You never know who’s watching you

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak live at an event to both inspire young athletes in the Santa Maria community and also help them raise money to build a state-of-the-art athletic facility in a largely underserved community.

→ Here’s the full speech if you’d like to watch it

I’m not writing today about the speech, however. I’m writing about the giant Eureka! moment I had during the car ride from Los Angeles to Santa Maria (which is north of Santa Barbara, roughly a 3 hour drive from LA).

It just so happened another one of the speakers at the event – Olympic Medalist Tasha Danvers – was having car trouble and needed a ride. Um….yeah sure….happy to be an Uber driver for an Olympic Medalist!!!!! Needless to say I wish I had recorded our conversations, because we spent 4+ hours (there and back) diving deep into the athlete’s mindset, talking about training psychology, overcoming obstacles, and all the stuff I love to talk about on the podcast.

At one point we were talking about our families, and Tasha asked:

Do you think all the positive changes you’ve made in your life are rubbing off on your kids?

To be honest, until a couple weeks ago I’m not sure I would’ve known the answer, but for anyone who’s been following the saga of my son’s haunted house experience (that led to over 500 people from all over LA coming to our house last weekend!!!), the answer has become quite obvious over the last two weeks.

The Cobbler’s Kids Have No Shoes

There’s a common saying, “The Cobbler’s kids have no shoes” that often refers to a craft person’s dedication to their work coming at the expense of never being there for their kids. And often times throughout my career I’ve fallen into this trap of always being there for my work, for my students, and for my team, only to feel like I haven’t been present for my kids. The realization seven years ago that I was tired of putting my kids to bed via FaceTime is largely what led to building the Optimize Yourself program so I had an alternate source of income that allowed me to work from home and be there for my kids as they grew up.

I’ll often spend 12+ hours any given day helping my students all over the world learn how to better manage their time, set clear goals, and build an action plan to work towards a more fulfilling life that’s creatively engaging for them.

On any given day I’m teaching my students how to:

  • Organize their calendars to get the right things done
  • Make clear schedules in alignment with their goals
  • Prioritize their to-do lists
  • Clarify their finances & budgets
  • Market & brand their services

Now ask me how much time I spend every day making sure my kids have the same absolutely vital life skills?

Yeah exactly…

If I were a Cobbler, my kids probably wouldn’t have any shoes either.

But what I’ve learned over the last two weeks is the power of leading by example and how it can lead to giving your kids the confidence they can make their own shoes.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Despite having spent very little (if any) time actually teaching the strategies I share in the Optimize Yourself program with my 12 year old son Elliot, whether through osmosis, eavesdropping from our kitchen into my home office, listening to my podcast without me knowing or some other method, I learned over the last two weeks the power of leading by example.

Several months ago Elliot came to my wife and me and asked us, “Can I turn our carport into a haunted maze for Halloween this year?” And once we discussed the logistics of where my wife would park, we figured why not? He’ll probably hang some cobwebs, some “Danger” tape, maybe a couple zombies, sounds like fun. Go for it kid.

Little did we know what we had gotten ourselves into.

A few weeks later Elliot started sending me a myriad of shared Google Docs with schedules, budgets, role assignments, cue sheets, and even 3d schematics (to scale!) of our carport transformed into a 3-room haunted maze down to the smallest detail.

And this was just the beginning.

He then built his own website.

He then set up his own Google Business profile (and even set up paid advertising).

And the kicker was when he asked me to approve everything in his Amazon shopping cart. Like $800+ worth of stuff. Backdrops, props, even $150 worth of stanchions to manage the flow of the crowd and lines (he was expecting lines????). And when I asked him whom he expected to pay for all of this, he already had the money saved up.

He then spent the next several weekends largely building the haunted maze himself. I of course was there to lend a hand, do some of the heavy lifting, and make sure he didn’t hurt himself (or burn our house down). But when it came to the layout, design, and set dressing, 100% of the work came from his imagination.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, and suddenly we find out the LA Daily News would like to interview Elliot about his haunted maze (thanks to his Aunt Ellen), and the next day Elliot was on the front page of the LA Daily News!

Not more than two days later, my son is now in a featured story on the KTLA 5 evening news!

Elliot Arnold on the news

Needless to say, it’s a good thing Elliot budgeted over $150 for stanchions to manage foot traffic, because we had over 500 people go through his haunted maze in just 3 days, and we had lines down the block.

We had so many people around our house at one time it caused a minor traffic accident while people were trying to find street parking (just a fender-bender, no injuries). And because Elliot also had the foresight to set up his own Venmo account, print out QR codes, and collect donations (admission was free, but donations were welcome), he ended up MAKING A PROFIT!

Yeah, this “cobbler’s kid with no shoes” ended up earning almost $1000 in donations in 3 days and getting more publicity in a weekend than I’ve earned in 8 years.

You Never Know Who’s Watching You

The moral of the story for me was realizing that despite having never actually sat down with Elliot to discuss the intricacies of calendar management, budgets, marketing, or all of the other skills he used to turn his vision into a reality, what he has learned by example is that when you set a difficult goal for yourself, you need a plan.

And once you have a plan, you need to take consistent action to get results.

You ignore the naysayers telling you that you can’t.

You ignore the voices in your head saying it can’t be done.

And you just effin’ do it.

I give Elliot all the credit in the world for what he accomplished…but I also know a small amount of credit is due to myself and my wife for leading by example over the years and demonstrating that if you want something meaningful, you have to earn it through hard work and perseverance.

And boy did he earn it.

I’d Love to Know…

Is there an important person in your life watching and learning from you, friend?

And if so, what behaviors of yours do you hope rub off on them?

Be well.
Zack Arnold
Creator, Optimize Yourself

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”