Sometimes movement is just to move, without direction or even purpose, but simply because I didn’t know what else to do.

a perfect view from behind a speedboat as the sun rose at 5:15 this morning

It’s before 6AM and I’m watching the sun rise on a house boat floating away on Dale Hollow. It’s the last morning of a much needed vacation and disengagement from the entirety of society. We wound up in a holler with barely redeeming cell phone coverage and after a short adjustment period and Boss K telling me to quit checking my phone, I quickly adapted to being disconnected.

And, it resulted in meeting some new friends, laughter with old friends, a ridiculous number of adult beverages of which I only consumed a responsible and reasonable percentage, and some of the best conversation I’ve had in months. Conversation I needed to have. Conversation I didn’t know my soul and spirit was craving.

It started with the company on the ride down–someone who lost their best friend in a car accident years ago and the bond we were able to pretty instantly create as we were talking about coping and processing. It continues with me looking down at the Free Will tattoo on my arm representing the accident and JBD, the date forever inked into my body and simultaneously representing the only permanent mark/scar from that day that I chose to have.

And as the week continued, surrounded by a mix of people who not only knew me, but knew Den—and a new group of fast-gained friends that didn’t—it was a gentle reminder that we all have our own stories; I felt like for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t constantly around people who were either trying to skirt around the realities of loss or people who were trying to handle me with white gloves to shield themselves from the realities of life. And somewhere over the water as the wake boat skipped along, I traced the outline of the tattoo on my left wrist, the e.e. cummings inspired/Speak Easy designed/simply understated ink—-and knew that no matter how many times I’ve had to pick myself up off the ground this year; I am at peace.

Finally.

And along the way, in this blissful paradise of clear water and perfect sky, among the boats and bikinis, a tattoo caught my eye. It was two perfect circles on an arm that just barely crossed their respective geometric shape. The simplicity and symmetry stood out to my inner design and UX nerd, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know who designed it and what it symbolized to her.

But, I didn’t ask….because I know that tattoos aren’t for the world, but for one’s self. It wasn’t about what it meant to me, but about what it brought to her. And carrying on my rule of not asking about the meaning behind their ink—I just made a mental note and mental compliment and moved on.

However, somewhere along the way the day after it first caught my eye, the meaning came up, and she talked about her past and her divorce and the intersection of lives, sometimes for brief amounts of time that overlap and are shared. It gave me goosebumps on the middle of a 90-degree sun baked boat deck. A perfectly simplified visual example of my twenties that resonated.

I turn 30 in 30 days. And I’ve not been in control when it comes to the major life events of the last decade. It’s absolutely why I am Type-A on the things I can control. It’s probably why I can be both incredibly stubborn and often, sometimes simultaneously, overly coddling, to others around me.

I feel fortunate, for the lives of others I’ve been able to cross with: for the hard lessons learned. For the successes and failures, for the friendships and family gained, the love and the heartbreak endured.

For the first time in years, I’m not dreading turning 30 next month or actively avoiding the processing of grief that Jim nor Denver never made it to 30 and being unsure on why I deserved to be the one to carry on the torch of life instead of them.

I’m pretty sure Boss K knew exactly what she was doing when she invited me down. She’s been one of my most trusted and valued friends over these last 8 months and has been my moral compass and sounding board when needed. And her and Mr. Boss K were willing to share their place of peace and reflection with me. I realize now that she knew I needed this more than I did.

And for the first time in a very long time, I feel like myself again. And I feel like I’m not just moving to keep momentum pushing forward, but I’m ready to move with purpose and optimism in a focused and deliberate way.

It just took a mix of friends and strangers, a whole lot of floating with a beer in my hand, and the most beautiful place in the world to figure it out.

But, it’s figured out. And it doesn’t really matter how I got there/how long it took to get here/the choices I made before getting here….it just matters that I’m here.

 

Cheers,
-th

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let’s do this

There’s a moment where, on the brink of success or failure, you know that your own history will be made–one way or another.

And once you’ve been in that position, there are few other moments in life that will compare.

I’ve experienced it as an athlete, and now; I’m staring down the next 71 days realizing that whatever happens, it’s the most significant block of time in my professional life.

