Living and working in LA means lots of time spent in a car. Lots of time in a car means lots of time listening to podcasts and public radio. Well that's at least what it means for me. Sometimes there some really good shit that comes up on podcasts. This is one of those times when that happened to be the case.
I was listening to an episode of Marc Maron's WTF. The whole things. (Sometimes people skip the beginning because they're not all that interested in Marc's quips about his life. I enjoy them.) Anyway, it was a good thing I listened to the whole thing because part of the intro was Maron talking to Carol Leifer. She's a writer, stand up, author, actress, speaker, everythinger. You might know her work from a little show called Seinfeld. But I won't hold it against you if you don't know anything about her because I didn't either before this interview. And now I know a lot. And I'm completely fascinated with her and want to buy her new book. (And who said ads don't work?)
Back to the point, during the interview she was talking about the stage in her career where she was set to star the show she created. She was understandably nervous.But the story she told was about Jerry Seinfeld dropping by set and calming her down with a piece of advice. It's something I'm not sure I heard articulated in quite the way he did. (Another example of comedians knowing exactly how to boil universal truths down to the perfect statement.)
He said to her: "There's not just one thing."
Meaning there's no one that that makes someone a someone. It's just another day on another job and you have to try your best. Of course things can pay off handsomely, but it's detrimental to go in expecting everything to be the thing that changes everything.
There have been more than a few times that I felt as though everything was riding on the thing I was working on. I'll get so wrapped up in trying to make something brilliant and unique and transformative that I'll work myself into a lather and end up with diddly. I'll overwhelm myself with the intended result of the thing rather than the thing.
But of course it's not the case that every brief is the brief that's going to do it for you. There's potential everywhere, of course, but chances are that the half-off all board games radio brief isn't going to be the one that really sets the ad world on fire.
One particular example I remember is back when my Lunchables commercial went live. I thought that was going to launch me into super stardom. (It didn't.) But I was thrilled whenever I saw someone tweet about it, write about it, or make a parody of it. For a brief moment I felt like I'd made something that made it into the culture.
And that stuff is like a drug. Every assignement after that I approached like it was the only chance I had to do something big again. Like if it didn't pan out, it meaning relative renown and acclaim and people talking about my work, then the work was a failure. I was convinced everything was The One Thing.
But it wasn't. And it's not. And things are probably better off that way.