The Old Wall Stud

At a shoot this week I recorded someone sawing through an old stud in a house built probably more than 50 years ago. The wood was brittle and grey with age. When it fell to the ground I walked over to it as a joke and picked it up. “Thank you, dear stud,” I said as a joke, “you have served us well.”

Then I couldn’t help but wonder how long it had been there in that house, quietly doing its part to hold it together. When you stop to consider what is the nature of even the simplest things, it’s often more than your mind is ready for. I wondered out loud, “When was the seed planted for this wood?” The girl who sawed through it paused with a far off look in her eyes and simply said, “Wow.”

The truth is, I interacted with that wood during one phase of its journey, and there’s no way of knowing how close to the end of it we are. I’ll never touch that piece of wood again. And what will happen to it? Maybe it will be collected and repurposed into a side table and sold on Etsy. Maybe it will be burned in a campfire in a few years while a child roasts a s’more on its flame. Maybe it will be buried and rot into the earth. The possible outcomes are infinite. What is certain is that it will change.

Everything is in transition, is on a journey. Not everything that seems like the end really is.

The Final 10%

I’ll never forget spring break of my senior year of high school. A few friends and I convinced our parents to let us drive from the panhandle of Texas to LA for spring break. Our plan was to find a spot on the beach and rough it for 2 nights.

I had never driven to California. We drove through the night, and when we crossed the border at dawn I thought we were minutes away from the beach. Over every hill I expected to see sand, and for mile after mile I sat on the edge of my seat waiting. We would overtake a hill and see nothing but more hills in the distance. It was like climbing that first ascent on a roller coaster only to find an endless succession of more climbs at the top.

It was a full 4.5 hours before we saw the Pacific.

The last part of any journey is usually what feels the longest. Most of your energy is required for the final 10%.

I Used to Hate When Adults Spoke Like This

One thing I hated when I was a kid was when adults would assume an unnatural and high-pitched “kid” voice when speaking to me. We all do this with babies, but it can only last so long before it’s patronizing.

Almost every day, when talking to my son, I try to remind myself to speak to him like I would want to be spoken to, and almost every day, I realize I could do better. It’s not often the baby voice that is the problem, it’s the irritable and grouchy voice that communicates impatience.

The test I run myself through that gives me an answer right away is asking myself: would I ever speak to my friends this way? With friends, it better be worth it if you’re going to show your anger with them. And if you talked in a condescending way, they would either call you on it or just stop hanging out with you.

I try to purpose to not say anything to my own child in a way I would find impossible to hear. I try to never speak to him in a way that would make me lose friends my age. He’s a friend too. Sometimes the person in our relationship that needs to talk more like a grown up isn’t the 5-year-old.

20 Things 2020 Taught Me

  1. You can get in shape without a gym.
  2. Eating out is overrated.
  3. Life can change overnight.
  4. “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry” is the saddest song ever written.
  5. Contentment can be found inside your home, but you don’t always know this until you have to do it.
  6. Simple pleasures are the real pleasures: wildflowers planted in an unused patch of dirt; a robin bouncing around the yard; drawing dinosaurs in notebooks with your son, working out with a friend socially distanced in the quiet of the early morning.
  7. Music, as usual, helps get you through.
  8. Lennon Stella is incredibly underrated.
  9. There are hundreds of undiscovered sights in your own neighborhood that you’ll never see until you walk in it. Even on walk number 50, you might find something new.
  10. I have many kind neighbors, some of whom I never met until I walked when there was nothing else to do.
  11. Though we say facts are primary, emotions often lead our lives, from politics to social issues to matters of public health to religion. (Of course if didn’t learn this for the first time in 2020, but this reality became vivid.)
  12. We could have been more efficient long ago. (Think of the in person meetings that could be had over Zoom.)
  13. Some things are inefficient on purpose because they connect us as humans, and we shouldn’t let them go. (Think of in person meetings that do more to build camaraderie than get tasks accomplished.)
  14. Griddles are better than grills.
  15. Smashing burgers as hard as you can on a griddle mimics the restaurant style more closely than anything else. (I can’t tell you how many burgers I cooked on a grill that puffed up and came off as thick as a baseball.)
  16. Sports are kind of boring.
  17. Life is so much more than the experiences you can buy.
  18. Dollar store puzzles are missing a piece. (Not always, but it happened to me twice in a row.)
  19. Buffets are disgusting. (I know, most people already thought they were, but now I feel they will become a thing of the past.)
  20. Hard times eventually pass.

Choose Your Expensive

Last summer, my wife remodeled our tiny bathroom sink. I was out on a video shoot when I got a picture from her of a giant hole in the wall where our vintage medicine cabinet once was. The final result was impressive, the work top quality.

Since we did it ourselves, we saved a lot of money, but the project was still expensive. That picture arrived on a Monday morning, and the project wasn’t complete until the following Saturday. That means for 6 days this project took up our time and brain space as we studied videos, went back and forth to Home Depot 500 times, and fixed mistakes along the way.

We could have hired an experienced contractor to knock out that project in a day or two, but it would have cost 4x as much in dollars.

Everything that is good and worth having is expensive. You can go the short and easy route by paying money, or you can take the longer, harder route and spend more of your time. There is no right way. It depends on the situation.

It wouldn’t make sense for the President to spend 90 minutes cooking his dinner, unless he found that relaxing. It wouldn’t make sense for a person with $100 to their name and hours of free time to pay someone $40 to clean their apartment.

While this is something everyone should consider, freelancers and entrepreneurs should more so. At the beginning you have more time than money and it makes sense to do things yourself, but as things progress and you earn more, it flips. Next time you see a way to save money, ask yourself if you’ll be spending $10 of time to save $5 of cash and if that’s really worth it.