Five years. That’s how long I’ve been working to build Nine13 to where we are at today. Heartbreak, success, failure, achievement…it’s been the most wild ride to get to this moment. It’s led to opportunities that three years ago, on the brink of closing because of lack of support, a bitter fight with co-founders, and in the middle of a divorce, I couldn’t have imagined. This year, 8 months in, has been one that has shaped me through the highs and lows that I’ve faced…that have been played out publicly and personally and in the media.

On December 31 of last year, as I was sitting with Denver in her hospital room, we were talking about what we both saw 2016 bringing for us. We talked about hopes and dreams, what we wanted to accomplish over the 12 months that lay ahead. About the victories we both knew we would experience and being prepared for the failures we would incur along the way.

“2016, it’s going to be your year. Nine13 is going to look a lot different as you turn 30. You’re going to kick ass.” she told me in the typical way she said such things.

Damn, I wish she was here to see this now. All those crazy ideas of mine that she helped turn into solid business plans and approaches, I can’t take all the credit. She pushed me to get to this point, sometimes relentlessly, but it got me here.

It’s been a hell of a year. And I have a feeling the next two months will continuously redefine what this all will mean to me as I move forward. Growth in the healthcare industry, growth from the foundation world, growth from the corporate world: it’s going to mean more kids riding bikes. It’s going to mean more staff. It’s going to mean growing pains. I can’t believe the support I’m fortunate to surround myself with, the love I have in my life, and the incredible experience this has all been.

Why 71 days? Well, between the amount of announcements, the finalization of deals, turning 30, a few vacations scattered in, the start of the new school year…and on day 71, October 15, carrying the Indiana Bicentennial Torch on its final day journey here in Indianapolis.

And, honestly, because, the song 16 Days by Whiskeytown (and the much better cover by The Clarks) has lyrics that have often resonated with me over the last few years. So, something seemed symbolic about writing this with a focus on a day count.

I got sixteen days
one for every time I’ve gone away
one for every time I should have stayed
you should have worn my wedding ring
I got sixteen days
fifteen of those are nights
can’t sleep when the bed sheet fights
its way back to your side

I’ve spent my whole life getting ready for the next couple months, let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride together.

Cheers,
-th

A note to a soon to be 25 year old me from a soon to be 30 year old me.

Dear almost 25 year old Tom,

You’re going to go through some heavy stuff. It’s going to be absurd at times. You’re going to get your heartbroken a time or two. But you’re also going to meet incredible people that take your breath away and who make you a better person and you’re going to know what love means. You’re going to realize what you can do to help shape Indianapolis and you’re going to be blown away by the impact you will have.

Look around, most of the people in your life right now won’t be there in five years. Many of the people that matter the most to you now won’t be part of your life. And you’ll be okay for it, in fact, you’re going to come out way ahead.

Don’t tolerate someone having an affair in your marriage, I know your gut is to fight to make it work, but that’s not something that deserves a second chance. Walk away, you’ll thank me.

Those people you’re crafting your vision of your organization with? They’re going to be gone too. Call it a difference of opinions, but you’ll be better off for going at it on your own. In fact, don’t wait so long to do it–I can’t begin to describe how much better it gets after you break away and do your own thing.

You’re going to change the lives of kids through will and stubbornness. There are going to be a thousand people that will tell you Nine13 will never work. That you’ll fail. They’re wrong.

You’re going to work harder than you ever worked before, 70 and 80 hour weeks will be the norm for a while. Sleepless nights and months without a paycheck are in your future. But you’ll be strong and you’ll get through it, and it’ll shape who you are in the second half of your twenties.

You’re going to wind up rebuilding Nine13 into its modern day version with people you’re fortunate to call friends. Don’t brush off the skills of the goofy intern that will become your 2nd full time hire, and realize that you make your work-wife put up with a lot from your antics and make sure to let her know she’s appreciated and a huge part of why Nine13 is what it will be in 2016.

And as you get close to 30, you’re going to try and understand why you get to see your 30th birthday and Jim and Denver didn’t. You’re going to struggle with the fact that two of the people you were closest with in life never saw that milestone. People are going to tell you that 30 stings, and while it does, it’s going to be for a totally different set of reasons than they mean.

Don’t be afraid to fall in love again, because quite honestly, single late-twenties Tom is just fine and while you’ll hold your own being single, you’re better off as part of a team. And, even as you approach 30, sometimes a little supervision is required.

