Confidence Is Hard

I like to consider myself a creative type. There are few things that give me the kind of satisfaction that I get from taking nothing more than an idea and turning it into something tangible. In a lot of ways, that is exactly the inspiration that led to me starting this blog. Just today, I’ve spent the better part of the last two hours staring at a blank page with the intention of filling the space with words that will get some kind of reaction out of you. As anyone who has attempted a creative endeavor such as this knows, it can be a daunting challenge.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m only doing this to satisfy my own ego. After all, it’s not like I’m writing for an established publication. I have no deadlines to meet that aren’t self-imposed. I barely even have an audience at this stage of my development. When I first decided I was going to start writing a blog, it was designed as a purely self-fulfilling project. I enjoy writing. I think I’m pretty good at it. So why not just write for the hell of it? If nothing else, it would be good practice.

But then I wrote a post that was read by a lot of people (by my standards), and one that everyone genuinely seemed to enjoy. It was this one. It wasn’t one of my sports takes. Not one of my thinkpieces on society or politics. It was literally just a post detailing part of my life story.

My biggest takeaway from the feedback I got on that piece was how many people found something in it that resonated with them personally. I found a way to inspire, even if it was completely by accident. I remain extremely proud of that post, almost entirely for that reason.

I’ve written a lot since then, and nothing else I’ve posted has even come close to replicating that moment. That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten a lot of positive feedback from close relations and strangers alike. I’m always grateful to anyone who takes the time to read and comment on my work, because if I’m being honest with myself, I recognize that I’m basically a nobody in the grand scheme of things. But there are times that I wonder if that piece is always going to stand out as my one-hit wonder. My Mambo No. 5, if you will.

But then I wonder, why is that? Where does that fear come from? Why even entertain the idea that no matter what I do, I’m destined to be average? What I’m realizing after having conversations with many other creative types is that this is a feeling that is shockingly pervasive. It’s an offshoot of something called impostor syndrome, and it seems as though not even the most talented of us are immune to the grip it can impose.

Impostor syndrome has a pretty general definition. It’s essentially the self-imposed feeling that you are a fraud, even if you have evidence to the contrary. You feel like you don’t deserve your own accomplishments. Even if other people think you’re talented or admire the things that you do, you feel like you’ve somehow duped them into thinking that way.

The weird thing about my experience with this is that it hasn’t been constant. There are days where I’m actually quite full of myself. I’ll look back on things I’ve done and think to myself, “Wow, I really knocked that one out of the park. I’m so fucking good.” But the next day, I might look back at that same thing and think, “Is that the best I can do?”

It sets me up to put more pressure on myself for the next thing I do. Sometimes it’s helpful. That pressure can lead to me doing something even better. Oftentimes though, it’s an unnecessary burden that causes me to swing for the fences, and as any baseball player could tell you, it frequently happens that when you do that, you miss horribly.

Maybe you’ve been there too. I’m willing to bet at least a fraction of you have. Some days you’ll wake up with the kind of energy that has you ready to take on the world. You feel like you have the Midas touch. You can’t miss. But other days, you wake up thinking, what if I’m actually dog shit at this thing that I claim to be good at?

For me, confidence has always been a very fickle thing. But over time, I’ve found ways to fight back against doubt when it starts to creep in. Sometimes, I’ll just talk shit out loud, even if no one else is around. Actually, especially when no one is around. It’s amazing how powerful it can be to gas yourself up. The more conviction I have when I talk about how good I am, the more I believe it. Sure, there are days where that conviction is almost entirely fabricated. But even when that is the case, I find that it can be so helpful to just pump a little bit of air into my own tires.

If it’s true that we can speak things into existence – which I believe it is, at least to an extent – then tearing yourself down is one of the least productive things you can do during your moments of weakness. I don’t know exactly when it was that I convinced myself to stop doing that, but I can tell you that since then, I’ve been much better off for it. That’s not to say that I don’t have moments when I’m down on myself, but when those moments come, I feel more prepared to deal with them now.

