While I have many flaws, my inability to prioritize rest and regeneration has to be near the top of the list. At four and a half decades, now officially closer to 50 than to 40, I am well aware of the passage of time. Death is likely closer than birth, and I feel like I’m just starting to figure out what I’m good at, what I like to do, and how I can really make a difference. I do not want to waste the time I have.
While many people dread going to work, I enjoy it. I love my team at Diesel Jack Media. I love seeing them thrive. I love the results of our work. With the clock of my life ticking, I feel l need to be pressing down on the accelerator, not the brake.
At home, there’s no time for rest. I have kids. Two of them are out of the house already, finding their own adventures, which accentuates the preciousness of the time I have left with those remaining in the house . I know I will blink my eyes and my wife and I will be empty nesters. Our nights and weekends are games, practices, swim lessons, jiu jitsu, plays, chess, baseball, and anything else the kids get into.
I’ve lived this way for 17 years, ever since I became an entrepreneur. Go. Go. Go. Go. Build the company. Make the movie. Create the deal. Grow. Learn. Accomplish.
But this last year took something more. It started with middle of the night writing sessions to finish the book Scars and Stripes, while I was getting my newest startup, DJM, up and running. Just as I was finishing that monumental task, I found myself on my way to Afghanistan for an unexpected rescue mission, which triggered a whole new part of my life. Over the past year I have spent almost three months in the Middle East or the near East working on the problems of Afghan refugees. I’ve spent a month in Europe, either in Ukraine or Poland or elsewhere working on the challenges of that conflict. I’ve spent God-Knows-How-Much-Time in DC and throughout the U.S. trying to address these problems with the real shakers and movers. And I’ve traveled the world and the U.S. for my business.
My wife and I were finally supposed to go on vacation, but our vacation coincided with the one-year anniversary of the Fall of Kabul, so we postponed it, as there was simply too much work to do.
We released our documentary Send Me in Los Angeles. I flew from there to a charity event for Warrior Rising in San Antonio. I flew from there to Poland to address the logistical and informational challenges of Ukraine. I flew from there, home, where I spent one day with my family before flying to Montana to officiate my friend’s wedding. While there I was bitten by something on my leg. I flew home and the next day drove to West Virginia to go on the Tim Pool podcast to ostensibly discuss Afghanistan. The bite grew during that drive and covered half my leg. I drove back and went to Urgent Care. Probably a Brown Recluse Bite. I spent the next three nights in the ER. I had two nights to go before I was supposed to go on my second attempt at a vacation, and was wondering if I would make it.
I really didn’t know if I could. Nevermind the swollen leg and two antibiotics I was taking, a year later I still get dozens of messages from Afghans every day: some begging for help that I cannot provide, and others angrily telling me that I am terrible and have turned my back on them. I don’t blame them. They don’t understand that I don’t make the calls and that our government is the final arbiter of who gets to come to safety and who is left behind.
We have complex missions running in Ukraine that need support. My company is busier than it ever has been. Kids have games and school. “Maybe I should just stay?” crossed my mind more than once.
But my friends, partners, and employees didn’t just tell me to go. They demanded it. And my wife Suzy more than deserved the time off. Our lives are a mirror. She works as hard, if not harder, than I do.
So I went.
Suzy and I spent two weeks in Morocco with burner phones so we didn’t get sucked into social media and slack and basecamp and signal and whatsapp and everything else we do on a daily basis.
We didn’t worry about politics or business or life challenges. We just enjoyed a delightful culture in a place we’d never been. After a few days, I didn’t think about work at Diesel Jack Media or Save Our Allies. I just had fun. I listened to the latest Jack Carr audiobook on our long drives. I ate great food. I met tons of people. I rested. I slept. And not a few hours every night after working on a laptop with Netflix in the background, but real sleep. I woke up when my body wanted to.
It was amazing.
And when I finally was on my way home, I was ready to be home. I was rejuvenated. I wasn’t dreading the emails, whatsapp messages, or work. I was motivated to handle them. I had replenished myself. I had spent much needed non-work time with my wife. I had reminded myself that there’s more to life than simply doing, and that some of the years I have left should be spent in rest.
The frayed edges were mended. The scabs had healed. The mind was clear. I’m better than I have been in a long time.
It didn’t feel okay to be leaving on my way to Morocco. I truly felt like I was abandoning people who counted on me. But I needed it. And I had no idea that I did.
Sometimes you have to be selfish, in order to be selfless.
Take care of yourselves.