Category Archives: How to do what you love

I quit my job to take my hobbies full time. Here’s what happens now.

Future daytime improv star

Future daytime improv star

On June 27th, 2014 I quit a (relatively) cushy corporate job to pursue my hobbies as a career, these hobbies being writing, improv, comedy, acting and amateur clowning. Many people congratulated me on this decision and told me I was brave (read: foolish). Maybe they’re right because the truth is I don’t really know how make this happen. I just needed to do something.

Two days later, I left the Bay Area bubble for a 7 week journey that will take me across the Eastern third of the United States, starting in Chicago and continuing through Nashville, Atlanta, North Carolina (Asheville area), Washington DC, Boston, NY and then Oklahoma City (Edmond area) on a miniature “Wassup USA” tour. I fully expect to get scurvy and lose a couple of teeth on this journey which can only be described as low-budget.

I’m doing this, the quitting and the traveling and the clowning, to test the hypothesis that there are no rules in life and no limit to what I can dream up and do, that nothing is in my way except for my own fear, and it is a formidable opponent that has some great arguments for why my dreams are a bunch of hogwash.

“Why should you be so lucky that you get the chance to quit a pretty good job and pursue comedy for a career? Not everyone has the chance to go after jobs they find meaningful – why should you? You shouldn’t look for meaning in your work, so why don’t you just do something that will get you a good income so you can be secure and figure out a way to work in your passions at nights and on weekends? Improv, really? Can’t you be passionate about something else? What if you fail?”

There’s some truth in these doubts, but at the end of the day they are just fear disguised as practicality, and I can’t convince myself to listen to them anymore. Not yet. But they are interesting questions.

In the next phase of my life and as I’m doing my hobbies full-time-ish, I want to explore these questions of meaning and career, who gets to follow their dreams and why, and who cares about this and does it even matter.

And for the next 50 days, I want to see what’s up with the USA. I want to do an Alexis de Toqueville “Democracy in America” except more along the lines of “Drevets in America.” It’ll just be me, in America, with my vision and dreams along with everyone else’s. Nothing much has changed except my morning commute and my inbox count.

So….what’s up USA?

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Improv Is Not What You Think It Is [Guest Post]

I have a secret to share with you. It’s been hidden for long enough but now it’s time for it to burst into the spotlight, in full view of the entire world, President Obama, and any non-earth intelligent life: I am an improviser, as in, I do improv.

Yes, this is where I stand on a stage with some other brave souls and create something out of what appears to be nothing. It’s not as hard as it looks. In fact, it’s much harder, and the trick is that you can’t think about what you’re doing. Not even a little bit.

The thing is, improv is not what you think it is. Whatever you think you know about improv is probably wrong. That’s how it was for me, at least. But since my days of improv ignorance, I’ve come into the light – my improv troupe True Medusa has helped with that enlightenment process. They are pretty amazing.

Are you intrigued? Do you want to know more? Do you want to know how wrong you are about improv? I dare you to read my blog post on the brand-new True Medusa blog, lovingly titled “Improv is Not What You Think It Is.” 

Take a read, take a look, and let me know what you think. Read now.

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When My Body Comes to Rest Beneath the Willow Me

Photo credit: Emily Drevetes

Photo credit: Emily Drevets

Let’s start with my sausage fingers and pie-dough hands. It seems like an appropriate place to start. Many things start here – the words I’m writing right now for example, or a properly tied sneaker.

My pinkies can’t even stand out straight. I’ve always thought it was because of the hump of fat my body put on them when my thighs were full, but now I think it’s because one of my sisters chewed off a tendon in the womb.

My fingers are the primary way I experience face grease and t-shirt texture. They’re seldom at rest – sometimes they do the thinking for me. I’ll be in a meeting at work, and before I know it, I’ve completely covered an entire page in flowers that look like they were screamed into being in a mad house. Problem solved, everyone. Let’s get coffee together.

But they can also be nosy little bastards, these fingers. Like, do you really have to pop every pimple on my right cheek, or frantically take off and then replace my ring while having a conversation with someone of high status, or scratch the back of my neck to feel that weird mole, just to make sure it’s still there? And seriously, playing with food is just not okay. So don’t do it, because we’re serious about the food we waste.

These hands don’t seem to understand that they shouldn’t obey every whim that fires through my synapses, like maybe they shouldn’t reach out and snatch the celery off Daryl’s plate at wing night, because he wants that celery. He really does.

When I’m watching closely, my hands do as I say, but if my mind is occupied elsewhere, it’s out to pasture and away they go, poking and prodding, fidgeting and snacking. How much do they know about each other? How much do I really know about them and their concerns? Maybe they wouldn’t hate having a stress ball around or another pair of hands to socialize with. Maybe they want to shake more hands or be part of more hugs or high fives – or maybe they just want to see the usual hands more often.

Maybe they’re tired of saying the same things over and over again, or want to give more instead of taking. Would they steal? Would they permanently lodge themselves into my ears? What would they do, if I let them do anything?

The body is one thing, and it has a life of its own. George Washington taught us that, right before he pulled the very first cherry tree out from behind his tutor’s ear. Without me inhabiting it, maybe my body would spend more time outside by the water, or go hiking in the redwood forests for a couple of months.

And then I could inhabit something else – a willow tree. I would whisper in the wind and tickle the necks of lovers as they made my roots uncomfortable. My body would come sit one day beneath the willow me and it would breathe in its oxygen and we’d see that things aren’t so different, after all.

