4:30 AM Project

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Want to really help your kids?
Tell them the
story of your life.

If you loved the format of The 20,000 T-Shirt and want to write a similar book for your kids or loved ones, we’ll show you how.

Keep Me In The Loop

We would love to help you write your life story. Be sure to add your name to our waiting list below.  In the meantime we’ll send you updates and more information on our service.  When we’re ready to launch you’ll be the first to know.

Story Time

At a random moment together in the kitchen, my wife asked me what I was teaching our two kids.  The question ran through me like a 12-gauge shotgun slug.  Immediately, I did what I always did: backpedaled and played defense.  After some quiet time and reflection though, I let go of the ego trip; she was right.  I wasn’t teaching them anything other than potty humor (poop jokes are hilarious though).

I was mad at myself.  Mad at the world.  The same things I hated in my Dad – the silence, keeping all the wisdom and honesty inside – were the same things I was doing to my kids.  I was failing as a father, just as mine had done to me.  Nope.  No more.  The generational bad habits stopped here.  

When enough time passed, and the statute of limitations on my wife’s idea ran out, I decided to do something about it.

After hearing the famous director, Brian Koppelman, rave about Morning Pages on the James Altucher Choose Yourself podcast, I gave the free-writing exercise a try. Each morning, I cranked out one to two pages of flow, initially writing about my dad and then my failures as a parent. When it was just me, a pen, and some Caucasian paper—and no audience around for my jokes—the truth gushed out. I looked way deeper inside than I ever had before, surprising myself with the flood of honesty and revelations.

And in that notebook with the plain black cover, the first few chapters of The $20,000 T-Shirt began to write themselves. I could barely move my pen fast enough to keep up with the outpouring of my subconscious. Once the words came out of me in the thousands, I knew I needed to include them in a book.

“For anyone who is a parent, it’s [taking notes of our lives] a must.  It’s a must because your children – and you – forget  everything.  Within a few years, they’ll forget things that you think they should remember for the rest of their lives.  They’ll only remember it if it’s reinforced.”
Robert Rodriguez – Tools of Titans

For nearly a year, I planned to hand deliver The $20,000 T-Shirt to my kids on Christmas, and on December 25, 2017, I delivered on that personal promise.  With my mom and wife filming me – I choked my way through a brief speech then handed my kids the blue hard-top boxes adorned with gold ribbon.  I didn’t want to cry on camera, but it was hard not to – this was a big moment in my life.  

As they opened the presents, and peeled back the tissue paper, they studied the cover.  At first confusion filled their faces.  Then surprise.  My daughter shrieked, “Youuuuu wrote a book?”  

I grinned.  “That’s right.  I hope you like it.”

Charley, a few months away from turning 11, jumped right into page 1 a few minutes later.  I watched her face (and snapped pics) as she read the first three or four chapters.  She seemed to laugh in the right parts.  She was focused on the task at hand, which for a pre-teen is a modern-day miracle. 

My son, Knox, was in kindergarten at the time, still working his way through sight words.  At his request, my wife and I read the book to him at night.  He’s definitely interested in the content.  He’s wants to know what’s in there.  

As I write this, my kids have only had possession of the book for a few weeks.  But they are digging into it with a pleasing veracity.  My daughter brought the paperback with her to school – her friends have asked her when they can buy copies.  I’m confident that my tales of wins and losses will serve my kids – and possibly others – well throughout the years.

“What’s the best predictor of your child’s emotional well-being? It’s not great schools, hugs, or Pixar movies. Researchers at Emory University found that whether a kid knew their family history was the number-one indicator.”
Eric Barker – Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Prior to The $20,000 T-Shirt, I’ve never really written anything anybody wanted to read before.  I expected my kids to take an interest, and I expected the benefits of the book to be centered all around the reader. 

What I did not expect was the flood of positive benefits on me, the writer, simply by going through the process of putting these stories together.  As I banged out the last sentence on the ThinkPad, I felt a sense of pride like none I had felt before. Author Anne Lamott put it perfectly: “The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” Other than my kids, and I was only partially involved there, this has been my greatest creation to date.

No corporate pat on the head or piddly raise can compare with this accomplishment. Normally I’m bathed in complete selfishness, but finally I had done something important for someone else… for my kids.

