Ten years ago I was working hard to establish myself as a thought leader on the future of journalism. I was consulting, speaking at conferences, writing a popular blog and selling courses.
Then one day, in the middle of 2013, I stopped.
Soon after, I dedicated myself to building a successful YouTube channel. The subscribers were growing slowly but surely; a few of my videos were getting noticed.
One day in 2016, I decided I was done with it. I haven’t looked at that channel since.
I also was obsessed with making a living from Patreon. I spent several years figuring it out, designing rewards and making trailers - I even visited Patreon’s HQ in San Francisco and hung out with Jack Conte.
Then, one day in 2018, I closed my Patreon down.
I was talking about these sudden abandonments with my friend Guy, and he said I reminded him of Chris Cooper’s character in Adaptation, the 2002 movie written by Charlie Kaufman.
In one scene the author Susan Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, is interviewing John Laroche, played by Cooper, about his many passions in life.
“I’ll tell you a story. I once fell deeply, profoundly, in love with tropical fish. I had sixty goddamn fish tanks in my house. I’d skin-dive to find just the right ones. Anisotremus virginicus, Holacanthus ciliaris, Chaetodon capistratus. You name it. Then one day I say, fuck fish. I renounce fish. I vow to never set foot in the ocean again, that’s how much fuck fish. That was seventeen years ago and I have never since stuck so much as a toe into that ocean. And I love the ocean!”
It’s almost always a mystery to those close to me why I suddenly give up on something right when things seem on the verge of taking off.
No doubt, it is an ill-advised way to go about your career. These days, the rewards are there for folks who pick a thing and do it again, over and over.
The more I do this, the more I find that the joy for me comes from not knowing how to make something, and figuring it out. Solving a problem, discovering a process, being the amateur - that’s the fun part.
And once I’ve figured it out…well, what else is there to do?
I don’t have any wisdom to add on top of this, except to say that my career may end with me sporting a mullet and driving a beat up van.
Until another Sunday soon,