Why Hoarders and Matt Paxton Support My Decision To Be Here

This is no secret. I watch Hoarders religiously. I will be out with friends on a Tuesday and as they are talking about something really profound, I’m thinking, man I’ve got to get back home. It’s Hoarders night. 

I made it into a ritual. I’d put out some snacks, a soda or four and get to it. Now, the only person I’d watch this was my roommate, Jens. Watching it with him made it worth it. Jens, my roommate, is Deaf. When they’d show a dead cat or pile of poop, his facial expressions are classic. I would rewatch episodes just to get his reaction.

Now I had one rule: during the commercials, I’d clean the house. In those 5 minute spurts, I’d declutter the kitchen, take out the trash, throw away crap I didn’t need in a rapid flurry. Then I’d hear the music and get back to it.

People ask, Ryan….Hoarders? Aren’t you like a media snob? I don’t know— I just loved watching people change and grow (spoiler: some do not). They have a therapist, a social worker, an organizer, and a cleaner as part of the team.

And my favorite guy to appear on the screen is Matt Paxton, Extreme Cleaning Specialist. He got into these Hoarders. He was respectful, clear and he would push. He didn’t let the hoarder slip back into hoarding. He’d challenge them, prod them, and laugh with them.

So I’ve been listening to his podcast (NSFW) and I’ve needed to laugh. He’s crude at times, but funny. He talks about the hard stuff he’s been through, the challenges and the summits he’s climbed to get where he is. I’ll be in the DFAC and just burst out laughing and people stare. 

One of his axioms is: don’t quit. Just keep going. Whether you are in a tough situation, cleaning a hoard, etc, if you making progress on making your life better—don’t quit. It’s going to get difficult, catastrophes are going to hit, but you have to keep going. It won’t always be like this. Press on.

Another axiom he shares is when you are going to make a big change, make sure you have the support necessary. Too true. The support I’ve received doing this blog, and the messages on Facebook have been invaluable to my survival here.

If you want to check out his podcast on iTunes, click here! If you want to see his blog, “5 Decisions Away” it’s this way!  (Yes, he’s a bit crude, I know. Please don’t give me flak about it. I’m in Afghanistan. Wait until April 15, 2013 when I’m home and we can talk all about it.)


I’m having these strange projects pop, these opportunities on the other side of the planet. Here’s just a couple:

The chaplain here, Dwayne Hughes, wants me to teach a class on “Preparing Your Teenagers for College.”

He wants to also develop a written curriculum, booklets, Powerpoint and all that. He thinks the military would not HESITATE to purchase this material! (I have to write that UP!)

They have the University of Maryland University College Europe (seriously, that’s the name) here and they are looking for people with Masters. I’m not sure how I can help, teach because of my job here. (Oh, sorry guys. I can’t work on the truck; I’m working on this pedagogy lesson that is just incredible.) Update: They don’t really care about my Masters of Divinity. Still made a friend though! 

When I attended the World Domination Summit last year, one of the lessons I took home was: let people know your expertise, let them know you are willing to share and give 96% of it away for free.

I balked at that. I should tell people what I’m good at? I should, dare I say, brag? How does that work without sounding like a fool? And I have to give it away?

But as I applied that, about a billion opportunities have arisen, side projects I’ve been proud and thrilled to be a part of. One of them was Rutgers did a Geek Week after hearing our panel at Comic-Con.

And I think maybe a couple of geeks made some friends that day. Maybe they will be in each other’s wedding. “Hey, we met at Geek Week. How crazy is that?” They’ll start a business like Penny Arcade. They’ll go on a road trip and drink coffee in a greasy spoon or find a great independent brewery.

So how has it worked for me? How have I attracted some great opportunities?

Branch out: Go somewhere you are the only one of you. I love conferences and I LOVED going to my collegiate housing conferences, but we have such similar titles. When I tell people I’m a resident director, I’m sized up, and put into this box of my tasks and responsibilities, my expertise and authority. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the nature of the beast.

When I go to other conferences, like WDC, I’d tell people, “I’m a Resident Director. I live with college students….I’m like the love-child of Dr. Phil and Judge Judy.” They were fascinated like I’m some albino dolphin.

I met people who were engineers and social media experts, professors and dancers. And I found talking to people outside, and I mean, way outside of my field energized me to bring new, brand new material into my field and personal life.

Task: Find a conference or meetup where you can meet new people.

Caveat for introverts: Find a friend who is an extrovert and have them be your scout, your wingman. (I am Dr. David Powers’ wingman. Go ahead, find him on facebook and ask. I dare you.) When your wingman finds someone interesting, then you join in on the conversation.

The wingman then peels off while you engage in the conversation. The wingman scouts for the new person. Repeat. Rinse. (this goes out to my buddy Steve Boutry as well. Introverts need some loving. And I actually see myself more as an introvert now. .. . I know, you all gasp. Just calm down.)

“No Harm in Asking” This is my friend Tyler Miller’s and my mantra. He’s asked to present at Comic-Con, bam it happened. I asked to have lunch with people like Luis Palau and have coffee with author Pam Slim. They say yes. The trick is I always offer to buy and I use the word “quick”.

I engage with them, ask them questions and just be friendly. I’ve asked editors if they’d be interested in an article about Geek Culture or if a company needs a webinar. I’ll tell you this, I get people saying no all the time. A very popular publishing house for college material blew me off in a galactic fashion. I got over it.

Just ask. Because I’ll tell you, if we live a life afraid of a simple “no thank you”, we will never grow and give what the world needs of us. No one ever died from receiving a “no” (unless the question was, “Will you give me the antidote to the poison?”)

Task: Ask two people to show you how to do something you have no idea how to do.

Read. I’m not shy about how much I read. I read A LOT. And I snoop around the internet about what is going down as a great read. Currently I keep checking my mail for the book $100 startup with Chris Guillebeau. It’s a fantastic book about just starting up your dream job with not a lot of money.  Another great site is Alltop.com about the greatest blogs about topics. Just start.

One of my greatest habits is bringing books wherever I go. (My Kindle is my new best friend. If they pass legislation that you can marry an inanimate object, Oh Kindle, Will You Be Mine?)

Task: Write down three books you’d like to complete by December 10th.

But I want people to read this blog, go to a quiet spot and have a blank piece of paper. I want you to start doing some EPIC work. EPIC. And if you want to write me about how to do that (note: I’m just starting the epicness.) I would love to help, I’ll point you out to some resources and we can get on it. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, but that means half the time, I do!