Thoughts on tour

I haven’t been able to write as much on here as I would have liked, due to the ridiculously time-consuming task of filming and editing every stop on this tour.  Someone messaged me on Twitter the other day, asking what the hold up was on the videos, and I just busted out laughing.  I guess it’s hard for people to understand how much time goes into making these 2-minute clips.  For each one, we get about three hours of footage (that’s why all of them have been so good — we whittle away A LOT).  Then we have to put that footage onto a computer, which tragically happens in real-time (i.e. another three hours).  Then we get to edit it, which usually takes another few hours.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that we’ll be working the entire time on this tour, even on our “days off.”  Thank god Greg (the other videographer) and I get along, because we have to spend a ton of time together.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m complaining, because I’m not.  The tour has been awesome and really fun so far, and I knew going into this how crazy the hours were going to be.  In exchange for remaining in a perma-exhausted state, I’m getting paid to receive a film school-level education in less than six weeks.  Sounds like a good deal to me.

It’s funny, because whenever I really try to explain to anyone what I do or how I got here, their eyes kind of glaze over and I can see my explanation flying straight over their head.  This is probably my fault, as I haven’t found a succinct way to explain it yet, but I also think that they just never considered a path like this as being within the realm of possibility.  And actually, I wouldn’t think it was possible either a few years ago.

I haven’t really talked about this before, but I’ve failed more times than I can remember.  I’ve tried starting up several businesses, tried patenting inventions, tried starting up online communities, tried building several websites, tried to win contests… and failed almost every single time.  But I never chalked any of them up as failures in my head, because I learned so much in the process each time.  So now, when I’ve finally reached a point where things seem to fall into place with far less effort, I can’t help but think about all those times where I didn’t succeed over the course of the last eight years.  And I look back in fondness, because those lessons learned are the reason I’m here.  None of this stuff happened over night — in a way, I’ve been working to reach this point since I was 15.

I actually shouldn’t even call them failures, because they were really just attempts.  There’s a huge difference there. Everyone has failures, but most people never attempt things just for the sake of trying out something that looks fun, interesting, or challenging.  For some reason, a lot of us reach a point where we stop doing things for the hell of it.

Why do you think I’m such a huge proponent of free work?  Doing work for free forces you to find jobs where you can honestly say, “I would do this even if I weren’t being paid for it.”  That’s an expression I took a bit too literally, but it is spot on.

My favorite part of The Dark Knight is when the Joker is talking to Harvey Dent in the hospital, and he says: “Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just DO things… I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.”

And therein lies the best career advice I could possibly dispense: just DO things.  Chase after the things that interest you and make you happy.  Stop acting like you have a set path, because you don’t.  No one does.  You shouldn’t be trying to check off the boxes of life; they aren’t real and they were created by other people, not you.  There is no explicit path I’m following, and I’m not walking in anyone else’s footsteps.  I’m making it up as I go.

It’s harder, for sure, and kind of scary sometimes.  But it will allow you to look at yourself in the mirror and know you’re playing by your own rules.

UPDATE:  If you’re coming over from Kottke.org or Lifehacker.com, be sure to check out my guide to getting your dream job.  You can also subscribe to this blog here.

Comments

  1. Jeremiah says

    What kind of memory cards for the cameras are you using that you have to transfer the video over such a long time? I’m currently interning for a CNN bureau and all of their cameras, including the small handheld ones they use to shoot behind the scenes footage, use memory cards that you can simply pop into the computer and immediately start some editing using Final Cut.

  2. Mary says

    You know what? Not to sound hokey but I really needed to read this tonight. And this is my first visit to your blog.

    I’m almost 40 and just tonight I was again forced to confront my blacksheepery in a family of box-checkers. I’ve never had a master plan, I don’t want one, and I’m done apologizing for not having one. Hear hear!

    (I would totally, like, send you a fake cocktail on Facebook so we could clink pixelated glasses, if that wouldn’t make us both implode with the stupidity of it all.)

    Instead I’ll sit back and thank Twitter for random clicking. Huzzah!

  3. Nikc says

    The ONLY way to beat drudgery is to have a wild hair up your ass nearly all the time. In fact most shit gets a lot less fun when money gets mixed in the shuffle. Great post.

  4. Greg says

    Chuck Jones was ready to quit drawing art, when one day his fifth-grade art teacher came up to him as he scrunching up another piece of paper and asked him what the story was with the big pile of papers in the trashcan next to him.

    “Mrs. Smith, those are all the times I screwed up – I can’t get it right!!”

    “Well now Chuck,” she said, “do you know what each of those pieces of paper really is?”

    …no?

    “Oh Chuck, they’re one step closer to your greatness. Each time to mess up, you’re a teeny-tiny step closer to becoming a fabulous and gifted article. And there’s a magic number, Chuck, do you know what it is?

    …no of course not, am I close? what is it?

    “Chuck, it’s ten-thousand. Everyone fails their way to greatness ten-thousand times. Everytime you fail, you’re that tiny bit closer to being something truly incredible.”

    And so Chuck Jones, who’d been ready to throw down his pencil and do something else, got back go writing. And he filled that trashcan right up, he stopped counting but he filled it right up to the sky

    Before his career was over he hit that 10,000 mark and he had Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Grinch, Pepe Le Pew, all the Looney Tunes.

    None of them would have ever come into existence if it wasn’t for just chuck plugging away, after all that failure, never giving up ad never being afraid to fail

  5. Stevie says

    I was at the Gainesville stop and had an awesome time; everything about it was sort of surreal. The movie was hilarious but the dork in me has to admit how excited I got trying to pick all of you guys out… you, Corman, The Canadian, et al. My nerves were so shot by the end of the Q&A that I couldn’t even stick around to get my shit signed let alone try to approach some of you.

