Aug 12, 2022

What I'm Up To - Vol. 61

Here’s what I’ve bee up to since Vol. 60…

1. Willie and the 4th

Despite living in Austin for 22 years, we’d never seen Willie Nelson. So we went to his annual “4th of July Picnic” concert. It’s an all-day affair with bands playing from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. We decided to be fashionably late and arrived at 6 p.m. and caught the final five acts and fireworks.

That’s our friend, Kevin Smith, on standup bass!

Willie can still hit the notes while strumming his battered guitar. A revolving cast of musicians joined him for songs. Beto O’Rourke even played backup guitar on one tune. Fun Fact. Willie released his 98th album on his 89th bday this year. That’s quite the career.

Willie sporting a custom US Men’s Soccer jersey on the jumbotron.

That same weekend, Gus had a bunch of pals over for homemade pizzas and games. We’re still enjoying the Ooni pizza oven. And I love that our house has become the de facto HQ for his friends. They convene here to swim, watch movies, and play games. They’re teenagers. They keep their distance. But it is great hearing their laughter upstairs. It’s hard to believe he’ll be off to college a year from now!

2. Forks and Fishing

Our pal, Jason Hardy, came to town and we splurged on dinner at Olamaie. We also finally got to meet April and Val’s menagerie over dinner. They share a home with a dog, a cat, a fish, and three chickens. Good friends and great food are the best combos.

I also managed a rare summer fishing trip to the coast. Despite losing several fishermen to COVID and family emergencies, we mustered a quorum and a boat for Port O’Conner. We caught plenty of small speckled trout and a few redfish and flounder, but it was the first time in twenty years no one caught a single keeper. I did briefly hook into a crevalle jack. He courteously snapped my line instead of spooling my reel.

Bay fishing is mostly wading. And you never know what you’ll catch.

Austin has been setting records for heat. It’s been rare that temps have failed to hit 100, so it was bizarre when a storm blew into the bay and dropped temperatures until we were all blue-lipped and shivering. Thankfully, there was no lightning. And the sun returned soon enough to warm us up.

3. “The Lefty”

For our 23rd anniversary, we booked a couple of nights at the Hotel Van Zandt downtown. It didn’t start well as there was some confusion about our room. After cooling our heels in the lobby, the manager brought us our card keys with an apology for the wait.

Wendy pretending to play the upright!

When we were going up to our room, a guy asked us which floor. I looked at my card key and replied, “16.” He said, “Oh, the penthouse!” That was our first clue they had upgraded our room. We navigated to the end of the dark hallway and found our room with a plaque on the door, “The Lefty.”  It was one of the presidential suites named after Townes Van Zandt’s classic song, “Pancho and Lefty.” Happy anniversary to us!

4. Franklin Lake

Finally, we traveled to Minnesota for our annual pilgrimage to Wendy’s lake cottage. Grandpa Milt joined us, as did Aunt Heidi. We played Farkle, read books, and cruised around Franklin Lake on a rented pontoon. It was great getting Milt out on the lake for our sunset cruises. He firmly corrected us whenever we referred to it as a “boat.” In Minnesota, a pontoon is not a boat. Sharing so you can avoid repeating our faux pas.

We always look forward to spending time with Gpa Milt.

We made our requisite trip to Zorba’s for pizza, and I celebrated a quiet birthday with 53 (plus one) birthday burpees. Wendy heroically did them with me, faster as always. While I appreciate the solidarity, I would love it if she’d just pretend to struggle and let me finish first.

On the way home, we flew out of Minneapolis and had to spend the night, so I also got to check off the Mall of America, with its indoor theme park and acres of stores. When it comes to America’s top tourist destinations, I’m more of a Yellowstone guy. But it was still a fun way to pass an afternoon and get our 10,000 steps.

5. The Twenty Percenter & Work Update

We launched the newsletter for real estate professionals on July 1.  We gained over 950 subscribers for the month with only one unsubscribe. Open rates are still averaging over 85%. I’m thrilled with the early results!

I’ve never had a weekly publishing deadline. So this is a new habit and I’m treating it that way.  My days were already full, so I targeted the time I could control for writing. That happens to be my weekends. So I’m blocking a couple of hours on Saturdays and Sundays to draft each edition. It’s not ideal, but I’m hoping practice will shorten the time required.

