KidsMarketingNorth CarolinaThoughts

Stop This Train

stoptrain

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No, I’m not color blind
I know the world is black and white
I try to keep an open mind
But I just can’t sleep on this, tonight

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It started a little over a year ago. It was a new feeling. A feeling like my priorities were out of order and I was running out of time to do the things I set out to do in my life. I came to this realization, ironically, while I was running. It happened on an early evening run in August of 2014. I was listening to one of my running playlists compiled specifically for a solid 9:00 mile pace. Then the John Mayer song, “Stop This Train” came on and I found myself almost on the verge of tears.

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Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But, honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

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I have listened to this song many, many times and I always interpreted the lyrics to mean someone living with regret of the things they did not do. But in this particular night, I interpreted a different way: Time moves fast and if you aren’t careful, you will look back and realize you were just on the train instead of enjoying the ride.

I had finally realized what was keeping me up at night: I had lost my zest for the moment, my intensity in my job, my fire in the world. And when you wipe away all of that conceptual stuff I just wrote it boiled down to this: I needed to spend more time with my kids because the next thing you know, they will be out of the house. I needed to spend more time with my wife because these are the able-bodied years when we can truly enjoy ourselves together. I needed to discover new challenges at work because my fulfillment during the day sets the right example for my children. And I needed to spend more time with my parents because they are advancing in age and I want to savor every moment that I have with them.

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Don’t know how else to say it
I don’t want to see my parents go
One generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own

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Since that August evening I have made some serious changes. In this post I want to explain the ones most significant to me in hopes it may inspire you to do the same.

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So scared of getting older
I’m only good at being young
So I play the numbers game
To find a way to say that life has just begun

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1. I quit my videoblog and am taking back my evenings

I have spent a bunch of time talking about some of the reasons I quit Freezerburns but in the year since I stopped producing my daily show I have realized the main reason for ending the show. I may not have known it at the time but I know it now: I have my evenings back. For 6 years I spent most evenings shooting, editing, and publishing content after the kids went to bed. And while I never felt like my show prevented me from missing the major moments like recitals, soccer games, and movie nights, it did prevent me from some of the more mundane but super meaningful moments. In the last 12 months I have had time and energy to lay in bed next to my son and talk about his day before he fell asleep. Or work on a project with my other son. Or sit in my daughter’s room and just chat about trivial things that mean the world to her. I miss the Freezerburns community I built and cultivated and I certainly miss the extra income my show generated. But I would never go back if it meant missing these special moments I enjoy every day.

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Had a talk with my old man
Said, “Help me understand”
He said, “Turn sixty-eight
You’ll renegotiate”

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2. I am prioritizing family travel and the experiences it brings with it

I have always considered our family one that travels. We have a lot of friends and family that go to the same place to vacation every summer and that works for them. But for me, I don’t want to see the same things over and over again. Last fall my family decided to set a goal to visit 100 National Park sites by 2020. If you have read this blog for awhile you may have noticed I have been talking quite a bit lately about the National Park Service. My family and I love the history, natural beauty, exercise, and education we get from visiting National Parks. In the last year we have made trips to 11 states and Washington D.C. and have visited over 30 National Park sites in the process. This goal has been great for our family because we have learned so much about America’s history and natural beauty while spending quality time together. My favorite moments have been the hikes we’ve taken, the pictures we’ve shot, and the funny moments along the way. We are constantly planning our next adventures. For 2016 we have already planned a trip to the Everglades in Florida in March, National Parks in Alaska in July, and various National Parks in Washington state including Mt Rainier and Olympic National Park!

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“Don’t stop this train
Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in
And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand
I tried my hand
Honestly, we’ll never stop this train”

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3. I am taking advantage of my time with my parents

I’m not sure if it is the fact that I turned 40 this year or the fact that my dad retired this year or the fact that my daughter turned 13 this year but I have spent a lot of time thinking about generations and mortality and legacy and all of those things that go along with getting and feeling old. I was very fortunate to attend and speak at my dad’s retirement celebration in June and got to spend an extended weekend with my parents. I also got to take my daughter with me to San Francisco and one of the times I value the most was having breakfast with my mom and my daughter downtown. It’s amazing to me that for all the times that we spend planning big events, it is sometimes the small events that mean the most. In July, my dad joined my family and I on our vacation and it was the best thing ever. I feel truly blessed to have the memories of my kids hanging out with my dad in front of some of the most magnificent natural wonders in the world, the Grand Canyon. And it doesn’t end here. My dad’s retirement this year means that we will get to spend Christmas morning with my parents which hasn’t happened in over 14 years (and never in my kids’ lifetime). And then in February, I will be traveling to Nagaland, India on a mission trip with my parents. Finally, in July, my parents will be traveling with my family to Alaska and Washington state! I am so excited to have these opportunities to hang out with my parents.

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Once in a while, when it’s good
It’ll feel like it should
When you’re all still around
And you’re still safe and sound
And you don’t miss a thing
‘Till you cry when you’re driving away in the dark

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4. I got creative again.

One of the major things I have changed in the last year is I got creative again. Even though I stopped publishing videos every day, I spent a lot of time taking photos and shooting video for creativity sake not just for content generation. In fact, I have already started storyboarding the video I want to create on my trip in India. I also started painting soon after returning from vacation this past summer. While I have never been a great painter, the ability to put something down on canvas that was previously stuck just in my mind was incredibly rewarding. I’ve started cooking for fun and created digital illustrations…for fun. I started building more websites and designed t-shirts and stickers just because I wanted to. It feels like a revival—a feeling I haven’t felt in a few years…and it feels great. Which brings me to my biggest news…

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Singing, stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know, I can’t
‘Cause now I see I’ll never stop this train.

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5. I am changing jobs

After 7 fantastic years at Brooks Bell, I have decided to leave the company. I will be writing more about my new gig as I get settled but the decision to leave my “North Carolina family” at Brooks Bell was not an easy one. I moved down to North Carolina from Boston in 2008 to help grow Brooks Bell and it has been a very fulfilling and successful experience. In 7 years I have helped build a brand into a world leader in the optimization space and I consider my colleagues some of the smartest, amazing people I have ever known. They are truly family and I hope that I continue to play a part in their lives and them in mine. But now I am embarking on a new challenge—one which allows me to work in marketing, creative, and analytics (all things that I love). Starting Monday. I’m joining the team at Pointsource, a company that creates and provides mobile digital experience strategies. Much more very soon on my new role. Stay tuned…

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today

Today is the day.

It is very easy to worry about the little things. I worry about whether I am going through a mid-life crisis. I worry about dying at an early age. I worry about being an ordinary dad. I worry about working for a paycheck. I worry about not being a good man. I worry about what all these worries say about me. But I decided on that evening run last August that I will just worry about what I’m going to do today. Not what I didn’t do yesterday. Time doesn’t stop. the way I prioritize the important things in my life won’t either.

Gregory Ng

GOAL: Visit 100 National Parks as a family by 2020. Favorite Parks: Zion National Park, Mt Rainier National Park, Valley Forge National Historical Park

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6 thoughts on “Stop This Train

  1. So so excited for you, Greg! I feel like I’m getting there myself, but not QUITE there. I just listened to that song– I knew it already, but it didn’t quite resonate with me before as it does right now!! Listening to it now I see how powerful it is. Thanks for the inspiration and congrats on not only your new role, but for also making time for all those things that truly matter.

  2. They say life is what happens, when you’re busy. As someone who has been thinking a lot about the “business of life” as well, I wish you the best of luck my friend.

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