Stealing the founder’s dog might be the best way to get a job.
(Also on Medium)
We recently hired two new employees at Fohr Card, and I wanted to tell you how we did it.
7 months ago, my co-founder, Rich Tong, answered a knock on his door and greeted two women he had never seen before. Grace and Emma were new neighbors. They apologized for showing up to his door at 9PM and for asking what might be a crazy question. But they just had to know, could they take his dog, a giant Samoyed cotton ball named Penny, for a walk. And as easily as that, a friendship began.
After the walk, Grace and Emma explained that they had become friends working at an agency together in New Castle, Australia. After years of working as hard as they could, they left feeling discouraged. Like many in their position, they had been giving everything, but nobody in the organization seemed to care or notice. They were discouraged from being taken for granted, from not being challenged. Most of all, they were discouraged that they had become one of “those people” who continue at a job even though they hate it.
I believe bad jobs are like degenerative diseases. They eat away at people and their pride, until nothing is left. Emma and Grace realized in Australia that they had wound up in bad jobs, and that they had gotten sick. So, they decided to change things. A few packed suitcases, a bank account, J-1 visas, and two one-way plane tickets had brought them to Williamsburg, where they met Rich, his dog Penny, and later, myself.
A few days after Rich met Grace and Emma, he leaned over and told me, “Oh, I found us some interns. They’re actually coming over in a few minutes.” At this point, Fohr Card was in war mode. We were furiously trying to grow revenue, launch a new version of the site and plan out next year’s product strategy. Needless the say, the last thing I thought we needed was to waste time onboarding two new interns, holding hands and not getting much back.
With that in mind, I explained to them in a sort of impromptu group interview, “We don’t have any money to offer you, but we do have expectations.” I wanted them to know that if they were going to be a part of this team, even as interns, we would expect them to walk through our door ready to fight. Trading a glance with Rich I told them, “Everyone here is 100% committed to making this a great company, whatever it takes.” Funny, what I thought would scare them off, seemed to only get them more excited. They were on board.
Grace and Emma worked their asses off over the next three months. Oh, and did I mention they also worked 4-6 days a week at other jobs!? They were coming in weekends, mornings, and nights. Every day they added real value, and they did it all without a single paycheck. The next time Rich and I sat down with them, we were the excited ones. We got to offer them positions as full-time employees, paid full-time employees. And even after working their asses off for months, they were excited for more.
I couldn’t be happier that these two Aussies knocked on Rich’s door to steal his dog. I’ve gained two new friends and two great employees. Looking back, the experience has taught me a few invaluable lessons I’d like to share with you.
1. Always knock on the door — When Grace and Emma realized they didn’t like the way their lives were shaping up, they were willing to take drastic and dramatic steps to change it. They knocked on a lot of doors.
2. Make room for the great ones — When Emma and Grace started, I didn’t want to bring in any interns. I thought they would be a distraction, but Rich’s persistence and their gumption convinced me to give it a try. I learned as a CEO that sometimes great people find you. You have to be willing to try something you are uncomfortable with when opportunity knocks.
3. Prove it, don’t ask for it — Emma and Grace never asked for a full time job, instead they made themselves indispensable. At that point, I had no choice but to ask them to quit their part-time jobs so they could join us full time.
Think about the doors you’ve knocked on that have changed your life. I’d love to hear your story. And what about the doors you could be knocking on, right now. How many times have you heard knocking and not opened? It’s definitely happened to me. Keep your mind open and ready to open doors, so that you can recognize and take advantage of opportunities.
I feel cold before I notice I am alone.
Hours before we were together, laughing and smiling, the sun hitting our Vitamin D deprived skin. We climbed as fields of cacti gave way to barren desert and we sucked air that inexplicably tasted like sand. But that was all hours and many thousands of feet ago, and now I am cold and miss my brother.
I like to think of pain as a beam of light: focused, intense and beatable. I like to imagine myself in a room alone with it, letting the beam pass through me then laughing mirthlessly and asking more. It’s beatable because it’s defined and predictable.
I wish I could say I let cold sweat run down my legs and slipped my hands into the drops, climbing beautifully, respecting the mountain with my best effort. I wish I could tell you that I stared at the beam of light and was warmed by it, but this was different. The light had hit a prism, reflecting and refracting pain in every direction. So many things were hurting, so many things were wrong that I didn’t want to win, I just wanted to quit.
