May 6, 2022

What I'm Up To - Vol. 58

Here’s what I’ve been up to since Vol. 57…

1. Go Gentle Into The Night

On May 1st at 5pm, I got a text from my sister that simply read: “He’s gone 💔”After a long battle with cancer, my dad passed peacefully, without pain, surrounded by those he loved and who loved him. He was born on a farm in rural Mississippi. He went on to be an international leader, a philanthropist, and a community activist, who made a remarkable impact on our hometown, Memphis, TN. This quote from his obit* is one of my favorites: “Happiness comes from being useful to God, being useful to family and being useful to other human beings.”

By those measures, he was a very happy man.

Mom and Dad at one of our last gatherings in Austin.

Knowing time was limited, our family went home to Memphis for Easter. We visited my dad in the hospital. With mom’s help, I got to give him a shave. We held his hand when he didn’t have the strength to talk. We told him what a great father he was and how much we loved him. The Sunday we left, he moved into hospice care. I’m so thankful for that precious time with him.

I first discovered a poem Dylan Thomas wrote for his dying father while hiking in Cinque Terre with my family. Later, after the suicide of a friend and dad’s cancer diagnosis, I revisited it often. The final refrain became a fervent prayer for those I love: “Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

One gift of my dad’s long journey is the understanding that there simply comes a time to end the fight, know that you’ve done all that could be done, and embrace the “good night.” RIP Larry Wayne Papasan. We love and miss you.

2. What Our Family's Been Up To

I’m kind of a ‘bad news first’ person. So, with that out of the way, there were some bright spots in April as well. Every year, Gus’s rowing team hosts an “Ergathon” fundraiser. Team members ask for donations based on how many meters they can row in 60 minutes. Gus placed first, knocking out 14,890 meters on the rowing machine! (Public shoutout to Cheyenne Gillooly for surviving the sticker shock of sponsoring his row.) Gus was wiped out, but proud after. His quad also placed third in the state regatta, qualifying for regionals. I’ll report back on how that goes next month.

Love this shot of Gus on the water.

He also took the ACT for the first time. He didn’t prepare. The goal was to experience the exam and get a baseline. Acton Academy is not a traditional school in terms of exams and grades, so we were delighted he scored a 26. Now we know which topics to focus on before we start applying for colleges in earnest.

In other news, our whole family has enjoyed rooting for our hometown Grizzlies in the NBA playoffs. If you missed Ja Morant’s gravity-defying dunk in the first round, check it out. I hope they make a long run. I know dad enjoyed rooting for our Bluff City team.

Wendy and I got to get dressed up for CASA of Travis County’sCASAblanca fundraiser.  CASA stands for “court-appointed special advocates” for children. They do amazing work for children in the foster system. We raised $1.9 million that night. I bet there is a CASA foundation where you live. Go get dressed up for a good cause.

Don’t take a competitor to an auction unless you can afford it…

We also got to go see David Sedaris, one of the funniest writers of our time. Wendy hooked me on his books by literally shaking the bed trying to stifle her laughter while reading his essays. I finally gave in after my neck surgery in 2018 and listened to two or three of his books on Audible. He personally reads them and they are wickedly funny.

3. What's Happening at Work

We hosted our first-ever Mega Leadership as a standalone event. About 1,500 leaders came to Austin for two days of core skills training around their roles. We heard loud and clear how nice it was to focus just on their growth and not have to worry about hosting their agents and guests. I suspect these stand-alone events will be the norm going forward.

Wendy had the honor of hosting the team track at Inman Connect in New York. I love seeing her star rising with the other founders of Her Best Life. I was honored to be asked to be the executive sponsor for the KW BreakOUT employee resource group (ERG) which will focus on highlighting opportunities for our LGBTQ+ employees. I’m proud to be an ally and I’m sure we’ll do great things this next year.

Finally, my friend, Jenny, invited me to a small dinner for angel investors. It was kinda cool when one of them pointed out Bill Gurley (the original investor in Uber) getting in an Uber a dozen feet away.  He’s 6’9” so I’m guessing he always hails an UberXL.

4. What I'm Reading

My nonfiction reading included Stop Asking Questions by Andrew Warner, long-time host of the Mixergy podcast. The book was pitched to me as a way to level up my interviewing skills. I found it a bit repetitive and the anecdotes self-aggrandizing. Nevertheless, I did collect some great techniques and dozens of great questions to ask. If you do interviews as a part of your job, it’s probably worth picking up.

We hosted a group of former special forces operators looking at careers in real estate early in April. I dug out Tribe by Sebastian Junger from my towering to-read pile to prepare. It’s fantastic. Junger explores how and why so many American veterans struggle to reintegrate post-active duty. This line stood out for me: “In the United States we valorize our vets with words and posters and signs, but we don’t give them what’s really important to Americans, what really sets you apart as someone who is valuable to society – we don’t give them jobs.” For all of us who own and run businesses, we can help fix this!

I also enjoyed a sneak peek at the manuscript for The Win-Win Wealth Strategy: 7 Investments the Government Will Pay You to Make by Tom Wheelwright. The book comes out in July and Tom effectively consolidates the best tax strategies around these asset classes (real estate, energy, businesses, etc.) I pre-ordered my copy.

For fiction, I read Knife by Jo Nesbo, the 12th book in the Harry Hole detective series. I hate when I catch up with authors in real-time. Who knows when lucky 13 comes out? Nesbo is rumored to be drawing the series to close. I also read Burning Angel by James Lee Burke. I do love his writing, especially how he captures rural Louisiana, but this wasn’t his best effort story-wise.

5. What I'm Watching

One of the places I go when I’m feeling down or stressed is the movies. I can really unplug. April was a movie month.

I saw five truly great films:

  1. Boiling Point – One evening in a 5-star restaurant where everything that can go wrong does. Like 1917, it’s filmed in one, continuous shot. While some of the drama at the end is (ahem) hard to swallow, we couldn’t stop watching and breathed a sigh of relief when the credits rolled.  
  2. CODA – The title stands for “Child of Deaf Adult.” I avoided this for a long time because the trailer made me tear up. I didn’t want a sad movie. I’m happy to report that it isn’t a sad movie, just an incredibly beautiful and moving one. (And I cried and cried anyway.)
  3. The Outfit – A crime drama about a “Savile Row tailor in gangland Chicago has not a stitch out of place.” That review is too good not to quote. It’s a great film shot in three rooms with six actors. Could have been a play. I loved it.
  4. Restrepo – Sebastian Junger's Oscar-winning documentary about a platoon’s time in an outpost in the Korengal Valley. It’s been on my list for years. And after reading Tribe, I finally pulled the trigger. (Sorry, that just came out).
  5. Everything Everywhere All at Once – Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan (“Data” from The Goonies!) star in this crazy, Matrix-like action-comedy. Delightfully weird and original.

And there is more…. The Batman is too long. Really, 30-45 minutes too long. That said, Andy Serkis (Gollum from The Hobbit and TheLord of the Rings trilogy) as Alfred, Colin Farrell unrecognizable as The Penguin, and Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman made it worthwhile for me. I watched The 355 on a plane and it was a good popcorn movie, loaded with female stars. Finally, if Murder on the Orient Express had me Googling exotic train trips, Death on the Nile had us talking about planning a trip to Egypt. It is a gorgeously shot film. Just okay as a mystery.

We also managed to wrap up Killing Eve Season 3. Sadly, the show is fun but sliding downhill fast. We’ll watch the final season in May and report back.

That’s it for this month. Please reply back and let me know what you’re up to!

Be well, do good deeds, and eat tacos!


* You can read dad’s obituary in the Daily Memphian.