Author Archives: Dan

Procrastination Motivation

Tick, tock.

I started reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything recently. In the introduction, one paragraph in particular made me realize that the next 500 pages are going to be an eye opening, mouth dropping, pants pooping journey:

The bad news is that atoms are fickle and their time of devotion is fleeting – fleeting indeed. Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes past, or at some other point thereabouts, for reasons unknown your atoms will shut you down, silently disassemble, and go off to be other things. And that’s it for you.

When you break it down like that, it really puts life into perspective. 650,000 hours. That’s roughly 27,083 days. Add in the fact that you’ve already been living, and if you’re reading this you’re likely (at the very least) 21 years old, that gives you 466,032 hours, or 19,418 days. Even less for me. And probably you too.

That’s scary. And inspiring. If anything, it makes me want to start getting things done. It makes every sentence that starts with “Someday I want to…” or “When I get some time I really need to…” irrelevant. Someday will be today. I don’t need to “get time.” I need to use what I’ve already been given.

Nothing motivates me like a deadline. And in this case, that deadline is literal.

When you put a tanglible value on the amount of time you have to live, every hour counts. Sure, these numbers are pretty high – nearly meaningless – for someone in their 20s. However:

Say I decide to watch Breaking Bad starting tomorrow. There are 5 seasons with 62 episodes total. At 48 minutes an episode, that’s 52 hours of my life devoted to passively watching the best show that was or ever will be.

Now, let’s say I decide to watch every episode of Game of Thrones, Homeland, Weeds, The Office, 30 Rock, and The Simpsons as well. I mean, it’s just 20 minutes or an hour here or there, right? I’ve been watching these show my whole life.

Well, if I add the time it takes to watch every episode of every season of those shows to my Breaking Bad bingefest, that’s 489 hours of my life. And that’s just TV. Add in movies, commuting, reading pointless things on the internet, Candy Crush, and showering, and that number grows immensely.

I don’t mean to rag on TV and film – they’re amazing mediums that I hope to day one contribute to. But when it comes down to it, we waste a lot of the limited time we have. It’s easy to zone out after work for 2 hours in front of the TV or your phone or whatever it is you choose to use to destress. Sometimes it’s needed. However it’s easy to let it get out of control.

When I struggle with the decision of watching another episode of House of Cards or working on something meaningful to me, I remember that my atoms plan on mutinying me. Even though I’m still growing, my time is fading. It always will be, so it’s best not to waste what’s left.

The clock ticks incessantly. I’m not going to drown it out with southern twang of Frank Underwood. I’m going to let it fill the room, poke it’s way into my brain, and force me to finish that screenplay I’ve been meaning to write.

This is the most fun I’ve ever had writing a cover letter.

I recently applied for a job writing the WeekENDER at Chubbies. Like any job, the application calls for a cover letter. Rather than putting the reader to sleep with a standard “here are my qualifications here’s what I do this is what I’ve done” cover letter to be thrown in the trash and vomited on, I decided to spice things up a bit.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had writing a cover letter. So much fun, in fact, that I’ve decided to share it. It’s below, and I’d love your feedback in the comments.

(Note: if you’re unfamiliar with Chubbies, take 2 minutes to browse their site. Watch a video and read a WeekENDER. Then this cover letter will make much more sense.)

To whom the Chubster it may concern:

I have the same thing for breakfast every morning. Three eggs. Three strips of bacon. Why? Because THIS IS AMURICA.

And in Amurica, we can do whatever we damn well please.

But with freedom comes poor choices. Specifically, the choice to wear cargo shorts. I made this fatal mistake for many years. Little did I know that what I was experiencing was in fact not comfort, but restraint. My thighs, in all their glory, went sight unseen, hidden from the world behind a thick layer of pockets and misery.

I don’t want anyone to have to go through that. Ever. Enter: thigh liberation.

You’re looking for the best writer and visual communicator on the planet? Well look no further, amigo. (Can I call you that? I feel like I can call you that.) I’m here to help spread the good word.

