Five Wells for a Remarkable Life

SOLO 176 | Five Wells


Peter McGraw welcomes Clover Sharpe and Paul Shirley into the Solo Studio to discuss the intriguing concept of the “Five Wells” of Leadership, introduced by the scholar and former President of Morehouse College, Robert M. Franklin Jr. Dr. Franklin’s “Five Wells” illuminate the attributes of an ideal graduate, a polymath: Well-Read, Well-Spoken, Well-Dressed, Well-Traveled, and Well-Balanced. If you want to talk about this episode with other proud Solos, please sign up for the Solo community at: https://petermcgraw.org/solo/

Listen to Episode #176 here


Five Wells for a Remarkable Life

How long since the haircut? It looks pretty fresh.

Not long ago. She usually has a skirt and fluffy legs but we went on a hike. She got all matted up in some burrs so we had to shave her down.

For the people who are reading, we have Clover’s dog, Scout. We’re not talking about anything else. With that question, I borrowed Scout and we had an adventure. This is the first time we’ve had a dog in the studio. I know Paul doesn’t like it.

I’m okay with it. It’s an apartment-sized dog so it works. The problem I have is when people have farm-sized dogs in apartment-size situations.

That’s fair.

I’m here with Paul Shirley, friend and Founder of The Process. The Process works with creatives and professionals seeking structure, accountability and community. I’m a member of The Process. This is Paul’s third appearance on the show. We’re joined by Clover Sharpe, a friend, a proud solo, a marketer, trainer and owner or guardian, depending on your beliefs, of Scout, the mini Schnauzer that I borrow on occasion. Welcome, Clover.

Thank you.

A goal of this show is to help proud solos lead a more remarkable life. I came across something that might serve as a bit of inspiration. This came from my friend Charlie Merrill, who came from one of his children who came from some teacher and so on. Dr. Robert M. Franklin Jr. is a scholar and the former President of Morehouse College. He introduced the concept of the Five Wells, characterizing attributes of a Morehouse man, the ideal graduate and a Renaissance man.

Morehouse College is located in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a historically Black men’s liberal arts college. It was founded in 1867. It has many distinguished alumni including Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Franklin has defined a renaissance man as one who is widely and broadly educated. He specifies these five qualities of what he calls the Five Wells, which make up the ideal Renaissance man.

The term Renaissance man originates from the European Renaissance, which is 14th to 17th century. It is this period of significant advancement and renewed interest in classical knowledge. The person who achieves this is a polymath. It is someone who is skilled in various fields from arts to sciences, embodying the period’s ideals of individual potential and broad knowledge. Think of Leonardo da Vinci. Gender is irrelevant here. A Renaissance person or polymath is appropriate. I chose Paul and Clover as my guests because, among the people I know, they meet these criteria.

I feel like I’ve always wanted to be called a polymath but if you call yourself a polymath, you’re a crap. I’m going to count this as a big win for my ego. Thank you.

Clover, have you imagined yourself as a polymath of sorts or were you waiting for someone to come along and tell you that?

This was a new term for me. However, I have been called a Renaissance woman at times so I’m familiar with that term. It’s a proud compliment.

Clover’s also an artist. She’s an incredible cook. She’s a great host. She’s a business person. She manages to keep Scout alive. She’s also highly responsible.

That’s the hardest job of all.

What I want to do is present each of these Wells. We’re going to provide some commentary and advice about each. I asked my audience. Paul’s notebook is out in the kitchen. We’re in the soul studio. I said, “Do you want your notebook?” He goes, “Why would I want my notebook?” I said, “You have notes in it.” He goes, “No.” I then asked Clover, “Do you have notes?” She goes, “I do.”

I’m always prepared. I’m a public speaker from time to time.

She printed my email. That’s what she did. Let’s go. Number one is well-read. This is a commitment to lifelong learning and intellectual growth. Franklin said, “Finance next to philosophy. Poetry alongside physics. I urge you to read but read widely.”

Reading is a little different. Besides the hard book, we’ve got blogs, articles and news bits and pieces. Maybe sitting down with a book doesn’t happen as often for me from front to finish but I absorb information daily. It’s a process. I read things on politics, weather, arts and music. I’m very involved in knowing what the latest cultural activity and event is and where I can participate with my friends and invite them along. Digesting what’s out on the inner web every day is happening constantly.

Peter had a book come out. At this point, writing books is mostly something I do for myself. It’s not that people read fewer books. That’s technically not true. There are more books in the world. It’s easier to get ahold of them. We keep adding to the compendium. It’s not like there was a shortage of books 50 years ago and there are 50 years’ worth of books around. I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of writing books because people have been so kind about this book. That doesn’t mean millions of people.

This is David.

This is my latest bit of fiction. I was thinking about what is it about books that inspire such adulation from people. It comes down to the fact that it’s hard to write books. People still know that it’s hard to write a book. They don’t know how hard it is to make a TV show because there’s so much video content online. The three of us could make what appears to be a half-hour TV show pretty easily. That’s different from making an actual episode of TV in reality but it seems close whereas writing a book is so different.

I’ve been reading a lot more books for that specific reason. There is something about having to write an entire book that marks you as knowing what you’re talking about. It’s very different from consuming information online, which continues to get more perverted by the ways that different outlets are trying to get your attention for ad revenue or whatever the way of marketing it is.

Sometimes in sports, you will see a team run out to a quick lead maybe in the first quarter, let’s say. There’s a reason the game is as long as it is because that’s usually about how long it takes for the better team to win. Something about book length hearkens to that. If you’re going to be able to create an entire book and keep my attention, then I’m going to be in on what you say.

There is something about books that is the marker of people who care. I notice that when people get in over their heads in arguments, it’s often because they don’t read books anymore. They used to read books and that gave them a wealth of knowledge or wealth of information. They are used to having that six-shooter available and then when they get into the argument, they’re like, “I haven’t read anything in the last ten years.” You see this through with parents a lot where they’re like, “I used to be so well-read,” but they get in head over heels of like, “I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore.”

We have an enjoyable episode called How to Read A Lot where we talk about the specialness of books. I share this with Paul. I have the same bias because I write them. It’s easy if you write books. You’re like, “They’re so important.” There is something about long-form writing when done well. There’s a bunch of so-so books that are repetitive. They’re twice as long as they need to be. A book that’s the ideal length, the length that it ought to be, whether it be short, medium or long, there’s something special about that. This is a challenging start to this list because most people don’t read or read that often.

That’s what separates the wheat from the chaff.

It’s a feature, not a bug. That’s fair.

For me, I want to learn something so I don’t often read a lot of fiction but rather non-fiction. It’s historical, poetic or something that’s not happening but also the knowledge that I’m looking for. It’s not that I don’t read. I don’t get lost in a book such as fiction, fantasy or any of those kinds of things. It’s more about what I can leverage from the books so that I can want to absorb that and also have a better conversation with friends.