And I’ll tell you, the night of January 15th and the morning of January 16th of 2016 will be the single hardest moments of your life. You’ll know what is happening, you’ll understand this is just the way it is, but you’ll never be prepared to sign the paperwork that you know will end Denver’s life. But you’ll also understand that she asked you because she trusted you to do it. You’ll also cherish those last days, hours, minutes, and seconds with her. And for goodness sake, thank those nurses who helped you make a bed out of a couple chairs so you could keep holding her hand like she asked you to do.

You’re going to be thrust into a spotlight that you were never really prepared for when Nine13 grows. You’re going to have responsibility for employees, sponsors, donors, administrators, students, and families. You’re going to spend more time cultivating relationships than you ever imagined. You’re going to be frustrated at the lows and elated at the highs and you must keep moving forward–because you’ll continue to shape your world. Be thankful that you’re in the position you are, and don’t forget to look around every day and realize how magical of an experience this is, after all, most people don’t get to build something from nothing and see it create as many smile as you do.

You’re going to learn that you’re a sucker for brunettes, that you want someone with as sharp of a wit as you have and who can put you in your place when needed. You’re going to realize that dating is a hilarious process that comes with lots of good stories along the way.

Mostly, the difference between being 25 and 30? You’re going to finally know who you are, what you can do, who your real life long friends are, and that you can survive anything.

 

Cheers,

-th (in five years)

 

(P.S. don’t sell your motorcycle, you’ll regret it)

I ask this question all the time. I truly believe it’s one of the best ways to gauge what really drives someone, how full of it they are, and what their poker face looks like. The more sugarcoated the answer, the more I’m skeptical. In fact, it’s right up there with watching how somebody interacts with a waiter, waitress, or bartender. I can learn a whole lot about somebody in that specific moment.

I asked someone that question recently and they spend their life around music. Their answer was, “seeing so many different people connect, and enjoying, whatever we put in front of them.”

Word.

By the way, my answer is…the kids. Seeing those kids see the bikes for the first time and the excitement on their faces makes everything worth it.

I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration recently in the work of others. As I look back over the last couple of years, I look at who has inspired me, who has helped clear the path for me when it comes to startups in Indy, and who has challenged me to be better.

It’s a long list.

And, what’s awesome about that list, is that I think the genuine answer to “what gets you excited?” wouldn’t have anything to do with how it personally benefits them, but about how they love seeing others benefit from their work. It might be making really good beer (Clay and Dave), bringing really good music to town (Dodge), seeing the impact of their marketing transform Indy (Libby), or getting people to understand classical music (Zach and Nathan).

It’s easy to get lost in the day to day of pretending to be an adult, but, at the end of the day….it’s all worth it to make a difference in the lives of others.

So, what makes YOU excited about work?

 

Cheers.

“Now my parents said, go ahead and take your stand, but don’t be too proud to have a backup plan”

-Watershed

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Click on the photo to go watch the video from this week’s interview

It’s been a pretty unbelievable last couple of months. Major press, deals that are moving forward, vision that is turning into reality.

My dream, it’s happening, and it’s the damnedest thing to experience.

The series of events that put me on this course to to this moment in time, I never would have picked them given the choice. The Crash and losing Jim, the ex-wife’s affair, Denver’s death; individually it would be a lot to deal with, and in complete totality—it should have put me in the mindset to continuously play it safe for eternity.

I know I never totally grew out of my angsty rebellion phase, I still miss not having my hair random colors, and I never miss an opportunity to challenge authority. I’m aware that my take it/leave it personality and general desire to dynamite anything that is done simply because “it’s always been done that way” hasn’t always made me the popular one in traditional circles.

Nine13 has always made sense to me, even if it wasn’t always the safe thing to do…even when it didn’t make sense to anyone else.

Safe would have been law school. Safe would have been going into finance. Safe would have been finding a 9-5 and shutting up. Safe would have been realizing that at 24 when this came together, I should do this for a few years and if it didn’t work, I would have a backup plan in place to bring me back to center.

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wouldn’t change this for anything

And what would have that backup plan gotten me? An easy out? A way to justify leaving behind my vision? A way to hide from that burning entrepreneurial desire? A right to acknowledge that “damnit, I tried my best, but it just wasn’t enough”?