Why me? Well, Chubberino, let me break down a few relevant projects I’m working on:

  • I created and run DailyCreative, which puts a creative writing prompt in users’ inboxes three times a week. I’ve been testing subject lines, email timing, and the like to increase my open rates. And when it comes to the WeekENDER, isn’t getting Chubsters to read the email what it’s all about? (Let’s be honest, there are some janky emails out there that get ignored and deleted. The WeekENDER shouldn’t be one of them.)
  • I’ve been blogging consistently for a year and a half. I’ve grown as a writer and developed an audience that’s loyal as all hell. They get antsy if I go too long between posts. I’d be stoked to generate that kind of loyalty for the WeekENDER. (Here are my some of my popular posts. Everything’s going to be all right and Stand clear of the closing doors.)
  • I’ve got Photoshop skills. Back in my high school days I was Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook (no autographs, please). Now I work in advertising where I use that beast to manipulate ads we’re working on.

How could I rock this job?
Other than crushing it so hard with the written word that you’ll need the jaws of life to pry your eyes away from the page, I’ll provide Chubster Nation with content they won’t be able to share fast enough (because sharing is caring, and it’s also great for business). I want Chubsters to talk about the WeekENDER while they’re enjoying a brewskerdo, grillin’ some righteous BBQ, and getting pumped to kill it on Friday night.

Plus, I’m versatile. Want a knee slapper? I can write it. A tale that brings a tear to your eye? I’m your man. Time to get pumped up? Call me Seamless ‘CAUSE I’M HERE TO DELIVER. (Need proof? Check out these posts: 9 Things I’ve Learned Since CollegeIn the end, it all evens out., and Leaper)

So why do I want to work here?
Easy. Three reasons in no particular order:

  1. Chubbies has a clear, unwavering, fear no evil mission and will do everything in its power to make it happen. (Unless that thing is wearing boardshorts. Then it’s a no-go.)
  2. The Chubbies brand feels like an extension of myself. Why yes, I would love a beer with my bacon.
  3. Chubbies makes a bodacious, double-take worthy, who-knew-it-was-possible-to-look-that-good-in-shorts-dear-god-where-do-I-buy-a-pair? product.

Working for Chubbies would fulfill some of my wildest dreams. I would have the opportunity to work in a position that forces me to think to my fullest capacity. I’d grow and be challenged everyday. I will utilize the skills that I went thousands of dollars into debt to learn, with coworkers equally as passionate and understanding as I am about the work-play balance. I’d be kicking ass and taking names. And my legs would look great doing it.

Still not convinced?
I didn’t want to do this, but I think I have to. Below are pictures of my Dad, who’s been thigh liberated since the 1970s.

Dad Picture 1There’s a guy who knows the Sky’s Out.

Dad Picture 2

Sure, the hair is questionable, but DAYUM those are some radical shorts.

So you see, it’s in my blood. I come from an original Chubster. I have an innate understanding that thighs are meant to be prominently displayed like the trophies of the body that they are.

It’s time to get men’s legs out of the riDONKulous garments they choose to wear and into some Chubbies. And I can be the legxact guy to do it.

Sky’s Out, Thighs Out.

Dan “Leg pun nickname pending” Whitman

P.S. – I wrote a WeekENDER. You can read it here.

My goals for 2014

I’m hoping to make 2014 my best year yet (just like every other person on the planet). To make that happen, I’ve created a list of goals to have completed by the end of the year, if not sooner. Why am I sharing them here? To make myself accountable. Enjoy! And hey, why not make some of your own? You’ve got nothing to lose.