Well-Read: Reading to Enjoy, Not to Impress

I don’t want to move the goalpost. To be well-read is to read, not to read books per se. That happens to be the desire for Paul.

I don’t respect people’s arguments if they don’t read books, honestly. If you are not reading books, then I don’t consider you well-read.

You could be reading essays.

We’re talking about aspirational. There are very few people that when I read about their towering achievements, those people didn’t read a ton of books. In fact, there aren’t any. It is universal that the people who you look back in history and you admire read a lot and write a lot of correspondence. That’s how it is.

You and Franklin are arm-in-arm.



Benjamin Franklin’s a great example of that. The Mark Twains, the Alexander Hamiltons or whoever all read a ton. They also read stuff that was maybe hard to read occasionally.

They also didn’t have YouTube, Twitter and all these other things that get in the way. I get it.

They had gout that would get in the way though.

That’s true. They were also building nations.

They also only lived to 45.

It says finance next to philosophy. Poetry alongside physics. That’s even higher or a farther goalpost or whatever metaphor you want to use. I have a book about quantum physics that has been sitting on my coffee table for months. I can get through a book. I’m a good reader. I can read academic prose. I may not enjoy it but I can cut through it but that is going to be a heavy lift. That’s not like, “I’m going to read this in an afternoon.” I’m going to have to slow down.

I was listening to a podcast about this book, The Beginning of Infinity. It’s one of these books that’s supposed to be a unified theory of humanity. It is involving quantum physics, evolution, computing theory and something else. What was great about the speaker on it, this guy Naval Ravikant, is he’s like, “I don’t understand it. I keep going back to it and trying every time I understand a little bit more.” There was something about that kind of dedication to reading challenging work like finance, poetry, philosophy and quantum physics. Often, it is reading some of the originals like Darwin’s original writing. You are not doing it just to show off at cocktail parties, which some people do.

I would though push on that because he says physics and poetry. Those are examples. There is an almost infinite number of things you could be interested in. It would be more interesting to me if you found subjects that you are interested in and went a long way in those because they interest you. You’re going to have some holes inevitably.

I’m not going to ever read about chess, for example. I don’t care about chess. If I were interested in chess and the history of the French language, that would be two pretty good pillars to start with. I’m not going to read about either of those things but it doesn’t have to be a prescribed set of things. If you’re not reading that physics book, throw it away. Move on to, “What if I read about the history of chemistry or astronomy,” or something that got you going.

I am curious about quantum physics.

You’re not curious enough to read that book.

It’s a fair critique.

You want to give people the aspiration to be well-read but also give them tools and not feel like, “You got to go read The Origin of Species.” Somebody’s like, “No.” Why not read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything? It is an amazing book for explaining how the world works and all of that. It is accessible also. People get lost in thinking, “I have to read about those things that might sound complicated.”

It is to show off at cocktail parties. This guy Naval talks about reading what you like until you like to read as a way to get this flywheel effect going where you start to learn and like it. It becomes a habit. You get good at reading. It’s a skill. You can then start to read more challenging things that are there. Life is short. You should be reading the things that matter to you.

I had somebody give me a tip for reading large swaths of nonfiction. Usually, if you get to a point where it gets dull, you can read the first and last sentence of the paragraph and bridge your way to the part that is interesting again. It is pretty effective because a lot of times, you’re like, “They going to add in some details here for the devotees.”

I don’t care that much. This is going to sound very cocktail party or party-ish but I’m reading the History of Prussia. This is the thing where you see the word Prussia thrown around all the time in history. I’m like, “What is Prussia?” Truly, I didn’t know. It’s a pretty large place. I’m interested in this because I’m interested in the Prussian model of schooling, which is what we have adopted in the US. It is very militaristic like, “You do what I tell you to do.” I’m interested that this empire lasted for 350 years and I know nothing about it. That is the beauty of both reading and history. You could find out these things that you had no idea about.

Clover, do you have a piece of advice for someone who’s inspired by this first Well?

Reading was challenging for me growing up. I was very dyslexic. It then became a chore and very arduous. When it came to school, the things that you’re forced to read you know little were interesting to me growing up. You read it because there’s supposed to be homework and a topic. You are studious so therefore, you do it but I don’t know if I was taught to learn and absorb from a fun, personal experience.

Later in life, I grew up knowing that my grandmother was a survivor of the Holocaust. I immediately became thirsty for all things World War II. Quickly, I learned how easy reading became when it became a topic of something you were interested in. When it felt personal, I could have a conversation with her because I knew more things or knew something that was happening at the time she was in the concentration camp. I could speak to her.

My best advice is to start with the topics that you’re interested in. Every day something comes up, whether it is a word or a topic and I go, “I don’t know what that is.” Therefore, I go and do the research. It is so easy to Google. You go down this deep hole of, “I’m thirsty for it.” I’m observant of words throughout my day. I quickly will look for what that is so that I can know it instead of stumbling and going, “What does that mean?” I don’t like being left with that question.

I’ll add a quick one before we move to the next Well. That is one feature of what Paul was talking about, this explosion in books. You have many more to choose from for any one particular topic. Let’s say you are interested in Prussia. For me, it would be the Ottoman Empire. I find that fascinating. This huge swath of history is not taught in American high schools. If you wanted to learn more about that, then maybe pick up a few books or pick up one and see how it feels. If that doesn’t feel right, then replace it.

Well-Spoken: Expressing Oneself Clearly, Confidently, and Respectfully

There are lots of different voices often talking about these things. This is a consumption activity. You should be mostly enjoying yourself. Let’s go to the next one. No pressure here. This is well-spoken. This expresses oneself clearly, confidently and respectfully in both public and private conversations. You are able to communicate effectively and persuasively.

What would you like to know?

How does one become well-spoken?

I want commentary, advice and reactions.

I am fascinated by people’s behaviors, mannerisms, how they speak their tonality and their intentionality with the topic that they’re speaking about. In my career, it’s grown into a learning and development role. Therefore, I have to be able to absorb information in a company setting and get that information out to others so that they can learn in a way without it being fluffy or overly complicated. It is keeping it simple, brief and concise. The art of speaking is what’s the purpose of it? It’s so others can learn from you and quickly get the information they need without me fluffing everything up to sound more important for myself rather than the audience I’m speaking to.

You gave a talk. Do you have any insights from having done that?

What’s interesting is it is one thing to speak to an audience I’m familiar with. My organization and the individuals that work for that company are very different from speaking to the public. I was at a conference for the multifamily industry. It was our biggest education conference in the mountain region. Originally, I was asked to speak at a marketing round table. I said, “Let me do this.” Round tables are the best. You only have to know so much and deliver on some quick topics. I brought my marketing manager with me to join so that we could add more context to our marketing topics.