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Places to Think about Life in Downtown San Francisco

Bay Bridge from the Embarcadero in San FranciscoYou are responsible for managing your career/life. No one will do this for you, and it certainly doesn’t just happen. If you don’t wake up excited about your job or what you’re about to do all day, feeling like a lovely flower blooming in the sunlight of opportunity, it’s your job to fix something. Read this Onion article for a little more clarity on why doing anything else is pretty dumb.

At the same time, it’s not easy to switch careers or even understand where to begin, and time goes by so fast, all the sudden the weekened’s here but then it’s gone and all those things you wanted to think about are pushed to next week, again. So, where do you get the time to think about life? How do you find the correct patch of time-space fabric in which to plot your career, or any other kinds of goals you may have.

First off, make this a priority. Take your lunch break, and get out of the office, the hospital, the restaurant, or the mine. Removal is key, otherwise someone will probably ask you to do something. If your mine shaft, office building, or restaurant happens to be close to or in downtown San Francisco, I have some ideas for places you can escape to.

1. The Embarcadero

This is the street/boardwalk that borders the bay. Take some time to walk here and look out over the water and watch the sailboats doing their thing or look at the bridge, which is pretty cool. Stare at the people that stroll, business walk, or jog by you, some of them tourists trying to suck the marrow out of the city, others of them citizens getting their heart rates up or eating. The transience in the midst of such a broad landscape will help you as you try to decipher, “Where am I going in this wide world, and what do I need to do to get there?”

2. The Marriott on 2nd and Folsom

This Marriott has a huge lobby with ample seating and is a popular place for biz types to gather and discuss things they care about business-wise. Your first reaction might be, “How the heck am I supposed to think when I’m surrounded by people who are talking about business and holding meetings.” You’re right, there are people doing those things here, but look closer, and you’ll find people just checking in to their rooms and passing through the city. Think about them and their experience compared to yours. Boom. Your world just got bigger. Imagine the web of their relationships and watch it stretch over the entire globe. Boom. Your world just got bigger again. Then think about the person you want to be in 5 years and how to get there. It’s as simple as that.

3. The picnic area on 2nd and Folsom, south side

Come, sit in the sun, watch other people eat, and maybe enjoy something yourself. Look at the water in the fountain, the substance most critical to our very existence. Look at the trees, doing their all-important and only work of transforming sunlight into food, then think about what you’re doing that’s critical for well-being, either for others or for yourself. Are you contributing to the essential activities of the earth or adding to them in a positive way?

4. Find a tree and look at it for a long time

If you’re not in downtown San Francisco and have no idea what the places I just named are, go back and reconnect with nature, then extrapolate out and see the bigger picture. How can you be like that tree, fulfiling your purpose every day, during the day, and not relegating it to the nights and weekeneds. When you figure that out, please please please let me know how you’re doing it.

For more on finding your purpose and doing what you love, see “How to Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love” from brainpickings.org, Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, and Stop Everything and Think about This by yours truly. 

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Stop everything and think about this

cool picture(Skip to the quote if you’re short on time)

So I’ve been using the thinking part of my brain and the talking part of my mouth recently, having those kinds of conversations with older people that make me wonder why I ever thought I knew anything in the first place.

One of those was with my former professor, who I now call by her first name and that’s a little weird. I don’t remember the exact words of the conversation, but I remember coming away from it, shocked to learn that there are many stages in life, and the fact that she is a professor right now doesn’t mean she will always be a professor and in fact she hadn’t even imagined she would ever become a professor.

To me, this was mind-blowing. For some reason, probably because I’m too intelligent, I imagined popping out of college and entering “career” or “dream job,” neither of which turned out to be true, and in fact I don’t even know what my dream job looks like. Understanding this stage in my life as part of something greater is extremely relieving, because that means I still have the chance to revive 30 Rock and write for it in 10-15 years.

On the note of life stages and the illusion of permanence, I read an incredible quote today, courtesy of Literary Jukebox. The quote is from someone I’d never heard of with an equally unknown book, which gives me hope that one day my words might inspire someone even if they’ve never heard of me. Debbie Millman in Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design writes

“I discovered these common, self imposed restrictions are rather insidious, though they start out simple enough. We begin by worrying we aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get what we want, then we voluntarily live in this paralyzing mental framework, rather than confront our own role in this paralysis […]

Every once in a while — often when we least expect it — we encounter someone more courageous, someone who choose to strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often, we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it […]

If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.”

When I read this, I find it extremely challenging and convicting, and it reminds me of something that Stephen Elliott of The Daily Rumpus (and other) fame said once in one of his letters.

He said that people will never be surprised at your failure if you try to do something “impossible,” like make a movie, or publish a book, or travel around the world. In fact, they expect it. They’ll say “of course you couldn’t publish your book, of course you couldn’t make your movie, of course you couldn’t change jobs” etc. etc.

But the reality is that people are doing those things every day, and the only difference between them and me is the fact they’ve been pursuing their passion with a relentless fever, making the impossible happen for themselves and not listening to the consolation of others.

What does it take to be extraordinary? I’m not completely sure, but I know that part of it is steely tenacity. Today I resolve to be more tenacious.

(By the way, if you don’t read the site Brain Pickings, you should. A side-burn of Brain Pickings is the tumblr Literary Jukebox, which is also fantastic.)

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