6 min read
Brick by Brick

by | Mar 17, 2020 | Commentary | 0 comments

Hand placing brick

A lot of folks have been asking what I’ve been up to since moving on from my post as Head of Product and Tech at Axios. The short answer is, things I should’ve focused on much sooner. The longer answer is shared below, expressed with far more digital vulnerability than comes with my default programming. 

The answer lies in the pursuit of happiness, fulfillment, and true wealth. While I’ve yet to find a universally accepted definition for these lofty goals, I’d like to extend a h/t to @naval for putting it in a way that perfectly moves the needle on my compass. 

A healthy body, a mind at peace, and a house full of love. Upon that solid foundation, mountains can be moved. Without the trinity in harmony, it can feel instead like a mountain rests on you, with its impossible weight crushing even the smallest of ambitions. I was under a mountain.

At work, it had been resounding success. I had presided over product and tech for the most successful and transformative time for the company since its launch. At home, not so much …

Yeah … not killing at home. The last paragraph will be where the bragging stops.

  • My health was suffering. My lower back was going to hell from countless hours in seat. I was gaining weight. Stress was at peak capacity.
  • My marriage and kids were suffering because I was either working 90 hour weeks from my office or traveling back and forth to the coast to fight one fire after another. Even when I was around, I wasn’t really present … and I certainly wasn’t available. 
  • Our patent consulting business continued in its incredible growth trajectory, but did so because of my wife’s heroic effort of running a business while single-handedly fighting the fight on the Homefront with a newborn and a threenager. 
  • My blade was dulling. There was no time to learn, no time to think. No time to sharpen the blade or fill the cup. Cut, pour, execute on repeat.
  • My home was suffering from absent landlordism. 

Change in the next chapter would be necessary, but where to start. A healthy body, a healthy mind, and a house full of love. Foundational aspiration … lofty goals … filled with monumental tasks. It would be all too easy to get overwhelmed. For a structured thinker, this requires a framework – a framework built upon intentional and methodical focus.

In a brilliant essay on how to beat procrastination, Tim Urban describes the gritty construction worker who methodically accomplishes great things by simply placing one brick after another.

A remarkable, glorious achievement is just what a long series of unremarkable, unglorious tasks looks like from far away.

No one “builds a house.” They lay one brick again and again and again and the end result is a house. Procrastinators are great visionaries—they love to fantasize about the beautiful mansion they will one day have built—but what they need to be are gritty construction workers, who methodically lay one brick after the other, day after day, without giving up, until a house is built.

Turns out, it’s all about the bricks.

  • 🚶🏻‍♂️I started walking every day. Sometimes listening to nature, sometimes listening to audiobooks or podcasts. I’ve slowly progressed to daily, high-intensity interval training. Brick.
  • 🥗 I’ve completely overhauled my diet and lost considerable weight. Carbs used to be a way of life and a glass of water was rarely seen. I’ve since flipped the script. Brick.
  • 📚 I now read daily and intentionally set aside time to think. I’m making my way through a pile of books that used to just feel like unfillable promises to future self. Brick.
  • 👨🏼‍💻 I’m taking deep dives into technologies and areas of the stack that were previously blind spots. I’m doing work in domains previously foreign to me (like blockchain) to increase my tech surface area. Brick.
  • 🧢 I’m sharing the load in our core business by wearing the IT, HR, and marketing hats. Brick.
  • 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 I am now privileged to share the load in the raising of our two wonderful children. There is nothing more fulfilling. This magical window of time with them is so narrow; I will never have to live with the regret of missing it. Brick.
  • ❤️ My marriage is now in the best imaginable place and I am once again present. Brick.
  • 🏡 My home isn’t yet ready for an HDTV reveal, but at least it’s no longer a time bomb 🙂 Brick.

Physical health. Mental health. A house full of love. These are the essential ingredients to my version of happiness, fulfillment, and true wealth. With a healthy body, a clear mind, and the undying love and support of my wife, brick by brick, we’re chipping away at that which constrained. Brick by brick, we’re laying the foundation for that which is yet to come.

Am I sharing all of this so you’ll feel empathy for my path to get here or maybe to get things off my chest? Nope. I’ve had plenty of time and venues for that. Is it so that you’ll share in excitement for the path that lies ahead? Nope, there’s plenty of time for that as we take this walk together. It’s for you. I want you to know that you’re not alone ❤️. In exchange, for the sake of future self and those you love, I only ask that you think about what bricks your choosing to place.

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About the Author

Josh Sloat is the co-founder of Aurora Consulting. He lives and works remotely from Northern Michigan. Josh has been developing software and leading cross-disciplinary teams for the past two decades, with broad-ranging experience in mobile, web and desktop technologies. When he’s not solving first-world tech problems, he spends his time as a domestic engineer (loving father and husband), avid backcountry adventurer, and aspiring landscape photographer.