I start thinking about how nobody ever tells you how appealing quitting can become when you are on the limit; reminded of when I used to be a wrestler and sometimes in the middle of a hard match, I would fantasize about quitting. It’s easy to think that all I had to do was relax the shoulders and count 1, 2, 3 and it would all be over. It is the warm comfort of quitting that makes resisting it so important.
I feel a hand on my lower back and am snapped back to reality. I’m freezing, 27 miles and 7,000 feet into the accent up Mt. Lemmon and that prism-like, unfocused but ubiquitous pain is racking me. Dylan rides next to me and I can’t tell if he is grimacing or smiling. We ride on in silence and while we aren’t exactly winning the fight against the mountain, we aren’t losing it either, and sometimes that’s enough, that’s enough.
Roads we rode
Roads so straight you they remind you of the cartoons when Wiley cyote would pick up a winding road and snap it straight. Roads so curvy you slide back on your saddle before you bank into them. Dirt roads that sent dust into your already dry mouth, choking you, reminding you the desert could kill you if it so please. We rode roads that went to 9,000 feet and ones that went to a barb wire fence. We rattled our teeth as we flew over cattle guards and roadkill.
We rode to the edge of our limits and to the end of our bottles. We rode into new friendships and took a lap around old ones. In the end, it became clear that it’s not about the roads your ride, but how you ride them.
In which I think about what the internet can learn from the Chelsea Hotel and Gaslight Tavern
Imagine for a moment you are running through the woods. Arms pump like pistons, your breath tactile in the cold morning air. Now imagine there is a pack of wolves nipping at your heels as your catapault yourself through that morning and through those woods. What would you do? What could you do?
You keep running. You keep your eyes forward and your arms pumping and the only thing you don’t do is look back. Doing that would certainly cause you to trip and be consumed, so, you keep running.
Business isn’t much different. You enter a space, the space becomes crowded, happens every time. The only thing you can do is stick to your plan and keep running. Pandering and reacting to your competitors is the surest was to trip, to be consumed.
Pay no attention to the wolves at your heels.
You can learn a bit about life by running in the snow.
If you have never done it, running through a snowstorm forces you to change the way you run. Specifically, the only way you can stay upright is to keep running fast and light, minimizing the amount of time your foot stays on the ground and never trying to slow yourself up. Putting on the brakes will only cause you to slip and so you are stuck in a purgatory of speed. Your only option is to go faster, and while your brain yells, “Slow down!” over and over you have to shake it away and watch your shoes kiss the snow covered roads ever so gently, over and over.
Running a business is really not too much different, you look at the road and it’s full of treachery and danger. You want to slow down, but you can’t. You’re already in the storm and so the only thing left to do is go a little faster.
I should have never left, and I had my chance to stay.
This is what I am thinking as I am projectile vomitting on the side of a god forsaken road in New Jersey, tucked between what I think is a cement or brick plant and an office building. Being sick in New Jersey is bad, being sick in New Jersey in the middle of a bike ride, 25 miles from home in lycra is even worse. Over the next 1.5 hours I drag myself over the bridge, into a cab (where we pulled over twice for me to eject some more demons) and finally into my Lower East Side apartment. And it is there that I stayed for the next 20 hours.
Night fell, the sun rose and I woke up feeling better. My eyes were sore from bulging out, my throat raw but all in all I was OK. Later that night I did the only thing I could think of to make it better, I got onto my bike.
I was still weak and certainly not strong but riding last night that didn’t bother me at all, instead I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because, however small a glimpse, sickness shows us what our bodies are like when they don’t work, when they are broken. The pain of being sick doesn’t bother me too much, it is thinking about what if I didn’t get better that gets me.
Our bodies and health are fleeting and they are a gift. I hear people everyday joke that “they can’t remember the last time they ran” “or their idea of a workout is lifting a cheeseburger” and you know what it’s not funny, i’s not a joke and I am so sorry for you.
You see there is dignity and grace in pushing your body. There are lessons in thinking you can be better and learning you can’t be the best. Everyday you do the same things over and over. You become hollow, a receptacle of repetition. You meditate, you pray, you fail, you hurt, you want to quit. Do all of that and eventually you are rewarded. It likely won’t be a trophy or a win that you get but instead, the breifest glimpses of greatness. Those times when your legs don’t feel like you are attached to them, you are flying, you are lightness, you are, can I say, beautiful.