Before I knew it, the apartment association was splashing all the speakers that would be at this conference and was like, “Clover will be speaking about TikTok in the marketplace.” I went, “I know nothing about TikTok. I’m not on TikTok. How the hell do I talk about this?” Quickly, I went, “I have a reason why I don’t talk about TikTok or why I don’t embrace this technology, certainly in the business format social media space. Let me spin it. It’s already put out there in the universe and I’m speaking about this topic. Let’s see what I can do with it.”

My marketing manager and I sat together and put together a 30-minute talk about, “Let’s get back to the basics on whether you even have a social media strategy. Let’s think through those things. TikTok is one tool among Facebook and Instagram. How do you use that in business? What are you evaluating when you use this tool?” It went well but I have to speak to an audience that’s not my company and get them thinking about it in their business space. That’s a little bit about what I was speaking about.

You use TikTok as a lure to then talk about what’s important.

When I was a kid, I was in 4-H. Do you guys know what 4-H is?

Yes. I’m from the South so 4-H was big with equestrians and so on.

It’s a county fair, that sort of thing.

What is 4-H for the person who doesn’t know?

It is the organization that terminates in the county fair. All the kids that have the projects where they’re going to put their tomatoes and cows out, those are the groups that then facilitate that. It’s like Girl or Boy Scouts but much more ag-based. When I was eleven, I was nominated by my tiny club to participate in the prince category. Every year, at the fair, they would have a king and a queen and a prince and a princess. The criteria were mostly around this speech you gave in front of some panel. It wasn’t in front of a crowd. It was more than three people sitting there.

I remember working at what I thought a speech should look like and bombing it pretty aggressively. Throughout my life, I was struggling with this idea of how to give talks until I eventually realized that it wasn’t anything like I thought it was supposed to be. What our brain says when we hear well-spoken is an orator, like Abraham Lincoln. In reality, being well-spoken is so much more about being present and vulnerable. It is listening to what your audience needs to hear, not wants to hear.

When it comes to being well-spoken, he mentions that privately and publicly, being well-spoken is also being able to listen and pay attention to like, “Clover’s struggling right now. She wants to celebrate right now. This is what she needs from me.” It’s not about, “I have to get across this certain point to her.” Unlocking that for me has been powerful in my speaking. Realizing nobody cares if I stumble or stammer in the way that I speak if I’m with them. If I’m paying attention to how they’re feeling, what they’re laughing at and what’s getting them off, then it’s going to come off as well-spoken almost by default.

I like where you went with listening. That’s an art form. Few people know how to listen. We’re ready for someone to finish speaking so that you can get your comment, thought and point across rather than taking a pause, listening, asking questions and getting curious so that you’re more relative in what you’re speaking about.

That is a skill that has become all the more valuable because people are so narcissistic. They’re constantly creating content. I will get into conversations often where I will play a little game of like, “How long can I go of asking this person questions before they realize that they’ve been talking?” You can go a long time because people have gotten so one-dimensional. They are so used to output on social media like, “Everybody’s listening to me. Therefore, I can spew constantly.”

In some ways, people go to leaders or people they look up to and they want to ask questions. From a leader’s perspective, often they’re like, “I’m here to give you answers.” I teach leaders how to ask more effective questions before they speak with a solution right away so that they’re getting the person in front of them, maybe their associate, employee or the new hire they have, to answer a lot of the questions themselves because they asked better questions.

When Peter introduced you, he said trainer. Is that what you train?

Yeah. I’m a corporate trainer in the corporate space.

She is a polymath. There’s a lot going on.

I’m teaching classes and writing classes and content on leadership for DEIB to lead. When I say lead, it means in construction and development in multifamily to TikTok. It’s very vast. I have to be able to absorb a lot of content quickly so that I can then get that to the right individuals in an organization so they can be better and more effective leaders themselves.

Well-spoken also fits. You mentioned coaching people around writing. One of the things having worked with a fair number of writers and having lost patience with that world to some degree is a lot of writers don’t want to do the hard work of figuring out what works about how they write, which is also listening to the audience.

It is not necessarily like, “Do you like this thing I wrote,” but paying attention to like, “When I send stuff out, do people respond to certain parts of it or not to certain parts of it or ways that I put myself or express myself?” It is similar to speaking but it’s a longer process. It’s a little more subtle. You have to pay more attention to like, “What is it about this that’s getting these people going?” What’s getting them saying, “Could you send me more of that? Please don’t send me more of that.”

I like what both of you are saying. This notion of listening is important in part because it often reveals what your audience knows and doesn’t know and what they value and don’t value. One of the challenges with speaking or writing, for that matter, is the curse of knowledge. You know what you know and what you want to say. What you don’t often know is what they don’t know. The opportunity to listen allows you then to meet your audience where they are in terms of their knowledge, interest and so on. That’s my first reaction to it.

The other one is something that I’m finally picking up, whether it be as a professor, as someone who gives talks or even as a host. Most of the time, your audience wants to be entertained first and wants to learn second. Most speakers want to teach first and entertain second. That mismatch causes problems. Once I recognized that most people don’t remember most of what I say, that takes a lot of the pressure of making sure the content is perfect and there is lots of it for them.

One thing that they do remember is how they felt. How they felt keeps them coming back for more. I’ve always felt that the most important thing I could do as a professor was to create enthusiasm for the topic so that students leave the class liking this idea or topic. It’s going to lead them to continue, be open to it, seek it out more and so on. Speaking entertainingly is difficult. Often, you’re relying on comedy, vulnerability, any number of other stories and so on versus doing what tends to come naturally, which is a lecture, in a sense.

The last thing I’ll say is the cheat code of often being well-spoken is having written about what you’re talking about. Writing requires a level of precision and clarity. That is a cheat code for being able to speak eloquently about a topic. I’ll even find myself saying the exact sentence that I’ve written and that sentence is better than I can make up on the fly improvisationally.

You’re right on the money about that. I write a lot of content in my work and make copious amounts of leader notes, which is what I would call it. I create a PowerPoint. My audience is looking at this PowerPoint. The notes on that are paragraphs long but maybe what I’m speaking about is no more than 1 minute to 2 minutes. It’s about putting the words out there and the content and knowledge that I have about the topic that I’m speaking about in great detail so that I can pull anyone of the thoughts that I have there without regurgitating or memorizing a script for the whole thing. It becomes an organic experience because of the knowledge that I have. I am putting it down and it comes out versus thinking I need to speak about everything that I wrote my notes on.

