Doing hard things. How to make things happen.

As humans, when we face a problem that seems so large and impossible, we declare defeat before we even begin. This is natural because we inherently have a desire to be successful. We want to feel like a winner and being a champion or accomplishing something difficult brings a sense of satisfaction. Why do people climb mount Everest or die trying? Its because they want that feeling of: I did this. I was a part of this. I can do hard things.

As we look at the work we have to do, and the job’s we are tasked with, a sense of accomplishment is also important. Without it, we feel dissatisfied and long for something with more meaning. When we cannot see the bigger picture and understand the point of a task, we feel unmotivated, and even depressed in our job.

I was recently watching an Actors Roundtable discussion and really liked the comment made by Adam Driver (56:05), “… you think that you need (to), certain things need to be in place in order for you to do your job. And then, none of that’s true.”

Sometimes we want to blame our inability to perform our job on others. Ultimately, its up to us to figure it out, make something move, find a way to make progress and carry on with the task at hand. If something seems impossible, break it into smaller pieces and work on those one at a time until the larger task becomes doable.

Do you have a huge project or something that seems really hard? Ask yourself how you can work with your teams or individually to break down projects, prioritize what needs to be done and make progress against the goals. As you do so, I promise you will start to feel more personal satisfaction and enjoyment in the work you perform and those you interact with. I have found by using this method we can do hard things and be proud of what we are building.

Pitfalls of large corporations – how to kill your company

While many believe they know the secret to growing their company and publish amazing books on culture, strategy and how to scale, I find it interesting there are no books on how to lose. In this musing, I will explore a few of the things that I have seen in my career that signal things are moving in a poor direction.

The impetus of this discourse began today as I read the latest Stratechery Daily Update. It mentioned an article in the New York Times about the cracks being seen in Google. This paragraph stood out to me:

“Fifteen current and former Google executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering Google and Mr. Pichai, told The New York Times that Google was suffering from many of the pitfalls of a large, maturing company — a paralyzing bureaucracy, a bias toward inaction and a fixation on public perception.”

I read that as the 3 major pitfalls of large organizations and it caused me to pause and think back on my own experiences. Having been through startup, growth, acquisition, going public etc. I wanted to see how that matched up with what I have seen and I would agree those are 3 of the major items, although there are many more I could add to the list:
– infighting/disagreements amongst employees
– folks “kingdom building” which I define as trying to amass as many things as possible to say they control
– backstabbing other employees deemed as competition in the workplace, if you can make them weak, you can take their power away
– no clear mission/objective set by the CEO
– making short sighted decisions to try and make the numbers work for investors

I would say the last item on the list seems to make the largest influence on poor behavior. Making short-sighted decisions is akin to fixation on public perception in that if you are always focused on the needs of things external to the business, you are not focusing on the internal needs. This causes leaders and employees alike to focus on making others happy vs. making employees and customers happy. When you do so, employee satisfaction drops, the care and quality of the product are impacted and customers feel that through poor customer experiences with the product and when interacting with company employees.

How many times do we allow a loud voice on Twitter, an individual in our industry, a politician or some other external force to drive our decision making? How many entrepreneurs would build anything of value if they followed suit and listened to the naysayer? How do businesses reach a plateau in which they are afraid to innovate and would rather placate?

My last question is, how can you think through this and view your business?

Keto Foods

Its crazy to think that I started doing a Ketogenic diet back in 2016. When I did it, nobody had a clue what I was talking about yet I lost about 50lbs over a 3 month period. It was like magic. I ate all of the meats, dairy, and low carb things I wanted and never felt hungry. The hardest thing for me was cutting out bread. However, I found I could eat a lot of things, I just had to be creative. Since the original 3 month period, I try to do Keto for 6 weeks about every 6 months. Here are some pictures of things I enjoy while doing this diet:



I also eat a TON of salads. Usually I have a protein shake in the morning, A lunch (most of the pictures above) and then for dinner a huge salad with a protein (steak, chicken, etc.).

Some people think its hard to eat this way while on the road or eating out, but really, a Baconator sans bun and catsup is a pretty easy meal. You can even just dump out a few tacos and add some sauce to it and you are good to go. Above you will see a breakfast burrito that I had minus the tortilla and I asked them not to add any potato. It worked out fantastically well.

