Anonymous Mailbag

It’s Tuesday and I’m up in New York City to do some Fox News work so I’m scrambling to get the anonymous mailbag published before I head over to the studios there.

If you haven’t watched the new Dave Chappelle special on Netflix, I think it’s an important one that most of my anonymous mailbag readers would appreciate. You should check it out.

Here’s why I think it’s important.

The college football gambling picks won at a 65% rate in week zero and week one through Sunday’s games combined — including two blood bank wins — so I hope you guys hopped on the picks and have made some money. If you want the picks earlier than Wednesday afternoon — when they go up on the site for everyone — then they’ll be up on Monday afternoon on the VIP message board all season long. New subscribers also get an autographed copy of my book. So dive in there and subscribe here’s to a good week two of gambling.

We’re going to start this week with the number one question I get, which is a variation of this question that I’ve synthesized thusly: “How can I end up doing what you do for a living?”

I get this question, conservatively, ten times a week. The only question I get more commonly than this is people emailing for restaurant or travel recommendations when they come to Nashville. I appreciate the fact that you think I’m your concierge, but I really don’t have time to sit around all day responding to emails with dinner recommendations. (The answer is, however, go eat and drink at the Downtown Sporting Club at 411 Broadway. The food is excellent and I’m a part owner there so you can’t go wrong.)

How did I get a job like yours in sports is a question that I get so often I’ve essentially built my weekly podcast around it. The podcast is called Wins and Losses, Colin Cowherd is the guest this week and he talks about how he went from making $8k a year calling one inning of minor league baseball in Las Vegas to the most listened to sports talk show host in the country.

But given the fact that fall is a time when many of our readers either return to school or think about pursuing another job as you start to approach the tail end of a calendar year, it seems like a good time to give a full answer to this question.

As a preliminary, I feel like we spend so much time in this country discussing success only from the perspective of people who have already succeeded. That makes the success seem like an inevitable and foregone conclusion because you’re already aware of how their story ends. But the reality is that every person I know who has been successful in anything has also had a great deal of losses along the way, times when they questioned whether they would be successful in a chosen career path or not. Success was, for most of these people, never inevitable at all.

I vividly remember a decade ago sitting and watching triple A players in Nashville and feeling a strong kinship with them. At the time I had two young kids and despite writing two books and working my ass off I hadn’t quite broken through yet. I wasn’t making much money and I didn’t know if I ever would, but I also knew I was achingly close to breaking through, just like those minor leaguers.

Indeed, in 2011 I’d get laid off from FanHouse right after Auburn beat Oregon to win the national championship. At the time I was poised to sign an extension that would have paid me six figures a year just to write. I thought I was finally going to make it to a place where I didn’t have to worry about money and then, boom, instead of a solid six figure career I suddenly found myself making $45k a year on local radio at the age of 32. I was still fairly young, but not that young. Especially not to have two very young kids and a wife out of work on maternity leave with our youngest at the time.

Now you can look back and say, “Oh, you were just a few years away from having your own website, a daily national radio show, and a daily national TV show too,” but I can tell you it was hard to see those three things in the immediate wake of getting fired alongside all the other FanHouse talent.

It was a real time for soul searching and questioning my career path.

I’d put in a lot of time, just like those minor leaguers, and for whatever reason it hadn’t happened for me yet.

I had a couple of months to decide what to do and during that time I decided I didn’t want to have anyone else control my future, so I started my own website in 2011, the one you’re reading now, and it was the best career decision of my life. Because it made me an owner instead of an employee, which changed everything in the way I thought and wrote about sports.

So why did I make that decision?

I got good advice from others — including my step father-in-law, who has owned his own business his entire career, and told me I was too smart to be working for people dumber than me.

His advice at that point in my life was invaluable.

Now lord knows I’ve had losses since I started Outkick, in fact I have lost a ton of times in my career, but what I’ve done is refused to ever let those losses defeat me or discourage me from getting up and trying again.

To the extent that I’ve attained some measure of success, I think that’s the reason why, I have the memory of an NFL defensive back, I might be burned but I’m always going to show up for the next play and expect to win.

