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What Is Your “One Thing”

You are good at something.  If you are lucky, you know what this something is.  If you are even luckier, you have figured out a way to make money and support yourself doing what you are good at and maybe even love.  This is easier said than done… but then again, not really.  Let’s say you are really good at putting your fist in your mouth or maybe you would be a great magician for kids birthday parties.  My mom is really good at needlepoint stitching, she could start craft seminars at senior living homes and not only find it financially rewarding, but also experience personal fulfillment.  I just pulled these two examples out of my ass and there are probably better analogies to make.  For example, if you are a good writer, then you should be a blogger – seems over-used nowadays.  For myself, I have known for a very long time what I wanted to do but there was a delta that took me several years to learn how to bridge.  I will make a long story short.  I have wanted to be a commodities trader ever since I was in the 6th grade.  I know that this sounds silly, but it is indeed true.  My best friend’s dad was a local in the U.S. Treasury Bond futures pit during the 80’s.  He brought me and my friend to the trading floor for a field trip, and from the moment I stepped on that floor I was hooked.  The energy immediately sucked me in and a day has hardly ever passed when I did not make an effort to look up the prices of futures contracts in the newspaper or online.  What has prevented me from being able to be successful at this for long stretches of time was my mental health and lack of emotional discipline.

For the last several years, having realized what was lacking from my traders tool kit, my “one thing” has been improving my mental health and emotional discipline.  First and most importantly, I need to say thank you to my wife.  I would never have been able to focus on my mental health without my wife’s 100% love and support in every way.  Now as things become more high def and I can see what I need to do to accomplish my goal, it is time to execute trades with the emotional skill and improved mental health I have acquired for myself.  Now I have every tool in the tool box I believe I need.  I stay open to learning new things all the time.  But there is one story I tell myself day in and day out that gets me to a place where I can regain my focus on my one thing, if I am taken off course.  

I heard a story a long time ago which I have held onto as a guide for my life to discover my one thing.  Many years ago a single mother and her son had been in a terrible car accident.  As a result of the accident, the boy had his left arm amputated at the age of 3.  There is no other group of people I admire more than single mothers.  They simply are the greatest heros out there… day in and day out.  Over the years the accident had created a very strong bond between mother and son.  Shared adversity creates solidarity.  This mom was always a great example of how to roll with the punches life throws at us.  As a result, the boy never saw himself as a victim… he understood that this was his life and accepted the fact he only had one arm, plain and simple.  

As a result of the example this mom set for her son, when he got older, like most active healthy little boys, he wanted to play a sport.  Needless to say, this made mom nervous.  She did not want to expose her son to the cruelty the world shows those of us with disabilities.  She just knew there would be other parents and kids who would not be kind to her son.  Being a smart as fuck mom, she saw this as an opportunity to teach her son how to handle the douche bags of the world.

It took some time but after a couple weeks of discussion and thought between mother and son, the boy decided that he was going to start karate.  Of the five sports they were considering, this was the mom’s least favorite option.  However, being the confident woman she was, she supported her son 100% and kept her fears to herself.  

When they went to the dojo for the first time, the instructor was very excited to have this young boy joining the group.  He actually looked a little like Mr Myagi from Karate Kid.  After that first day of karate practice, the boy was a bit discouraged.  He shared with his mom that the instructor was only going to teach him one move.  Not two…. nothing.  Only one move, day in day out, over the next six months.  Three days per week and more during the summer, this young boy practiced and perfected the one move his teacher had given him.  After six months, the boy had become the best in the class at this one move and had one every sparring match he fought.  This had an amazing impact on both the boy’s confidence as well as the mom.  It was at the six month mark that the teacher wanted to enter the boy into a regional karate tournament.  While the boy had indeed beaten all of his classmates sparring, mom was still very apprehensive about letting her son enter such a high profile event.  She of course knew she could not say no.

The tournament came, on the edge of the mat before his first match, the teacher reminded the boy that he indeed was the best at his one move that he had ever seen.  All the boy needed to do was execute his move like he had learned, and to TRUST this was all he needed.  The mental gymnastics this requires is way above the paygrade of most young boys this age though this young man was able to master his mind and move forward.  

The boy won the first match… and then the second.  This phenomenal young boy made it all the way to the championship round.  Never before had a kid with no left arm made it this far in the tournament.  The tournament venue was packed with spectators.  Everyone stuck around to see this boy with one arm in the championship round.  Needless to say the mother and son had never been more nervous.  The teacher reminded the boy that he was the best at his move and to stay focused and block anything else out of his mind.  The boy of course went into the ring and executed his move flawlessly… AND WON THE WHOLE FUCKING TOURNAMENT!!!  After the noise had died down and the boy accepted his trophy, he asked his instructor how he could have been so confident and trusting that he would win the tournament.  The answer was a total surprise to both the mother and son. He explained in detail how the only way to counter the move that the boy had learned, was to GRAB HIS LEFT ARM!!!  The boy understood the concept immediately, and the mom started to cry and hug the instructor.  Finding your one thing and becoming the best, is the only way to enjoy success on every level.  It will open up not only financial opportunities in business, but have hugely positive effects on relationships as well as physical health.  Staying focused on that one thing will clear away the noise of everything else distracting me.  My path has become clearer as I continue to focus on my one thing.  Day in and day out I practice my process and trust that those around me will do the same.  Finding that one thing may feel like an impossible task, and that you would never be able to make a career out of it seems just plain outlandish.  Nonsense, don’t listen to the maddening crowd, know your heart and get to that one move where if you execute perfectly, will make you unbeatable in every way.  DIDO

