Sit down and write your bio. I’ve read many resumes and thrown out most of them. The people I’ve hired don’t necessarily have all of the paper requirements the job demands but all of their resumes showed that there was an interesting person beyond the page. I’d rather work with someone who is interesting and has a hungry mind than someone who can simply do a particular task really well. Maybe that is my liberal arts bias, maybe it’s that I’m perpetually looking for people who remind me of me. But when I turn the question inward I hobble myself by disallowing internal definitions of success.
Sofia had the opportunity to serve on a panel discussion and it was time to rewrite her bio. She listed a tremendous amount of professional achievements and responsibilities, ending with her undergraduate and now graduate degree. When we reviewed it I asked her to give herself a thesis, a mission statement. What she wrote immediately deserved to be at the very beginning of her bio. Even though it’s a self-definition of purpose it makes everything that follows more interesting. We all do things, we do things every day; that does not define who we are.
Ben Cameron gave the address for Sofia’s graduation and one of his key points (besides pointing out that no one remembers graduation addresses) was that you must know what your core values are so that everything you do flows from that deep knowledge. Having a core set of values, no matter what they are, will help you decide what you do and perhaps even more importantly, what not to do. Choosing not to do certain things because they do not serve that purpose will help to separate the wheat from the chaff in every day decisions.
For a long time I didn’t think that I was successful at work because I had not succeeded in selling a screenplay to a major studio and had it produced. Never mind that a fraction of screenwriters ever get their material looked at (I have), never mind that a smaller fraction get anything produced at all (I have), never mind that writing to win competitions is different than writing to sell (I have semi-finaled), and never mind that every writer has to make their own journey (ongoing). I didn’t allow myself any credit because my life didn’t match my childhood vision of success. I’m not going to say I’m a successful screenwriter because at present I’m not making my sole living off it. But I do write good screenplays and I am a good writer. I have been and am currently being paid to write. Does that belong in a bio? Some part of it does, anyway.
Discounting success is the larger part of discounting work. If you discount your work, as I frequently do, you deny yourself reward, which I have in the past. Endurance athletes pride themselves on delayed gratification but that assumes that there will eventually be gratification. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in the grind and lose sight of that reward.
I’ve just returned from a week’s vacation in Maui. I’ve never wanted to go to Hawaii before, never had a need to lie on a beach and do nothing. My graduation gift to Sofia was a week away and our friend was able to gift us with a week’s hotel room on the beach making it possible. I actually aimed my clients at a colleague, changed my voicemail, and only checked email for the real emergencies. It is hard to let go, even though I don’t consider what I do to be work. When it grinds me down, it’s work. Because it’s not what I thought I would be doing at this point in my life, I don’t consider it work that deserves vacationing from. It took a few days but eventually I was able to let a lot of that go and just settle down. That gave me time to sit with my thoughts and review the past year and the changes it has brought.
I am now really a coach. Not just certified but someone is paying me to guide them to their first Ironman. I had been coaching for a while in my role as assistant coach for the Childrens Hospital Triathlon team. Coach Brian had been off starting up a new football league so he wasn’t available to the team for in-person coaching, group workouts, or questions about training so I became coach. That meant coordinating or leading the group training events and offline training questions for the team. It’s volunteer work towards a great organization, and I enjoyed the role immensely. But then someone actually started paying me to use what I know to take them to their first Ironman. I’m incredibly excited for them and also humbled by the challenge that they present. Because fuck – their race is in two months.
The Malibu race went off spectacularly well. I raised over $11,000 for the hospital and ended up the fifth highest fundraiser overall. (Actually fourth – the highest was the CEO for the hospital and the corporate backers donated to his fund. He removes himself from the fundraising rankings because he’s basically a ringer.) Interestingly, donations were down almost 30% from last year but I raised my money from a wider variety of donors. The economy is taking a huge chunk out of fundraising and I consider myself very fortunate to have such generous friends, colleagues, and contacts who contribute to my fund-racing.
