random thoughts

Why they never break in

That first decision to move to Los Angeles is thrilling.

You dream. Gorgeous weather. Warm sand stretching on the shore from Malibu to Redondo, curling between your toes. Finally the right environment to grow and find people like you.

Then you look at the practical details to actualize this dream…

  • How much to save
  • Your skill level at your chosen craft
  • A network to build your career

It can be hard to believe you can actually do it.

Every day can feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill. The dollars never add up. Your skills don’t stack up to the professionals and despite sending dozens of emails, you still haven’t connected with anyone who can help you.

To the untrained eye, it looks like you haven’t done much at all.

But here’s what I see:

  • Steady progress towards reaching a savings goal that you’re inching towards everyday
  • Someone improving their craft each minute they work
  • Every email sent building a relationship — whether you get a response or not

It takes time.

People don’t make it not because they weren’t good enough.

They just didn’t work for long enough. [click to continue…]

Would you help him?

Here’s a note my friend received recently, via LinkedIn:

Hey Jeff,

Glad to link with you on this thing. Pun intended.

I’m really trying to push my television pilot. I know you’re not looking but could you possibly lead me to some places (or folks) that are? I promise I won’t make you look bad. 🙂

Or you can hit me on the personal tip: [HIS EMAIL]

Any advice at all would be appreciated.

One love.

Let’s analyze all the things wrong here, then commit them to memory. Because if you’re going to make it in Los Angeles, you will have to ask for help.

But you have to do it the right way.

Here we go: [click to continue…]

Why You Should Move to LA (the reason no one talks about)

If your weakness isn’t exposed, is it still a weakness?

I recently started jiu jitsu. Until I did, I didn’t realize I had shit for elbows.

After sparring, I complained how sore my elbows were to my professors. They gave me a weird look, like “this guy only comes to class 3x per week why is he bitching about being sore?”  

I’ve been icing them every night since, and I still feel a twinge.

Other weaknesses I’ve discovered: [click to continue…]

Did You Expect to be Great?

I ask everyone who emails me for advice on moving to LA the same question:

“What do you want to do in Los Angeles?”

Last time, I told you I only get a reply 30% of the time.

Of that 30%, here’s what 99% say:

  • “Acting. Just a little bit. Nothing big”
  • “I’m a musician. But mostly for the change of scenery. Hopefully some new work”
  • “Something in entertainment. Hopefully writing TV or film”

…which is really interesting. Because it means one of two things:

  1. These guys are the most unambitious, unimaginative people ever (hint: I don’t think it’s #1)
  2. They feel weird admitting what they really want

I think we’re getting warmer.

Because it’s not #1. Don’t kid yourself. If you’re looking to move to Los Angeles — with little money, no definitive job prospects, and no housing — you don’t fall into the category of unambitious or unimaginative.

Which leaves #2, and this next question:

What are you embarrassed to admit?

Here’s my guess:

You’re embarrassed to admit you expect greatness.

What is greatness?

Greatness can look like any number of things:

  • For actors. Broadway, film, TV, collecting residuals from that AT&T spot
  • For musicians. Selling out a standing room only venue. Or a platinum record
  • For writers. NYT Bestseller, that Emmy, seeing your play come to life

For most of us, greatness is why we move to LA: We believe we’re destined to be great. Not just good, not “also-ran.” Great.

Yet saying this aloud seems arrogant. So we keep it to ourselves.

How do I know this?

I’m guilty myself.

Another assistant would ask: “What are you looking to do? Do you want to be a screenwriter?”

I’d answer: “You know, maybe…  I’m still just learning about this business and figuring out where I fit.”

Meanwhile, every morning that week at 5:30 a.m. I’m up typing into Final Draft before spending the next 10 hours answering someone else’s phone.*

There’s an audacity to expecting greatness. For example, if you say you expect to be a great screenwriter, you’re also saying you’re better than the millions who “never makes it,” whether it’s because they don’t have the connections or (more likely) didn’t write well enough.

It’s difficult to admit this to someone…

But it’s even harder to admit this to yourself.

Once you admit you expect greatness, you admit that you’re trying. You’re writing everyday, taking classes, you’re joining writing groups. You’re working on the craft while everyone tells you to “be normal” and “don’t be so hard on yourself.”

The downside is you could fail.

For example, the first screenplays I poured hours into were — objectively speaking — shit.

It’s terrifying to realize your expectation of greatness could be nothing but a mirage you’re stumbled towards.

So when someone asks, “What do you want to do in LA?” you’re better off giving a vanilla answer (“Oh, I don’t know… maybe I’ll take up acting.”) It’s not normal to open yourself up to an emotional, devastating beat down. 

But on the flip side, by definition, there is nothing normal about greatness.

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*This is not to say you should pour out your heart and dreams to your Starbucks barista and her mother. If it’s a first date or your current boss, they don’t need to know everything right away.

Photo Credit: Topher76

But, is that your best plan?

Conor McGregor had a lot to say after his 13-second defeat of the division’s 10-year-undefeated champion, Jose Aldo.

 
But I thought his most interesting words were reserved for his teammates, Gunnar Nelson and Artem Lobov, both of whom lost their fights:

Gunnar will be back, he’ll grow with it like he did the previous… As my coach says, we win or we learn. We will head back to the gym and we will enjoy and learn from every sequence that happened this weekend, and learn and grow from that. Add to it, implement these lessons into our game.

In other words, there is no failure.

Only lessons.

This is true if you’re moving to Los Angeles, too.

I found if you’re planning a move to LA, you fall into one of two camps:

Camp #1: You’re still saving enough money and deciding why you want to move to LA

Camp #2: You have the money and skills, BUT the thought of failing is holding you back

A few examples:

plan1

 

plan2
plan3

There’s a lot of subtlety in these emails, but it boils down to:

I don’t want to fail.

  • “I’m terrified about the actual process of making that career happen”
  • “I’m deathly allergic to failure and dread moving back with my mom”
  • “They give you the rundown on how bad it is… I questioned why I want to go”

That’s CRAZY pressure to put on yourself, before you’ve even MOVED.

It safer to delay — and do nothing — than try and fail.

Which is I love Conor’s words. It’s a powerful reframe:

We win or we learn. We will enjoy and learn from every sequence that happened, and learn and grow from that. Add to it, implement these lessons into our game.

When you first move to Los Angeles, your goal is to learn

To be clear: Greatness SHOULD is the ultimate goal, in whatever you pursue.

Daniel Humm, chef and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad in New York City put it this way:

When I was young my father told me that it didn’t matter what path I chose — whether it was a complicated profession or a simple one — but whatever I did choose pursue I should want to be the best.

But that comes later.

After you understand the industry, your competition, and where your particular perspective, skillsets, and personality fit in.

The first step is to learn.

Tim Ferriss’s goal is to write amazing, NYT best selling books. His first step is writing two crappy pages each day.

So someone like Mitch, who “wants a career writing for film & television,” should focus on “what I need to learn to be the best film & tv writer I can be” (because yes, there’s more to it than “write good”).

This is a small tweak, but it takes the pressure off, and moves your target much closer.

First things first: Get in the mix. Enjoy the process. Learn the sequences. And implement the lessons.