So mindset is important — and so is learning from your mistakes — but do you know what’s the most important?

Two words: hard work.

Let me get on my hard work soapbox here for a minute. I get asked all the time for advice from people and it’s as if people anticipate there is some sort of magic elixir I can bestow upon them that guarantees success. There isn’t. The absolute only thing you can control in life is the work you put in at your job(s).

That’s it!

Everything else is just external noise.

That’s why I believe a huge part of success is focusing on what you can control and not worrying about the things you can’t control.

Most people, at least in my experience, spend far more energy and effort focused on what they can’t control than what they can control. I’m an eliminate the noise kind of guy. If I’m going to be productive and succeed I can’t allow others to distract me by getting me involved in things I can’t control.

What starting my own business taught me was I was responsible for everything. If something went wrong, I couldn’t pass the buck, I had to answer for it. It’s when I truly started to understand that the only hand you can truly rely on is the one at the end of your sleeve.

So what does hard work look like for me on a day to day basis? You guys see the result of work — my daily radio show, this article, my Periscope/Facebook, the weekly Wins and Losses podcast, the daily TV show, the book, you name it, I’m always working on a thousand different things — but the important thing to note is all those products are the result of countless hours of work you don’t see.

The product is the iceberg, the foundation for all the product is the mountain of ice beneath the water you don’t see.

So let me give you a little window into my life. (This won’t include the most important thing I think I do, which is be a dad. But rest assured I try to spend a good amount of time on that as well. This window is just about the job I do in my professional life.)

Here’s my schedule for the last 36 hours, starting yesterday afternoon. Knock out “Lock It In” yesterday on Labor Day — after already doing a three hour radio show and a half hour Periscope/Facebook as well. Then head to the airport for an 8 pm central departure and land in NYC at 11:15 eastern. (On plane flights I read the entire time. The most important thing I do for my job is read. I need to consume and distill lots of information in order to have intelligent opinions. Reading is the fuel that allows me to produce my opinions.) Get to my hotel at midnight. (Fun fact, I always stay at the same New York City hotel when I go up there for work. It’s next door to the radio studio I use, but it’s also the same hotel where when I was a broke, indebted law school student I couldn’t afford to buy a round of beers at their bar. When I walk into the hotel and see that bar it’s a good reminder of where I’ve come from).

Before I go to bed sometime around 12:30 I check all the top sports stories and write down four things I think will be top stories for Tuesday on my radio show.

Then I was up at 5:30 this morning for live radio for three hours. (I wake up at 430 central, but I’m on the east coast today so it feels better to actually wake up with the sunrise as opposed to in the pitch blackness. I like and need sleep so the toughest part of my day is the fact that my schedule dictates it’s often impossible for me to get much sleep. Unlike many people when my alarm goes off I can’t hit snooze or change my schedule. I have to be live on the air at 5 am central every day Monday to Friday. And I generally have to be ready to talk about whatever sporting event ended late the night before. So good luck sleeping very much with that schedule.) The first thing I’ll do when my alarm goes off is turn off my alarm and lay perfectly still for two minutes to focus on the things I’m grateful for in my life. Most of the time this is a focus on my kids, but studies have shown that the single most powerful and healthful emotion in our life is gratitude. So I try and start my day with that before I do anything else.

Then I start moving and don’t really stop.

The first thing I do in the morning is hop on my phone to check and see if anyone got arrested or died the night before. (I’m kind of kidding here, but most news that breaks in the early morning hours of the day is bad.) Usually the media shuts down from about 11 pm et to 7 am et so typically the stories haven’t changed over night and won’t change much during my radio show.

If the stories have changed, I adjust my topics or my open. If they haven’t, I stick with what I planned the night before.

I do the three hour radio show from Ryan Seacrest’s old studio in NYC — they built a new one for him on the set of Ryan and Kelly, but this studio is amazing, open windows, perfect corner studio view down buzzing Manhattan streets — and then come back to the hotel to write the anonymous mailbag.