  1. Reach 150 blog subscribers (if you still haven’t, sign up for my mailing list)
  2. Get DailyCreative email open rate average to increase 15% by year end
  3. Land a copywriting contract
  4. Find a way to earn $500/mo extra by June 30
  5. Have a meeting or call with three bloggers/writers a month
  6. Take an improv class
  7. Write a post that gets 2500 unique views
  8. Have a meeting or call with one person in advertising or marketing per month
  9. Express my emotions more freely and confidently
  10. Cook with one new ingredient every two weeks
  11. Complete the first draft of a screenplay
  12. Visit two states I’ve never been to
  13. Visit 10 museums (preferably in NYC)
  14. Get published in Metropolitan Diary
  15. Read 26 books
  16. Join a spring/summer sports league
  17. Grow DailyCreative to 250 users
  18. Follow through with at least one business idea (instead of letting every idea peddle around in my head and get lost in oblivion)
  19. Guest post on three reputable blogs
  20. Pay 10k towards student debt
  21. Be more present in one on one conversations by actively listening and avoiding close ended questions
  22. Go 30 days paleo/gluten free (wanna take the challenge with me? let me know)
  23. Naturally eliminate my anxiety
  24. Recognize my achievements and allow myself to be proud of them
  25. Run a marathon
  26. Determine my opinion on issues before reaching to others for their thoughts
  27. Complete a weight training circuit three times a week for three consecutive months
  28. Go to a music festival (any suggestions?)
  29. Visit friends in other cities once every three months and do something we haven’t done before
  30. Write 5 short stories of 5000+ words
  31. Stay true to self in new groups of people
  32. Publish a Kindle Single (hoping for Leaper)

Throughout the year I’ll be adjusting and adding any goals as I understand what I’m doing better. You’ll find the most updated list in my 2014 Goals tab.

If you want to set some goals of your own (and you should), check out Chris Guillibeau’s and Scott Britton’s tools. They’ve been extremely helpful for me.

Thanks to Justin Mares for looking over these with a comb of the finest teeth.

It’s Easy To Let Self-Doubt Ruin Your Plans. Don’t.

I’m curled up in a ball on my bed. My eyes are open, but I don’t look at anything in particular. My brain feels like it’s being pulled from both sides in opposite directions. I can’t form a single coherent thought. Focusing is out of the question. I close my eyes and let them roll back into my head. Gray.

Twenty minutes later I wake up exhausted, no closer to a solution. I get out of bed and continue doing whatever I was doing before all of this started.

These onslaughts of self-doubt hit me more often than I’d like. They grow from a small, seemingly meaningless question – “should I write something?” or “what should I do with my next two hours?” – to a full-blown panic attack.

I’ve experienced many bouts of self-doubt since I moved to New York. When I moved here I knew only a few people, ended a two and a half year relationship within the first three months, and have since been rubbing pennies together so vigorously the copper is melting. “Why am I putting myself through this?” I often ask myself. “Is being here worth it?”

I could be living back at home in Central Pennsylvania. Or I could be living in Pittsburgh, where I went to college. If I were in either area, I would spend less, know more people, and be somewhere I feel entirely in my comfort zone.

But I’ve done that. I’ve lived in my comfort zone and I fought like hell to get out of it.

So now that I’m six months into living in the Big Apple, why has this wave of self-doubt taken over me? I’m constantly reevaluating my decision to live here. I find myself more and more often feeling like my goals are lofty and unattainable, and that moving here was a mistake. Am I wasting my time?

The frustration I feel when I realize I’m doubting myself, however, is as bad, if not worse, than the self-doubt alone. I get frustrated that I discount my abilities. I get frustrated because I know it’s a waste of time to doubt myself, yet I keep doing it. I get frustrated because I let my emotions overpower logic.

Most of all, though, I get frustrated that, in that moment, I have lost all confidence in myself.

An hour later I pop in my headphones and walk out of my apartment. I feel glum. My self-doubt panic attack has exhausted me. I need to get out of the house and find a place to relax.

I head down the familiar subway entrance and find myself cracking a little smile. Something about taking the train makes me feel good. Like driving down the roads of your hometown years after you’ve moved away.

I power my way onto the train with the crowd, grabbing a pole before we start moving again. I transfer at Union Square and ride up to Rockefeller Center. It started snowing when I was underground. I leave the station and head towards the skating rink.

The tree is lit. I haven’t seen it yet this year. The lights reflecting off the rink and statue makes me feel like I’m in a movie. I grab a seat on a bench and watch the tourists take pictures and get in each other’s way. The smile I cracked earlier gets a little bigger.

I think back to the day I was told I got the job. “I’m moving to New York!!” I yelled into the phone. My eyes teared up with happiness. My head was swimming with excitement. It was my dream city. It was even more than that. It was opportunity. It was hope. It was new experiences and new people and a new life. It was a huge leap that I couldn’t have been more excited to take.