I’ll then give it to another trainer. They’ll say, “Somebody’s looking for a topic to talk about.” I’ll say, “Here’s a piece I did on this X, Y and Z topic.” They look at my leader notes and they get flooded and overwhelmed. They go, “I don’t even know how to begin talking about this.” It’s only because I wrote it that it comes out better. They almost have to do that themselves than simply read what I wrote.

Do you have any last thoughts before we get to the next Well?

My last thought is that there’s so much value in practicing storytelling in bars. If you can’t hold someone’s attention while they’re drinking and lots of things are happening, you’re probably not going to be able to hold an audience’s attention. You can tap into that gear when you’re in front of an audience like, “I’m losing them. What would I say in a bar? How would I surprise them? How would I grab their attention back?” That then also translates to writing sometimes. Oftentimes, when I’m writing a book, I’ll be like, “How do you write books?” I’ll get lost in it. I’m like, “How does this work?” If I can remind myself like, “Tell the story like you’re telling it to six people at a bar. You have to hold their attention,” often that helps.

That’s helpful because I’m stuck on a conclusion to a chapter. I should pretend I’m telling my friends about it.

There’s that old saw that if you get to the end of a story and you realize there’s no punchline, you should say, “I found $5,” as a joke. You can do that playfulness with writing like, “I don’t know how to segue into this next part so I’m going to say, “I don’t know how to segue into this next part. Here we go.” That kind of thing works wonders because you’re honest about the situation you’re in.

I like where you’re going with that. With the authenticity you have, you’re more relatable as a speaker to the audience. If you’re stiff and giving a lecture and they can’t understand who you are or relate to you in some way, it’s less effective.

Well-dressed: Taking Pride in Personal Appearance

The third Well is especially apt for the two of you. It is well-dressed. This takes pride in personal appearance and presents oneself professionally, respecting the dress code of different environments. Franklin said, “Remember that long before people hear the quality of your intellect and your conversation, they will see you approaching from a distance. There is a time and place for every cultural costume so be appropriate.”

I’m quite passionate about this topic. It’s not because I’m a woman and the presumption is we’re into fashion. It’s not at all that. It is a way that I can communicate as well and be respected or taken seriously. You walk into a room with some authority if you will. I’m a petite stature. I was a very young manager in a leadership role. One way that I could communicate better to come off with some assort of ability to be seen that I knew what I was talking about was presenting myself well, being thoughtful in how I did that and being tailored not in a stuffy way but in a way that came off respectful.

There’s the saying, “You have seven seconds to make an impression.” One way to do that is not only your stature, presence or tone of voice. It’s in the way that you present yourself. That’s one way to communicate too. I’m very passionate about also teaching others to do similarly so that they can make a lasting impression.

What advice would you give someone who reads this Well and the light bulb goes off?

It matters. Everybody’s talking about the casual dress code in the workforce and people recruiting new employees. The dress code is very important in the workplace. They’re going, “I want to wear a holey T-shirt. Why does it matter what I look like?” Are the days of the suits gone in the workplace? It used to say it doesn’t matter what you’re interviewing. If you were interviewing at McDonald’s, you still walk into your interview with a suit. It talks about the person I’m going to meet or the people I will meet. I’m respectful of them and their time too. It does matter if you put a little effort in. It goes a long way that you care about whatever audience you’re going to.

I think about when I first moved to Denver back in 2009. I come from the South. We were going to the Symphony. It was a special occasion. You get excited about that. I’m thinking, “This is great. There will be dinner before and the Symphony after. What am I going to wear? This is an exciting time.” I walk in and I’m in Denver. People are in their blue jeans, Tevas and North Face jackets. I’m in a sparkling dress with a nice coat on and some heels. It felt a little disrespectful walking to a venue such as that that is a special thing and that other people walked in with jeans and a T-shirt.

I have a joke, which is when a middle-aged man wears flip-flops, he’s putting his comfort ahead of the comfort of others. No one wants to see your feet in public, gentlemen.

I have to admit that I’m fairly new to this largely because of my sports past. I played professional basketball for ten years. That was preceded by five years of college basketball. I grew up in a world where we were, oftentimes, on our way to games and we were wearing basketball-related or adjacent sweats and that kind of thing.

You’re wearing a uniform.

You’re wearing a uniform on the court. You’re also tired always. You’re like, “Can I get the least number of ounces or calories of effort to put on whatever I can to get to class and then to practice?” It was only post-basketball that I started to realize that I needed to take care of myself. That honestly came mostly through girlfriends who were like, “You got to be a grown-up now. You can’t wear T-shirts and sweats around all the time.” I’m grateful to them because of the things that you’re saying.

For a long time, I thought, “This is stupid. People should be able to figure out who you are based on who you are, not on what you’re wearing,” but that’s not how it is. I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of the second-best option. A lot of our lives run around the second-best option. The first best option would be, “I would never judge you based on your appearance because that’s how whole of a human I am.” We don’t live in that world. We live in a world where I’m going to judge what you’re wearing. Therefore, address that on its face and accept that that’s true. It’s going to elevate my opinion of you because you’re wearing what you’re wearing. I noticed that when I walked in. I was like, “This person has her shit together.”

That is one of those things that is almost Jedi-like because people are so dressed down all the time. If you can put forth a modicum of effort, it elevates you much further than it would have many years ago. I notice this when I fly a lot. If you tuck in your shirt and wear a decent pair of shoes, they’re like, “Would you like a free drink, sir?” It’s amazing. If you want to be slightly less benevolent about this, you can manipulate the hell out of situations by dressing decently.

It’s an emotional thing for me. I feel more empowered at that moment when I put in a little effort. When I think about speaking at this conference, I go, “What am I going to wear?” It’s about the perception the audience has about me but it’s also about how I’m feeling at that moment. Am I feeling sharp? Am I feeling on point? If I’m feeling those ways, I feel like I’m delivering a better experience for everyone else.

I want to second something you said, Paul. What both of you’re saying is it should not matter what you wear. It should not say anything about whether you’re a good person, competent, interesting or whatever it is. It should not matter but it does. To ignore the fact that it does is irrational. You’re hurting yourself based on a fight that you cannot win.

Some of this has to do with resources. It’s much easier to be better dressed when you’re wealthy than when you’re not but that doesn’t fully limit you. There are a lot of things that you can do on a budget to look good. We can talk about a few of those things. They matter. I believe that dressing well not only makes your world better because people treat you better and because you have that confidence that you’re talking about, Clover but also, you make the world a better place, a more interesting and aesthetically pleasing place.

I think of fashion as art for your body. It’s a win-win if you can master it. The problem is no one ever teaches you how to do this unless you’re lucky enough to have a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a parent, a friend or someone there who takes you under your wing. It’s not easy. The thing about dressing well is Paul dresses very well. If I dressed exactly like Paul, it might not exactly work for me. It probably would because we dress very similarly.