I’ve been in over my head so many times with this whole thing. It should have drowned me long ago. It would have been easier and safer to say “conformity always comes with a guarantee” and conform. There was never a net under this tightrope, and I’m okay with that reality.

And, as I sit here coming up to 30, as a bachelor dog dad to three crazy pups and the realization that the only normal in my life is not having a routine or predictability of what’s next; and that I’m cool with it.

I think the only thing that scares me more than this journey is the thought of NOT being on this journey. And if there’s one thing I wish I could bottle up and share with the world it’s that practicing your passion is the best way to feel like you’re alive every single day.

No matter how insane that passion might be.

And luckily, unlike those Watershed lyrics I opened with, my parents have been in my corner all along.

Cheers

-th

KIRIfrZm_400x400It’s Pride Week in Indianapolis, and that means one of my favorite weekends of the year here in this great city.

What I love about Pride Week is that here in Indy, it’s not about “letting this be the one week a year where you can be yourself”…it’s about highlighting that in Indy, we celebrate everyone being who they are throughout the year. This week is just a reason to have a fabulous party.

I don’t want to be an advocate for equality, because it means we need advocates for equality. It absolutely breaks my heart that in 2016, Pride Week goes hand in hand with discussions for equality. I find it infuriating that equality has to be politicized on both sides of the aisle and that those in power have used their desire to create an unequal system for the entirety of society.

I’m straight. Big deal. I have family that are gay. Big deal.

I’ve had the ability to be a vocal supporter against the HJR-3 and RFRA efforts, in fact, Nine13 was one of the first non arts nonprofits that took a corporate stance against both items in the last two years (read more here and here). I’ve been fortunate to utilize the platform that my professional career has given me to stand in unison with many other Hoosiers demanding equality and hoping that some day, we don’t need to fight the fight at all—it will just be common sense.

I spotted what has become one of my favorite shirts of all time last year at Pride, “Some dudes marry other dudes, get over it”….and I can’t think of a more simple description that captures my vision of equality for all.

A memory I have from last summer was driving up to Chicago for a Cubs game with Denver. They had just found tumors in her brain, and we were mentally preparing for full brain radiation. We decided to get out of town for the day and watch the Cubs/Dodgers play ball, see my folks for dinner, and enjoy Chicago living. On the way up, we listened to the radio as the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling was read down from the Supreme Court. I can distinctly envision seeing the signage for Crown Point as we heard the ruling sided with the fundamental right to marry for ALL couples. I remember looking over at Denver, with tears rolling down my cheeks, and seeing Denver with the same tears. We understood what it meant for our generation, for our family, for our friends, we understood that we were listening to history happen in the moment.

This weekend, I’ll be out and about on Mass Ave, at Pride Fest, at Big Gay Brunch supporting IndyHub. But more importantly, I’ll be out there with friends—people of all types and backgrounds and personalities—but most importantly, my friends.

No matter who you are, who you love, what you want, just remember, Indy Welcomes All, and I’m damn proud of that.

 

Cheers,

-th

The road goes on forever and the party never ends, right?

Wrong.

I’m always a mix of emotions when standing over Jim’s gravestone. But what I kept thinking about yesterday on the 6th year of his death and as I let the whiskey burn the back of my throat was how when the party of life ends, there’s nothing you can do about it. And it’s all about what you’ve done and what you didn’t. The kind of man you were. The legacy you’ve left behind. The people you’ve served. The people you’ve hurt. Those you’ve loved, and those you’ve loved. Those that were one night stands and those that were eternal friends. It’s about those that stand by you in those final moments—be it bleeding in the road or hooked up to a dozen overly mechanical machines in a hospital room.

And the bitch about legacy is you don’t get to decide what yours is. There’s been a million humans who deserve to have a legacy long after their death and we don’t know their names. Counterpoint, there’s been a million humans who don’t deserve a legacy at all and yet they’re immortal in time and history.

For some, a legacy is their name on a building. For others, it’s the family you’ve created. For me, I often think that at least, if I have a son and convince his mother to take my name, we’ll have a 5th generation H.T. Hanley that carries on the family legacy. Beyond that, who knows? Maybe it’s Nine13, maybe it’s some future civic engagement that I’m unable to foresee at this point in time. Maybe it’s some viral YouTube video of me doing something incredibly stupid. Let’s be real here, with me, the possibilities range from awesome to just downright hilarious.