My role as coach was also coaching fundraising as I’ve been very successful at my own efforts. My single most effective advice is to remind people that their contacts aren’t giving money to the hospital, they are giving money to support their friend. My contacts donate to CHLA because they support me, that it’s CHLA is incidental. Well, it’s benign. I’m not raising money for a whacko religious organization or some radical political group. I’m talking about sick kids, apolitical, and non-denominational. That makes it easy. I do one Ask per year and CHLA is it. I ask every year so my donors who write a limited number of charity checks keep me on their list. That is how I raise thousands of dollars – I make a personal plea for something that is very personal to me and I do it every year. It works.
What I’m learning about coaching is that while I learned a lot from the USAT coaching seminar, much of it I already knew by having a hungry mind and reading, watching, and testing. Going to USAT school teaches the “right” way to do something, but every single athlete is a unique test bed. My client right now isn’t generic, doesn’t respond to generic plans, and has a life and pressures that demand addressing. While there are rules for training, I’m seeing where and how they can be bent. Each person presents a unique set of circumstances based on ability, attitude, and the things they cannot control that happen to them anyway. I’ve been that person my whole life. Learn the rules, apply them, bend them, break a few. Monitor results closely.
My own training has taken a back burner this year to my evolution as a coach. And while I thought that I would focus exclusively on my IT business and coaching, I’ve been hired to write a documentary pitch and subsequent film. This means that my week is spent addressing my client’s IT needs, mapping out my client’s training plan and checking his progress, and researching and writing a nonfiction piece about violence prevention and social justice.
While on vacation I kept having brief periods of sadness, missing my father deeply. I am incredibly busy right now with both creative pursuits and business development. I want to share this with him, talk to him about my fears and excitement to start a family. I want to tell him about the cool things we found on Maui and hear him tell me how he was there and knew all about it already. I miss the guy every day and I was struck by how when I took time out of my schedule to relax, the sadness was right there waiting. My mom is dating someone and I’m very happy that she’s found someone that makes her happy. But I can only talk to her in limited ways about this new person because I still really, really miss my dad. I know she does as well and dating is a way of not being alone and being seen as something other than a widow. I get that. But it’s different to lose a parent than to lose a spouse and I can see why people who go through this can have a very hard time with the different relationships in the family.
My dad was never a coach to me, but he was my biggest cheerleader. I found out after his death that he was always worried about my choice to become a writer because he had never found deep happiness in writing for money. He didn’t want me to experience the same frustrations and heartache. His enthusiasm for my athletic pursuits were because they were alien to his experience and he could see that it made me happy, so he encouraged the growth of that business.
Some months now after his death, I am both fulfilling his wishes for me and my own desires for myself. I’m a coach, a mentor, a writer, a business owner, a husband, a brother, and a son. My sense of fulfillment is only interrupted by a sadness of not being able to share it with him.
When I think about my own bio I look for the concrete achievements that have meaning to me and would make sense to others. A good bio should be a starting point for conversation, giving a window into what makes an individual unique. Introduce yourself, give me a few ideas; tease me a little. With luck, your bio will change year to year as you change as a person. Without a doubt, mine has.
Max Miller facilitates evidence-based personal growth, whether it is training people for triathlon, developing character-driven narratives for film or television, or administrating technology needs for individuals and small businesses. He is a working screenwriter, a USAT certified triathlon coach, and technology consultant to clients including global celebrities, billionaires, visual effects and motion graphics studios, and startups. Mr. Miller has owned his own technology company for over 12 years, is co-owner and triathlon coach for TNS Training in Los Angeles, coach of the Childrens Hospital triathlon team, and completed his first Ironman in 2009. He has personally raised more than $30,000 for Childrens Hospital. At 15 Mr. Miller left high school to attend Simons Rock College of Bard, and Goldsmith’s College, London.