I think part of my struggle with confidence has been the fact that I’ve been trained to believe that ego is a bad thing to have. And certainly, no one likes an egomaniac. But a healthy dose of it is not only good, it’s downright necessary. Think of some of the most successful people you know. I’m willing to bet that many of them are confident in themselves to the point that their confidence can sometimes present itself as cockiness. That might rub some people the wrong way, but I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being cocky if it’s justified.

So maybe that’s it. Maybe I feel like I haven’t yet earned the right to be confident to the point that I can truly flex on you. But you can bet your ass that I’m gonna get there. I’ll get there even if it takes years of hard work, which frankly, it probably will. What keeps me going is that I know that my ideas are strong enough that if they’re executed properly, they are going to leave an impression.

So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna go ahead and put this post out into the world and hope that you find it to be helpful if you’re like me and you find yourself having to go toe-to-toe with your own self-doubt on a regular basis. Next, I’m going to come back again next week and continue to create. I’m going to continue to train my sights to focus on improvement instead of perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist, so why seek it? Instead, what I seek is to be unapologetically me, and for all of my work to be good enough to satisfy my own standards. There will be times that it may fall short of yours, and that’s okay.

My need to be a people pleaser and to be liked by everyone has gotten in my way. I realize that. It doesn’t mean I’m going to combat that by being a dick. At least not on purpose. That’s not who I am. But it does mean that I’m going to try to give a little bit less of a fuck about how well my posts do or how many feathers I might ruffle when I post things that are opinionated.

For all intents and purposes, I’m just getting started. I’m going to try to make it a point to embrace the building process more. There will be days where I’m less confident in myself than others. But at the end of the day, I know I have what it takes. And by the way, so do you. Don’t let yourself get in your own way. Just keep putting in the work. You’ve got this. Let’s climb this mountain together. I’ll meet you at the top.

Don’t Call Me “Sports Guy”

I’ve been sitting here for about an hour, trying to think of how I can possibly follow up my post from last week. It felt amazingly therapeutic to put that part of my story out into the world, and the response I received from so many of you was incredibly heartwarming.

But what now? Should I go back to giving you my HOT TAKES on the sports news? That’s what I’m good for, right? After all, if you knew me at all before I started this blog, you probably knew me as the “sports guy” on the radio. But the truth is, the further I remove myself from that era of my life, the less I identify myself that way. I HAVE LAYERS, YOU JERKS!

Sports are certainly still a huge passion of mine, and I’m not saying that I won’t go back to the well next week and write something about the fast-approaching start of baseball season or the NHL playoff push or how Bryce Harper’s hair underlines the importance of using both shampoo and conditioner. But this week, I want to let you in on some of the other things that make me tick, and clue you in to some more of the content that you can come to expect from me.

Here’s one that will no doubt catch you off guard. Ready? I think music is pretty cool…

I’ll give you a minute to collect yourself from that gasp you just let out. MUSIC?!? Who likes that stuff?? I know. We all do. But my connection to the music world is slightly different from the average joe. Allow me to let you in on how my music taste took shape.

As I’ve mentioned before, my dad was an FM DJ in New York way back in the day when people actually listened to music on the radio. It was through him that I was first introduced to the world of what we now call classic rock. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the one of the first albums I ever fell in love with. There were a few other deeper cuts, too. I absolutely adored the Traveling Wilbury’s first self-titled album and subsequently Jeff Lynne’s solo project, Armchair Theatre.

My adolescence introduced me to the world of rap and hip hop. I was such an Eminem mark that not long after the release of The Marshall Mathers LP, I bleached my hair Slim Shady blonde. And let me tell you, nothing makes me cringe harder than looking back at old photos of myself sporting that look. I’d post one of those pics here, but I can’t find any of them. Hopefully that’s because they’ve all been thrown into a furnace.

High school and college brought me into the world of pop punk. Bands like Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Blink-182 and Panic! at the Disco have remained heavy in my rotation of music that I still listen to today.