Reflecting on the feelings I had in that moment strengthened a part of me that was absent earlier. The part that knows this is the right choice for me. That this is where I belong.

Confidence. It’s the antidote to self-doubt’s poison. While self-doubt deters me from my goals, confidence allows me to achieve them. Beating myself up is worthless.

I looked up at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and a wave of emotion swept over me.

I walked home with my head held high.

—–

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Leaper

Everything was rushing past me, like going through a platform on the express train. Except I wasn’t on the subway. And everything was rushing from down to up.  Which, considering I just jumped from the 75th floor of my building, makes sense.

My mom called Cara, not me, when it happened. She refused to call me after the argument we got into last week. I didn’t blame her.

“Your dad fell,” Cara told me over the phone as I rushed out of the office. “Your mom is taking him to the hospital. He could walk, but he was having a hard time breathing and complaining about a pain in his stomach.” My wife broke off and started to cry. “She sounded so scared–”

“It’s OK Cara. Don’t cry. Are you OK to drive?”

She sniffled out an “Uh-huh.”

“OK. Meet me at the hospital. I’m heading there now.” I hopped in my car and sped away. Traffic grew heavy as I approached the hospital, eventually coming to a standstill. Unable to contain my urgency, I jumped out of my car to investigate. Another driver – a burly, lumberjack-looking fellow – was walking back towards his car and stopped me.

“There’s an accident blocking the road. We’re gonna be here for a while.”

I slowed down to a brisk walk and called Cara. “There’s an accident. Are you there yet?”

“Yes, I–”

“Tell Dad I’m coming. Tell Mom the accident is blocking traffic but I’m close so I’m just gonna run there.”

“Ok I will but Nick I-“

“I’ll be there in less than 10-“

“Nick! Listen to me! They don’t have record of your parents checking in yet.”

“What? Did she definitely say Good Samaritan?”

“I could have sworn that’s what sh-“

“Oh my God.” I dropped the phone as the mangled wreckage of the accident came into view. A tractor-trailer turned my parents’ Toyota Camry into an unrecognizable hunk of metal.

I went numb.

Jumping – the actual, physical jump, wasn’t the worst part. Heights have never scared me. It’s the anticipation that got to me. I’d thought about jumping before. I could jump from my office building. It’s huge. Tonight was different, though. I knew I’d be getting laid off when I got to work. After that, I’d have nothing left.

I stayed up all night contemplating my decision. At 6am, I knew it was time.

Why didn’t she call 911? Why did she have to drive Dad to the hospital? I’d asked myself these questions for weeks afterwards out of anger, sadness. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt depressed about my parents’ deaths, and angry that they were taken so quickly, so early.

Most of all, I felt guilty. Never would I be able to relieve myself of the guilt I have about not saying goodbye. My last conversation with them was an argument about their shed. Their shed. Mom wanted it painted, Dad couldn’t do it, and I didn’t want to do it. They called me lazy. I called them needy. My final goodbye was a “Paint the damn shed yourself!” behind a slammed door.

Why was that the way we left things? I’d been acting like my old self here and there recently. Between the stress of work and raising two toddlers, it was warranted. It wasn’t a fight like the ones we had when I was a teenager.

It was petty. A petty fight about painting a shed. I couldn’t forgive myself.

Getting to the roof was easier than expected. There were no security guards. No locked doors.

Some say suicide is the easy way out. I guess they meant it literally.

I sat in my driveway, dreading the thought of going inside. She has to know I’m home by now. I saw the kids peeking out the window. They will have told her. I need to go in.

“Daddy!!” the little guys yelled as I walked through the door. I gave them both a big hug and spun them around. They laughed. I smiled.

“Go put your jammies on and I’ll read you a story before bed.” They ran up the stairs as fast as 4 year olds can run up steps.

“Didn’t think you’d make it home before bedtime,” Cara said, back turned to me.

“I did.”

“There’s stuff for a sandwich in the fridge.” She left the room, never making eye contact with me. The kids were coloring before I got here. I cleaned up their mess and headed to the refrigerator.

