Archives For Blog

This post appeared originally on the New York Observer in January 2014. Two years later I have three goats and live on a farm. A proposition that appeared “nightmarish” at the time.

I own a goat. Her name is Bucket.

Less than a year ago, I had an apartment in Manhattan, convinced I was ready to live the dream. I was a published author. I had high profile PR and marketing clients. I wasn’t sure exactly which dream I was living but I was pretty sure New York City was the place you came to celebrate it.

Twice today–once while on a conference call and then again while writing this article–I heard scratching at the door. It’s usually the dog asking to go outside. But this was my goat, and she wanted to come inside.

“No, Bucket,” I told her. “We can’t let livestock in the house.”

She scampered off to eat some leaves.

But soon enough she’d be back, like a good-natured amnesiac, to make the same request.

This is life in Austin, Texas. I have a pet goat.

Bucket is a three month old Nigerian Dwarf goat from a small farm in Seguin, Texas. She has blue eyes, a pink collar, and comes when you call her. She also enjoys being picked up and giving kisses. Currently she weighs about 20 lbs. and won’t get much bigger than a medium-sized dog. The only major change we’re expecting are her horns, which already grow a little every day.

When we first started talking about buying a goat, the veneer of utility still existed. Goats are Mother Nature’s little lawnmowers, after all, and I hate cutting the grass. Then we learned that goats do not eat grass. This fact came as a relatively late surprise in the decision making process, and eliminated the half-hearted justification my girlfriend and I had for our $350 impulse buy. She does eat weeds, clover, leaves and other such undesirables, but that doesn’t really matter anymore.

And that is because I find great peace and pleasure in sitting in my office/library and watching her out the window. She doesn’t know I can see her, but I can. I watch her bother the chickens (which have slightly more practical benefits for our fridge). On occasion I will catch her laying down in their coop for some reason. I watch her prance, and every so often, stop and make goat noises to no one in particular.

When I am on the phone, I will walk around the ground floor of the house and track her as she makes her migration around the yard. It’s a game that makes boring calls bearable, though it has required me to stifle a laugh a few times.

Only recently did my girlfriend–who I’ve been with for several years–finally come forward with her dream of living on a farm. Of course, she did this after I bought a house that is not anything like a farm, so we’re doing the best we can.

Is this my first step on the path carved by Susan Orlean? I hope not–though secretly I also hope so. The landscape she painted in her short book, Animalish, of a menagerie of unusual-but-not-exotic animals seems like a writer’s haven and just generally an interesting place to live.

Having animals is soothing (especially if your pretty farm girlfriend takes care of the details). I just get to look at them and pretend they are my friends. I get to project personalities onto them and have ridiculous conversations purely for my amusement.

My favorite is to pretend that my miniature dachshund is horribly betrayed by these new additions to the households and is constantly trying to inform on their behavior to get them in trouble. Or after hearing her dart up the stairs, that she’s breathlessly alerting me to the news that someone has let a goat into the yard.

In reality, she just wants to play. Unfortunately, Bucket does not understand fetch and feigns a headbutt if the dog gets too excited. Dachshunds are great at flushing out badgers; they are not great at taking a horned skull to the face.

When I am out of town my girlfriend sends me photos of their antics–including one recently that had both the goat and the dog wrapped up inside the coat she was wearing. There was also the infamous shot of the goat wearing an American Apparel dog hoodie.

But I also found out somewhat accidentally that my girlfriend and I have slightly different relationships and boundaries with the animal. Back in New York for meetings this week, I got a motion alert from my Dropcam, which monitors my living room and inside doorway. Usually the update is wind related, so I certainly wasn’t expecting to see the goat, the dog and Samantha all playing on the floor together. I guess that explains why Bucket always seems to expect me to open the door and let her in.

Sitting between meetings, watching this interspecies cuddlefest 1500 miles away, I realized the life I had envisioned for myself here in New York allowed for none of this. It was expensive, and it was restrictive. No question it afforded certain business opportunities, but they are purchased at a high cost. Not just in rent and cost of living, but in options–especially ridiculous options.

I’m not saying to run away and live small town life. That sounds equally nightmarish to me–that wasn’t my intention with Austin anyway. Work hard, take it seriously, embrace your ambition. And when you’re not doing that, do something–whatever it happens to be–that taps into the part of you that makes you forget about all the rest of it.

Buy a goat.



I thought I would do a roundup of everything I’ve written and published (other than here) since my last one in July. If you missed any of these, definitely follow me on Twitter, where I post each article when it goes live. Hope you enjoy these articles and feel free to share them.

More to come in 2016!

THOUGHT CATALOG

‘Go Straight To The Seat Of Intelligence–Your Own, The World’s, Your Neighbors’

Human Being, Not Human Doing

A Controversial ‘Spiritual’ Exercise That Guarantees You’ll Have A Good Day

Why Do You Write So Much?

Stop Working For Free! Time Is Running Out

32 Little Rules I Follow To Live A Life That Feels Good Every Day

From Someone Who Travels A Lot: 42 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Stress And Being Rude While Flying

What Are You Working Towards? Because You Better Know.

How To Buy A House Before You’re 30

Share This If You Don’t Drink And Are Sick Of People Asking Why

Holding On To Toxic Friends Isn’t Harmless: Why It’s Time For A Friend Purge

42 Books That Will Make You A Better Person, Described In One Sentence

21 Stoic Life Hacks For #Stoicweek

The Real Reason We Need to Stop Trying to Protect Everyone’s Feelings

Epiphanies Don’t Exist, Here’s How You Can Actually Change Your Life In A Moment

Here Is Everything I Learned From Reading In 2015

This Is All There Is (And It’s More Than Enough)

Why You Should Be Talking About Work All Holiday Season

No, Don’t Do It Later. Do It Now — The Case Against Procrastination.

