Looking Foolish Is A Superpower
10 Years of BTTY - What I've Learned & Why I Do It
BTTY gets BTTY with three ways to take it in. Watch, read, or listen. I hope you find something helpful here. Take care.
BTTY turns ten this year, but it’s the last year that has taught me the most.
The concept of BTTY hatched on my office floor in 2013. It was a Sunday, and I’d been on the job for 39 days. My boss and dear friend, for almost 25 years at this point, told me, “don’t do anything for 90 days.”
Yet, there I was, with 67 major projects or changes that I KNEW needed to occur. There was no one in that office with me on that beautiful Sunday. Just me, a whiteboard, and my imagination.
I sat on the floor and felt my heart rate increase while a wave of pressure washed over me. My skin warmed as the adrenaline pushed blood into my extremities. I realized there was no way we could do all of this.
I moved to the chair and swiveled back and forth, trying to calm down. I glanced up at the light blue scribble that was tormenting me. Sixty-seven kept rattling around in my mind. 67.
I said out loud, “Do what you can every day. Little steps every day, and it will get better. If we get 1% better each day, we will be over 365% better in a year.”
The BTTY Blog
I’ve been writing inconsistently for ten years, with gaps between some posts of more than a year. I’ve written more in the last year than the preceding nine combined.
My first mention of BTTY was in a post dated August 16, 2013. Here’s a screenshot:
If I’m being honest, fear kept me away—the fear of judgment, failure, and all the other voices that parlayed my hopes. Last year I resolved to change that and committed to posting weekly for a year. This is #52.
As my friendrecently shared about his newsletter, it grows slowly. I wanted to honor his vulnerability with my own. This is slow, and this is hard. The best things in life usually take longer than we expect and are harder.
Here’s A Secret (or two)
Fear, uncertainty, criticism, and doubt have been bumming a ride with me for as long as I can remember. They are riding with most of us, but society doesn’t make it okay to admit that.
Sometimes it’s very dark in here, but it’s okay because I know I’m not alone - you hear those voices too. They exist to make sure you stay safe and alive. But if you let them control you, you will never live your life.
There are enough obstacles in the world that will beat you down, don’t be one yourself. Unless you can get those voices under control, you’re FUC’d.
Here’s another secret: No one knows what they’re doing. They’re just making it up too. Once you realize that, you are free to do you. Creating is what I’ve done and want to do - teams, ideas, cultures, and networks. The last one is of the paramilitary type, not the business card exchanging type FWIW.
My career has been up and to the right, mostly. Sunshine and butterflies weren’t always present, but anything bad was, at most, a passing squall.
I’ve been lucky like that. I deeply appreciate the privilege I was born with and the friends life has afforded me. They have selflessly dragged me along, or up, without asking for anything back. Those friends live and breathe ‘give more than you take.’
We Are A Work In Progress
I’ve tucked their lessons in my kit bag and brought them with me. Where I’m blind, those same friends remind me to pull them out. Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t.
“You will get better. Do the reps,”
I growl silently in the best imitation of a former team sergeant who would leg press a Prius during our time in Baghdad.
“Just don’t quit,”
I hear my brothers in the Q course say as we trudge through another cold, wet night.
says a walking saint I’m blessed to call a friend.
“The process is what matters, not the objective,” I tell myself.
A warrior once looked me in the eye and said,
“It’s gonna suck. Embrace the suck. You will be stronger for it.”
Roger that, we continue mission. There are no rules to what’s happening here - save one. Ship something each week.
Here, We Focus On What We Can Control
It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s happening. To notice the slights, real or perceived, and wish things were different. It’s easy to time travel into woulda’s, coulda’s, and shoulda’s.
While I don’t consider myself a pessimist, I’m not an optimist. Maybe a realistic optimist? The voices in my head work their you know what’s off to tell me what’s wrong, what won’t work, and remind me of that one deep fear I have. I’m not ready to share that fear, but maybe one day.
I face those voices and embrace some as friends. Slowing down helps me recognize they are just my thoughts. Every thought allowed to germinate makes the garden of my life - constant weeding and watering are required.
I’m not sure where I’ll be in another ten years, but whatever happens, I’m sure it won’t be what I thought. The future usually surprises us that way. I know if I do nothing today, nothing will be different tomorrow.
Four and half decades in, I can peacefully sit with the understanding that progress and process are what matters. I’ve done enough laps around the sun to see the results of showing up and quieting the voices that want instant gratification.
Do the work. It works.
The Enemy Is Within
While I don’t know him, Steven Pressfield has served as a counselor, sage, and inspiration. His most important work, to me, is the War of Art. He makes the case that,
“Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.”
He goes on,
“Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
Resistance shows up for me, hard. These posts are punctuated with fear as my cursor hovers over the publish key. A quick check-in with my ever-present friend, self-doubt, keeps the narrative going. “Who am I? This is garbage. There is nothing original here. Site traffic is down. No one cares.” These are all things I tell myself.
Resistance dances with my fingers as I delete the things that are too personal or provocative. After all, I have a reputation to protect. Right? Society and nature have a nasty way of collaborating your dreams away. Don’t let them.
I feel there is more. More to create, more to share, more to explore, and most importantly, more to learn. The good news is courage is MY collaborator, and for 52 weeks, I’ve not fully succumbed to the desires of self-doubt. I’ve shipped consistently, and here is why.
Help, Not Hurt
Helping is why I do this.
While there is no replacement for walking through the crucible yourself, maybe others can find something helpful here. A lesson, a thought, or a nudge at the right time. Finding what works should be shared. This isn’t altruistic. I’m talking to myself, too, and iterating as a human, husband, father, friend, teammate, and creator.
Maybe, my boys will read it one day. I hope the timing will be right for them, and they see a man trying to do the best he can and be everything they need. All this while wrestling with his demons and healing his wounds.
Maybe I’ll be here, and maybe I won’t. Hopefully, they will say I was there when it mattered and helped them find peace, joy, and purpose.
If You Are Willing To Look Foolish, You Will Win
This is a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day improvement plan. The humility to look foolish is where better starts.
I’m honored to have friends who inspire me with their consistency and humility - they beat back the voices and make it better today than yesterday, every day. Here are a few.
To the mom who started a gender-neutral kid’s clothing brand, keep stitching it together.
To the designer sharing his journey each week and helping others along the way, keep pushing those pixels.
To the technologist/marketer/lots of other wonderful things shaping the heart of our homes, keep grinding.
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To that hotelier making a difference in where the tigers roam, keep helping - those kids need you.
To Princess Buttercup, who quit her job to help solve our mental health crisis, keep leading.
To the leaders working as intrapreneurs inside their families or large organizations - work your craft, lead your teams, love your teams, and keep pushing them. They need your confidence and support to become the humans they don’t realize they can be. We all need that.
We tend to highlight the bold moves and the overnight successes. The bold were consistent long before the universe whispered “now.” They spent years getting ready for that moment when it all came together. They weren’t bold. They were just still there.
May courage and consistency be your collaborators, friends. Let’s go get better.