#80 Storytellers I Admire: Morgan Campbell
How to forge a new path and create compelling stories in the process
This one is for the sports fans and non-sports fans alike. For this week’s Storytellers I Admire interview, I was lucky enough to sit down with award-winning sports journalist and soon to be published memoir author, Morgan Campbell. Morgan is a former Toronto Star sports reporter who now runs his own small media business. He is a storyteller even in his everyday conversation, bringing to life big ideas and issues in relatable ways that make you want to know more and explore further with him. As a non-sports person, I have learned so much from listening to and reading Morgan’s work. As you’ll see, he makes topics like boxing, running 10 kilometres, and waking up at 5am not just interesting but inspirational. In this wide-ranging conversation, we talk about writing, discipline, the state of the media, and stories as an important escape for people in challenging times.
Before we dive in, I wanted to make a note for you to keep an eye out next week for a special Story Well Told feature that will be especially interesting for you business owners and marketers.
As always, this one is a long one with so much to think about for storytellers of all kinds and writers especially. So pour yourself a cuppa, get cozy and dive into Morgan Campbell’s perspective on storytelling, sports, and life.
Chantaie: Let's start with the question I always start with, which is, what's your story? And I want you to interpret these question however feels right to you, whatever feels good, makes the most sense. So your answer is the right answer always.
Morgan Campbell: What's my story? I don't know, I need some boundaries, I need some context.
What's your story? When you hear that, what do you feel is the answer? It can be your professional story, it can be your life, it can be whatever feels good to you.
MC: Yeah. I mean like right now it's the story of a suburban dad trying to keep pace with everything. And trying to be a dad and a husband and also someone that just keeps the household up and running. Because the thing they don't tell you about moving to the burbs, when you move out of a condo, is just how much time and energy you put into owning a house.
MC: It's like having another kid. And so my story is a story of someone trying to do all that while still not just trying to sustain my career, but grow my career. And making the transition from being a journalist to a small business owner, someone who owns and operates a small business. And that business is writing, that business is telling different forms of stories, a media business.
Can you share a little bit of that story for me? So that journey from journalist to small business owner, what does that story look like?
MC: Okay. Well, you know what life is like in newspapers these days.
MC: Right? And for the most part, the industry is shrinking. And then the shops that compose the industry are shrinking except for The New York Times and the Washington Post and maybe a couple of others. Early in my career at the Star buyouts were a rare thing, right? And in theory, what they wanted to do was take the people that were near retirement age, give them some money to get them to retire so you can have a younger workforce. But as the years went by, it just became a way to dump salary. From what I could tell, they stopped really caring about who stayed and who left once they didn't have to pay you anymore. (laughs)
And so for me these buyouts became near annual events. It was just like culling the herd, it was like Shirley Jackson, ‘The Lottery,’ right? Every year, “hey pick a number, and we’re going to throw stones at you until you disappear.” It wasn't that bad but you know what I mean. And so every year they'd announce that they were going to buy people out. And I would go ask HR how much they would pay me to leave. And every year that total would be less than a year’s salary. And I always told myself, "I'm not going to leave for less than a year’s salary."
MC: At the same time, I'm in there and I'm butting my head against the glass ceiling because I thought I should have been a columnist in that shop. A lot of people thought I should have been a columnist in that shop. Basically everyone thought I should have been a columnist except for the people with the power to make that happen. And every year they would give me some reason why they couldn't promote me. There was always a different reason why they couldn't promote me, but I would see other people get promoted or they would go outside the company and hire someone, and put them above me. So I said to myself, either I get promoted or they give me a year’s salary to leave. Whichever of these things happens first, that's the path I will take.
MC: So, the 2019 round of buyouts came. I remember I was in Chicago, it was American Thanksgiving. And the note went out saying, "Hey, do you guys want some money to leave the company?" So I send a note to HR. I said, "Hey, how much will y'all give me to leave?" They said, "54 week’s salary." And I said to my wife, "Hey, they're going to give me a 54-week salary to leave." She's like, "Go." So I left. And the thing was I had some things I knew I wanted to do. And then I figured with a year, if I go six months and absolutely nothing is happening and it's clear, I'm just going to fall in my face as a freelancer/small media business owner, then I can take the second six months and just try to get another job job and regroup.