I was saying you have similar styles.

In general, you could take someone else. I wouldn’t be comfortable in that clothing even though it looks wonderful on this other person. I’m very late to this also. I’m a late bloomer when it comes to dressing well. It’s been an evolution over decades. That’s there. I feel like I have a good style and can pick the spots in terms of going up or down. I wear hats, which has been my cheat code. I’ll offer more practical pieces of advice for people.

For anybody who wants to dive more deeply into this, in the early days of launching this show, I did an episode with a stylist called Clothing the Solo, in which I talk about these topics. She gives very practical advice and so on. Number one, wear clothes that fit. The average person looks shlubby or inappropriate because their clothes are either too baggy or too tight. Usually, it’s too baggy. Buying clothes that fit your body and spending a little extra money to get them tailored goes a long way, whether you’re petite or freakishly tall, especially. That’s the first one.

The second one is to wear colors that work for you. Franklin talks about having the appropriate level. There’s a band within a professional setting and a personal setting. I like to sometimes press that. Sometimes, when I have guy friends going out for a night on the town, I’m like, “Wear a suit.” We all go out in suits. It changes the dynamic of the evening because you’re in this other place.

When I give talks, I will dress down a tiny bit but do so in a way that still stands out. I wear a monochrome navy blue outfit with a different color Stetson hat. That looks sharp but I’m not another speaker on the stage in a suit. One thing about all of these situations is I’ve learned the colors that work for me. I used to try pinks, purples, reds and so on but I look bad in those colors because of my coloring.

I could see you in pale pink.

It can work but it’s not ideal for me. For me, it’s blue-gray and then probably the third is maybe black. For the most part, I lean into those colors because those work. What happens is I feel good in those colors. My skin looks better. My eyes pop a little bit more. My gray hair works with it and so on. Figuring out or having someone help you figure out your colors and give you real feedback on the fit of your clothing is 101 good starting points.

That’s my advice to everyone. Find yourself a tailor right away. It doesn’t cost that much if you think about it. I used to have my sleeves cuffed or my pants hemmed. It was $20. If you have a dress that has a sticky zipper, it costs $10 to get that replaced. It’s these little things. You can buy quite affordable clothes but make them very elevated because they’re fit for your body.

Not only am I 6’9” but I have these huge broad shoulders and a skinny waist. I’m saying it is not possible for me to buy an article of clothing and have it fit. It will never happen. It’s always a month-long process because I’m not going to walk into a store and buy anything that even remotely fits. I have to order it online. I have to wait for it to arrive and then I take it to a tailor. They may get it right the first time but sometimes not. Sometimes, they don’t believe me. They’ll pin it and get it back there. They’re like, “It can’t be that much of a switch. No human could ever be shaped like that.” I’ll then have to take it back to them sometimes.

It is an investment in time, which is sometimes frustrating. I had a great one in LA. My guy here is okay but I’m still not sold on him. This old Turkish guy in LA is so great. He loved that I had played sports. We could talk about that. He got it very quickly. I am sympathetic when people have odd body shapes. It’s a progression and something you have to be thinking about all the time. If I see something that fits or I find it somewhere, I have to buy three of them. That’s what I’m going to wear for the next two years.

The thing about being well-dressed is you can buy your way in. You can hire a stylist and do all this stuff. The flip side, if you don’t have the means, is to invest the time in it. That might be going to thrift stores and pouring through the offerings. You might come up with one like, “This t-shirt, these shoes or this skirt, whatever it is, is perfect.”

When I was starting on this and trying to be fashionable on a budget as a graduate student, I had my friend Janet. Janet is a great company. She’s got a great eye. She knows how to push me to buy this thing. She is often talking about what a good value is like, “You can wear this jacket for the rest of your life.” I hear that and I’m like, “I need it now.”

It would almost be like a social event. Instead of meeting for coffee, a drink or something, we would go hit the sales racks. Sometimes, we’d come up with nothing and sometimes, we’d come up with 1 or 2 things. That was fun because it was social and enjoyable. I needed someone to pull me along a little bit. That was an investment in time.

It’s something that occasionally makes me sad because I like dressing well but it’s such a burden to try to find clothes. It honestly bums me out. I’ll go to places and be like, “Ugh.” I’ll even see Instagram ads sometimes. I’ll be like, “That would look cool.” I click on it and I’m like, “They don’t have tall sizes. What are you doing Paul? Get out of here.”

We have similar issues. I’m 5’2” and petite but I’m also shaped a little differently. It became that artistic thing of expression. For me, time was part of the creative process too. It made it more enjoyable. During school or high school years, thrifting was my favorite thing to do. It was because I was able to cultivate all sorts of different styles.

I didn’t have an alterations person at the time, naturally so I learned how to sew. I have a sewing machine. All of a sudden, before you know it, I could rip this, tear this apart and build this. Thankfully, I have a southern grandmother who taught me a few skills, like whip a button in place and things like that. I still haven’t mastered the zipper. That went a long way too. It was part creativity and part passion. I felt better when I created my clothes.

One thing that I like about Clover is she wears a lot of dresses. It works very well for her figure. You can do a lot with dresses. They’re a crossover because you can use them socially, use them at work and so on. She also has these incredible glasses.

They’re a statement piece.

I call it fashion-forward. The average person can’t pull off the glasses that Clover wears but she pulls them off well. The lesson in that is to find your style. Find what works for you. If someone else tried to dress like Clover, it wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t fit. They wouldn’t have the confidence that she has. Almost any time I’ve taken a chance, I’ve been rewarded for it within reason. For example, I have this great blue suit. The color is perfect for me.

I was convinced instead of doing brown accessories, which was already a bit of a reach for me because I always want to do black. I grew up poor. I was like, “I have to have brown and black shoes. I have to have a brown and black belt. That doubles my costs.” I got convinced to do a gray belt, gray socks and gray shoes with it.

Well-traveled: Appreciating Diverse Cultures and Perspectives

When I go out, especially if I fly in that, I get so many compliments for that thing. At first, I was like, “Everybody’s staring at me. They’re staring at my gray. This is weird.” People are like, “I love that suit.” I’m like, “Now I’m hooked.” Number four is well-traveled. This appreciates diverse cultures and perspectives, has a global perspective and understands the interconnectedness of the world. There’s a proverb from Ghana. “Never declare that your mother’s stew is the best in the world if you’ve never left your village.”

I did not grow up with many means myself so this would’ve been quite a challenge growing up. I had a unique perspective because my mother’s side of the family is from Louisiana. I grew up half of my life in Louisiana and then the other half, we moved to Nashville later in life. My father is a New York immigrant from Ukraine, fresh off the boat. We were able to travel from Louisiana to New York and talk about worldly perspectives quickly. We talked about what differences there were from being in the Bayous of Louisiana with little resources to, all of a sudden, going to a city and seeing taxis, trains and how people walked, talked and moved.