One thing that I’m big on is efficiency. I hate wasting time. So when I travel I stay as close as possible to where I need to be for work. I can get from my hotel room in New York City to the studio in five minutes and there’s no room for complications. No unexpected traffic issues, no daft Uber driver who doesn’t know his way around, all I have to do is take an elevator downstairs and walk 100 yards to my studio. I can’t control if the employee who is supposed to let me in the studio is there — witness some of our issues with my man DJ Big Boi down in Panama City Beach — but I will be there good to go with zero issues on my side. The same is true of my home office. I can write everything for Outkick, do my radio show, my TV show, and my Periscope/Facebook all from my home office. Everything is on the same floor all within a couple of steps of each other. Working from home means I’m not spending hours every day in traffic. It also allows me to be a dad. So when, for instance, I finish my morning radio show, I can go downstairs and eat breakfast with my boys. Then we can play wiffle ball in the backyard for a half hour and I can (fairly often) take the time to walk them to school after that too. (Before I started “Lock It In” I’d often walk to pick them up in the afternoon too), It’s a cliche, but it doesn’t make it any less true: time is the one thing you can never buy more of. So why not create the most time efficient schedule for yourself possible? One of my flaws that drives my wife crazy is that I’m very impatient. I despise inefficiencies, lines and traffic, especially if I haven’t prepared myself for them, are incredibly frustrating for me. So I’ve done my best to eliminate them in my own life.

And I try to be constantly monitoring my own efficiency.

For instance, I’d encourage everyone to use the settings tab on your iPhone and look at how much time you are spending on your phone a day. At the beginning of this year I did a self-assess on my own time spend and realized I was spending between eight and nine hours a day — EIGHT AND NINE HOURS A DAY — just on my phone. That was totally ludicrous. I don’t have notifications turned on for my phone to try and avoid that time suck, but that amount of time spent on my phone was crazy.

So my goal for 2019 is to cut it in half.

That’s probably too ambitious of a goal, but I’m down below six hours a day now. And I don’t think I’ve missed anything.

One bit of advice, by the way, don’t confuse being busy with being efficient.

Many people make this mistake.

When I focus on a task, I try to put 100% of my energy into that task. For instance, when I write I turn my phone over and turn off all the sounds. One thing I think I do very well is process large amounts of information and distill them into digestible pieces. In other words, I can read 10k words on a complex topic and explain why or how it matters better than most.

But I can’t do that without focusing all my attention on the immediate task in front of me.

There are so many distractions today that many people confuse being busy with efficiency. To me, the difference is are you producing a tangible result with all your effort or are you just frittering away time without advancing towards a finished product or a tangible goal?

This is why, for the most part, I’m not a meetings guy. I like working at my own place because I control my schedule. If I worked in a large corporate structure I’d just go from one meeting to the next all day long, which is time I’m not able to spend on creating content — my most important job.

Okay, back to my schedule, I finish writing the anonymous mailbag. (I budget two hours every Tuesday morning from start to finish to get this thing turned around).

Then I do forty minutes of local radio hits in Memphis and Birmingham.

One way I’ve built my “brand” is through local radio. I’ve been doing local radio in Birmingham for 14 years with my guy Lance Taylor. I’ve never taken a dollar for any local radio hit. But it’s how I figured out, while trying to make a living as a writer, that I was pretty good at radio. Good life advice: be aware of the adjacent possibles in your career. For me writing led to radio led to TV. All of those opportunities are adjacently possible to being good at writing about sports. I would have never known I was good at radio if I didn’t start going on local radio to talk about articles I’d written. It still stuns me how many writers don’t jump at every radio opportunity. It doesn’t matter who is listening, you’re getting free reps to find out if you have skills that might translate there. This doesn’t mean that every adjacent possible makes sense, though, remember, I lost a ton of money selling pants through this website.

One of the most important things you can do in any career is be cognizant of the opportunities that might be out there which touch the job you have now. Instead of starting something entirely new, have you explored the adjacent possible areas in your chosen career path. You might turn out to have good skills for those endeavors, potentially even better than the ones you started in the first place.