Jimmy Johns has a great low carb lettuce wrapped selection of sandwiches, BBQ joints are simply amazing (I just season with salt and pepper, no sauce), and then there is always eggs, bacon and others.

The best computer chair ever? GT Throne

The company I work for, Automattic, is at the forefront of distributed work.  As every employee is remote, we all have to set up a work area in our home or find a co-working spot. Each employee is also allowed to purchase a desk, chair and other necessary items to set up the work space. I decided I wanted a nice comfortable office chair and researched a number of them online. Finally, I decided on a chair that would be comfortable as well as offer a few side benefits to my music and enjoyment. The GT Throne is an amazing blend between a premium leather office chair, and an incredible audio machine.

The chair arrived within just a few days of ordering and I began with the unboxing:

The packaging was very nice, neat and professional. I was actually impressed to see individual boxes inside with labeling, instructions and everything needed to do the job. I did not have to grab a toolbox or anything extra to put the chair together. There was even a nice set of gloves with the pump so I could avoid getting chair grease all over.

The following slideshow is of the build process and includes images of steps to putting things together:

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The finished product is an incredible chair, with amazing sound feedback that you can feel. My only complaint about the chair is that it requires a cord when you want the sound. It takes some power to run the amplifiers so I suppose the cord is not optional, however, they do include a nice breakaway option in case someone trips up on the cord. This allows it to easily detach from the chair and prevent tripping and breaking equipment.

Listening to music or playing games in this chair brings a whole new dimension to the experience. The way this works is hard to describe, its not just a bass shaker, it is a device that changes frequency and force along with the sound input.

Would I buy it again? ABSOLUTELY, just based on the comfort of the chair alone, this is worth it. I love the lumbar support and nice neck pillow. You can actually lay all the way down in the chair for a nap, its super comfy. The sound option is also really something I enjoy using. I would recommend it for music, movies, PC and console gaming.

If you like a DX Racer or other chair, this is a major upgrade in quality and comfort, as well as the incredible experience of feeling the sound.


The Movie Theater


I have never lived in one place for very long. Growing up, my family moved every four years on average. By the time I graduated from high school, I lived in many homes: two in Oregon, one in Mississippi, and three in Utah. One thing I have always done is projects in pretty much every home. My father had me do odd jobs at every home including; spreading sand to even out a yard, planting 16 fruit trees in a field that was solid rocks, removing the exterior boards of the house so it could be refinished, scraping out grout from tile floors and changing the color and many others. I guess I do not feel part of a home unless I do something to “make it mine.”

I have lived in my latest home for close to 10 years. It has been the longest and during my time here I have done a number of these odd jobs including the building of a 120′ long by 15′ high rock retaining wall and leveling out the yard with 35 dump trucks full of dirt. But the last project I just finished is one of my favorite to date. The Movie Theater project took almost 10 months to complete. I had the help of a few friends, a cousin, my uncle and my son. For the most part, I did all of the research, created the plans and either did or helped with every step of the build.

The house has a uniquely high ceiling in the basement due to the way the home was built into the side of the hill. The ceilings are 12′ high which gives it a very open feeling. In one corner of the basement the builder had a very large storage room. Just a single door with a room that was 15′ wide, 25′ deep and 12′ ceilings. It was originally some sort of handball/sports court or something. I wanted to turn it into a real movie theater, not just a simple home theater, but something as close to the real movie theater experience as I could do in my own home. So the project began.

Stage 1: Wiring – The room already had power to it, but only two outlets and a few lights were wired. I wanted to ensure the room had plenty of power so I added two 20 amp breakers and pulled cable down from the main box in the garage. My buddy Joseph helped me with this as he does commercial and residential electrical all the time. We ran 34 individual outlets into the room. Pulled audio cables for 7.2 Dolby Atmos sound, two HDMI cables (one short throw and one long throw distance on the ceiling), six slots for stair lighting, and a space for an 18U rackmount media cabinet.

Stage 2: Insulation/walls/sheetrock – Since I wanted this room to be very loud but not disturb others in the house, I may have gone a little overkill on the sound dampening and insulation. First we framed out all of the walls and installed R15 Fiberglass insulation in them and the ceiling. Then we covered the entire room ceilings and walls with .5″ OSB (waferboard) sheets. After all of this we finally got to the stage of sheet rock.