Writing this book was deeply therapeutic, and after nearly two decades of guilt, it brought me the necessary closure to my poor relationship with my father.  I forgave my dad for his spotty efforts, and immediately felt an invisible crane lift an old Ford Thunderbird up, and off, my chest.  

By doing this exercise daily, my life finally made sense.  With this new perspective, I saw connections I’d never seen before.  I realized why certain people were in my life and understood why some failures and embarrassing losses were necessary for my growth, survival, and ego. 

I freely acknowledged  the “characters” in my play and their roles. I made peace with the thousands of dumb things I’ve done and all the people I’ve hurt. I simply let go, appreciating the past but not wanting to return to it. It was time to live for the moment.  

Simply put, writing down my story changed my life.  

“In the preteen years, children whose families collaboratively discuss everyday events and family history more often have higher self-esteem and stronger self-concepts. And adolescents with a stronger knowledge of family history have more robust identities, better coping skills, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Family storytelling can help a child grow into a teen who feels connected to the important people in her life.”
Elaine Reese

I know what you’re probably thinking.  That’s great for you.  But I could never do that.  I’m not a professional writer.  I definitely hear your concerns.  It sounds exactly like the things I would tell myself prior to writing this book.  

Look, I’m not a professional writer either. And I’m not insanely talented in any one thing. What made The $20,000 T-Shirt happen was simply the habit – waking up at 4:30 AM every morning to write.  That, and being dedicated to the cause.  I was going to finish this book, regardless.  I was 100% committed to putting a finished book in my kid’s hands the following Christmas. Excuses disappear once you’ve fully made up your mind.

Since you’re read this far, please just humor me for a minute.  Think about your relationship with your parents. How badly do you wish you knew them better? Are you repeating their same mistakes, keeping all the life lessons and wisdom inside of you, just like they did? Don’t leave your kids with that same sense of regret.  

It’s time to be honest with yourself.  Are you really teaching your kids anything? I know it’s hard to admit. It was difficult for me to accept as well. But there’s still time to do something about it. This is your chance to do something bold.

As parents, don’t you want a stronger connection with your kids? Helicoptering and keeping them out of traffic is great…what about showing them your biggest failures, disappointments, and greatest victories?

Turn the pain and loss from your life into something positive – help your kids navigate this wild and weird world with your life lessons. It’s means so much more coming from you than anyone else.

I’m not going to sugarcoat the effort involved – writing the story of your life is not easy. It does take months of hard work.  But it is way easier than you think. And I will show everything I learned along the way writing my book.

Don’t be scared of the hard work though. Won’t it be worth it? Picture their faces as they open the box and see your book. Think about your words helping them throughout their entire lives. When you pass, they can still hear your voice and dive into your life, anytime.

Your kids will be interested in what you have to say. They want to know who you are beyond what you’ve already told them. They want to hear in written form how much you love them.

“The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”    
Bruce Feiler

Recently, I read an online article on LegalGenealogist.com that talked about how fleeting our lives are:

Without a real effort to pass down our family stories purposely and accurately, the richness and depth they add to our family history can be lost in just three generations.   From grandparent to child to grandchild…Things that were absolutely critical in the lives of our own great grandparents — even our own grandparents — could be utterly unknown to us today.  From us to our own children to our own grandchildren…

Shouldn’t our lives matter beyond the memories of our grandkids? We are more important than that. We matter more than disappearing into the ether almost as if we were never here.  

So what can you do?  I’ll tell you what…document your days in black and white.  Writing down YOUR story is a chance to live forever in a sense…to have your thoughts and your life last beyond those three generations…to have not just your kids, but also those further down in your family tree know you and love you. Leave a legacy for them.

There’s no reason to be afraid or doubt if this can be done. Remember this, if you can think, you can talk. And if you can talk, you can write.  If I can do this, so can YOU. I won’t hold anything back – I’ll show you everything I learned along the way, from writing my first word up until the last.

So what’s it going to be? The clock is tickin’, chief…we aren’t getting any younger. Are you ready to start a 4:30 AM Project of your own?  

“I actually think everybody should write a book about their lives…You don’t have to led a very public life. Everyone has led interesting lives. Your children and grandchildren will be fascinated…”
Richard Branson

Keep Me In The Loop

We would love to help you write your life story. Be sure to add your name to our waiting list below.  In the meantime we’ll send you updates and more information on our service.  When we’re ready to launch you’ll be the first to know.