There Are No Off Days. (Jean-Ralphio and I Agree On This, Actually.)

Two things caught my attention last night and got me thinking about the work I’m doing right now. The first was this Instagram photo of the rainbow at the end of the road. (More on that photo in a second.)

The second was Jean-Ralphio.

Okay, not actually Jean-Ralphio, one of those strange, lovable TV characters on “Parks and Recreation.” It was actually Ben Schwartz, the actor who plays Jean-Ralphio on “Parks.”

I was just reading an interview with Schwartz from a few months back. He said something I especially loved about his own career so far:

“At the very beginning, I was a page at Letterman, and I freelanced for any place that would let me write any word. I wanted to do this so badly. Then when I got a tiny bit of success, I was petrified that I was going to lose it. I still feel it. House Of Lies finished filming, and I don’t know when I’m doing Parks again. The second that happened, I thought, “Fuck, I have to start writing. I have to keep myself working, because why else did I move to Los Angeles? If everyone else is working 9 to 5 every day, why shouldn’t I?” I wrote those postcard books, I’ll do short films for free, I like to keep myself creative. But there is an essence of “When does it end?” That drives me, and also gives me terrible stomach problems. The anxiety of not knowing what my next gig is keeps me hungry. I’m doing exactly what I’m doing, and I don’t want to fuck this up. There will be days where I’m not writing, but I’ll think back to when I was a page. I’d wake up at 6 in the morning, write monologue jokes as a freelance writer, go work the first page shift, sleep in the security office, work the second page shift so I could get some money, then I’d go take classes from 7 to 10 at UCB, then watch every show I could and take the last train home. I’d get four hours of sleep, and I did that for about two years. That guy would hate me if I took the day off today.”

That’s a hell of a fine reminder that there are no shortcuts. You do the work yourself. You finish what you start.

There is no plateau. There is no easy road. This life is not about a little bit of hard work and then a whole lot of coasting.

I have to keep slamming that into my skull. I’m still just learning how to do the work every single day. It takes discipline and practice, and I’m re-learning those traits, too.

There are no easy days. The work gets done, or it doesn’t. That’s my choice.

Sometimes, I have weeks like this — good weeks. Nothing big has gone wrong this week. I keep doing interviews with potential candidates for these Stry reporting positions, and the response to the project has been overwhelming. People seem to like the project! People seem excited about the idea! People don’t even seem to be insulted by the amount of money I have to offer!

And in a week like this, it feels like maybe, maybe I can just coast for a little. Things are going well. I can relax, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong, Dan.

The work continues. I can enjoy the satisfaction of a week like this, but not for long. The work doesn’t stop. There are new challenges, new opportunities. Shit I didn’t even know would happen is going to happen. I know it will.

There is so much more work to do. Gotta hire the team, gotta train the team, gotta get them out into the world, gotta find great stories, gotta get these live events going, gotta keep my stakeholders happy, gotta build the community.

There’s so much work to do. Either I get it done, or I don’t. There are no off days here.

I know what I’m shooting for. I see that rainbow at the end of the road. That’s what I’m aiming for. But I’m also aware: When I get to that spot at the end of the road, I’m going to find my goals and ambitions and dreams have shifted. The rainbow is a moving target. It’s not as much a destination as an aspiration.

That’s what’s going to keep me hungry. I don’t know what the next thing is for me, but I can’t let up now.

In the meantime, it’s all about staying sane and getting happy along the way. The journey continues. The work must get done.