Once I finish local radio and click publish on the anonymous mailbag — which I subsequently share on social media — I read and respond to our “Lock It In” show emails. Our producers will have emailed us questions for the show that day. One advantage I have is most of these questions will already be stories we have talked about on the radio show in the morning, so I’m already prepared with opinions.

But I also need to have four gambling picks every day on the show.

So I have to research and respond to the show emails and texts, which will be coming all day long. (This also happens with radio too, which is always being planned as well).

I generally send my gambling picks and opinions in by 11:30 eastern. (Something that I spend a ton of time on that I never thought would be the case. TIME ZONES! I do a radio show in central time with producers on the west coast and frequently our guests are on the east coast. I’m constantly doing time zone math to make sure we don’t end up with three guests booked at the exact same time. One partial solution is we talk about hour one, hour two, and hour three of the show. That works no matter which time zone you’re in.)

Next I’ll head to Fox News. On the way to the Fox News studios, I’m reviewing the emails they sent about which topics we’ll discuss. This is where reading daily papers becomes invaluable. I read the “New York Times” and the “Wall Street Journal” every day. I feel like I’m getting exposed to both sides of the political equation through that media consumption. As a result I’m just as ready to talk about which side of LSU-Texas game I like the best as I am whether Donald Trump’s tariff war with China is likely to impact his vote totals with Midwestern farmers.

I’ll spend several hours at Fox then I’ll head to a new studio to do my “Wins and Losses” TV show.

There are hours and hours involved here in prepping and being ready for TV, but I’ll spare you those details.

By 5:30 et, I’m done with shows for the day.

In a 12 hour window I will typically produce somewhere around five hours of live sports content on national radio, TV, local radio, and Periscope/Facebook plus average writing several thousand words a day.

And, significantly, every single word I write or say will be scrutinized by people who may love or hate me.

A lot of times during the day, especially when I travel, I barely have time to eat. So I’ll probably walk somewhere near Fox News to eat dinner and then I’ll decide whether to head back to the hotel and take it easy in my room or, if I still have the energy, whether to go see “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway. I’ve heard it’s awesome and this is one of my favorite novels of all time so I’ve been wanting to see the play.

Regardless of what I choose to do there, tomorrow morning in NYC I’ll wake up and do the radio show — write and post Wednesday gambling picks on Outkick while I’m in the air if the Wifi works — and then hop a flight back to Nashville to be back home in time for my TV show in the afternoon.

When that TV show is over I’ll record weekly marketing videos with FoxBet.

By five I hope to be able to hang out with my family again on Wednesday.

Regardless, these are my days and they are 100% standard days, week after week, month after month, and year after year.

Other than being in New York for the day — and not having the time to do my Periscope and Facebook shows on Tuesday and Wednesday — it’s what I do pretty much every day all year long.

Now my job is unique — as all jobs are unique when it comes to your particular job requirements — but if you work hard at your job pretty much every day for years and years then no matter what you do for your particular job, you’ll probably do well in life.

This is the anonymous mailbag where I give advice on everything under the sun, but the number one piece of advice I have for everyone out there who wants to succeed at their job is pretty simple.

In fact, so simple there are only two steps:

1. Find a job you’re willing to work 80-100 hours a week doing.

2. Work 80 or 100 hours a week at that job for several years in a row.

I’m sure there are other ways people find success in life, but this is the only way I know how to do it.

So that’s my advice to all of you, no matter what job you are pursuing.

If you want success bad enough at your job, you’ll do this.

If you don’t, you won’t.

And, by the way, I’m not saying that success in life should only be measured by success at your job — many people don’t enjoy their jobs and have no interest in working over forty hours a week and focus on having a successful and productive life out of the office — but if you want to have success at your job, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t work his or her ass off.

So there you have it.

This is a bit of a non-traditional anonymous mailbag this week, but I wanted to address the most common anonymous mailbag questions I get — how to succeed in my job, your job, or any job really on the planet.

I hope it helps you out.

Okay, my bad on hitting multiple questions today, we’ll be back with a bunch more of your questions this week, but I ended up going all in with that response.

As always send your anonymous mailbag questions to claytravis@gmail.com, anonymity guaranteed.

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