A moment from 2014 that stands out to me:
It was mid-January and my friends in Nashville had been enduring a cold snap while Chuck Ellis and I sipped bottomless pina coladas on Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. On Punta Cana in January, it was in the mid-80s all week — sunny, a nice breeze, unspoiled. We ate whatever we wanted, drank whatever we wanted, went topless, slept late, went for walks, got lost on the beach, etc. We had one of the most revelatory conversations of our relationship during a session at a swim-up bar, seriously. It was an important week for us.
But it did take me about four days to stop checking email constantly, and I never did stop checking it altogether.
At home, three colleagues and I had just launched 12th & Broad, an experiment combining media, real-life experiences, community, philanthropy and advertising. It was the first time our parent company had given me the opportunity to brainstorm, plan and launch a business unit from scratch. My background is in journalism. As a reporter, editor, columnist and newsroom leader, I had 15 years experience writing and helping craft pieces and projects about other people’s personal adventures and business ventures. But this was the first time I, myself, was doing such a thing.
Anyway, back at the beach – and don’t you wish we were all back at a beach? – I felt guilty for being on vacation so soon after our official launch, worried something would go wrong, and generally apprehensive about the entire year ahead. I was tremendously hopeful that our idea would work, but – and I think anyone who’s worked truly passionately for something can relate to this – the harder I worked and the more of myself that I invested in my work, the more fear I entertained that it (that I) would fail. Even in that beautiful place, just a few weeks into our launch and with so many people cheering for us, I found it difficult to think about anything other than my job – about what we were doing next week, next month, next quarter, next year. I thought constantly about my employees, our partners and clients, our members, my boss. Details that strike me as inane now, like making sure we’ve applied for a liquor license eight weeks in advance (and yes, I know it’s important, but more importantly, our events manager knows it’s important and I don’t stress out about her!…) used to keep me awake at 3 a.m.
Did we figure out the cover shot for the next magazine? Did we find an ocular for the male model? How are we going to deliver those magazines to 100 different places in two days? How are we going to get 500 people to show up at a random part of Centennial Park on an obscure Sunday? What happens if we can’t blow up all the baby pools fast enough? Can I carry 60 pounds of liquor around with a three-foot-tall ship woven into my hair? Did we get all the invoices to accounting? Did I pay our credit card? How’s our web traffic doing? Are we growing our social followers quickly enough? Can we come up with a creative way to give away all these tickets? Is it possible for my entire staff to have the f’ing flu all at the same time, and – I hate to think this, but I’m totally thinking this – can we work with the flu?
On the other hand: Did I renew my car tags? Feed the cats? Buy more toilet paper? Eat lunch or dinner? Those kinds of domestic details bothered me not one iota and aggravated my daughter and friends to no end while I dedicated 110% of my brain to my job.
Incidentally, I do believe that sort of tenacity is why I can say that a year later, our business is working and my team (most days) does not want to kill me. We have found our way and figured things out despite some fairly significant challenges both expected and completely out of the blue. We know what success looks like, and we know how to achieve it. The stress of this past year has meant something.
But – and this is the most important part of this blog post – 2014 would have meant something even had 12th & Broad been a terrible idea and totally failed.
One late afternoon on Punta Cana stands out to me the most because of the thought that went through my head when I looked out across the ocean, one hand on a giant pina colada and the other in the hand of the handsome man I love: This world is bigger than whatever bullshit I’m carrying around with me today or this year, bigger than whatever awesome thing I might do, and certainly bigger than whatever screw-ups I’m sure to deploy in my life. It is the same feeling I’ve had any time I’ve traveled to a place outside my inner circles, whether it’s to Paris, France, or to a waterfall on the Cumberland Plateau.
In 2015, whether you are embarking on a big new challenge or enduring life’s expected trials, find a way to get away. Remind yourself how large the world is. Don’t worry so much about your place in it. And, in those moments of smallness, you will be great.