The best album I’ve ever heard? That came in 2009 when The Decemberists released a project that is less a collection of songs than it is a three-act play. If you have never listened to The Hazards of Love, do yourself a favor. Listen to that shit. Better yet, read the story as you listen to it. It is a beautifully tragic tale that transports you to another world from another time, and remains one of the few albums that consistently makes me cry every time I listen to it alone.

There are very few genres of music that I dismiss out of hand. I may not have the trained ear of a legitimate music critic, but I can promise that there are going to be songs and albums that inspire me to write about them. And I intend to use this space to do that when the mood strikes.

While we’re on the subject of music, I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little something about my younger brother, Sam. He and I often marvel at how we epitomize the dichotomy of what our dad used to do for a living. A guy who became well-known for working in music radio spawned one kid that would spend a decade in the radio business, and another who has a bright future in the music business.

Sam has been a crazy music head since forever. Now, he is the vice president of a record label here in Vancouver known as NYHLA Records. He’s teamed with president and founder, Angus Maude, and co-VP Taylor Friginette to create a platform for local talent to shine. And lemme tell ya, these artists don’t just shine. They fucking glow. I plan on dedicating an entire post to this group of talent at some point, because they’re just bloody brilliant, and I want to get a scoop on their story before everyone and their mama knows about them. But I digress.

Sam, who goes by maSHerman (pronounced mash-er-man, not Ma Sherman, which sounds more like a character from Little House on the Prairie), has been working for a long time on his debut album. The project, named otis, is set to be released at some point this year. But what debut album cycle would be complete without a debut single? Well, that single is coming very soon. And Sam has a very interesting feature on that track. Any guesses? …No, it’s not T Pain …Nope, it’s not Cher either. I just figured those would be your first two guesses.

Actually, the debut single, entitled Talk to Me, features a relative unknown who goes by the moniker, “my brother max”. Hey, wait a minute, that’s me! Yes, folks. I wrote and sing the second verse on this song. And I simply cannot wait for you all to hear it. Also, before you ask. No, it is not me just singing the scores and headlines from the sports news. I know that’s what you’re used to. I hope it’s not what you want, though. Because if it is, good lord, what kind of music have you been listening to? Anyway, the point is you’re gonna have to get used to the idea that sports is not my be-all end-all.

As another example, I’ve developed a burgeoning interest in politics. There’s no mystery as to why that’s the case. I think the most recent presidential election caused a lot of us to be more plugged in to whatever the fuck is going on in the United States. There’s no doubt that the current occupant of the White House swallows up a lot of the news coverage, and to an extent, rightfully so. The dude gives us something new to scream about seemingly every day. But what interests me more is the impact that this era in politics is having on society at large.

This period in our history has been devastatingly revealing in the ways it has exposed the underbelly of what it means to live in America. But I like to consider myself a glass half-full guy. Sure, that’s super easy for a straight, white male like myself to say. But you know how they say that the first step to recovery is acknowledging there is a problem? To me, that feels like where we are right now.

Deep-rooted, institutional problems like racism, misogyny and homophobia cannot possibly be undone overnight. But these issues have been thrust into our collective conscience so forcefully through the litany of horrible stories we’ve read about over the last couple of years. You’d have to be a complete fool to not acknowledge that everything is not alright. I believe that our awareness of all of this crap is what is going to slowly lead to more activism and more progress. Also, this emerging generation of young people is so incredibly inspiring. I just know the future is in good hands. The over-arching point is, if you log onto this blog and see I’ve written a post consisting of social commentary or that covers a topic that is either vaguely or overtly political, don’t be shocked.

The shackles are off, y’all. I make the rules now. There’s no one above me to tell me that I shouldn’t or can’t write about a particular subject. And honestly, that is one of things that I love the most about what I’m doing here. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a decent chance you’re going to come across a post of mine that either doesn’t interest you or that you vehemently disagree with. Both of those things are ok. I just ask that even if that is the case, that you still come back the next week and check in on me again.

There is still going to be plenty of sports commentary in this space. It’s a subject that I know better than most, and also is generally a place where you can spout off opinions without offending anybody. If you’re a fan of my blog, please tell your friends! Just do me a favor. Don’t call me “sports guy.” I’m fixing to prove that I’m so much more.