MC: But things started happening. So I said, "Okay, well I guess I don't have to go back to a job job for a while." That might change in six months from now, but right now it's been a year since they stopped paying me and my bills are still paid. As far as I can tell my aggregate bank balance is still, if not growing, at least not shrinking. So I'm doing what I do, but that was what went into the decision.
And then now here you are. So, when you think about the notion of storytelling, which is what my newsletter is all about, I want to understand how you define a story in the work that you do across the different mediums that you work in. Or what makes a good story in your world is another way to think of that.
MC: Good question. I'll leave news articles aside for now because, whatever, there's a lot of those. And I can write those with three of the five brain cells I have left. So I'm talking about stuff that needs all five of my surviving brain cells. So, for me a good story, whether it's one that I'm consuming or one that I'm telling, yes, it has conflict, yes, it has a beginning, a middle, and end—a narrative arc. It also prompts the reader or the listener to empathize with any of the characters in it and it has characters as opposed to just people or talking heads. And that's one of the big differences too between writing features and just writing news and also just incorporating storytelling into your work even as a newspaper writer.
There was an editor from U.S.A. Today and she caught a lot of flak for this on social media the other week when she said, "Hey, young journalists, don't record your interviews because it creates an over-reliance on quotes." And she got savaged. I could see why, but I could also see where she was coming from in the sense that whether you're writing for the news or writing creatively, whatever it is, if your whole story just rests on quotes, you can fill a void, and a lot of times that's what you're doing when you work for a newspaper, but in terms of a story that really sets itself apart, that really informs the reader, my hierarchy does not put quotes at the top. I think facts and acts first and then quotes; facts, acts, quotes.
Because it's very easy just to let your tape recorder run and the person you're interviewing says something inflammatory, boom, that's a story. Chantaie says she's going to steal all the HEPA filters from schools so they can’t open, whatever it is, right? It's a great quote. But to me the fact that you're doing this and the act of trying to do this are more important. And then the quote can bring that to life. And then with creative writing it's sort of the opposite in that it's easy to just write a draft of a story with nobody talking. But in creative writing you're not quoting people, you have dialogue. So it's very important to incorporate dialogue. And then to bring it full circle, even in newspaper stories, if I got a chance to write a long feature, and if I got a chance just to listen to people talk and include dialogue, then that's what I would do, which is different from just quotes, right? So I said all that to say this: good stories, at least the ones that I usually deal with, they engage the people that we're writing about as human beings, not just quote machines. They engage as much as I can glean of their personalities and try to invite the reader in as well.
You said something about empathy at the beginning that I just wanted to go back to and hear a bit more from you on, and it's that notion of what role does empathy have to play in storytelling from your perspective? Or stories in general, outside of the telling of them, why does empathy have a role to play?
MC: This is a central tenet of storytelling. And this is one of the things that most stories in the world have in common, right? Any story with a protagonist, you tell the story and what you want is for the person consuming the story, the person reading or watching the movie to want what the protagonist wants, to put yourself in the protagonist's shoes and want what they want. Which is different from feeling sorry for the person, which is different from even liking the person. There's a whole genre of true crime documentary TV shows that show up on A&E or ID Network about people that almost got away with crimes. Now are you supposed to feel sorry for a person who robbed the bank? No. Are you supposed to want the person to get away with robbing the bank? Not really.
But when you watch that show and the person talks to you about how they almost got away with it, you find yourself thinking, "Wow." And you are in their shoes, and you're like, "Yeah, if you turn left instead of right, you'll get away from the cop. Come on, why'd you turn... Oh man, you turned right." And, like the criminal, you're disappointed when you see them flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror, right? And that is storytelling. To get the reader to put themselves in the protagonist's shoes and to want what that person wants.
“Good stories, at least the ones that I usually deal with, they engage the people that we're writing about as human beings, not just quote machines. They engage as much as I can glean of their personalities and try to invite the reader in as well.
Amazing. Thank you, I love that. So tell me about the work you do that brings you joy. And it could be anything.
MC: (laughs) Joy. The podcast is a lot of fun, that’s joyful.
Tell me more about that.
MC: Okay. Well, it's not really a podcast. We're pushing to make it a podcast. It's a weekly show on CBC Sports' YouTube channel called Bring It In with MC Campbell. And occasionally we have interviews, but usually it's just me and a panel with Dave Zirin, who's the sports editor of The Nation, and Meghan McPeak who is a Canadian born and raised basketball play-by-play commentator, right now she's based in DC and we just chop it up. We talk different sports topics, but usually where sports overlaps and intersects with bigger issues, which is a big thing these days, because there's no avoiding COVID. So that type of intersection is built into the daily coverage and discussion around sports.