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Bedtime Thoughts

I thought I’d share a couple things as an inventory of the day. Many times I wake up with an idea about how my day is going to go. Most of the time it goes nothing like I had planned out. That’s why those first few hours of every day are so important to me. It’s where I build the strength to deal with the day’s adversities. I had a sort of shitty thing happen to me earlier in the day that could’ve taken things way off track. I’m happy to report it was handled with flying colors by everyone involved. I’m so grateful when I can look back and be proud that I handled the situation better than I would have thought otherwise. This takes a day in day out practice of radical acceptance. I’ve learned when I’m triggered or feel some emotional extreme, I need to pause and remember that there are about 1,000 different things at work in any given situation that I am totally unaware of and have totally no control over. I’m not perfect at this but when I do it, things go really really well. I’m going to get up tomorrow morning again at 4:20 and make pancakes for the Lincoln Park community shelter. This is my day in day out commitment to myself my family my community and my God. DIDO!!

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Day In Day Out

I am a hustler, plain and simple. I work a couple different hustles to stay busy and earn cash for my family. My career out of college began on the The Chicago Board of Trade trading floor. This was something I wanted to do for a long time and was excited to be starting off at the CBOT. I was a top performing clerk in the bond options pit and a small market maker (local) in the Dow Index Futures pit. When it became clear that trading was going to transition to screens, I decided to take my passion for the markets and trading to PaineWebber as a financial adviser. After a few years at what became UBS, I joined an independent firm, and managed assets for a small group of high net worth families until the crisis of 2008. I then decided to open a restaurant in 2011. It was a miserable failure, yet I would never take back this experience in a million years. We lost over $500,000 and their was a good amount of fraud on the part of the franchisor. We were able to recoup some of our losses but this was a very tough time, and it has taken me a long time to “recover” from that trauma… and that is exactly what it was. In addition to having my real estate license, for the last eight years I have run a residential snow removal business. Not only is this fun, but it is a good amount of cash in my pocket… every little bit counts… I never want to forget the real value of a dollar! And every time it snows, it pays the rent. I also do Spring and Fall leaf clean ups for my snow clients, my clients really do love having made life easier for them. It makes me proud to fill this role for a family. With that feeling of pride in mind, my absolute favorite hustle of the year are the Christmas Tree lots I own and operate. The lots are open from Thanksgiving until I sell out of trees, usually a few days before Christmas. This is my favorite time of year for several reasons. For many years I have been trying to come up with a hustle that requires little to no email communication. Email is not good for me and makes me very anxious. The good news is Christmas trees don’t send emails and 99% of my customers don’t send emails either. On top of that, I get to see families during what could possibly be the best hour of their year, picking out their family Christmas tree. What a blessing!!! While I enjoy the work 110%, it is a long month+ of working 15-18 hour days, seven days a week. I come home every night exhausted but I also get in really great shape, and put on a couple pounds of muscle weight from tossing around several hundred 20 to 100 lb. trees. I used to sell Christmas trees in high school for a farmer from Michigan, so I already had a pretty good idea of what I was doing. I will fill you in more on that journey later. Oh, and I can’t forget that I also have a private car service where I drive residents of a high end senior living facility to the airport, concerts and even overnight trips for family reunions that would otherwise require a flight that they would rather not take. Driving these folks are some of my best memories. Many of my private car clients are my grandparents’ age if they were still alive. I was extremely close with my grandparents, and this really warms my heart and puts me in a good mood.
As all this is happening, my wife Kimley also had her own recruiting company…. there will definitely be more on that later. For over 20 years she has built an amazing reputation as one of the best executive recruiters in the country today. She mainly works with creative companies, middle market PE firms and their portfolio companies, as well as firms in her home state of Montana. Kimley would very much like to have a base of clients out West for when we are able to make our move back to MT. Since starting her own business over 7 years ago, my role has been to support her in any way she needs and that I am able to execute. This has been anything from simple logistical support like getting snacks for the office to high level introductions to potential new clients. I also came up with my own creative ideas for how to grow and manage the business. Make no mistake, this was Kimley’s ship to steer. A number of years ago, she was working on a search for a water irrigation company, it occurred to me that this company was actually a cannabis company. The company did not realize this and Kimley had not thought of it in that way but she quickly recognized the connection between this company and how it fit within the cannabis ecosystem. I said “we need to start a cannabis search practice” within our existing firm. The leadership team agreed and our equity partner in this effort (her ex-husband!) was on board as well. To say that were excited would be an understatement. Over the next several months I started traveling to cannabis conferences and networking events, developing a network of cannabis executives and want-to-be candidates. Building this business one client at a time has taken several years but we have learned an enormous amount about this nascent industry along the way. When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed and hemp became legal at the Federal level, a whole new sector of the cannabis industry opened up… THE CBD MARKET!!! The medical and recreational cannabis business have a costly barrier to entry, and there are huge amounts of compliance and regulatory red tape. The CBD market on the other hand has literally no barriers to entry. To say they are low would be inaccurate as there simply are none. Anyone can buy a couple dozen bottles of what they think is CBD and sell it online, with no oversight or compliance whatsoever. This situation has opened the flood gates for bad operators to come into the market and continue to give this miracle plant a bad name which in no way is deserved. This being the case, Kimley and I started thinking there could be real value to bringing a high quality CBD product line to the market. This line would be made by a company that uses real world business practices, and offers their patients world class educational resources. We started off with the idea to do educational seminars for senior living facilities, which will still be one of our ares of eventual focus. Let’s remember that my wife and I are both entrepreneurs, and are usually on the same page regarding the risks we take. One of the greatest risks on which we agree is taking on investors/partners. I get this from my grandfather and Kimley gets it from her desire to avoid being told what to do, and wanting to keep a larger share of the pie for herself. I admire her for this perspective and she admires me for mine. So when I told her my plan for bootstrapping and self funding our CBD company, she was on-board. The cash we would need to launch this effort was going to come through selling original political and cannabis t-shirt ideas I have tied with my strong passion for Bernie Sanders and medical marijuana. Some of you know this already. The plan was for me to travel to the first batch of Democratic primary states, peddle my shirts, and promote my blog and e-commerce site. I went to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, North Carolina, and my own home state of Illinois where Bernie held a “YUUUUGE” rally in Grant Park in Chicago. Traveling around the eastern half of the country selling t-shirts and campaigning for my candidate was not only one of the most educational trips of my life, but also the most fun. I will share more of those stories at a later time. I am a creative guy and have a lot of ideas, which can be very distracting at times. If I don’t have focus and constant reminders for what I am supposed to be doing at any given moment, I can get pulled in a lot of different directions. The result is starting other projects and getting nothing done. This has been the case my whole life but thanks to sobriety and therapy over the past several years, I have learned tools to help manage this and get shit done. And that is the whole point of this post. LIFE IS ABOUT GETTING SHIT DONE!!! DAY IN AND DAY OUT!!