My assistant asked me if I was nervous about the launch. I was. But I’ve mostly focused on the end goal. In 52 weeks, I envision that my writing will be fast and efficient. And those muscles will be stronger for our book writing. That turns my anxiety into excitement. It’s a good reminder for me to not let my need for perfection obstruct progress and personal growth.

Long ago, a friend invited me to watch the first season of Seinfeld. He pointed out that one of the most celebrated shows of all time didn’t start well. All the characters are there. But they didn’t really gel until the end of season one. Almost everything works that way. Most of the quality isn’t in the preparation or the start, it’s in the course corrections and experience along the way.

On a similar note, our CMO stepped down in June. I was asked to lead the marketing department in the interim. This new reality translates to six new bi-weekly accountability meetings, another weekly leadership sync, 28 new team members, and another team meeting and budget. I needed to carve out a minimum of four hours a week to show up at all. With my EA’s help, we’re finding the time. People always say they “don’t have time.” It’s just not true. We always have time for what we prioritize. You just have to stop doing less important stuff.

As with The Twenty Percenter, I’m not focusing past the high-pressure start. I’m gonna screw up and make a lot of mistakes. That’s a given. I’m choosing to focus on a future goal. Whenever I pass the baton to the next leader, it’s my hope this group will have more clarity about their most important work, their innate strengths (and weaknesses), and be able to connect their work to company goals. The One Thing playbook to the rescue again.

Whatever it is you want or have to do, give yourself a deadline and fail forward.

6. What I’m Reading

I got a lot of reading done, especially at the lake cottage. For nonfiction, I was mostly prepping for our midyear convention, MegaCamp. We asked attendees to read The Ultimate Secret to Getting Absolutely Everything You Want by Mike Hernacki. It’s kind of a one-note business book. To put it on a bumper sticker, just do whatever it takes. Commitment will resolve more challenges than we imagine. I appreciate the message heading into a potential recession. Gary Keller also recommended A CEO Only Does Three Things by Trey Turner, which was superb. The three things are people, culture, and finances. And Turner offers plenty of insights, and really shines when he discusses values and culture.

For fiction, I’m exploring some new writers. I enjoyed The Fever by Megan Abbott. She attended NYU’s writing program at the same time as me, but I don’t recall meeting her. The Fever is set in a rural New York high school where girls start falling ill from a mysterious illness. The novel mixes thriller, horror, and mystery genres infused with the chaos of teenage hormones. I wasn’t sure I’d like it but it came together.

Of special note is a short illustrated book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy. It’s supremely uplifting and readable in less than an hour. Launched just before COVID hit in late 2019, the book struck a nerve. It soared to the top of the British bestseller charts and stayed. Throngs of readers came to his book readings to share how the book carried them through. Some reported that the book saved their life. Mighty things sometimes come in small packages.

This book had echoes of Christopher Robin and the “Hundred Acre Wood”

I was determined to finish all 1,232 pages of The Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson at the lake. It’s the fourth book in a fantasy series Gus gifted me. His favorite author and favorite series. Every book runs 1,000 pages or more. And while I genuinely love the story and characters, the best part is catching up with Gus as I make progress. He has since gotten everyone in the family onboard. He tells me the series is projected to span ten books! Doing the math, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the last book in Vol 205.

Lastly, I devoured Upgrade by Blake Crouch. He’s one of my favorite novelists. And unlike Sanderson, Crouch’s works can be consumed in a slightly sleepless weekend. Definitely add this one to your summer list.

7. What I’m Watching

The best show we watched in July was The Old Man (Hulu) with Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, and Amy Brenneman. While it was a bittersweet discovery that the story will take another season to complete, this first installment was masterfully done.

We also enjoyed Only Murders in the Building (Hulu) with Steven Martin, Selena Gomez, and Martin Short. In the show, the building is called the “Arconia.” But it’s based on the Belnord in Manhattan. Wendy found this great story in the NY Times on the crazy history of that building.

I also enjoyed Chris Pratt in The Terminal List (Amazon) despite the dark, Libertarian nightmare plot. Guess I just have a soft spot for Chris Pratt.

I rewatched Thor Ragnarok (Disney) before seeing Thor: Love and Thunder. Ragnarok is one of my favorite Marvel movies for its silliness and humor. Love and Thunder is a worthy sequel but doesn’t offer much new.

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!