So that's a lot of fun. As I say every week on the show, recording the show is my favourite part of the week. The last 10 minutes of the show are my favourite part of my favourite part of the week.
Wait, what are the last 10 minutes for people?
MC: We just do a segment called in or out, where we just tee up topics and very quickly decide whether or not we like or dislike what's happening. Like, are you in or out on the NFL season being too long? Are you in or out on rich college football coaches complaining about players getting paid? Stuff like this. So work-wise that's a highlight. A lot of the other work I do, the writing, doesn't bring me joy as much as it brings me satisfaction when I do it well.
MC: It's two different things.
Tell me about that, joy versus satisfaction in the writing.
MC: (laughs) Because joy I get from things that are fun. Writing is not fun, I just derive satisfaction from doing it well. In the same way that dancing is fun. Running 10 kilometres is not fun but running 10 kilometres is very fulfilling when you do it well, and you're at the point now where you can do it without collapsing. That's satisfying, it's not fun like dancing is fun or playing UNO can be fun until it breaks out into all war, but you know what I mean.
(Laughs) Yeah, until there's a fight.
MC: So with writing there are stages of it depending on what I'm writing, right? And the very thing I'm writing right now, like the chapter I'm writing right now in this manuscript is about me being 15 and starting to clue in that I could maybe write. So writing in journalism, writing most of these stories that turn around quickly, they're satisfying. It's not all that hard once you have all the elements in place. When you do it enough, pay enough attention to what you're doing and how you do it, you can synthesize that information and bang out a thousand words pretty quickly and that's fulfilling. Whereas creative writing is a lot harder. There's a lot more work and a lot more mess to deal with to get to the point where you finally have something that's worth reading.
But then once you get there, that's very satisfying, it's very fulfilling. But it's a much, much, much tougher process. Like in the draft of the manuscript I have now, I compare the difference between a news story and creative writing is like the difference between cooking a steak and butchering a steer, right?
Both are ways to put food on the table but one is a lot...
It takes a lot more out of you.
MC: It takes a lot more energy and effort, and is a lot messier.
Yeah. Oh my God, I love that analogy! So my next question was, when did you realize you were a storyteller? But you just said 15, so I want to ask what made you realize you were a storyteller?
MC: I mean, it wasn't a revelation I had, but more getting pulled along the path. And honestly the condensed version was I got to my last year of high school and I thought I wanted to write for a living. But I also noticed how many of the novelists that we studied in school were either deeply unhappy while they were alive or broke when they were alive. And after they died, we rediscovered their books. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald, sometimes he had money, a lot of times he didn't. He did a lot of drinking, died young. 20 years after he dies everyone's like, "Oh, the Great Gatsby, let's make sure every school in North America reads it." Now, if he were alive, he'd made all kinds of money. And what I didn't want was to write for a living but always be broke. And so I was like, "Well, how can I write for a living but also have a steady job to keep the bills paid?" So that was how I started gravitating towards journalism. But if I wasn't a journalist, I don't know, I would be a teacher or a lawyer, right? Which are different versions of the same thing.
MC: Right? It's all about telling a story, spreading the word. The difference being that as a journalist, you try to tell stories that don't have holes in them, as a lawyer, you leave holes in the story on purpose. As a journalist, you want to make things clear, as a lawyer, most times often you want to make it as muddy as possible. But it's still the same set of skills you're employing.
If you do it well.
That's so funny. You became a journalist for a lot of the same reasons I became a journalist. It was like, I want to do this but I'm not in this for the struggle.
MC: Yeah, exactly.
So who would you say is your audience when you're writing or when you're podcasting, who do you think of as your audience?
MC: Literally, I think about my friends. In the sense that stories that they would like, stories that they would understand written in a language that they would understand. So if I need to use the big word, I use the big word. If I don't need to use the big word, I don't use the big word. And I don't have to. Because if I was thinking of myself as writing for other people and trying to impress them with how smart I am, then I might put a whole bunch of big words in every story just to show people how smart I am.