It was also the food alone. From growing up in the South and having biscuits and gravy, casserole and fried chicken to all of a sudden, I was like, “What is Italian food? What is pasta? What is steak?” It was things that we didn’t have a lot of in the South. It was so fascinating to me. My stepfather, growing up, loved the National Geographic magazines and had a subscription. I was so thirsty, looking at those photos and images.

Seeing the pyramids of Giza, you’re like, “This other world.”

I was like, “How does this exist when you can only see what’s in front of you?” I always say that moving to Colorado, I still feel like I’m in a National Geographic magazine driving down 70 going through Summit County. I’ll never not appreciate that view every time I drive there. Traveling doesn’t have to be expensive in the sense of flying off to Europe and staying in a five-star resort. It is soaking it through a magazine and being willing to be curious and learn through those means too.

In someplace you’ve never been, you have to spend two weeks in one city. What would you pick?

I’m fascinated with and crave Thai food a lot. A lot of my friends growing up in Nashville believe that there’s a large immigrant base there that migrated there. I am fascinated with their culture, Buddhism, clothing, language and food. I desperately want to go to Thailand one day. You do need 2 or 3-plus weeks to get there so one of these days.

Peter, where would you go?

I’m living Groundhog Day. I’m going to have 130 or so straight days working on this book all in for the final draft. I did take off to Mexico City for a little break where I still worked on it. I loved it. I’m planning a proper vacation for July or August 2023. I’m going to do something when it’s blazing hot here. I haven’t booked a ticket yet but I’m going to buy a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, which I’ve talked about previously on the show. I’m pretty obsessed with it even though I’ve never been there. I’m going to take some Argentinian tango classes. I suspect the trip will easily be two weeks. What about you?

Buenos Aires is amazing. The food is tremendous.

I look forward to it. It’ll be cool weather. It’ll be a winter vibe down there.

I was going to say similar to you. I grew up without a ton of money. My parents did a good job of taking us on car trips to camp. That was our budget-friendly way to see the mountains. Forced is the wrong word but the nature of my career was that it took me all over the world. I mentioned the idea that I will get into discussions with people who I then realized don’t read books and I think, “I shouldn’t be brought into this discussion.”

It’s the same with travel. If somebody’s not well-traveled and they’re trying to have grand topic discussions with you, you’re like, “You don’t know things from Shinola. I should not be engaging with you. You haven’t seen the world. How would you have any perspective to speak to this if you’ve not been to some of these places?”

I lived in Russia for a little while playing basketball. That was life-changing. My then-girlfriend and I went to China for a week and saw Shanghai. Shanghai is not exactly rural China but it at least gave me a taste. I was getting to also then live in Spain, Greece and Russia for very long periods, not just a few weeks. In the case of Spain, it was two continuous years.

It taught me also the breadth of culture within cultures. I was seeing like, “The Catalans think this, the Basques think this and the Madrileños think it this way.” I lived on the island of Menorca where they had their dialect of Catalan. Catalan is a separate language from French or Spanish as different French is from Spanish. You start to see, “There’s a whole bunch more I don’t know. I might need to keep my mouth shut about some things because I don’t have that perspective yet.” Traveling then opens you up to how little you know, which is helpful.

One of the great things about it besides understanding the world and better understanding your culture by leaving it is the appreciation that you have oftentimes for the opportunities and the goodness of the world that you live in. You also though get a chance to realize that the frictions and the problems that are associated with them are critical.

I had a very provincial upbringing. My first plane flight was at age 22. It was a solo trip to myself for graduating college. I flew from New Jersey to Colorado. I did a nine-day hiking camping trip around the state and fell in love with the Rocky Mountains. I was fortunate enough to, many years later, move here. There are not many people who will push back on anything we’re saying about the value of travel. What they’ll raise is the challenges of travel. There’s the cost and then there’s the comfort associated with it.

I like what you were saying, Clover. It is this idea of starting slow. Maybe it is like, “I’m going to travel to another neighborhood in my city and see what this is like. I’m going to travel to a different part of the state. If I live in rural, I’m going to go to the city. If I live in the city, I’m going to go rural and see what it’s like.” You get to experience the discomfort of being outside what your day-to-day life is there. Maybe you try different states, for example and then on to different countries as you get better at traveling.

I remember being an eighteen-year-old at Rutgers University. My mates and I decided we were going to spring break in Fort Lauderdale, which was an ill fit for our group. We had a friend who had a guest room. His uncle had a guest room. They even had a car that we could borrow, which was extravagant. It had a hole in the exhaust system so we had to ride with the windows down all the time but it was a free car to use.

No one had ever taught me how to pack. My parents didn’t travel. I didn’t know how to pack for a one-week trip. I was way overpacked. It was shocking. I’m still embarrassed by the packing job that I did for that trip. One of the nice things about going solo is there are greater costs in terms of hotel rooms when you’re not sharing a room or something like that with a partner. There’s no getting around that unless you have a friend or someone else to go with you but you often have flexibility.

You don’t have to leave at 5:00 on Friday afternoon. You don’t have to wait for your partner to also have time off. You can go to places off-season. You can stay in youth hostels. You can sacrifice some of the comforts of luxury travel for the experience to save money. It is starting slow and learning how to do it. Throughout the course of life, you continue to challenge yourself to go to new places and have new experiences.

That’s all the more important. My experience has been there was a sweet spot of travel between about the year 2000 and 2015. When the internet existed, you could book stuff. The airplanes weren’t full yet. They hadn’t figured out how to squeeze 1,000 people into every plane. It felt a lot more fun then. I don’t think this is me being old. People have figured out how great traveling is. The people who sell travel have figured out that people have figured that out. They’ll pay to be treated like chattel.

I feel bad for people. I had this young adult experience as my career was still going on but as it was ending too where I was like, “This is amazing. I can pay $800 and fly to Paris. That’s crazy.” It would be a pleasurable experience because there was this openness to the flights and the experience, in general, that seems gone, which makes me sad.

I am childless so I can have more flexibility in a lot of ways. I don’t have to worry about going on vacation only when the kids are out of school. I can choose different times. I can be quite flexible. I can leave on a Wednesday instead of we have the weekends off and I need to take a Monday through Friday off for a regular vacation.

There’s something special about having the flexibility. It’s not always needing to have the means. It’s about being able to jump on a plane whenever you want or having the spontaneity to go at different times and not be stuck with the rest of society who has to say, “I have spring break off. Everybody’s going to the same place at spring break. I have fall break or Christmas break.”

