Running After the Finish Line

I hit my $500 goal for the 2018 Blue Cross Broad Street Run. Together we raised $500 for Students Run Philly Style.

  • To think that me running in 8℉ weather did this.
  • Or running in rain.
  • That tripping and falling the woods and staring up at the trees then laying on my back in the cold somehow mattered.
  • Starting to run back in the summer of 2016 mattered at all, nearly two years later.

It’s sad that after-school programs are getting axed, and funding for schools drying up, and that we need to resort to running 10 miles in Philadelphia (or run 200+ miles across Haiti) for good things to happen in this world, but that’s the way it is.

Can it change? Well, it changes every time someone pulls out their card and donates money to these things. It’s not perfect, but it works, and we’ll keep doing it.

 

Starting is the Easy Part

Lots of people start email newsletters.

Starting is the easy part.

Running an email newsletter, well, that’s serious work. But really it’s not.

Everyday we read, consume, have thoughts, conversations, take photos – there is never a reason to sit down at our computers and not have anything to write about.

It’s just that sitting at computer can be paralyzing.

I’m telling you – if we took half of our flippant Tweets and just threw them into a draft folder (text file, Bear, WordPress), we’d never run out of material.

The allure of tossing these ideas and pondering to Twitter is strong, I get it. You’ll get four likes, and you’ll recognize some of the faces, and maybe one or two people will reply. But four hours later that Tweet is gone, pretty much forever.

But if you put that on a blog, or in your newsletter, it has a home. It can have a life now.

The fun part? You can do both.

You can Tweet it, than flesh out your thought even more in a bigger piece. The people that don’t use Twitter (which is a lot of people), they can read it now, too. And three years from now, your blog post or newsletter has more of a chance of coming back to life that that Tweet.

Building For What’s Next

Most nights I fall asleep thinking about running. Since I started in July of 2016, it’s been something I’ve been trying to incorporate more of into my life. I bought a bigger bag so I could carry running gear while traveling. I’ve gone to bed earlier so I can rest my body and not get injured. I’ve done my best to run 3-4 times a week, weight train, and keep a regular stretching routine. I turn 42 this year, and I just want to run more.

Speed has never been my thing. For me, it’s always been about distance. Back in my biking days, I rode across most of NJ and PA (in sections). I’ve biked the NYC Century a few times, each time tapping out at the “just” the 70 mile mark. I like this distance thing.

But “The Speed Project” intrigues me. I love the idea of a team making their way from LA to Las Vegas. I love the relay aspect. The camaraderie. The adventure.

Well, The Speed Project happened this past weekend, and a french team won it in 35 hours, 49 minutes. I caught myself spending a bit too much time scrolling through the hashtag and keeping up, probably the first time I really did that. It wasn’t about “who won” at all. I just wanted the scenery, the grit, the pain. It’s like life, but the stakes are a bit lower.

Finished running @thespeedproject with @am.pm.rc Absolutely EPIC #thespeedproject

A post shared by Nicholas Hawker (@nicholas_hawker) on

Running is a micro-life. It’s a challenge each day, and most every day I’ve shown up. I’ve had bad-eating days, or days I don’t stretch enough, but when I take those first few steps of a run, I’m starting over. The work I’ve put in since July of 2016 got me here, but I still need to put in the work.

I don’t know – there’s just something about miles of road ahead, and that’s why I set off for some long straight roads this past weekend. The photos I took didn’t do it any justice, but it was a nice five mile run, out and back and it felt great.

Sure, maybe someday I can be fast enough to run with a Speed Project team, but for now I had this. No RV, no team, just me, putting in the work, being patient with myself, and building for whatever is next.

Sticking With It

I’m often asked how I just keep at things. How’d I stick with Buzzgrinder, or posting metal trivia questions since 2011? Sending out over 1,200 nerdy metal newsletters since 2012?

We all get 24 hours in a day. If I choose to spend 15 minutes scrolling through Instagram, that’s 15 minutes not doing something else.

In fact, this post was written a few days ago, but then I came back and deleted the whole thing and wrote it from scratch. Was that previous effort wasted? Nope. It was a foundation to build on, that’s it.

Objects in motion stay in motion.

Ignore the Numbers and Just Create

Great quote from artist Rob Janoff, who created the Apple logo.

“Most people, especially young people, put a lot of care and a lot of love into whatever they create, and when they get criticism it’s a crusher. I spend so much time talking about how this criticism is not about you. ‘I like you, but this piece you did has these things I don’t like, and here’s why.’”

Replace criticism with “lack of views” or “lack of likes.” Don’t let the numbers sway you. Ignore the numbers, the data, which Seth Godin calls the “lazy way to the bottom.”

“It is the lazy way to figure out what to do next. It’s obsessed with the short-term.”

