As soon as the objective was explained I jumped in and started swimming towards the raft. The sargent then blew his whistle, stopped the exercise, and pointed at me. “You,” he yelled, “Good initiatve, bad judgement.” Those four words pretty much summarized my entire life - I’m good at getting started, not so good at thinking through the consequences. A few examples:ne morning our class met at the pool. The assignment: get a pretend injured man from one side of the pool to the other using a raft, ropes, and teamwork.
As soon as the objective was explained I jumped in and started swimming towards the raft. The sargent then blew his whistle, stopped the exercise, and pointed at me. “You,” he yelled, “Good initiatve, bad judgement.” Those four words pretty much summarized my entire approach to life - I’m good at getting started, not so good at thinking through the consequences.
A few examples:
- My final year of high school in Austin, Texas, I designed my yearbook page so that it could be folded neatly in half to produce funny messages...messages that some people didn't find so funny - I nearly got expelled.
-In college (Yale) I majored in history even though the no one gives a damn about past which is never actually prologue.
- After college I started an internet company with friends. It was 1996. We thought about selling books online but decided no one would want to buy a book without seeing its cover and flip through the pages. So instead we started a web site called for people to email their congressman. (It was called "E-The People" - back in 1996 e-puns were all the rage.) Turns out, however, people don't really want to email their congressman, but they will buy books without flipping through them in person.
- Americans didn't cotton to the idea, but at least journalists did. Especially after we gave them some visuals by wrapping a bus to look like a mailbox. Our promotional tour managed to generate 700 mentions in the media, including articles in the New York Times, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Time, The Economist, AP, USA Today, CBS New and CNN. My favorite headline, however, was from the Austin American Statesmen. It read "New Web Site Offers Free Bar-Be-Que, Access to Government."
- When the bubble burst five years later, I closed the company and bought a one-way ticket to a South Pacific island called Yap. The goal: to reduce the number of variables in my life and find out which are the most imporant. Take away electricity and friends and see which I miss the most, that kind of thing. To help guide me, I packed a hundred books. Most were ones I was embarrassed to have graduated from college without having read. The result was one, almost finished book of my own, called Paradise Misplaced. (When I started it, I didn't know whether anyone would ever read it, but I did know that becoming a writer would make me rich, rich, rich.) - Fortunately, while out there, I met a woman named Sarah on a full-moon kayak ride. We would later get married and have two (embarrassingly beautiful) children, Ian and Andrew.
- Since living in the Pacific, Sarah and I have moved to (and left) Anchorage, Alaska four times...
...to work for this marine conservation group in Mexico
...for me to go graduate school in nonfiction, creative writing (at the University of Iowa)
....to build a house with friends on a remote island of the western-Pacific island of Palau
....to live in Southern Spain where we are currently (most-likely waiting in line at the telephone company which is basically what Spanish people do for a living.)
It took a drill sergeant who didn't know my name to sum up my entire life. During graduate school, I decided to take an R.O.T.C. class to see how the military went about recruiting undergraduates in the middle of two wars. (Turns out, they had a three-pronged strategy: money, candy, and an easy A.) One morning our class met at the pool. The assignment: get a pretend injured man from one side of the pool to the other using a raft, ropes, and teamwork.