Paul can be a little curmudgeonly but I agree with him on this point. It’s easier in some ways. You have this computer in your pocket. I’d be happy for T-Mobile to sponsor the show where I go to another country and my phone works. It’s shocking. It doesn’t work fast but it works. You land and you get a text message. It does remove some of the adventures of it all. There is also isolation, which is a feature of getting out of your home country, home state or home city to be on your own. There are some challenges because it’s so in fashion.

That speaks back to your point about going slow or finding things that maybe are under the radar. Driving is the way to go if you’re in the country because you can have these interesting, cool experiences on the way. You’re not treated like you’re in a Gulag at the airport. You can decide when you’re going to leave and when you move on to the next thing. There are so many hidden gems in the world. Everybody in Hays, Kansas knows what a bistro should look like and how food should be generally prepared. They used to be able to get away with crap because nobody had access to what it should look like.

You can have these amazing coffee, drink and food experiences in some pretty small places because the globalization that has allowed for packing a zillion people on an airplane has also allowed for these smaller places to figure it out better than they used to. What’s being undervalued is the out-of-the-way places. There are six Instagram-approved destinations and they are New York, LA, Tulum, Paris, Bali and probably a sixth that I can’t think of. Everybody’s going to those same places. Figure out where you could go that’s not those places.

I’ve been lucky to go to Australia a number of times and visit for work purposes. I also have a friend there. I’ve always wanted to do the South coastal drive from Melbourne to Perth by way of Adelaide. My buddy who lives there goes, “There’s a luxury train that you could take.” I perked up at that kind of thing and then I got thinking. I was like, “I don’t want to do that because when I get to Adelaide, I might love it. If I love it, then I might want to stay three days longer,” or something like that. I might find this little village along the way and decide, “I’m going to spend a couple of days here.” The Aussies are super friendly. You meet someone and hit it off. They’re like, “We’re going to do X. Would you like to do that?” It is something that happens when you travel to other countries.

I’m going to offer a far-out idea here. I’m going to take travel to a different level. That is this notion of traveling in your mind as an alternative to getting on a plane and going somewhere else. Especially for people who are well-traveled, there is a phenomenon that happens where you get good at it, especially if you have the resources. You could stay in a Hilton. You’re in your room. Besides the view out the window, it’s no different from home, in a sense.

What can happen is you can be a global citizen and be very comfortable in all these other places but those places cease to be challenging. Some of the value of being well-traveled, as Franklin talks about, is the growth that comes from it. Anybody who is reading knows how much I like my psilocybin. One way to travel in your mind is it doesn’t have to be via psychedelics. It can be through meditation, writing, reading or breathwork. There are a whole bunch of ways to alter your perspective about the world that is metaphorically traveling that can also be growth-inducing and can create an appreciation for other worlds and other states of being.

That’s a great idea. I have thought often that there’s nothing less attractive when I meet a person who has well-traveled if they haven’t grown or learned from something. An example would be going on dates with somebody who has gone to 50 countries as they’ll say, claim or brag about and yet order the chicken fingers, be very picky eaters or know little about any other cultural foods, wine or art. You go, “What was the point? What did you go to do? Was it that you have money and means so therefore you’re doing this?” Is it to brag about the very opportunity to say, “I’m well-traveled?”

There is something about how could you not grow by simply leaving your house, state or city. I do encourage people that maybe we can do that in our minds in the way that you can do that. For me, it’s meditation. I am a little lucky that I have views of the mountains out of my living room. One thing is this concept of meditation, thinking about quieting your mind. It’s foreign. I cannot make it happen as much as I want to. You pressure yourself and then you think you’re not a good meditator.

I said, “I’m a visual individual. I appreciate art. I want to absorb through my senses.” One thing is staring at the mountains every morning with my chai tea and my dog in my lap. It is having five minutes of my morning that’s dedicated to that. You let your mind wander. Before you know it, I’m looking at the peak and the snow is melted in certain areas. The cloud hits in a different way. The sun is out or not out. There’s a fog. It is where your mind goes. Letting it wander is important for growth.

I have a couple of memberships at museums. Mine is to pop into a museum for a 45-minute or 1-hour walk. That transports you to not just other places but other times in history and to other ideas. The last one is well-balanced. This maintains a healthy balance between personal, professional and social responsibilities. This cultivates physical, mental and spiritual health. This is a perfect segue from talking about meditation and so on.

I have decided in the last couple of years that I’m suspicious of extremisms or extremists. That speaks to that. We live in a time that tends to encourage extremism. Even if you agree with the person, they often have some form of zealotry baked into their attitude. There’s that value in what my parents used to talk about of understanding as we were talking about with well-spoken. It is understanding the context that you’re in. Is this the time to talk about politics? Maybe not. Have enough balance to be able to meet people where they are and say, “It’s cool that the Colorado Avalanche is a thing,” until you figure out where that person is and what you’re going to talk about.

In the past, I have fallen into this category of thinking that every situation was appropriate for a political discussion or a deep and depth full discussion. Sometimes, you need to be able to talk about the Rockies or whatever’s on the radio or dumb TV that you’re watching. That’s also a form of balance. It’s not that you need to have all of these more erudite or aristocratic tastes. Sometimes, you need to be able to talk about the weather.

Well-balanced: Slowing Down and Being Present

I find that I move through life very quickly. Therefore, years were not very intentional about my time. Being well-balanced came back to slowing down and being present. It is the mindfulness movement where you sit still and appreciate the sound, the touch, the sensation or the smell. To me, becoming more mindful has created a more balanced life for me.

I am being more intentional with my time and creating a routine in the morning and a routine at night. I used to think, “That’s so boring. Why would I do that?” I wasn’t prioritizing my sleep so then, that has direct effects. How busy can I be? How am I learning? Is that sticking? If not, it is because I’m tired or I haven’t slept well. There was something about taking my mornings back.

I don’t look at my phone in the morning. I don’t look at my email. That would start my morning in a very abrupt way because I’m looking at the things I need to fix when I get to the office. It is then like, “Sit still. Nobody else will prioritize it if I don’t.” My mornings are walking with Scout, no phone, sitting and making my chai tea, sitting and taking five minutes to look at the mountains and then taking the time to wash my face, put my outfit together and get prepared for the day. That has been life-altering for more balance in my life instead of feeling rushed through the day.

What you’re talking about makes me think about the balance that comes from having a foundation. When I think of balance sometimes, I go back to my sports days. Balance often comes down to an actual sense of where your center of gravity is and how anchored to the ground you are. I find, like you, that things like meditation, starting my day without my phone and starting my day by writing, reading, moving and eating right give me that foundation to then feel like I am steady and stable throughout the day. It is slightly different than balanced but leans to it. It is having that foundation that allows you to then start to stack the rest of your day and the rest of your life on top of it.