Nothing in there for a sandwich. Cara stopped making enough dinner for there to be leftovers months ago.

After the deaths of my parents, I would go on long drives. Cara didn’t question it. She knew that it was a coping mechanism I created long ago. She’d feed the kids and leave a little extra for me when I got home. She’d always wait up, no matter how late I was. She didn’t ask me any questions about where I drove or how I was feeling unless I brought it up – she let me have my space. She was everything I could have asked for.

But as she began to move on, I couldn’t. I kept replaying that last conversation in my head. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was the wreckage. The mangled blue frame between the truck and the pole. I constantly thought about my relationship with my parents; what I put them through growing up. How I’d caused them so much pain for so long. How couldn’t Cara understand why I didn’t move on as fast as her? “Put yourself in my shoes,” I told her. “Try to see it from my point of view. You know me.” That only worked for a few weeks.

Four months after the funeral Cara had completely moved on. I still felt like I just lost them yesterday. We grew distant. Affection diminished. It became hard to have a conversation about anything of substance. We felt obligated to ask the typical questions. “How was work?” “How are the kids?” “How is your day going?” We didn’t care about the answers.

A year later, we barely spoke. Emotions over the last eight months turned from confusion to anger to hostility and, finally, heartbreaking acceptance.

The divorce papers were being finalized. We hadn’t moved apart for the kids’ sake, but that would come soon. I stayed away from home more and more often so they didn’t see us at odds.

I read the boys a story and, once they fell asleep, headed to my bedroom. I slept in the guest room now. I heard a knock on the door.

Cara stepped in. “I heard from the judge today.”

“And?”

“I’m getting full custody.”

My eyes quivered as I walked out into the sunlight, beating down on me ironically on this uncharacteristically warm November afternoon. I slowly walked across the plaster. The south side is the only side with a straight shot to the ground. I stepped up onto the ledge.

I can’t remember a time in the first 17 years of my life that I was ever truly happy. Sure, there were moments, but never did I go to sleep at night feeling good about my life.

My parents realized it. They tried to help. They placed me in therapy. The doctor told them I had a combination of various mental illnesses, including depression, severe anxiety, and anger management problems. None of this was a surprise.

Our relationship had been strained for years. They’d try to reach out, but I wouldn’t reach back. I heard them get in screaming matches about what to do with me. “No more therapy!? You’ve GOT to be kidding! He’s a mess!” I hated how much I tore them apart. But I was completely unable to express that to them. Instead, I held it in. Silence. I don’t know why I did it. I couldn’t explain.

High school brought on a whole new set of factors. Everyone started filing each other into various categories. “Cool kids.” “Smart kids.” I was placed in “Other” or “Miscellaneous.” I was unable to connect with my classmates, and they made fun of me for it. I had no friends. I felt completely alone.

I bought some Vicodin from a guy who sold them at school and started taking them to get through the day. They helped me disassociate from the torture it was walking through the halls, let alone what went through my head. Soon one pill turned into one and half, which turned to 2, 3. I’d begun to lose count throughout the day. Whenever something was going wrong, or I started to feel bad again, I’d pop another.

One day I had a particularly bad fight with my parents during which my father slammed my head against the wall. My mother screamed at both of us until he let go of me. I stormed off to my room, popped a few more pills, and laid down. My head was spinning as I drifted into emotionless sleep.

I woke up on a hospital bed with an IV in my arm. “Attempted suicide.” I didn’t want to die, just numb the pain. They wouldn’t hear it. My parents took me directly to rehab.

It’s funny how they’ll say “he jumped off a building.” No one actually jumps – not in the literal sense of the word. Jumping implies excitement, joy, giddiness. They shouldn’t call us jumpers. They should call us leapers. But that sounds too faithful.

I got to see my kids every other weekend. The judge didn’t order it, but Cara agreed to let me form a relationship with them. I liked to think that I gave them some type of father figure. At least temporarily.

The visits normally consisted of me indulging their every want and need. McDonalds for lunch, followed by the toy store. Candy for dinner. Want to watch four hours of TV? Go for it. I knew it wasn’t healthy to let them do these things, but it made them happy to see me. It was better than nothing.

