I was listening to this interview with Chris Rock earlier this week. I recommend the whole thing, but one part stuck out to me:
It comes about 3 minutes into this interview with Alec Baldwin. Now here are two men who’ve done everything you can do in the world of acting. Rock’s one of the most successful stand-up comedians ever. He’s been an “SNL” cast member. He’s been in more movies and TV shows than you can count.
And Alec Baldwin’s resume is just as impressive — movies, TV, theater, radio. The works.
Anyway, Baldwin interviewed Rock in 2011, when Rock was doing a Broadway play. It was the first play Rock had ever done.
Baldwin asked what Rock was struggling with, and here’s what came next:
Rock: “Rehearsal’s the hardest thing I’ve gone through in my life.”
Baldwin: “I always tell people, it’s like having the Empire State Building shoved up your ass one brick at a time to learn the play.”
Rock: “Yeah. And you can’t believe there’s ever going to be a day when you’ll know these lines.”
A fairly graphic Alec Baldwin line aside, I love that. I love the idea that these two veteran actors still struggle with the day-to-day work of putting on a play. I love that it’s still a challenge for them — even though they’re hugely successful (and experienced) actors.
It comes back to a question I’ve asked before: How long are you willing to suck? You have to be willing to struggle — it’s the only way to keep going.
The work just keeps coming. Even if you’re Chris Rock. Even if you’re Alec Baldwin.
Even for them.
So put in the work, and just keep going.
That photo of Chris Rock comes via Flickr’s David Shankbone.
Earlier this month, I started looking ahead to all the things I want to accomplish at BuzzFeed in 2014. And it’s a lot. This will be a year filled with launches and A/B tests and speaking engagements. It’s going to be a busy year.
And looking at it from a distance, it was kind of overwhelming. I started asking myself: How the hell am I going to get all of this done in 2014 — especially when I’ve got so much on my plate each day already?
So here’s the idea I’ve come up with: I created a Google Doc, and labeled it 100 Big Things. That’s my goal for 2014: Knock 100 big picture things off my to-list in 2014.
And then I started labeling each week of the year, and under that, I added a 1) and a 2).
To get to 100, I’ll just need to do two big things every week. (And I’m subtracting the two weeks of vacation I get a year, which takes me down to 50 weeks and 100 things.)
That seems manageable, right? I don’t need to do it all this week, or next week. Just two things a week, and that’ll add up to something really big by the end of the year.
I still have my day-to-day stuff. But my Two Big Things are the things that are going to take me and my team to the next level by year’s end.
Big goals, little steps. Let’s do the work.
That photo comes via Flickr’s marc falardeau.
There’s this one thing that my Uncle Billy said to me about two weeks ago. It was after my grandma’s funeral. We were sitting on the couch, watching the game, eating chopped liver. We were talking about, I dunno, the Broncos or the chopped liver, probably. Doesn’t really matter now.
But somewhere along the line, Uncle Billy dropped this bit of life advice, and it’s stuck with me: “You get one swing.”
Uncle Billy’s 88 years old. He went to war, married a girl he loved, went fishing more times than anyone else I know, showed up for every birthday and bar mitzvah I can remember. As far as Great-uncles go, he’s been a pretty stellar one.
I’ve heard that bit of advice before, obviously. It’s there on fortune cookies. It’s there in self-help books. Hell, there are people at my office who’ve worn YOLO T-shirts before. (Ironically, but still.)
But none of that quite carries the weight that it does when it comes from someone like your 88-year-old Great-uncle, does it? (And at a funeral, no less!)
One swing. Just go for it.
Alright, Uncle Billy, here goes.
That photo of a golfer comes via Flickr’s Nick Jewell.
I went to a funeral last weekend. At 87, my Bubbe — my mom’s mom — died suddenly. Two days later, I found myself in her old house, surrounded by loved ones as we mourned. I’ve been in that house hundreds of times, but I’d rarely gone downstairs.
And walking around downstairs, I stumbled into a room I’d never paid much attention to. It was my grandfather’s office, and it was filled with diplomas and awards and pictures.
This one photo especially caught my eye:
It’s a photo from 1939. It’s from my Great-uncle Leon’s bachelor party. (Leon’s the big guy front and center.)
Look at that photo for a second. That’s not a wedding — that’s a bachelor party.
I write a lot on this blog about the importance of having great people in your life. They’re the people who will support your work, who will be there for the low moments and the high. It is almost impossible to do the work without those people.
But sometimes it’s tough to visualize how many people it takes to support someone doing great work.
So here’s your visualization. That’s the support system it took to help Leon Gordon do his work. (He was a scientists.) That’s one man, and one body of work. They were there when he needed pushing, and when it was time to celebrate, well, they were certainly there for that, too.
That’s Uncle Leon. What will it take to make your work happen?
I will confess that I once believed that I was madly in love because of something I saw on TV.
There are a lot of shows out there featuring tall men — some of whom were even Jewish! — falling in love with attractive blondes and attractive brunettes. If you watch enough of them (and I did), and if you’re in a vulnerable enough place (and I was), you can start to believe that the romance you see on TV is the romance you deserve in your life.
You can fall for the story, and fall for the belief that what you saw on screen is what will soon happen to you.
I will confess that I have fallen for this.
And I will confess that it’s not just TV romances that I’ve fallen for. I’ve fallen for tech stories about the next great company. I’ve fallen for TED talks about the life I could lead. I’ve fallen for ads and myths and resolutions, and every story imaginable.
But I’ve also lived through enough to know what can really be mine — and what’s on screen isn’t it.
When you’re doing the work, you have to believe in yourself — and your skills, and your team. You have to believe in the story you’re trying to tell.
When you’re doing the work, other people’s stories become distractions. They’re there to inspire you, and to get you excited about what could be. But the minute you start believing that their story is your story, too, you’re screwed.
Nothing is gifted to you. Nothing is scripted.
This is your story and your journey, and it starts as soon as you commit to the work.
That lovely photo at top comes via.
When I really started writing this version of the blog, in the winter of 2012, I had one rule: I had to write a certain number of times per week. At the time, I wrote three posts per week, and I stuck to it — 3 posts every week, for an entire year. I wrote Monday/Wednesday/Friday. If I missed a day, I made it up as soon as I could — but I rarely missed a day.
And back then, I really needed the schedule. The schedule held me accountable at a time when I wasn’t strong enough to hold myself accountable. Without the schedule, I would’ve quit within days. Instead, I blogged that entire year. And then into 2013. And now into 2014.
On Thursday, I missed a day for the first time in a while. I was busy — seeing people, doing work. I wanted to blog, but I ran out of time.
I thought about writing an extra post this week to make up for it. I thought about how I would deal with missing a post so early into the year.
But I’ve decided to do something instead: Give myself permission to move off of the schedule.
I still want to write a few things per week. I want to write a lot here, and share the things I’ve learned.
But I don’t need the schedule anymore — I can hold myself accountable. That’s something I’ve learned over the 2+ years of blogging here.
And it’s okay to miss a day, at least if it’s for the right reasons. I’ve always said: You put people you love and the things you love first. And if they get in the way of a post, that’s alright. Sometimes, the work just has to take a backseat.