One of my favorite authors is David Foster Wallace. Sadly, David committed suicide in 2008 at the age of 46, though not before he produced some of the best essays and fiction writing of the 20th century. As a result of being such a prolific writer, David was invited to give many college commencement address speeches. My absolute favorite clip of internet content is one of those speeches. In 2005, David Foster Wallace gave what I consider to be one of the most life affirming speeches ever given at an occasion such as a graduation. I have listened to his This Is Water address no fewer than 100 times. Davids’ words never get old and are the best way for me to remember that I have no idea what someone else is dealing with and that I need to have compassion in every situation. DFW dovetails these thoughts into some wisdom never talked about with young people… “And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone DAY IN and DAY OUT. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “DAY IN DAY OUT” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.”

So far I have not been able to come up with a better description for adult life than “Day In Day Out“. When I heard this for the first time, it made sense. When one decides to finally make the leap into adulthood, there must be an acceptance that the rest of ones life will be filled with routine that never ends… trudging the road to happy destiny “Day In Day Out“. Children, jobs, aging parents, divorced friends, cancer, all become parts of your life…”Day In and Day Out“. Over fifteen years ago, I made the decision to get sober. One of the sayings we alcoholics rely on for comfort is “One Day At A Time”. As I see it, “Day In Day Out” is a much more intense and focused version of “One Day At A Time”. “One Day At A Time” is a reminder to breath and slow down… an invitation to wear life as a loose shirt. “Day In Day Out” is a reminder to get my ass out of bed, get going, and take care of the things I need to do. It reminds me this is the long road and will take three times longer than I think. “Day In Day Out” I will be required to do things that I absolutely do not want to do. It is also my daily reminder that life is suffering everyday, and I need to accept this fact as much as the happy and joyful moments of my life.  

As I have thought about this “Day In Day Out” mantra for the past several years, I have started to include it on some of my electronic correspondence signature as DIDO. I have written it down in several places around the house where I am likely to see it. I write it on bookmarks, post-it notes, the bathroom mirror in expo markers, and I never stop reminding my kids that life is just that, “Day In Day Out”DIDO. So, if I were to say what life is about…DIDO. For anyone who finds it difficult to understand the uncomfortable fact that there are lies we receive about life from our parents to protect our hearts, advertising to manipulate us, and society to control us, this will catch up with you at some point. If you’re lucky, it will be sooner versus later. It is YOU that I am writing for and it is YOU for whom I will be vulnerable and honest by sharing my experience. DIDO is going to be a “lifestyle brand” (I fucking hate that term and will be creating my own descriptor) dedicated to improving the best parts of ourselves, while at the same time learning to deal with the darkness we all have in order to live the most impactful life possible. DIDO