The Years Are Short

Over the past six months, my wife and I went through the daunting process of selling our home while raising two young boys. We have a 1-year-old who loves throwing anything he can get his hands on (often at his older brother), and a 6-year-old who plays five minutes with a toy before moving on to the next one. 

Of course, this led to many nights of counting the minutes until bedtime just to get the opportunity to make sure the house was presentable for potential showings the next day.  Enjoying the moment was replaced with an exhausted exhale once the boys were down for the night.  

During that stressful summer stretch, I happened across a saying that described the situation perfectly:

The days are long, but the years are short.

While those long days were seemingly crawling by, my wife and I celebrated our 9thwedding anniversary, our sons’ first and sixth birthdays, and a full ten years of living in our first home together…not to mention my 3rdyear anniversary of working at Upstream 360. 

On each of those occasions, my wife and I would reflect on how far we’ve come – and wefound ourselves saying “there’s no way it’s been that long!” Each of those painstakingly slow days somehow added up to a total whirlwind of a decade. Only the happy endings seemed to matter; we eventually sold the house, and the boys are still alive and well (with only a few minor bumps and bruises to show for their troubles).

I’m doing my best to remind myself of this phrase when we get extremely busy here at Upstream.  For example, a commercial we produced popped up recently on my cell phone as YouTube pre-roll.  It had been well over a year since we shot and edited the spot. I was eager to bring it up to a few fellow Upstreamers who immediately reminded me about the tedious process we went through in order to get final approval.  

They weren’t wrong – while in the midst of post-production, this project seemed like an unending string of alts and revisions. Now, over a year later, I had completely forgotten about that repetitive sequence of events. The long days in the edit suite had given way to the short years of having an awesome finished product.

When it comes down to it, the impossibly long rough patches blur into background noise over time. The polished final results are all that remains in focus, whether it’s a fantastic new sizzle reel,or an adorable toddler with a big smile.


Well, I managed to survive “Move In Day” at Elon University in North Carolina.  My daughter is a newly-minted member of the Freshman Class.  Her graduation in 2023 seems a long way off.  Until it seems like it’s almost here.  Welcome to the life of a College Dad.

Elon gave every new College Parent an interesting task to do during the move in; write a letter to your daughter that will not be opened until half-way through the First Semester.  By the University’s calculations, this is typically the time when the novelty of College begins to wear off, stress becomes elevated, and bouts of homesickness can occur.

That’s a lot to assuage in a short letter – but hey – we’re storytellers here at Upstream, so bring it on!  I didn’t want to use any of the “talking points” I was saving for the “Big Good-Bye” later that day, though. 

The first sentence was easy: “Remember me?

Okay, I bet that will at least earn a small chuckle.  But if she wants laughs, she has Netflix.

Then I decided to apply a little innovative thinking.  Instead of guessing what content might be relevant to her nine weeks from now, try a different angle.  I thought: “What letter would I write today to my 18-year-old self?”

Had to ask for extra paper.

You don’t know everything.  So show humility when you compete. Win with grace and lose with dignity. When you fall down, get up. When you fall down again, get up again. 

Have you figured out yet that it isn’t those with the most talent who become successful, but those with the most resiliency and the strongest character when faced with disappointment?

Take care of your teeth. They were pricey.

I hope you haven’t missed a class. Be on time. Be reliable. Make your best choices when no one is looking, because that’s when they really count. And by the way, you have to know that someone isprobably looking.  Privacy is an illusion on a college campus.

Be focused, be present, be your best self. Be grateful. Arrogance sucks. Realize how fortunate you are.  Help other people by giving back.

Listen at least as much as you talk.  Respect yourself and dump anyone who doesn’t respect you.  Say no when you don’t want to do something. It’s okay if everyone doesn’t like you.  

Embrace change.  Keep an open mind – your only limitation will be a lack of imagination.

Given her graduation year, I’m hoping hindsight is 2023.

Mark Smith is the Chief Creative Officer and Chief Storyteller for Upstream 360, as well as the father of a teenage daughter.  He stays motivated by the twin powers of doubt and insecurity, while his approach to the work is making it legitimately interesting, shareable, and something people can connect with. 

Mark is also an author of the book Innovation Myths and Mythstakes, available in hardcover, paperback, Kindle and coming soon on Audible.