My Journey to Self-Discovery

I kicked around a couple of different ideas on what to write about this week. I could have put some words together on a number of different sports happenings, but honestly, fuck all that shit. Instead, I’ve decided to write about a subject that I can safely say I know better than anyone in the world. That subject is…well…me.

This week marks the two-year anniversary of one of the most important events of my life so far. The first week of March in 2017 was when I left the only home I had ever known. I bounced around quite a bit growing up, but the New York/New Jersey area was the only region I had ever lived for the first 30 years of my life. So when I decided I was packing up all of my shit and moving not just out of the area, but also out of the country, it was easily one of the craziest, scariest and most daunting decisions I had ever made for myself. But goddamn, am I happy I did it.

In this post, I want to explain what went into that decision, and why looking back on it now, I’ve never been more confident that it will go down as one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.

Now, I don’t have any interest in going ALL the way back to the very beginning of this story, because it spans well over a decade and goes through the minutiae of my adolescence. Even though some aspects of it make for compelling storytelling, I’m writing a blog post here, not an autobiography.

All you need to know on that front is that my parents went through an ugly divorce. The horrors of that experience led my mom – who is a saint and deserves to have her story told in a better setting than this silly blog – to move to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She would be joined a few years later by my younger brother when my dad decided he wanted to fuck off to the Virgin Islands to live out retirement. This was in 2005.

I stayed in New York because I had a dream to chase. My passions were always pretty clearly defined, even when I was a kid. My dad was a big shot in the NYC radio scene, and I have always been a fanatical sports fan. Put the two together, and I knew what I wanted to be. I was going to work in sports radio, and I was going to be great at it.

In my senior year of college, I had the good fortune of being able to intern at WFAN. For those who don’t know, the FAN was, is, and probably always will be the premiere sports talk station not just in New York, but really the country. It’s essentially where the sports talk format was born and has been home to the brightest stars in the broadcasting game since its inception.

Immediately following my internship, the FAN offered me a part-time job. That gig would beget several other work opportunities at the station, eventually leading to my first on-air position as an update anchor. By that time I had been working there for five years.

The satisfaction of knowing that my hard work was paying off with an opportunity to sit in front of a microphone in any capacity was overwhelming. I remember leaving the office that day and being so overcome with emotion, I cried right there on the busy streets of lower Manhattan. I didn’t even care how many people were staring at me. I was doing the damn thing, y’all. It was the surest sign yet that I was on the right path. This crazy dream I had of being a star broadcaster? It was actually happening. And I was elated.

Over the course of the next couple of years, I felt myself getting better and better at what I was doing. Even though sports updates on the FAN are relegated to just a couple of minutes, three times an hour, I found a way to deliver the scores and headlines in a way that was uniquely me. I guess what I’m saying is, I got really fucking good at that job. It’s not like I was doing anything revolutionary, but I could not have possibly felt more in my element.

But this was never my end game. Just as anyone who has done the same job for years on end would, I eventually got to a place where I wanted to take the next step in my development. And by the time 2015 rolled around, I was ready to leap. I began putting together demo tapes in hopes that I could earn an opportunity to host a show.

It took a while. The first two or three tapes I sent in were, to be blunt, absolute tire fires. Like, they were really, grotesquely bad. But I kept doing it. With every rep, I got a little better, and a little better. Finally, I sent one in that was passable enough that my boss was willing to give me a shot. It was to be on Christmas morning, 2015. My time slot would be from 3-6 AM. Or as I like to call it, zombie primetime. But holy shit. This was huge. More elation. More tears of joy. The arrow on my career trajectory was going up again.

When the day arrived, I was a nervous wreck. But I prepared my ass off for that show. I had a format. I had a plan. And after getting through my opening monologue and taking a handful of calls, I settled in and began to sense that familiar feeling I had felt all those years doing the updates. This is what I was always meant to do. I am GOOD at this.

