Me and my 3 best friends. Silly tradition: When one of us isn’t at an event (like this Cypress Hill concert), we let the missing one draw himself in.

A few days ago I saw this tweet:

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it because look at big ol’ Nikola. He’s the best player in the NBA and he’s just boogeyin’ and singin’ along to a song he obviously knows and loves, glass of wine in hand, and everyone around him is just vibing on a night that appears to have lovely weather, terrific folks, and a steady flow of drinks. I want to go to that party!

How can you not love this man? He clearly has a rich, fulfilling, and well-rounded life outside of basketball. Compared to so many of the joyless psychos who populate the upper echelon of sports ability, Nikola Jokic is a breath of fresh air. This video of Nikola Jokic living his best life brings another video full circle in my brain. You probably remember this one from shortly after he led the Denver Nuggets to their very first NBA Championship:

This was my whole energy when I worked in corporate after a full day of bullshit offsite meetings and my jackass, fart-sniffing, social climbing VP used to say, “Ok, let’s meet down here for dinner in 45 minutes!”

Guuuhhhhhhhh. No. I can’t spend any more time with you people. Look, I’ll do the work, and I’ll do the work at the absolute highest quality I possibly can with every bit of my effort, but I don’t want to spend more than one more solitary second than is absolutely necessary being Work Jon. I like my work! I take pride in it! And I even like most of the people I work with!

But I have a whole life outside of this place, man.  My work comprises but a small part of who I am, yet takes up an outsized portion of my day in specific, and my life in general. Granted, this is much different now that I’ve become a consultant, am in charge of my own time, spend huge swaths of the day by myself, and get to largely curate who I work with. I’ll gladly socialize with clients and colleagues off the clock now. But when the corporate dweebs take your whole day, and then want to annex part of the night too? Get all the way fucked.

Nikola Jokic is a genius basketball player. I’ve never watched a player with a higher basketball IQ than him. He has a mind and a feel and a touch for the game unlike any player that’s come before him. Watching him suss out decisions and seemingly weigh highest probability of success for each decision and then MAKE the correct decision more often than not in the heat of any moment is absolutely uncanny and totally mystifying. Since I’ve gotten deep into NBA Twitter, everyone who’s played with him has said on some random podcast just how brilliant this dude is.

But here’s what I infer about him: As much as he loves the act of playing basketball and the unbridled affection he has for his teammates, literally everything else about the job is just that – a fucking job. The interviews, the photo shoots, the appearances, and all the other monotonous detritus is shit he endures, not shit he actively enjoys. A job’s a job. Let me do the work and go home.

Since I’m closing in on a decade of doing this show and one year less than that of working for myself, I recognize exactly how he feels, even if I don’t really empathize anymore. And I don’t empathize because more than anything, I have autonomy over my time.

In my estimation, the secret to happiness and fulfillment that a lot of people forget is that we’re not actually chasing money. Money is helpful, and money is useful, but money is just a tool – a means to an end. What we’re all actually chasing is freedom. We seek the freedom to be ourselves, to have agency over the decisions on how we spend our days, to be the most pure expression of who we have always wanted to be.

Nikola Jokic is the best basketball player in the entire world. Yet, when given the option of how he spends his time, he heads back to Sombor, Serbia, grooves with his homies, races his horses, and hangs out with his wife and kid. He’s that dude first, very best basketball player on the entire planet ranked somewhere lower. But because it’s his job, it’s how the rest of us understand him, which is ultimately irrelevant to how he understands himself.

I am a great podcast producer. I’m certainly not the best in the entire world, but I’d put my work, my chops, and my sensibility – which is what I argue people actually pay me for in this piece I wrote last week – head-to-head with damn near anyone. Yet it’s still a job, and not the entirety of my being. When I’m not working, where might you find my energy being applied?

Here’s me at the Punk Rock Saves Lives Festival belting out the last line of “Blistered World” by Plasma Canvas as lead singer Adrienne Ash shoves the mic in my face until my lungs ran out of air.

Here’s me at the Pantera concert making a new friend because I asked him, “Is that the hat Sylvester Stallone’s character wears in Over the Top?” He had to grab his wife and tell her that I said that to him uninitiated because literally no one ever gets it. I haven’t seen him since, I don’t even know his name, and didn’t get any contact info, but I think he’d agree that we’re best friends now.

Here’s my wife and I cosplaying as Dog and Beth from Dog the Bounty Hunter at our annual Beer Pong Tournament, which I spend way more time planning and executing than any reasonable person should.

And here’s me inline skating to school with my girls for Bike to School Day.

When I was a kid, my dad used to say to me, “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.” It took me years to figure out exactly what that meant, but once I did, it was freeing. It’s easy to get myopic about your professional (or academic) life and focus on it disproportionately. But your life has underexplored alleyways and silly digressions just begging to be explored. You have personas within you dying to be expressed.

What we want is freedom no matter if you’re Nikola Jokic or one of the guys pouring asphalt to repair the street a few blocks from my home that I drove past today. But to have the ability to dictate our own lives is the ultimate dream.

I feel incredibly fortunate that I have worked my ass off to cultivate and curate this for myself. And I would never, ever be so arrogant as so many big-brained, tech bro, douche bag poseurs to claim that I did it myself. I had a ton of help getting here! Help can only take you so far, and it’s up to any individual person to make hay with the opportunities they’re presented, but the idea of achieving anything in solitude is ludicrous and self-serving.

So thank you to anyone and everyone who has been a part of my journey. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed 41, and I’m looking forward to 42.

Joy, success, fulfillment and agency to you all in whatever form you seek it. Here’s this year’s playlist:

  1. “Green Honda” by BENEE
  2. “Womanarchist” by Bad Cop/Bad Cop
  3. “Blistered World” by Plasma Canvas
  4. “Joyride” by All Waffle Trick
  5. “Secrets” by State Champs
  6. “Psycho Killer” by The Wrecks
  7. “Tissues” by YUNGBLUD
  8. “Too Many Things” by The Linda Lindas
  9. “Hard Times” by Paramore
  10. “As It Was” by Harry Styles
  11. “I Ain’t Worried” by OneRepublic
  12. “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus
  13. “Anti-Hero” by Taylor Swift
  14. “Pages” by White Reaper
  15. “sun keeps on shining” by almost monday
  16. “Call Me What You Like” by Lovejoy
  17. “Fallin’ With Me” by The Struts
  18. “GOSSIP” by Maneskin
  19. “Simple Girl” by Bad Cop/Bad Cop
  20. “Recovery” by Frank Turner
  21. “Feel Good Drag” by Anberlin
  22. “I Don’t Want To Live Today” by Ape Hangers
  23. “Don’t Let the Light Go Out” by Panic! At the Disco
  24. “GASOLINE” by Maneskin

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