random thoughts

Finally! Be Happy

I waited tables for 11 years in Albany.

Mornings, I opened the restaurant. I wiped tables and tucked chopsticks into white linen napkins. Everyday, I repeated to myself:

“When I get out of Albany, I’ll finally be happy.”

Then I moved to Los Angeles. Things changed.

I quit waiting tables. Then had to go back when I ran out of money. This is my first day back. I'm dying on the inside.

I quit waiting tables. Then had to go back when I ran out of money. This is my first day back. I’m dying on the inside.

Now the napkins were red. Instead of chopsticks, it was silverware.  

“When I get out of the restaurant business, I’ll finally be happy.”

The next step, I figured, was: become a Hollywood assistant. Learn from an agent. Answer phones and read scripts. Nine months of napkins later, and I started at a management company.

After a few months:

“When I start working for a writer, I’ll finally be happy.”

But this time, I wondered.

We love to think that once we get our “big break,” BOOM, that’s it! Red panties night.

Examples of the big break:

  • Money – “Once I start making six-figures, all my money problems will go away”
  • Relationships – “I just need to meet the one, and she’ll make everything better”
  • Moving to LA – “After I start fresh in Los Angeles, everything will work out”

Seeing dreams come to fruition is exhilarating. When it comes to moving to LA and finding a job, I can help. (For relationships, there’s an app for that.)

But I’ve worked with people who’ve climbed very high. Their books got on lists, then on movie screens. They made a lot of money. Had sex with a lot of people

They still say: “After the next big break, I’ll finally be happy.”

Work for your dream. Get up at 5 a.m., work till 2 a.m., and ship early and often.

But if you’re counting on your big break to “finally be happy” — spoiler alert — it won’t.

That’s up to you.

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Photo Credit: Geraint Rowland

The Work vs. The Experience

What is the work? What is the experience?

Work is your job. It’s what you’re paid to do.

Experience, for the context of this post, are the fringe benefits of the work.

Experience is, “I can’t believe this is part of my job.”

Experience can be positive (“I can’t believe hanging out with musicians is part of my job,” a music blogger may say) or negative (“I can’t believe I’m cleaning dog piss.”) [click to continue…]

Don’t Pay Dues and 3 Soul-Saving Mindsets When You’re Fed Up At Work

At a wedding at the Benjamin Franklin Institute, I explained to my friend Sean how part of my work involved chauffeuring pets to and from vet appointments.

“I don’t know man,” he said. “I don’t think I could do it.” Big Ben (the 100-foot replica of Benjamin Franklin glaring down at us) seemed to agree.

I get it. There are days that made me feel all Anne Hathaway in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. During a recent trip to the vet, the dog expressed her gratitude by leaving a lake in the reception area. I cleaned it up with half a roll of off-brand paper towels, the kind that gets soaked by a gentle mist.

you had one job

After her appointment, I had to take my boss’s car to the DMV to get it inspected and registered. I finished the paperwork and paid for the registration:

“Great, now go get the smog inspection, come back here, and we’ll give you the plates and stickers,” the person said. Another 90 minutes and a smog inspection later, I returned to the DMV and got back in line.

An hour later, I had the plates and stickers. I dropped off the car, and returned to mine, then proceeded to cross the hell hole that is the 405 on a Friday evening.

Total time running errands: 6 hours.

Keep Reading If You’ve Ever Been Fed Up At Work

My inner monologue at these moments used to sound like any other whiny, self-entitled intern or unique snowflake college graduate:

  • “I am too smart to sit in line at the DMV for someone else.”

  • “I have so much more to contribute to the world than chauffeuring around dogs.”

  • “I’m cleaning up my boss’s dog’s piss — what is wrong with this picture?”

Mostly, I was angry. I was frustrated. And I didn’t know how to handle it, or make the situation better.

[click to continue…]

The Accomplished Critic

In college I wrote book reviews for the university magazine.

It was a lot of fun. It was college. Your opinion vastly outweighed anyone else’s. Especially if it wasn’t hypothesized and percolated within the university bubble. We’d rap on subjects with an assurance that comes from knowing half-formed theories would stand unchallenged by the real world.

When I reviewed books, most of the time I did it with respect. But I clearly remember ripping into a few with spite and mean-spiritedness. There was one novel in particular… It was part of THE CAT WHO… series, by Lillian Jackson Braun.

I spent extra time crafting that review. I wanted people who read it to think I was funny and clever, and could turn a phrase. It’s embarrassing to think about now.

Yesterday, I read a review of Dennis Lehane’s film, THE DROP. The review closes with:

“It’s definitely my least favorite Dennis Lehane adaptation to date, and I believe he should stick to writing books.”

[click to continue…]

If It Doesn’t Hurt You’re Not Doing It Right

The other day, I went to a lawyer networking dinner in Pasadena with my girlfriend, Amy. She asked me to be her date: to rub elbows and drink blended margaritas with too much ice and not enough tequila.

She asked… expecting me to decline.

Because most of the time, that’s what I do.

Amy knows me better than I know myself.

She knows what it means when I get quiet… or talk too loudly… she knows EXACTLY what I’m thinking when someone starts talking about what “they deserve” (e.g, a good job, a good salary) after earning a piece of paper after four years of delaying the real world.

So she knows when she asks if I want to go do something (drink blended margaritas, go to the beach, eat froyo) I’ll act like I’m considering it… but what I’m really doing is opportunity cost calculus.

Here’s what that calculus looked like when she asked me to this dinner:

  • “Well, I’ll take an hour train ride into downtown Los Angeles where she’ll pick me up

  • Then it’ll be a half-hour drive to Pasadena

  • We’ll be meeting these people who aren’t in my industry, so it’s unlikely any long-term relationships will come out of it

  • (plus they’ll probably be way older than us)

  • We’ll eat food, make small talk, listen to some speeches for two hours

  • Then get in the car and drive 30 minutes back home

  • At which point it’s 9 p.m., and I know I can’t work after 8…”

“So going to this event = an opportunity cost of 4 hours of work.”

Then I think: “Well, shit, 4 hours is lot, to hang out with a bunch of people I’m never going to see again…”

This happens in the pause after Amy finishes her sentence.

She catches it (and I catch her catching it). It happens in a blink but it’s still noticeable, like flicking on-and-off a light switch.

Opportunity cost calculus is something I do several times a day. It is, without a doubt, the thing I hate the most about myself. [click to continue…]