healing people, building a business …

Don’t let boredom lull you to sleep so you forget to learn new songs.

Play when the first few notes sound discordant.

Play when your fingers feel like sticks.

Play when the melody sounds alien.

Play when it feels like it’s been too long — sometimes that’s exactly when you’re really ready to get back to work.

And remember these words of wisdom from someone who knew a little something about deep work:


Play is the highest form of research.

Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist, circa 1950

The flow will come. You’ll find new work, new solutions also bring new insight into previous muddles.

Often when you least expect it.

Keep on making your music.

Carry on.

Play on.

And people might laugh. They might hate it. They might fall asleep. They might run. They might misunderstand.

Those who matter will get it. They’re the ones who matter.

And they’ll thank you for showing up and playing your music.

Don’t give up. Give it away.

A project from my cabinet of curiosities.

Meet Fuente Fuente OpusX Belicoso.

A cigar box ukulele I made during lockdown.

For the brave: Full origin and build story.

When I first learned to play my new ukulele, my fingers hurt. They turned an angry red. They ached.

The notes sounded horrible.

In time the pain receded and music ascended.

Through a long year, suffering produces callouses in our lives.

We harden. The shell thickens to dull the onslaught.

But we have to be careful that we don’t allow that layer to get too thick.

Or we won’t feel a thing. And worse — we’ll lack compassion. 

It takes time to process and let your soul catch up with all that’s happened and changed.

Cigar Box Ukulele Finished

Distressed for Purpose

It’s the callouses that enable us to press into the pain.

Because we’ve been there. We’re willing to push in.

Because even if we can’t see it, we know deep down suffering can become glory, and glory is a beacon.

And that requires time and space to heal and recover.

When we press into the pain that has healed, we make musical notes that resonate with others who bear the same pain.


In the Dark

Sometimes, we think of callouses as a bad thing.

Ugly. Rough. Coarse.

The mechanic or carpenter with tough scaly hands. Yet what wonders they craft with their hands — which have been formed by the work they’ve practiced repeatedly.

They become so practiced they could do their craft with their eyes closed.

Sometimes before bed, I dim the lights and strum my ukulele to decompress.

At first I had to squint down at my fingers. But after a few weeks I realized I didn’t even need to look down at the strings anymore.

Our practice shapes our lives to the best form to serve others. Our work makes something, and at the same time the work shapes us. It builds muscle memory in our lives so we can build others up.

But it takes time. Reflection. Being willing to stay in the dark. Sit and learn from the pain.

To be unashamed of the scars.

And even when we can’t see, even when things are dark and uncertain, because of our practice, we will know which notes we need to play in the night — for ourselves and for others.

Cigar Box Ukulele and Guitar

Want to make your own? Here’s how I made mine.