There was just one problem. When you work in a corporate structure, it really doesn’t matter at all what YOU think of the job you’re doing. There are gatekeepers that decide who is worthy of being elevated, and who is not. And while the purpose of telling you this story is not to cast aspersions on the powers that be, the fact of the matter is that my performance hosting that show did not move the needle a single iota in the minds of the people in charge. Their feedback was constructive, but extremely tame in praise. You might be wondering how many follow-up opportunities I got to host again and hone my craft. The answer is…zero.

I’m not self-righteous enough to say that I don’t bear a large part of the blame for why that was the case. I didn’t do nearly a good enough job of advocating for myself, and the fact is, if I had been more in their face on a regular basis, I think I would have at least earned more chances to prove myself. But I wasn’t and I didn’t. The result was 2016 being a year that relentlessly beat my ass into submission.

That year started with my girlfriend of six years deciding she finally had enough of me putting my career first. Just weeks after the highest moment of my professional life, my personal life was beginning to crumble. My schedule of working late nights and overnights was taking a toll on both my mental and physical health. Socially, I curled up into a ball. I rarely left my apartment that I was now living in alone. Sometimes, days would pass without me even seeing the sun. I was still very much dealing with the fallout of the death of my father two years earlier – which is a whole other story in and of itself, perhaps for another time.

The weeks turned into months, and nothing was happening for me. That was largely because I wasn’t making anything happen for myself. But still, I felt betrayed and unappreciated in many ways, despite that being a completely useless thing to feel. In hindsight, it was also misguided. Nevertheless, the year pressed on and the shit storm in my brain only intensified.

2016 still had one more kick in the nuts to deliver to me, and that came in the form of the election of President Donald Trump. I promise I’m not going to go off on a political tangent here, and I understand that there are many of you reading this who were probably thrilled by this development. But for me, that nightmarish election process producing the worst possible outcome led to me taking inventory of my entire life.

I didn’t want to be where I was anymore, in any context. My personal life had worn me down. My professional life was completely stagnant and becoming more and more difficult to cope with and maintain. My home country felt like it was devolving into a caricature of all of its worst elements rolled into one. I felt like I was battling all of my demons every day. It was time for a change…and a big one.

And that’s when it hit me. I needed my mom. I needed my brother. I needed a change of scenery. So I made the call. I ugly cried over the phone to my mom and told her I wanted to move to Vancouver. I knew that door was always open to me, and part of me feels like a dope for not taking it sooner. But better late than never.

It was March 1, 2017 that I loaded up a van full of my belongings and started driving west. That road trip was a life-changing experience. I saw parts of the U.S. that I probably never would have seen otherwise. I remember driving through the corn fields of Iowa and looking at the farm houses. I’d gaze upon the glowing lights inside and think to myself, I wonder what their life is like.

During that week I was on the road, I had vulnerable, honest and difficult conversations with myself. Even though solitude was one of the things I was undoubtedly running from, being alone with my thoughts over the course of that trip was one of the most blissful experiences I had during the entire journey. Finally, I reached the city limits of Vancouver. It was at that very moment that I was overcome with the most comforting feeling I could have possibly felt at that time boiled down into two words: I’m home.

In the two years since, I’ve taken a lot of time to reflect. Too much time, really. The fact is, time spent looking to the past is time not spent preparing for the future. But let me tell you guys this: ya boy is back and ready to take over the world again.

What I’ve realized is that I hold the power. I’ve spent too much time playing by the rules of others and conditioning myself to believe that the only way to do something meaningful is to climb the corporate ladder. Now? I think that is absolute nonsense. It’s simply not true. I don’t need to attach myself to your business to glow myself up. My business is ME.

That’s not to say that I think I’ve automatically got it made. I understand the process is going to be hard. It’s going to be slow. It’s going to take a fuck-ton of work. It wont always be perfect. But I’m ready. I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life. I’ve got plans again. I’ve never felt more driven in my life than I do right now. And despite having to constantly fight back the feeling that I’m running out of time, I’ve come to the realization that I’m right on schedule.

Keep your eyes on me, folks. I’m up to something. The revolution may not be televised. But I’ve got front row seats with all of your names on them.