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Shut up and color

Something not a lot of people on this Internet know about me is that my partner was in the military (USAF) for many years of our marriage and relationship.

If you were in the military, or have family/friends/loved ones who have been, the phrase “shut up and color” might be familiar to you, but if it’s not, let’s talk about what it means and why it might be the best thing you hear today.


One of my greatest fears and challenges, day-to-day, is getting over the existential problems of Doing the Work, whatever the work is.

Sometimes the Work is writing, sometimes it’s working on a tricky situation where I need to dredge up an algorithm from some corner of my memory. Sometimes it’s about biking and training or maybe it’s about the fear of never being good enough, for someone, maybe myself, or an ephemeral unknown Someone (and that always seems a lot scarier, am I right?).

If you read the last sentence and thought “that sounds like Imposter Syndrome!” you might be right, but I also have an unpopular opinion about Imposter Syndrome:

I think “that’s Imposter Syndrome!” can be a TERRIBLE distraction.

The thing is, as much as I love feelings and boy, let me tell you, I have A LOT of them, LOVE to talk about them, and I care hard and deeply and strongly about a lot of things in this world and I will fight for them with my brute strength and I will break my nails and I WILL prevail in the end (*takes breath*) …

“Shut up and color” is sometimes the way you get through The Thing.

“Shut up and color” is a phrase used in the military and elsewhere, USAF in particular, to tell adults to stop whining and get on with the task at hand, to stop acting like a whiny child and act like someone who’s getting things done.

As I embark on consulting on web and mobile applications full-time, “Shut up and color” is going to be a motto, and I’m seriously thinking about putting it on a t-shirt.

Shut up and color means you have to stop wallowing in your own pit of existential bullshit for a period of time so you can Do the Work.

Shut up and color is what you get to say in the military, because you’re all doing Whatever It Is together, and sometimes, the only way through is through, and you need to shut up and not act like a whiny kindergartener about it.

Shut up and color perfectly encapsulates the advice I give to dear friends, who I love A LOT, when they’ve been stuck for too long.

[“Don’t talk about it, be about it” has long been a favorite, and I’m not sure how I’d rank it next to “Shut up and color” to be honest; both are fantastic]

Because what’s the goddamn point if you aren’t going to Do the Work, whatever that is to you.

Shut up and color, and Do the Work.


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