I had a real sense of FOMO. I don’t want to miss anything. I want to experience it all. There’s been some power taking back the, “Does this benefit me? Can I say no? Why do I feel guilty if I say no?” There’s a lot more to go. If I don’t prioritize myself, nobody else will so through the week, I make one day for myself. It doesn’t get replaced no matter what the event or activity. For the most part, I can be a little flexible but if I haven’t prioritized at least one day a week for myself, then I don’t feel balanced. That’s helped and saying no is much more rewarding.

There are some caveats to this one. The reminder is if you want to be a polymath or a Renaissance person, this is essential. There are times in life when being balanced is a mistake.

I’m in one of those times. I have to scrabble for balance and work hard to get anything other than work.

Paul’s building a business. There is uncertainty and challenge. To be too balanced would ensure certain failure. It would be irrational to be balanced given that goal that’s there. The other one is when you’re trying to survive. There are a lot of people out there who are in such challenging circumstances that they don’t have the luxury of that.

I do echo your thoughts, Clover, about there being a minimum threshold in terms of taking care of yourself. That’s not about balance. That’s about the foundation that you’re finding some time to move even if it’s to go for a walk. You can’t sit in a chair for twelve hours a day. That’s bad. You’re able to get enough quantity and quality of sleep. You’re getting enough nutrition in your body. You have enough socializing to have the support that you need and so on.

I think about someone who is obsessed with making the world better in some way. You’re going to let some things go because you’re like, “This thing is too important to me,” in that sense. I’m leaning more into this the older I get, the less I’m in survival mode and the less that I’m achievement-focused per se. I have a little thing that I talk about. I want to start the day well-rested, which has implications for my choices the night before. I check, “Am I well-rested?” If I’m not, then I may alter my day to take a little nap. Scout and I took a nap because I didn’t sleep well. It was incredibly cute.

She’s a snuggle bug.

I was like, “Here we go.” I want creative time. That’s ideally in the morning, first thing. I want to spend time usually working on ideas. At the moment, it’s writing. I want to move my body. At the very least, I want to walk. I usually walk to that creative time and back. I often want to challenge my body. I want to go to the gym and lift some weights or something like that. I then want to try to find time to play.

The play one has slipped with this deadline. I’m a little bit out of balance but that, at least, I know is temporary. I could find ways to play with the work. It usually involves taking half an edible. That makes it a little more playful. That’s my attempt within a day to have these beats that provide a healthy balance between personal, professional and social responsibilities.

SOLO 176 | Five Wells


You mentioned different seasons of your life and also thinking about the latitude of your life being balanced but the longitude of each day may not be so balanced for a while. There might be periods when you are obsessed with something that you are able to keep an eye on the long-term and realize, “I’m a little out of balance,” in the hopes that you can get to some level of balance or to offset that with some of the things that you have been neglecting.

I think a lot about my basketball days. It was impossible to be balanced in season. You’re always hurt when you’re playing. There’s always something wrong with you. It’s not about excellence. It’s about managing and existing. You are like, “How can I get to a level of functionality that I can play this next game?” I’m not necessarily thinking about how much I’m reading or if I’m meditating or how creative I’m being. I’m thinking about which pills I am going to have to take to survive, which is not great. I’m not necessarily advocating for that but it has been a feature of my life pretty often that there were a lot of periods of not survival like I was destitute but survival in the sense that if my career is going to survive, I have to do this thing, unfortunately.

There are two models that I’m hearing. I’ve lived both. There is the athletic, Hollywood or academic model, which is you have these periods often extended. They may go months where you’re in it to win it. It is a grind and then you have time off. If you’re a Hollywood showrunner, you work all the time. You then wrap the final episode, take off and do a six-week vacation somewhere.

The other one is the model I’m trying to have, which is I have my grind and vacation every day. That one works pretty well for me because I could do that every single day for a year usually. I may need to change the location but that works well enough for me. I’m out of sorts because I’m planning a legitimate vacation for the first time since I was eighteen years old when I was like, “We’re going to spring break in Fort Lauderdale.” Do you have a preference for either of those or is this something that happens depending on your situation in life?

I have a very different career path where I’m the 9:00 to 5:00 corporate. You work year-round. There is no season. There’s no time off. It’s vacation earned. If you can, hopefully, get two weeks consecutively, it would be a dream. It hasn’t dawned on me how I could take periods off if I’m not in academics or self-employed so it is bursts of time.

Since I love spending time with my people and that matters so much to me, a long week weekend away will do it for me instead of needing some lavish vacation. I certainly want to treat myself from time to time but maybe that’s not every year where I’m going away for 1 week or 2 weeks but rather lots of long weekends away.

You have your mountain time that you’re very good about getting.

I’m a little spoiled. Being able to buy a little crash pad up there and remodeling has been a great joy because I can get away on the weekends and disappear. I do not need to be on a vacation to feel recharged but rather zip away. Even 24 hours in the mountains is medicine.

You’re an in-between.

I don’t know how to speak about that.

For me, it’s always been a little bit of a combination. The thing people don’t see about sports is that as soon as the off-season starts, you start training for the next season. I’ve almost always had to create these mini vacations in my day from a recovery standpoint because it cannot be sustained otherwise. I’ve always lived according to this almost militaristic style where I’m a little bit on call but as they say in the military, “If somebody gives you a chance to rest, you use it.”

It was a holiday so I worked in the morning. I was going to work at night but in the afternoon, I was like, “You need to relax so sit here and watch Kansas City Royals. Turn off your phone and get three hours of rejuvenation time.” I don’t know that that’s sustainable for me forever. I probably do need a slight adjustment but that’s been my mode for so long that I’m used to it at this point.

The takeaway from being well-balanced is despite what Franklin says, you get to decide what’s balancing in your life and whether that’s appropriate. The idea is you don’t have to be a polymath at this moment. You may be seeking to climb the corporate ladder, win championships, get a PhD or whatever that situation is. Regardless, it’s critical to take care of your health and well-being and have some community involvement there. That is a reasonable request. Clover, thank you for contributing.

Thank you, Peter.

Paul, we got this one.

It’s in the tank?

I believe so.

That’s good.

Number four is in the books. Cheers.


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About Clover Sharpe

SOLO 176 | Five WellsClover Sharpe is the Director of Talent & Branding at Zocalo Community Development, a nonprofit organization that develops and manages affordable housing communities across the United States. She is the owner of Peter McGraw’s favorite dog: Scout.



About Paul Shirley

SOLO 176 | Five WellsA National Merit Scholar and engineering major at Iowa State University, Paul Shirley is a former professional basketball player and the author of three works of nonfiction: Can I Keep My Jersey?, Stories I Tell On Dates, and The Process is the Product. His first novel, Ball Boy, came out in February of 2021. His second novel David, launched on March 23, 2023.