A Letter I Wrote In A Locker Room

Hey VaynerNation,

 I’m turning forty-five today. With that in mind, I’ve started to really think about the next forty-five years, because ninety feels about right for me to hang up my jersey. For the first time in my brain, I’m picturing life after ninety and I can imagine life would be different afterward.

That being said, I’ll probably work well into my eighties. So what does that mean? If I retire at ninety then forty-five is halftime, right? It’s such an interesting age for me, it feels like I’m walking back into the field after halftime this Saturday. 

And that makes me feel incredible. 

I feel forty-five to fifty is when I’m at my most powerful. If this analogy plays out, the next half-decade may end up being the greatest part of my decade. They’re going to be my half time adjustments. I’ve been feeling it…I feel like I am sensing smoke. I feel like forty-three to forty-five has all been one big game of halftime adjustments. I’ve become more self aware, more aware of my shortcomings, more willing to talk about shit, dirt, and how it all relates to the process. 

Let me explain. I use the term “smoke to fire” as some may use “percolating to action”. I also use the analogy (and use a lot of analogies) of having thirty-one balls in the air and dropping seven. The reason I can hold twenty-four balls in the air is because I’m always sensing smoke. I’m always ideating and I’m always adding another layer. Then–boom–people can watch how it happens. Some may only see the last piece, the final fire; but if they look closely, they can see it build.

This is different from the idea behind “blood in the water”. Being able to sense smoke is a process that I’m finally getting to to break down for you.

It’s about efficiency.

This letter is about productivity more than anything else. People use tools for efficiencies while I use emotions, perspective, and insight. It’s because a lack of fear makes you more productive. You need to have a tremendous relationship with time and understand that in order to make progress you must not fear ideation. Productivity doesn’t have to be Slack or any other app. Some people are like me and I’m not a literal, productive person. I’m a theoretical, emotionally productive person. I’ve never mentioned or admitted that to myself. 

You can do so many things if you are always in “smoke” mode. There’s one idea and then there’s another idea. Don’t be afraid to ideate and create. That’s where I’m going with this theory.

Maybe we should create a new genre of emotional productivity. That’s what I feel I’m embarking on. Maybe I’ll write a book in 7 years and that will be the most impactful, “educational” thing I’ve ever done. Again, I’m always ideating, I’m doing it right now as I write. I’ll take something from this sit down that may help me with Wine Text. Or, I’ll take something from a Gallery Media or One37pm meeting that’s gonna help me in my speaking career…smoke to fire is a constant for me. 

Someone tagged me in something earlier, before I wrote this. It said that group thinking was better than individual thinking. It made me think, do I internalize most things as a group of people would? Rather than just me the individual. Maybe I’ve always been a Post Creative Strategist and never realized it.

What I mean is, I’m a human feedback loop. It’s how I navigate through my content and it’s how a lot of small businesses can navigate through their own content. Having more people around gives me more energy because that’s basically more ways to get feedback. It’s probably why I have a comedic style to my keynotes, because laughter is such an affirmation. Maybe it’s the reason why I curse so much? I’ve never thought this through…It also could be because I love Richard Pryor and Chris Rock. 

Regardless, when I curse the first time, I always use that reaction to gauge my language. Using emotion and empathy when communicating adds to the “smoke”…it’ll help you continue to make adjustments at half-time.

Keep in mind, in life some things are earned and others are natural. Not everyone is a natural ideator. However, you can work to eventually “earn” empathy and communication skills. There is value in working toward something that doesn’t come naturally to you. I know that after going through a physical health transformation. 

I’m the least naturally healthy person there is. 

From thirty-two on, when I gained ten pounds fast, I said, Uh oh. My grandfather died from heart disease and I feel like I’m built just like him. So, from thirty-two to thirty-eight, I had four different trainers. Let’s just say that didn’t work out. Still, It was more than what I was doing in my twenties. As I started to travel more, the conversation of let’s get my health together started hitting me like a drop in the bucket each time I thought about it. It was like a puff of smoke, or a small spark to a fire.

But then it clicked. I realized I needed a teammate. Everyone needs a team and no one can do it on their own. I now recognize that I need a human to hold myself accountable, a teammate who knew she or he could depend on me, because the worst feeling is letting someone down.

I remember that day. I was thirty-eight going on thirty-nine. As I boarded that plane I decided…I’m doing this. And when I got off the plane, that’s what I did. Smoke to fire. Six years of convos, five failed trainer attempts, and monthly conversations with myself. In the days leading up to the plane ride multiple, daily, quick thoughts. Smoke. 

What do I want you to take from this? My mom says it all the time, she thinks she’s all smoke and no fire. What I have is action.The question is, what is it in me that pushes me to act…because people get to ninety-nine and they’re still trying to fix their issues.

I’m so tired of people not doing things because they’re afraid of “wasting time”. I find that most people’s time who say “oh that’s a waste of time”–their time is the least valuable. It’s such a bad excuse. These free flowing conversations are how you get to ideas. Everyone is so structured. School, being too regimented, took away the creativity of many.  

What I notice about myself is, I don’t conform to norms. I’m willing to be flexible with time and my resources. I’m always listening even though I talk a lot, which is why video conferencing works for me, I need to see the reaction to what I say. I’m always looking for feedback loops. 

Maybe my definition of smoke needs to have another layer behind it, maybe in order to truly get to a smoke and fire process you must be self-aware, honest, and hold yourself accountable. Most people do things on autopilot because they assume that if there’s a meeting in their calendar they must do it (especially these days on these virtual meetings). 

The next time you’re in a meeting pay attention to your senses. If within the first 13 seconds you feel that the meeting you’re in doesn’t meet the needs of what you’re trying to accomplish (smoke), change it (fire). 

Focus on your intuition and natural talent. Work on the things you’re not naturally good at. I think many people are in smoke mode and blame other people for not starting a fire. In life, maybe before halftime, you have to start the fire.

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