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In the pictures you can see the front of the theater with the placement of the front and center speaker boxes. We built those out of MDF board to ensure the acoustics would sound good and focus the sound out of the wall. THe side walls show the cutouts for the theater sconce style lights and the back of the room shows the rear speakers up at the top of the room. They look really high in the pictures, but again, this was due to planning. I wanted to ensure the top seats in the theater would have a great view and in doing so I had to place the speakers really high. You will see why later.

Stage 3: First painting and prep for the risers – For the best viewing experience, you want your theater to be DARK and have little or no reflections inside. To obtain the best viewing, I decided to use flat black paint. This has some positives and negatives. The positive is AMAZING viewing of the picture. However, flat black is hard to keep clean. It shows dust, fingerprints and marks up easily. If you decide to go flat black, make sure you keep some touch up paint available because you will need it at some point.

From the pictures you can see even with very bright LED lighting, the flat black, hardly reflects light. If it had a shine to it you would see a much brighter reflection in the pictures.

Stage 4: The Risers – I am really proud of the way we built the risers. I spent quite a bit of time researching this part to ensure I could get the best viewing angles for people as well as sound/acoustics in the room. I decided to build a floating deck style flooring system with twice the recommended height in each level from anything I could find online. What this meant is I had to include a stair in between each level. We went with 9″ steps and 18″ in between levels.  I am SUPER glad I made this decision as now that there are seats inside, everyone can see even with tall people sitting in the row directly in front of them.

The Way we built this decking system included a skirt along each wall with supports to the floor, pressure treated floor boards that were mounted to the concrete flooring and then we put some extra support framing in the middle of the rows. The big secret here is sound. How do you make a hollow wood floor not squeak/creak and sound hollow when people walk on it? Well we insulated the entire floor with R15 fiberglass again (sorry uncle, I know you hated that part). Also, each floor was built with two .75″ plywood sheets with a layer of roofing felt between them. The roofing felt is the real secret. It helps get rid of the squeaks and creaks. Also, make sure you offset the flooring layers as you do not want all of your joints to match up. The floor sounds awesome when you walk on it. Seriously there is not a sound. Also, it is SUPER sturdy.

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Stage 5: Carpet – For the carpeting I went with the softest and best composite pad I could find. I wanted to make sure people had a nice soft floor to walk on when not wearing shoes since this is in the house. Also, I wanted something that would wear well and hold up to spills, stains, food and other things that are inevitable with a movie theater. I chose some commercial grade black carpet with white fleck in it to help hide small crumbs and popcorn kernels. This stuff is Scotchguard stain resistant and tough stuff, yet still soft to the touch for bare feet and laying down on it if you feel inclined.

Stage 6: Wall sound treatments, lighting and speakers – This part is something I am really glad I did. The room sounded fine before I installed sound treatments, but with them in there, you hear really pure sound. Basically these are framed boxes with a special later of insulation in them and fabric covering them. My son and I installed them on 3/4 of the theater walls and ceiling just leaving the front of the theater where the screen would go open. For lights, we actually went down to a local movie theater that was closing and purchased the black sconce lights off the walls there. I am glad I did because it was almost impossible to find lights of that size and quality when I checked afterwards. For speakers we went with Klipsch Reference Premier speakers. They sound fantastic and have a ton of power available.

Stage 7: Seating – For the seating I wanted a commercial grade seating system that was modular, would last a long time, and had reclining capabilities, tray tables, cup holders and everything you would expect in a high-end theater experience. I decided on First Class Seating’s Bliss Zero chair. It had everything I wanted, and they are EXTREMELY comfortable chairs. They actually have these at one of the local theaters in town for their premium seating (Many thanks to Jason and Kevin from GT Throne who make the most amazing gaming chairs for helping me on this part).

Building modular seating that has to fit specifically into a space is no easy task. Even with super careful measurements we ran into a few issues here and I initially had planned for tray tables on every seat but due wanting loveseats I had to compromise and only put trays on the outsides of the front and middle row, the back row has trays for all five seats. The main reason for this is the dual armrests between loveseats put me over by about 3” on the steps and it would be too hard for folks to walk up and down with such a little space between the chairs and the walls. Its crazy but 3″ really does make that much of a difference. The other thing was ensuring the chairs would fully recline and leave enough room between each row so you can still stand up and get out when watching a show.