No disrespect to Eldridge Cleaver but if you read Soul on Ice, that's all that book is. It's a guy who was in prison, who wrote the book in prison, had a lot of time to read dictionaries, but he wants to prove to the world that, "Yeah, I might be a convict, but look how smart I am. And I read the dictionary and I'm going to put every new word I learned in the dictionary in every page on this book." But that's not me, right? And so, I think of basically writing for my friends at our level of speech, at our level of understanding. Now that changes too because sometimes you know your audience is different. So the way I write about boxing is different when I write it for the New York Times than it would be if I was writing for ESPN.
And what's that difference for those of us who don't know sports?
MC: ESPN is full of sports fans that know something about boxing and also some boxing fans. The New York Times, they like stories about boxing because boxing is full of stories but the people reading the New York Times sports website are not hardcore boxing fans. A lot of them aren't sports fans, they're just people who like stories about sports, so you got to talk to them differently. Sometimes you wind up doing a little bit more explaining, but then you just also don't go as far into the jargon writing for them as you would for a Boxing Scene or The Ring or something like that.
Which story do you think would be more interesting to read? Same story, one written for the ESPN about boxing, one written for The New York Times.
MC: I'll give you an example. In 2018 I wrote a story about a guy named Adonis Stevenson. He was a world champion from Montreal, he was born in Haiti and came to Montreal as a child or a teenager. But the thing about Adonis Stevenson was he used to be a pimp. When he was a teenager, he and his friends, they ran a prostitution ring. But he was also a pretty good boxer and his coach kept telling him, "You cannot do both. You got to choose one, you should choose boxing." He didn't listen to the coach, he stayed with his crew, they ran this little prostitution ring and he wound up going to prison. So he spent a year and a half in prison really having to think about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
So he got out of prison and he just dedicated himself to boxing and, to the extent that he could, cut himself off from all the people that he used to run with. And he built a really successful career, but he just always had this thing that was in his past. In Quebec, those stories had already been written, but as his management team wanted to introduce him to new markets, it's just there, at a certain point you got to address it. So he had one fight in Toronto in 2015 and then they came back in 2018. Before that fight, one of his publicists called me and said, "Hey, do you want to do a sit down with Adonis?" I'm like, "Sure." And then the publicist is being really squishy about the language, "We're going to have to talk about some things in his past." I was like, "Oh, you want to talk about the pimping?" He's like, "Yeah." I'm like, "Okay, if he's ready, I'm ready. We'll talk about it."
And so I did this interview with Adonis and his girlfriend, his partner, she was there, his body guards were there, he had two publicists there. And we talked about how he wound up in that game, how he got out, how he feels about that period in his life, whether he regrets it. He's like, "Yeah, I have all kinds of remorse, blah, blah, blah. And my whole life since then, I've just been trying to set an example of what you can do. When you do crooked stuff when you're young, that's not a life sentence, you can turn your life around, et cetera, et cetera."
As part of that story too, I called people who work with women who leave sex work and well, what happens to them? This guy's been able to rebuild his life, but he had a talent that not a lot of people have, what happens to other people? So they're telling me, some people build really successful lives, some people can never quite shake it off. So I write the story, right? And now his publicist is really mad that I wrote it, even though there was nothing in the interview that we didn't talk about.
But a story like that in the Toronto Star works. Or if I had written it for The New York Times, it would work. But a hardcore boxing website, those fans already know that about Adonis Stevenson, they don't really care what his past was. Because this is a sport where all kinds of people leave prison to become world champions. It's not all kinds, but it's a common enough recurring story. So hardcore boxing fans kind of take that for granted whereas a mainstream audience is fascinated by that story. But then also you have to kind of remind them what makes this sport different from the other sports. Because you don't see people go to Prison prison very often and resurrect like a football or baseball or basketball career. Boxing is the one sport, because there are no barriers for entry, like none. You and I can get boxing licenses tomorrow and fight in Edmonton.
But the point is it's also the only sport where a story like this—because people love redemption stories—where a story like that is possible because it does not judge you on the way in. It doesn't care who you are or where you came from. There are no barriers for entry for better, most times for worse, but then sometimes for better. But yeah, a hardcore boxing audience would've said, "Well, we already know this about Adonis Stevenson, we don't care. All we care about is how hard is he going to punch the guy next week."
Okay (laughs). That is awesome. Thank you for sharing that and telling that story because it's also super interesting and one I honestly would never have known. Why would you say stories matter at all?
MC: It's funny. Stories help us make sense of what's happening. It makes sense of ourselves, but then also help us escape from what's happening.