3 Books (Ok, More Than 3) You Absolutely Must Read This Year

 

NEW YORK OBSERVER

Julien Blanc, ‘Most Hated Man In The World,’ Shares His Surprising Side Of The Story

The Performance Bias: Life Is Not a Movie, Life Is Not a Novel

Meet the Woman Behind ‘the Most Hated Man in the World’

Texas Forever: How I Found the American Dream in the Lone Star State

The Real Reason We Need to Stop Trying to Protect Everyone’s Feelings

EXCLUSIVE: Author of New Zealand’s First Banned Book in 22 Years Speaks Out

Meet the Genius Whose Chrome Extension Bans All Kardashian Content From Your Computer

The Quiet Co-Founder of the Media Juggernaut No One Writes About

These Parents Lost a Son in the Aurora Shooting. They Want the Media to Change. Now.

What Everyone Gets Wrong About Stoicism Is Exactly Why You Need It

#StoicWeek: 10 Strategies for Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities

This Restaurant Made Fools of Hipsters Everywhere (Or Did They?)

The Best Book About Addiction You’ve Never Heard of Is Back in Print After 50 Years

People Keep Stealing This Photo of My Dog…And She’s Very Upset About It

Here’s the Strategy Elite Athletes Follow to Perform at the Highest Level

 



I wasn’t able to share this article when it first came out, because it promptly sent the book out of stock on Amazon, where it remained so for almost the entire month of December. But now I can and I hope you like it.

Sports Illustrated: How a book on stoicism became wildly popular at every level of the NFL

At the center of perhaps the most unlikely Venn Diagram ever drawn, an even more unlikely group of humans overlap. There’s a former governor/bodybuilder/actor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a hip hop star (LL Cool J), an Irish tennis pro (James McGee), an NFL lineman (Garrett Gilkey, Bucs), a renowned sideline reporter (Michele Tafoya, NBC), an Olympian (cross-country skier Chandra Crawford), a performance coach (Andy McKay, Mariners), a baseball manager (Joe Maddon, Cubs) and a college basketball coach (Shaka Smart, Texas). That’s just to start.

They’re connected by a book, The Obstacle Is the Way, by Ryan Holiday. It’s a book they’ve digested, drawn inspiration from and applied to their careers. It’s a book about stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy and its principles, and it has sold more than 100,000 copies, been translated into 17 languages and reverberated in one place not even Holiday expected it to—the wider world of sports. He describes that as a “happy accident.”

The article goes on to talk about how the teams found it, what they got out of it and, what’s most interesting to me, why Stoic philosophy seems to be finding an audience in professional sports. It interests me because it’s so very much not what I expected when I wrote the book. When I pitched Portfolio—a business imprint—a book about an obscure school of ancient philosophy, athletes and celebrities were not who I had in mind. I was thinking business folks, everyday people, lovers of history.

But this was pretty absent minded of me. Because not only did the stoics love borrowing metaphors from wrestling, the Olympics, gladiatorial combat, chariot racing, stoicism had an immediate impact on me as a runner. The idea of pushing the body, testing its limits, preparing for trying ordeals, the presentness inherent in experiencing flow state, the importance of routine and commitment—these are the things that get me up each morning or away from my desk each afternoon to run. At a certain level, most athletes (and really, this is true in all fields) are more or less equally talented. What separates success from failure is the ability to manage the mental component, the motivation factor and the will to endure. The stoics have wonderful wisdom on morality and principled living, but their writing is particularly amazing on those three things.

In any case, one of the best parts about writing a book is watching it leave your hands and reach those of people you respect or admire. You often think a book will have one effect, but it turns out to have a completely different one. Robert Greene certainly didn’t expect The 48 Laws of Power to become popular in hip hop, yet it did. I certainly didn’t expect to talk to any NFL coaches when I wrote the book, but it’s been an eye-opening and educational experience.

Ironically, it’s also been one that introduced me to a bunch of books that have now become my favorites. I read Education of a Coach by David Halberstam about Bill Belichick after hearing from the Patriots. One coach recommended I read The Winner Within by Pat Riley, another that I read The Way To Love by Anthony de Mello. There have been many others.

I’ll add one other thing that helped make this possible. I put my email in the back of it—and I put my email prominently on my site and encourage people to use it. Yes, that’s meant I get a lot of email and spend a lot of time replying—for free—answering questions, helping people with problems, giving recommendations, dealing with jerks, haters and boatloads of spam. But it’s also opened me up to the serendipity of the coaches who felt OK shooting me a note after they read the book. One conversation led to another, which led to introductions, which led to sending books out, which led to the article. That doesn’t happen if you build walls around yourself, that doesn’t happen if you don’t put the time in.

I should have expected that too. I’ve always been the type of person who ‘reaches out.’ When I read something I like or have my mind blown by someone, I don’t just let that thought flitter away. I try to do something with it. Some of the mentorships I’ve had were a result of this impulse, some of my favorite friendships and memories too. I should have figured that successful coaches, athletes, musicians, entrepreneurs would be the same way. They wouldn’t have gotten where they were without that habit. I just (thankfully) wasn’t presumptuous enough to figure it would happen to my book that would trigger it in them.

Thanks for letting me share and most of all, for supporting the book and my writing before anyone else. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you and enjoy the article.

Ryan

PS, if there is someone in sports or business that you think might like the book, please send them the link (or a copy). If you need help, let me know.