That was all fun and games for a while. As they started to grow up, though, they grew tired of these indulgences. They started to bicker with me. They’d repeat things Cara said about me, asking “why are you so mean to mommy?” and “why didn’t you love her enough?” Clearly she’d been feeding them lies to win them over.

It was working.

The visits started to become more and more sparse. Once every 3 weeks. Once a month. Finally, one day, Cara called.

“Nick?”

“Hi, what’s up?”

“The kids won’t be coming over this weekend.”

“Why not?”

“They’ve asked that they stop visiting.”

“Did they ask that, or did you tell them?”

“Nick I’m being serious. They told me they don’t want to visit anymore. I’m sorry.”

I haven’t heard from them since.

Then I heard it. Music coming from the open window I just passed. It was quick – only a fraction of a fraction of a second – but I recognized it. Like how a song can come on the radio and you know what it is after half a note. It took me back, like only music can, to an earlier time in my life.

It was an unseasonably warm November afternoon. The sun shone down on me as I got in the car. My father came to pick me up.

“Hi Nick,” he said in a cautiously optimistic voice.

“Hi Dad.” I shut the door and buckled my seatbelt.

“It’s good to see you.”

I didn’t know what to say. This was the first positive sign of emotion my dad had shown me in years. “Thanks,” I responded. “It’s uhh…it’s nice to see you too.”

That’s all we said for the first two hours of the three-hour drive home. I’d spent the last six months in an experimental immersive mental health treatment facility. I’d barely spoken to my parents during my time there – it wasn’t allowed often.

And now that I was finally able say whatever I wanted to my father, I didn’t know what to talk about. My dad and I had been distant for so long. Not just over the past six months, but for years before that.

I wanted to talk to him. Badly. I wanted to tell him how much better I felt. How hard I worked at rehab to feel better. How I learned so many ways to deal with things when I started feeling anxious or mad or depressed. I wanted to tell him that I know I’ll always have these traits, but I can live with them and handle them. I wanted to apologize for how badly I acted towards him and Mom. I wanted to tell him how inspired and optimistic about life I was feeling. That I don’t even think about taking pills to numb the pain. That there isn’t much pain anymore anyway. But I didn’t know how.

I gasped for air, as if I was about say something, but withdrew at the last minute. I saw my dad glance over, then back at the road.

“I…” I stopped. “Um…” I hesitated again. Get something out of your mouth. I sighed heavily. “I-“

“Nicholas.” My dad interrupted. I swallowed my words. He paused for an eternity. “Your mother and I have never been more proud of you. We love you, son.” He paused again. “I love you.”

I bit my cheek as my eyes started watering. I love you too. Say it. I took a deep breath and stared forward through the windshield, vision blurry. Nothing came out.

My dad turned the radio on and music filled the car.

“Great song. You know it?”

I’d never forget it.

That car ride. The day my life started over. So full of optimism, inspiration, happiness. I was so strong for a 17 year old.

What happened to me? I thought to myself. How did I fall back into my own trap? I’d done so well for so long. I lost my ability to control my emotions after my parents passed. I forgot how. Instead, I let my old self overpower me.

It was small at first, but it grew. Quickly. And I did nothing to slow it down. It consumed me, so much so that I saw no way out. When I realized I needed to control it, it was too late. And I didn’t care to fight it. So I lost myself. I became a slave to my illness, allowing it to be an excuse to not only lose my friends, but let my marriage fail and kids despise me. I told myself I was unable to do anything about it. But really I should have been fighting like hell to get myself together.

I need to forgive myself. I’m a strong person who’s been weak recently. I can overcome it. I can stop being the person I’ve turned into. That optimistic 17 year old – who had the strength to forgive himself and turn his life around – he’s still inside me. I can be the person who fell in love and had beautiful children. I can be happy. Like that day in the car with Dad. That can be me again.

Relief swept over me. Escape from my former self felt possible. I was more hopeful than I’d felt in years. Just like in the car that day, with my dad. That’s when I knew everything was going to be OK. That I’d be OK. The minute he told me loved me.

“I love you too Dad.”

I hit the ground.

—–

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