I’m proud of what I’ve built, I’m proud to be where I’m at for this moment in time. I’ve sacrificed more than I even realize to get here. I’ve survived more than most my age. I haven’t become (too) jaded. I’m able to look back and appreciate a rocky past while being engaged with the future. I’m excited for what the next months and years hold for me.

A mentor once reminded me, “you can’t escape your past, you can’t predict your future, you can just be you and be the best at what you do and fight like hell for what you want most.”

And that reminder is some of the best advice I’ve gotten in the entirety of my twenties.

 

Cheers,-th

I talked about it briefly the other day, but last week I had a chance to combine the bicycle with a historic tour of Indianapolis for a bunch of high school students. It got my wheels turning (no pun intended) on my truly favorite spots of this city, why they’re favorites, and how they’re all places that hold special memories. In no particular order….

  1. The Canal- I can distinctly remember walking down by the canal and White River State Park for the first time not long after I moved here in 2004 with a girl I had a crush on. It was a late September night and the city just looked flawless. So did she. It’s one of those first memories of this city really burned into my mind that highlighted the beauty of this city. It was by no means a city of a giant skyscrapers, and it seemed dwarfed by many others when compared with my worldly travels—but in that moment, I knew I was falling in love with this community. The girl on the other hand..while I remember the kiss under the bridge…I have zero idea what happened to her since.
  2. Monument Circle- The center of this city. Lady Victory towering overhead. The location that all things radiate out from. These days, the center of my universe as everything I’m involved with seems to be downtown. The older I get and the more entrenched I have become in the history of Indianapolis, the more I appreciate the historic value of the bricks and limestone. From first dates down there to the Super Bowl celebration, it’s been part of my life for 12 years now.
  3. Sun King- Through fate and luck, Jim left me a friend at Sun King that I didn’t even know I had. While I had been in there a few times in their early years, it took me sending an email in 2012 to be introduced to Heather–who of course, knew Jim….because everyone knew Jim. Since 2012, Nine13 has become part of the SKB family with yoga fundraisers and bikes in the brewery. I met Work Wife there back in 2013. I filled up many a growlers during my divorce there. I’ve dated different girls that have worked there. I’ve had a chance to get to know the many awesome people that work there. I’ve learned a ton about craft beer from the people there and have gotten to introduce a lot of others folks to that awesomeness that is SKB.
  4. Hilbert Theatre- First time I went to the Hilbert Circle Theatre was way back in 2005, with a girl I was dating who was doing a project for one of her classes. It was a rainy and dark Friday night and I remember walking in and just instantly falling in love with the building and its features. In the 11 years since, I’ve had a chance to see a ton of different things there, trios and orchestras play, many a cocktails consumed, and an understanding of the passion for the arts that radiate in that building. Maybe it’s because I’m so not musically talented, but, ZDP has converted me into a lover of listening to that violin.
  5. LOVE Sculpture- What’s there to say about this? It defines Indy in a lot of ways. It’s a well known piece of art. It’s where I proposed to the Ex. It’s something I had ridden my bike by a thousand times before they closed off access last year. The LOVE Sculpture at the IMA is one of those instantly recognizable things for anyone in the world.
  6. Butler University- It’s an incredible campus, and in my much younger days, we strategically planned all bike rides to finish at the coffee shop as a convenient way to meet new girls. It’s been amazing to see how it has grown over these last years. It’s been a place I’ve been able to spread my wings and realize that at some point I want to be a professor after being involved with their business school as a mentor. It’s a place that makes me want to go back and get another degree. It’s a historic slice of Indianapolis that I still drive through every chance I get, after all, how can you not love Hinkle Fieldhouse?
  7. 56th and Illinois- If I didn’t love my house so much, this is an area I can see living in. It’s a little slice of the old days in the middle of the city. Beautiful homes, all the little shops and vendors within a block, it’s a throwback to a previous time.
  8. Flatwater and the Broadripple Canal- Man, the amount of writing I have done at Flatwater over these last 3 years is astonishing, and the amount of Bloody Mary’s consumed is overwhelming. It’s been my Sunday spot for years, my hidden away bar with good beer. It’s the place where I take any weekend guest. It’s like a little slice of somewhere else on the water in the middle of this great town.

How about you? What are some of yours? What’s missing on this list?

 

Cheers,

-th