My son was a champion and we spent multiple days building out the chairs and then changing up the way we did two rows to remove the extra armrest and make things fit better. He may never admit he enjoyed the project, but I saw him take a selfie and post it to the internet somewhere with a big smile and saying something to the effect of “I built this.”

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Step 8: Screen, Equipment and other finishing touches – For the screen initially I was going to try and paint the wall, however, I decided to go with an actual screen as reviews and research suggested it was just the best for viewing. I went with the Silver Ticket screen and I am glad I did. It looks AMAZING and the picture is better than most movie theaters. The screen size is 175″ in diameter and fills the 15′ wall completely. For the receiver I decided to go with the Onkyo TX-NR656 because I really wanted a system with Dolby Atmos and at the time it had the most HDMI ports available. Throw in a nice Blu-ray player, a projector and some popcorn and away we go.

Another little feature is the installation of a room-to-room air ventilation system up near the back of the room. This allows me to turn on some airflow for when you have a large number of folks in the room. One complaint I hear from many theater owners is the room gets stuffy/hot when watching shows. The room-to-room system helps alleviate that greatly.

Conclusion: The theater is done and I couldn’t be happier with it. Seriously, I do not regret any of the decisions we made. I learned a ton about sound, cabling, power distribution, lighting and other things along the way. Taking the time to build it right makes a ton of difference. I hope you enjoy the pictures and feel free to message me with any questions. This is a project I will be proud of for quite some time. Thank you so much to all those who physically helped me, answered my questions, advised me on equipment and materials, and for everyone who told me how cool it was along the way so I could keep up my excitement and see it through. If you are ever in the area, I hope you can come watch a show with us!

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Most importantly, I want to thank my son. I really enjoyed the experience of building something with my boy. It reminded me so much of all the lessons I learned working side by side with my father at his age. He helped me clean the room, pull cables, connect power outlets, build/mount the screen, hang all of the sound panels, test sound/video equipment, install all of the chairs and many other parts of this project. In the end, its not so much about the things we do in life, but the experiences and lessons we learn and the people we learn them with. I am proud of the hard work and effort we put into this project together.


Music, Nashville and Things

Growing up I always took music for granted. To me it was just something everyone had and did. Now that I have traveled around the country and visited areas around the world I have realized how blessed I was to have music readily at my fingertips. I grew up in a musical family, my mother played the flute and piano, my father sang and played guitar as well as bass.

I had the opportunity to take piano lessons and composed a few songs that I am still quite proud of. Some day I may even record them to share, but for now, there are a few folks who have heard them. They are a way for me to share the feelings inside and express them to the outside.

I was also part of a singing group and took lessons. I think we did a few Christmas concerts and things and I even remember visiting an old folks home and getting to sing for a large audience of families and their loved ones there. Along with this, I always sang in my church’s children’s choir and have sang off and on in my church choir as an adult.

I had an opportunity to visit Nashville, TN for work and a good friend took us to visit Curb Records, an amazing recording studio that has had hundreds of musicians recorded there, many of whom you have heard. As a matter of fact, Dylan Scott who has a #1 song My Girl was there recording some radio spots. I got to shake his hand and meet him when he finished up.


This experience got me thinking about music and I searched and finally found some of my old recordings we did way back in my teenage years. I have a few here for you to listen to:

“Gruff” (James, Andrew and Dave)

1. One of our best songs is Nothing More:

2. Our hit that was actually on the radio in Mississippi: Leper Love

and from my first band as a teenager “The Squishy” (James, Ryan and Newton)

3. (Cream – Sunshine cover) WARNING, SKIP TO 40 seconds or listen to pointless noise

Sorry for the poor recordings, those were done on a 4 track during live jam sessions at my house so they are not studio quality. I hope you enjoy them, they make me smile.


Life, Work, Thoughts and Projects

I have been meaning to begin writing a blog both as a creative outlet and as a way to journal the happenings of my life. As you read my ramblings I hope you find what you came searching for. The opinions expressed here are my own and are just that, one random person’s thoughts and feelings that are flawed due to the nature of who I am and my upbringing. If I offend you, I am sorry, if I share something of value, take it and pass it along.  We are all a compilation of the people we meet and interact with, hopefully our interaction will be a positive one for you.