20 sports in 13 hours: Walter Mitty-ing it at the Olympics

August, 2016, Rio de Janeiro.   Midway through the Summer Olympics a “free day” loomed in the schedule of New York Times reporter Victor Mather. There was nothing specific he had to cover. He could hang fire, visit the sights, relax in the hotel. Instead, he decided — and who can blame a sportswriter who’d just…

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Instant Karma Day

Devastating story out of San Diego (take a moment and read it here: you won’t forget it) got me thinking about the phrase “Pay it forward.” Remember that? It was hatched by the novelist Catherine Ryan Hyde and caught on big-time following the Joel Haley Osment film. “Paying it forward,” as a social impulse, still…

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Chris Murphy’s Big Day in Washington

This week US senator (D Connecticut) Chris Murphy pulled off a Big Day for the ages. At 11:20 am on Wednesday — four days after the Orlando nightclub massacre — he stood up on the floor of the senate chamber and spoke out for gun control. And spoke And spoke. He talked for almost 15…

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Airplane Mode

One day in 2015, Peter Shankman, social-media guru and angel investor, realized he was in tough. He’d fallen behind on a book he was supposed to be writing. The publisher wanted it in two weeks. He was nowhere near finished. He looked at his calendar. He knew he’d never get the book done in the…

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Problem, solution

“What is the problem to which this is the solution? That’s one of my favorite questions – and has been ever since I heard Neil Postman ask it. He was buying a new car that came with power windows. He said, “No thank you, regular windows are fine: they’re less expensive and less likely to…

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Of Makers and Managers

I’d always thought Big Days were especially apt for writers, musicians, artists – creatives. Because they’re the ones most vulnerable to interruptions from the Man from Porlock, right? Paul Graham set me straight. He isn’t an artist. He’s a British computer programmer, venture capitalist and start-up guru — but a programmer first and foremost. Programmers…

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What will you do with your one wild and precious day?

Photograph by David Niddrie “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” So wrote the poet Mary Oliver. In that spirit, I ask people, “What would you do with your one wild and precious day?” — your Big Day? A lot of people have trouble coming up…

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To do well or to do good?

“What are you raising money for?” Two people asked that question after hearing about the all-day bike ride. I get where they’re coming from: it’s a cultural reflex. From walkathons to telethons to hackathons, we now understand that any quirky, marathon-like undertaking must be raising money for something. Otherwise why do it? It’s kind of…

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A day to remember

Photograph by David Niddrie “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”  — Maya Angelou There’s a certain kind of person who, should he accidentally wander into the self-development section of a bookstore, will recoil like a terrier jolted by the forcefield of a buried electric fence. This guy’s with Seinfeld in…

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Why do people stop trying new stuff?

One grey morning this past May I sat staring out the window at a white van parked outside. At the words “Wet Woof” in big letters on the side. Our retriever pup Penny was inside getting a wash and nail clipping and ear cleaning and scissors-trim. The Wet Woof guy is busy; we were thrilled…

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