Listen to Seth answer how he gauges his work without data on the Design Matters podcast here (I time-stamped it, and listened to the entire interview three times already).

If I gauged the success of Skull Toaster back in 2011 and 2012 I would have shut it down. But I stuck with it, and today, nearly seven years later (seven years in October 2018), it’s a vibrant social media channel, and email newsletter, and has a wonderful paying membership.

How does Seth Godin know what he’s doing is effective? Because people tell him. And that’s what we all need, not 100 more “followers.” Make something so good that it delights and changes people.

 

Hang Out With Dreamers

Wise words from Thor Harris on The Creative Independent.

The company you keep will make or break you. Find the most honest, smartest, kindest, most creative people who will tolerate you.”

Yes, this. You have to find people who have the audacity to dream. You’ll meet plenty of people who will feed you reasons why your creative endeavours won’t work. But meeting people who “get” you? Oh, that’s the magic, right there. Seek these people out.

Swap email addresses, meet for coffee, work on projects together. Energy attracts energy, so do your best to find it.

 

Listen to Non-White Dude Podcasts

Oh my goodness, Trin here (from the Friendshipping podcast, below) is so right (link to the Tweet is here). As a cis-het white man I’ve been trying my best to listen to more varied voices, understanding that great ideas and concepts come from everyone, not just the loudest dude-bro in the room (or online).

I lived in Philadelphia for six months in 2013, and I’d bounce between a few coffee shops, but always had a spot in my heart for Menagerie and didn’t really know why – until I read this interview with the co-owners from 2014.

“And I think the space (Menagerie Coffee) is kind of feminine in a subtle way. I don’t think it’s obvious, but if you spent some time here and then walked over to Elixr, you’d be very overwhelmed. It’s gorgeous, beautiful, but it’s overwhelmingly masculine.”

Oh my goodness, Elixr is totally masculine. It’s weird – I’ve been there once, and it just wasn’t for me, but Menagerie coffee was for me. I’ve been thinking about this since 2014!

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Your Job Just Changed

Guess what? You’ve got something new to add to your job description.

There is a receptionist I know.

She works at a busy, busy practice. But when you’re in her waiting room, you feel like you’re in her living room.

She’s warm. She delights in seeing you (and “you” could be you, me, your mother’s friend, Carl). But what touches me the most is that she looks you in the eye and greets you by your name. And I am ennobled in her waiting room.

I’ve wondered if that’s part of her job description. And what a brilliant description! Part of your job is to see and celebrate people.

Don’t blame me, I found out from Caitie’s ‘The Lightning Notes.’

Yeah, the receptionist at my doctors office doesn’t do this at all, but you know what? I can be the patient who she looks forward to. Not for some narcissistic reason, expecting the red carpet to be rolled out for me when I arrive.

No, the opposite. We’re the ones doing the work.

When we leave any establishment we should leave a wake of good feelings. In a world where customer facing service is seen as a battle front we can be filling those “soldiers” with respect and care and kindness.

You’re hired.

Willed from Wires is Still Alive

When I got rid of all my stuff and left NYC in 2010, the only thing I wanted to do was hang out with my friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. In between all those hang sessions were quiet times in coffee shops and bus stations. With some of that downtime I started drawing again. As you can see by the photo above (from 2012), I was drawing quite a bit.

Then someone offered to buy some of my robot drawings. I got custom orders. A few bulk orders. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I was selling drawings of robots out of my back pack.

I made a small run of a zines filled with my robot drawings. I made city-specific pieces and posted them online to help pay for bus fare, or coffee for the week. Over the years my Willed From Wires Big Cartel store sat there, doing it’s job.

It’s 2018 and I still get the occasional order for a robot drawing or two. Mostly former clients, but the occasional random order. Willed From Wires remains a hobby, very much on the side, one that I don’t push much. I last made this depressing Tweet from the @willedfromwires account in 2013.

I’m writing about all this now – in 2018 – to illustrate that everything we do creatively can still live and grow without feeding the social media beast. I can’t do several things full-time. No one can. But we can do side things that are actually on the side, and they can still flourish and grow.

Practice the Wake-Up Practices

I love this bit from ‘How we Handle the Stuff That Gets in the Way‘ from Caitie Whelan,

The most enlivening counter I’ve found to this are regular wake-up practices.

Walking, driving, making dinner without music, podcasts, phone calls. Meditation or contemplation, even if only for two minutes. Writing down any insights that arise in silence, no matter how minor they seem.

When I’m stuck, staring at my computer screen and shaking my fist, unable to focus, to finish, to create, I remember the wake-up practices. Usually I get on my shoes and go for a walk in the woods or a drive to nowhere in particular. Just something that requires a bit of focus on the present – don’t drive off the cliff, stay on the walk path – and that wakes my spirit. It clears some of the channels in my brain that got filled up with static and mush.