Episode 20: The After Show: Trust the Process
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Paul Kix: Hello and welcome to the After Show for Now That's a Great Story. On Monday I had on Rich Cohen, the author of The Fish That Ate the Whale. Aside from how much I love that book. I wanted to focus on one thing that Rich said that stuck with me -- but has a lot to do with Rich’s career and my own. And frankly anybody that decides to try to make a go of writing for a living or trying to do some sort of creative work for a living.
When I asked Rich about his own success he said he doesn't really think of himself as all that successful. What mostly he's trying to do is just continue on. And regardless of the outcome to just continue to do work. For anybody that's a basketball fan out there they're probably familiar with the Philadelphia 76ers and their long mantra of trust the process, I think something like that is applicable here, too. Whatever happens just continuing to do the work, and it's something that's hard -- it was hard for me to try to figure that out because when I was young and just starting out, I was very much this short-term thinker and short-term doer.
I had long-term aspirations but everything that I wanted to do was simply about my next story. How that next story was either an improvement upon the last one or some sort of like regression from the last one and I'm constantly sort of judging myself against my peers at whatever publication I was working at or even more broadly just anybody anywhere trying to see where I fell in the pecking order. And there's a pecking order that I made up -- but it was one that drove me crazy all the same. I remember sitting one night, it was a Sunday night at a restaurant. My wife Sonya, who then my girlfriend, we were outside and there was some of, like, I just remember having some conversation about this theme about how, you know. how I feel like I was in some way inadequate.
And she said, you know, this is just all about the journey. You've got to find… to try to find a way to be happy with the work that you are doing. And that was just anathema to me, like, I could never be happy with the work that I was doing because that meant that I wouldn't be improving. Like that was my mindset. And it sort of stayed my mindset for a while and then, you know, I get older, I don't know that the drive to improve goes away, but what happens instead is I start to just trust the process more and more; that if I can see myself putting in the work by that point whether it's a story that I'm editing, whether it's a book that I'm writing, whether it's a magazine piece it's taken me, you know, like…. I need a piece for the New Yorker that took, like, more than a year to report and more than a year to finally get published, right, so that was a very long process. And what I found myself turning more and more to driving more satisfaction from was the idea that I can enjoy the process more than I can enjoy the outcome. And by enjoying the process more than you enjoy the outcome, you actually end up having better outcomes.
It's something that Bryan Cranston talked about when he was struggling in LA. He went from somebody that was trying to please the producers to somebody who is just trying to please himself in any of these auditions and to put out the best sort of character that he thought he could or to represent whatever actor he was trying to get the role for in the way that he thought was most authentic to himself. And when he did that you found out that the roles actually became more available, more plentiful.
Same thing kind of happen for me. Same things happens I would imagine for a lot of people. It's just a fact of just like continuing to put in the work that ends up working out, The writer, actor, and playwright Phoebe Waller-bridges. She's a great example of this. I think it was in 2013, she produces this one woman… she writes and produces this one woman play called Fleabag at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and it’s panned. It was however sort of a cult favorite and it's slowly moves its way from the off West End, you know,, small theater stuff to the West End in London from there to the BBC, from the BBC and know in 2019 Fleabag as a comedy and drama. One who knows all the Emmys, basically, and Phoebe... that's the arc of her career because she just continued to put in the work, she continue to trust herself.
There's an editor who I've known for a long time who said to me I believe in baseball. So here's another way to think about it if you didn't like a basketball metaphor, maybe you'll like this one. And he said I believe in baseball and baseball is for him something that is a metaphor for life. The season is kind of as long as life itself, right, like there's a hundred and sixty-two games. you have to show up every single day to play well. At times the game is boring. at times you are injured, there are moments when you're really happy. There are moments when you're really sad or a moment you’re just sort of annoyed. You succeed, your team fails. Any one day in baseball doesn't matter. but what you do everyday in baseball starts to matter a lot. And that's why he said he believes in baseball. Enjoy the process and ignore the outcome because eventually the process... you'll get what you want.
One thing I’ve stress in the newsletter is the wisdom that you can find from other writers. And something that I've really come to rely a lot on is stoicism. And maybe the best book is by Marcus Aurelius who was at one point I'm the emperor of Rome. His book Meditations is amazing. it's just it's all about this actually. It's all about the ways in which you can control your thoughts and your actions, and you can control nothing. So once you put something out into the world? That's it. You can be happy with it, but how it is received is beyond your control.
I ended up relying on that a lot when I was finishing the book. I frankly rely on it a lot for this podcast. I think a lot about how I want to conduct an interview, you know, I do a ton of research, a ton of prep work for both the interview with the other author and then this after show. All I'm trying to do is just get better as a podcaster and by doing that, hope that the outcome is something that everybody likes. And so far it seems to be the case. I mean, our downloads for this podcast increase 42% from month two over month one. we're looking to exceed our month two totals this month. so we're on the right track and it's simply because I'm just putting in the work, doing my best and hoping that it is going to be received by some sort of audience that wants to keep coming back to it. I found what Rich said to be... really I found a lot of things that Rich said to be really deep and important -- but this was one thing that I wanted to dwell upon.
So. I'll be back Monday with another episode. if you like this one again please remember to rate and review it wherever you listen to episodes. if you like an email from me that talks about the other writers and creative thinkers who are inspiring me and who might inspire you, head over to Paulkix.com/newsletter. Sign up for my newsletter. Have a good one Bye bye.