Tell me more.
MC: Like when I watch the news, the news doesn't have that many stories, the news just has reports and the reports are fucking depressing. Climate change, Omicron, it looks like these American voters are getting ready to vote Republican again, Republicans don't want a democracy.
All of that is depressing. Let me fire up Netflix. And Netflix, what's the big story? The big movie on Netflix right now is Don't Look Up. A lot of times these issues are easier to digest in the form of a story than they are in the form of a report. Because we use stories to teach lessons. This is what fables are about. This is what all these parables are about. The tortoise and the hare, whoever. We'd rather hear it that way than to get lectured one more time about, "Hey, why don't you be consistent instead of just sprinting out and fading?" I'm like, "Shut up." Okay. “Well then let me tell you the story about the tortoise and the hare”
So I want to stay here for a second and specifically on this idea of reports and the ability to sort of escape through stories and learn through them as a result. Is that a net positive, do you think? I want you to judge that decision by so many of us myself included, to turn away from the news, which is depressing, and turn towards a story. What are your thoughts on that?
MC: Yeah, it can be net positive, especially if the news industry were better at telling honest, true stories, as opposed to stories that seek balance, if that makes sense.
Yeah, it makes sense to me because of my background (laughs), but tell me a bit more for somebody who doesn’t have media experience.
MC: So the classic example is climate change when 98% of scientists or whatever that figure is agree that climate change is real and climate change is happening. But I can't do a story about climate change without talking to somebody who doesn't believe in it because traditional orthodoxy in the news industry says, "You gotta have balance. You gotta have competing voices because the truth has to be in the middle." The truth ain't in the middle. So if I'm writing a story about climate change, I don't need to also talk to Rand Paul or Ezra Levant or some climate change denier, right? Those people don't add anything to a climate change story. All I'm doing is giving them a megaphone for these views that have been roundly debunked. But we see this and a lot of bad faith actors in politics in the U.S.A. and in Canada have taken advantage of the fact that news outlets are wired to treat all sides of an argument as equal and containing merit.
When, the truth is, there are not—and I say this all the time—there are not two good faith sides to every story. So no one in the news industry should feel compelled or pressured to give credence or to give a microphone to someone on the other side of the story. We don't need to see how the neo-Nazis feel about being marginalized, they should be on the margins, their ideas don't deserve to exist anymore. I don't need to resuscitate what they're thinking and doing. Why? Why?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly.
MC: But this is what we’re trained to do. And so you see this all the time in the U.S. news media and in Canada too, on any issue. Because it's not balanced unless you include a quote from the other side, all kinds of meritless, but damaging bad faith talking points wind up in stories and get reported as something close to fact. We gotta go ask Ted Cruz what he thinks about x. Why do you have to ask Ted Cruz? Ted Cruz didn't even stay in his home state when the snowstorm knocked out power, he left all his constituents shivering and dying. He's not a credible human being. I don't got to quote him or anyone like him. I don't. But this is how the industry is set up. And that's what's damaging more so than people saying, "Let me tune out and read a story, watch a story that more closely approximates what's actually happening."
Yeah, I love that. I feel like you took something where I was thinking at the individual level and you sort of turned it around and said, "Look at the system though and what's happening there."
MC: This is what we do, man. This is what we do.
Yeah. And I just did it and I'm aware of that thing that we do and I still did it in our conversation. So I appreciate that and that perspective.
MC: You need a quote from Bernier. No, you don't. No, you don't need a quote from Maxime Bernier. He's a climate change denier, anti-immigration demagogue. You don't need to quote him. He doesn’t need to come visit the editorial board. No.
No, it's actually quite twisted.
MC: Well, that was one of the things that happened too at The Star. I butted heads with some of the bosses because they invited Maxime Bernier to the editorial board. And my point to them was that, look, he does not do deserve a platform. He does not deserve a megaphone. He can say what he wants, wherever he wants but we don't owe it to him to amplify his-
MC: His talking points. I called it climate science fiction. If he wants to pedal his climate science fiction, The Star has a short story contest every year you can go write fiction on how climate change doesn't exist. Go submit it, see what happens. But I remember the Quick Bits, segments of the interview that got aired. Again, a bunch of white people sitting with Maxime Bernier, asking the hard-hitting questions. “Well, a lot of people say you're racist, what do you say to that?”