It is these moments that I ride. It’s why I ran, and this is why I will never take my health for granted. You get one body, and one chance to make it worth it. You will never be a pro athlete, but if you take care of your body it will take care of you.
I hear it a couple times a day, “I have just been so busy” and it’s the most boring answer to the simple question of, "how are things going". I have been running Fohr Card with Rich and Holly for 3 months full time now and people ask me all the time, "how are things?" and I make a point to not talk about how busy we are.
Instead I say I am having the time of my life. That I wake up every day and give thanks for my station in life. That I feel like the person I have always wanted to be.
Boring people are busy, the great ones are just having fun.
Worked all night at Fohr Card HQ. I rubbed my burning eyes and watched past my computer screen as the sky turned from oil black, to blue, to pink. I sat there and thought not about weariness but instead about the blessing that is working on something you love.
failure to cut it or how i lost 30 pounds but learned a lot
When I was a junior in Hight School I declared that I would win the 112 pound state championship in wrestling. So, starting that summer I became at first singularly focused, and then completely consumed with putting that medal around my neck in February. I went to camp, ran sprints all summer, I joined the cross country team to keep my weight down, I did drills in front of the TV every night, the same move hundreds and hundreds of times until I would NEVER have to think about how to do that move again. At times I felt like I was fitting wrestling into my life, as I was fitting my life into wrestling. Then something peculiar happened, I grew.
I lost the weight, the season started, I began winning, sometimes beating my opponents so fast my coach would make me take them down and let them up over and over until I got a Technical Pin, just to stretch the match time. I was ranked 2nd in the state, things were good, until they weren’t.
Over the 4 months leading up to and in the beginning of the season I had grown 5 inches and was now near 5’11 and having to cut to 112 pounds.
Every morning now I would wake up at 5AM, my heat had been on for 45 minutes bringing my room to 83 degrees. I pulled spandex, fleece and down over my frail body and got on the exercise bike for 1 hour. Breakfast was Special K, no milk, lunch 3 slices of turkey cold cuts. Then off to practice, 3 hours of drill work and scratch matches, dinner grilled chicken breast. Next to the gym to do a sauna workout, finally home to fall asleep before I could realize how hungry I was. I was working myself to death, but I was winning.
Running up to the Area and State Championships coaches stopped letting their kids wrestle me, there I was gaunt, starving, pacing around our gym only to be told it was for naught, I wouldn’t be wrestling that night.
Truth is I was barely holding it together. I used to put a piece of chocolate in my mouth, just to taste it and then spit it out. I would do this in a locked bathroom. I was losing teeth, 2 during a match and one more after the season (I ended up with 26 cavities). Malnutrition was ravaging my body, but I was winning.
Until one Wednesday afternoon when my coach peeked his head into my english class and asked to see me, they were pulling the plug he said. School said what I was doing was too dangerous, people were talking, doctors had been consulted. My body fat test came back as inconclusive. Two weeks from me wrestling for the state championship, I was told I had to jump 2 weight classes to 125.
I don’t even know how I lost my matches at area, I was sick, depressed and all I know is I did not even make it to state. After I lost my elimination match, I brushed off the comfort of my coach and left the hot, oxygen starved gym into the crisp Northern Georgia winter. I then promptly sat against a wall and let waves of tears fall from me. Huge racking sobs so uncontrollable I had to lay my face down.
As I lay weeping I thought about everything I had been through everything I had given up, not eating for months, the 3-a-day work outs, the thousands of drills, the torn rotator cuff, skipped family vacations. I felt the unique pain of giving your whole self to a goal only to see it sail slowly away from you.
After five minutes of self pity I stood up, sweat now dying and making me shiver and as I pushed back into that same gym I had a vision of myself next year, and you know what, I was winning.
5AM alarms never get’s easier but you do get faster, you do get better.
It’s hard but sometimes being the one that flies away makes all the difference.
Anonymous asked: Hey James, how does someone find their passion? What if following it seems terrifying and most likely leading to failure?
What if not following it is terrifying and most likely leads to disappointment?
Following your passions is scary because the stakes are so much higher, you are putting your beliefs on display for the world saying, “this is what I love” and allowing them to judge that. it’s terrifying. But in the end you have to go for it becaue it’s better to be a failure than a disappointment.
more on this
Life isn’t all that different from cycling really. When the road tips up you have two choices: sit back and let it hurt you or attack it, and when you think about it, that’s not really much of a choice at all.
hold your friends close and your hustle closer. follow my ramblings on twitter here