    I truly regret that after reading posts like these. Very insightful.

  6. Sachit Gupta says

    Love the last three paragraphs. Just the other day, I was thinking about how the Joker offers some of the best career advice in The Dark Knight (kinda like the Johnny Bunko book by Dan Pink). Great post!

  7. Ashlon Smith says

    Your words are those of someone who has truly struggled and worked to be where they are. Sounds like your journey is still ongoing and I wish you the best. Very inspiring about the “not failures but learning experiences.” The stick-to-it attitude is what seperates those that reach the top from the rest.

  8. Devin Yoshimoto says

    I am a big fan and regular reader of Tucker Max’s movie blog and am also a fan and regular reader of Tim Ferris’ blog. When I was linked to your blog (awesome post by the way) by Tucker’s latest post and checked out your site, I was surprised to see that you are actually also doing work for Tim Ferris’ next book.

    I would never have guessed that the two people whose blogs I check the most on a daily basis were actually connected through you. Knowing that this is probably more than just coincidence, I wanted to ask about how you were able to get work with both Tucker Max and Tim Ferris?

  9. Sharad Perera says

    I’m sorry to admit that I am tearing up now after having read this. I’m at a ‘cross-roads’ in my life which is a tough time for anyone. People you know are constantly messing with your head, trying to give you direction but also weighing you with expectations. It’s nice to read about someone who has used his failures as stepping stones in the right direction. What you said about doing work for free I found very intriguing. Rest assured I will now be following this blog as well as the movie blog.

  10. krypton1 says

    Hey Charlie, saw your blog mentioned on IHTSBIH and just read your recession proof grad book that Seth Godin linked up to. Great work I like what you’re doing! Just got yourself one new reader.

  11. Bulova says

    Thank you Charlie. I also, needed this tonight. I look around me at the people that I know and every single one of them has a plan. I don't. I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with my life. I realize that I am young, (19) but everyone else my age seems to know. Its good to see that someone without a plan, like me, can still be successful and respectable.

    I haven't seen the movie yet (I'll be at the columbus priemere) but I really can't wait. I follow the blog and I really respect what Tucker Max (and crew) is doing.

    Hope to see you in Cbus. Thank you for the inspiring words of wisdom! =);. All the best!!

  12. johnbardos says

    Awesome Charlie.

    You are my kind of role model. In a time when everyone seems to be looking for short cuts and the easy way out, it is great to see the rewards of hard work and experimentation.

    Your “free work” concept is brilliance. Not because it is particularly novel, but because you made it your own and presented in a very unique way. I am still looking for my “big idea.”

  13. Colin says

    Seen the Bloomington summary yet?

    YOU CAN TAKE MY FREEDOM, BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE MY FREE WORK!

    I was kind of disappointed to see that you hadn’t actually yelled that.

  14. Katie says

    Oh Charlie. Every one of your blogs has been spot on and inspirational, and I’m just sorry to say I hadn’t read this one until tonight.
    I’ve been ridiculously impressed with the videos you guys have been putting out for the movie, and I’m really proud of the work you’ve done. I can’t wait to see you; I miss you!!

  15. Robert Granholm says

    Haha, sister.

    Awesome, I just found your site and I can’t identify more with you. Gladly I’m in more of the tech field, but marketing or mind bending promotion also. I want to get in touch asap, swap stories and see if we can help each other.

    Your tenacity is what inspired me on this post. I identify with that, will power is one of my strongest suits. The term I call those “failures” are successful failures. I’m going to be successfully failing until I know it’s success flat out, and even then continue to fail it to even more success.

    I’ve moved away from check boxes, I’m building my own path, let’s talk, I want to pick your brain and build you up. After your done filming of course…hope you’re enjoying that.

  16. Danielle says

    i love the advice. it definitely takes more balls to follow a passion than to follow a path. seems backwards but it is so true.

  17. Daniel Gardner says

    I’m a videomaker hobbiest that fell in love with characters & comedy during the golden YouTube days. I love this post – so many people are afraid to look “silly” that they agree to work in a job that appears “normal” in order to appear “successful” to their friends, which should in turn make every “happy”. It’s a flaw the size of the Grand Canyon and I hatehatehate it.

    When I finished high school, people asked me what I intended to do. I had no clue. Instead of the question “What should I plan on doing?” I find it is much easier (and better) to ask yourself, “What do I like to LEARN?” If you could have any guru in the world tutor you, who would you chose? Picaso? Bill Gates? Beethoven? That should point you in the direction of your passion.

    Invest in that passion……….not because you’re gonna make big bucks, but because you’ve only got one shot at life, and this is the best way to fill it.

  18. hawk says

    nice thought..
    I would have thinking bout quite few times.
    but never had chance to put it in a nice words as above..

    anyway, thanks for the amazing input..

  19. Kevin Kane says

    Charlie, this post is iconoclastic and inspirational.

    Your comments remind me of Ibarra’s “Working Identity,” which shows that we discover who we are — and what we like to do — not by introspection, but by trying out new things. By engaging in new experiences and starting new relationships.

    From these experiments we learn about our skills and preferences. Volunteering is a great way to try out things you might like to do: it’s easy to start volunteering, but it’s also easy to move on if what you picked is not the right fit for you.

  20. Kent Healy says

    Excellent post Charlie. There are several nuggets of seemingly unrelated concepts that you have sewn together very well. Great stories and examples. It’s easy to see why this post has done so well. Keep up the great work.

  21. Sasha says

    Just do things. Follow your bliss.

    This is something you should hear when you’re 5 years old, but instead all you hear is “in order to do/be/have x you must follow this procedure…”

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