MC: Right. At which point he says, "I'm not racist." And then the white people say, "Well, he says, he's not racist. And I’ve got to take him at his word." And then he gets to skate.
It's so infuriating because the thing is—I'm reading the New Jim Crow right now for a book club and it doesn't intend to tell the story, but it tells the story of how so many of these politicians, what's driving them is power.
It's not to make a better world, they don't... This guy probably doesn't even care about climate change, he cares about the attention it gets him to say it's not real. There's no benefit beyond that for him and the access to more power that it might give him.
MC: Yes, exactly.
It's so frustrating. Sorry, tangent. Refocusing. I'm easily outraged. Trigger word: Maxime Bernier. So tell me about a storyteller that you admire.
MC: Oh, jeez.
Whatever feels right to you. Maybe think of it through the lens of a storyteller you admire that you want to share with other people.
MC: Okay. So a book I recommended the other week was called Survival Math by Mitchell S. Jackson. Before I left The Star, the book showed up as one of those books that they send to reviewers and they just never got around to it. When I left the company, I had some time and I read it. So Mitchell S. Jackson is a guy from Portland, Oregon (laughs) and this is a story about him. The growing up in the hood memoir. The thing that makes this one different is one ,that it's in Portland, Oregon. So if you didn't already know that Portland, Oregon is gully and is dangerous, Mitchell Jackson is here to tell you.
The other thing about Mitchell S. Jackson is that right now he's a Pulitzer winner because he wrote that story in Runner's World about Ahmaud Arbery that won the Pulitzer. So I read this story in the few months before all that happened. Mitchell S. Jackson was a guy like Adonis Stevenson. Sold a lot of drugs as a teenager and then went to prison. And then got out of prison and was selling drugs and working at the Oregonian, not as the writer but in the press room and trying to save money for grad school so he could go become a writer for real. I've read a lot of the growing up in the hood memoirs, but this to me is the best written and the wildest because you find yourself pausing every 10 or 15 pages and you're like, "Dude, how are you even still alive? How are you still alive?"
But that's why it's called Survival Math. Because he talks to people who survive life in the ghetto but he also talks about people who didn't survive. So that's what I'm recommending to people these days. I read it maybe a year and a half ago.
Okay, cool. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. So what's a story you've created or shared that you're especially proud of?
MC: I'll be really proud of the book whenever I finish it. So even in this first draft, there's a lot that I'm proud of. It's just not going to see the light of day for another couple of years.
Yeah, I guess proud is the word but also just gratified to be able to tell the story because there aren't stories like this out there. I'm not trying to set myself apart as more special than the next person or whatever, but my memoir is a story of growing up Black American in Canada, in a family where the two halves don't get along. And so they carry these grudges across decades and generations and borders. But it's just the fact that I'm going to be able to add my voice, my story to this mosaic of different stories of growing up Black in Canada. But you don't... It's funny. The other person whose background is like mine is Jael Ealey Richardson, I grew up with her family. She wrote The Stone Thrower, her dad played the CFL. Two black American parents growing up in Canada.
Because there are not a lot of us and so I'm able to add my story to that tradition and talk about how as African Americans we related to and didn't relate to other black people [in Canada], but then also how we related to African American history and culture from Canada. And I'm always grateful that my parents nurtured that connection to Black America within us. Because one thing I'm so grateful I’m not as an adult is the, “I acknowledge my African American heritage” guy as opposed to being, yeah, I'm Black and American, I'm African American.
Clarify that a little bit for me. You're not that guy in the sense that…?
MC: In the sense of someone who does not... Like a Blackish person who does not identify as Black American, who does not identify as African American, they just acknowledge their African American heritage. Do you see what I'm saying?
Ohhhhhhh. They don’t own the Black American history and culture. Versus you knowing that you are grounded in acknowledging and sort of holding onto your own heritage and speaking to it.
Yeah. Yeah. I'm excited for your book for that perspective.
MC: Yeah, I am too and I'm excited to be able to finish it. So that's what I'm... What was the question, the story I'm proud of?
Yeah, you're especially proud of.
MC: I'm nurturing some pride in this. By the time it finally gets out, it'll be something.
I love it. Okay, so what's a story you've seen recently that you've loved?
MC: Oh, jeez.
I feel bad. I usually send these questions in advance to people. I’m so sorry.
MC: It's okay. I’m a little bit out of the reading rhythm right now.
It could be a movie you’ve seen. It can be a kids show.
MC: No, I’ll tell you about the book I’m reading right now.
MC: It's called Damage by a guy named Tris Dixon. He's a veteran boxing journalist. The thing was, I was a little scared to read it. It was from a small press and I didn't know if the writing would be good because of lot of hardcore boxing fan writers don't write that well. This is thoroughly researched, well written, well reported. He travels all over the world to talk to boxers and their families and to doctors about brain damage and how virtually everyone who boxes as a pursuit—high level amateurs, professionals—everybody winds up with some type of brain damage. Is this sport ever going to do anything about it? But this is the human cost of the entertainment we consume.
But the thing I like about it is that Tris Dixon, I mean he's a boxing journalist, he's a boxing fan. A lot of us, you just have to accept it as part of the sport. But you can still critique it without judging the people to whom it happens because of what I said at the top of the conversation, for lot of people this is the only sport that will accept them. It doesn't ask them to be a college graduate or anything like that. And so that's what I'm reading right now and it's thoroughly engrossing.
Amazing. Thank you for sharing that. And then last question. It's a big one, so just take your time with it. What would you say is your philosophy or governing principle?
MC: In terms of storytelling?
In terms of storytelling, sure. But actually, in terms of just you and life.
MC: These days... (pause). Good question. What I'm always working on is my habits. Because there's a few things that I have accepted are true. And one is that compound interest is a real thing, you can either make it work for you or work against you.
So for example, you keep charging your purchases on that credit card compound interest is going to work against you. Even if it's a low interest savings account, start early-ish, keep saving it’ll work for you. That works for your money but then it also works for things that you're working on, whether it's fitness or a manuscript or whatever. The more consistently you do it, the more you will improve and you'll be able to build on what you've already done instead of always having to start again.
And again none of this has to be perfect because, if it's consistent, you'll improve. You will get a lot better exercising five times a week in a workout that's not perfect, but five times a week for a year, then you are doing the one perfect workout once every eight weeks. So for me, a lot of that comes back to just being able to get into these habits. If I can make these things a habit that I don't have to think about them. It doesn't take energy, it doesn't take discipline or anything like that. Every morning my alarm goes off at 5:00 andI wake up at 5:00; I don't hit snooze, none of this stuff. I'm not judging people who do that, this is just a habit I'm in. My wife thinks I'm a lunatic, but it's just a habit I have. And I had to ingrain the habit. The thing is you can ingrain bad habits too. So if you can ingrain bad habits, you can ingrain good ones, right?
Now the eating habits are a little... Really good eating habits are tougher, but I'm getting there.
I follow you on social, I know the struggle (laughs).
MC: Exactly. But as long as it's within the context of a consistent fitness habit and pretty good eating habits for the rest of the time, then you can get it to work. And again, the habits will take you farther than the discipline or the inspiration ever will. This is one of the things that for all the ways that writing at a newspaper can make you a worse writer if you let it.
MC: I happen not to let it.
It can also make you a better writer in the sense that people ask me, "How do you deal with writer's block? How do you get inspired?" I'm like, "There is no inspired, there's just the work." Because if I wait to be inspired, then nothing will ever get done. Writer's block is a luxury. You only have writer's block when you have time to sit around like, "Oh, I haven't written in two weeks." So clearly you had a deadline that was longer than two weeks whereas in the newspaper industry, your deadline is in two hours so you don't have writer's block, you just write. And it don't have to be perfect.
It's just the idea that you don't have to let perfect be the enemy of good. The thing is that I can't get to perfect without good. So I don't worry about trying to start with perfect. If I can be consistent, I can be good and then from there I can be great, but I gotta start somewhere. So those are my guiding principles these days.
“The thing is that I can't get to perfect without good. So I don't worry about trying to start with perfect. If I can be consistent, I can be good and then from there I can be great, but I gotta start somewhere.
I love it. Thank you so much for sharing that and thank you so much for doing this. Did you have anything else you wanted to add or mention that you thought might come up but hasn't?
MC: No, nothing I can think of, man, it's been thorough.
(laughs) I feel like I just put you through something.
MC: Yeah. So tell the people to look for the book sometime in the second half of 2023 if things go according to plan.
Yep. Definitely, I'll also just cover it in the newsletter when it comes out.
MC: Perfect. I think that everything.
Okay. Thank you so much for doing this Morgan.
MC: No problem.
Good to see you. And take care.
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