I’d like to lie and say Amy Poehler is a dear friend of mine, and she offered to guest blog for me this week. Oh what the hey, that is what happened, only Amy asked me not to tell everyone. She can’t say no, so she doesn’t want all her other “dear friends” to hit her up for a blog post. She does want everyone to go out and buy her book, Yes, Please (Dey St., William Morrow, 2014). (See, she can’t say no.)
Amy has had an amazing creative career, writing, performing, directing and producing, so she probably has some worthwhile advice on how to get ahead in your career. In fact, I lifted this excerpt from her book, Yes, Please, beginning on page 222. (Yes, I read and enjoyed the whole book!)
“I was lucky. Your career and your passion don’t always match up. Plenty of talented people don’t have the careers they want. Plenty of untalented people make millions and make movies. There is a difference between determination and talent. Hard work doesn’t always matter. You can be the best at making contacts and going after jobs, but then suddenly you want it too much. Suddenly everybody feels how bad you want it and they don’t want to give it. Even at six years old [my son] Archie is learning to stop paying attention to the toy he wants. He knows that if he lets on how bad he wants it his four-year-old brother will snatch that shizz up on a hot second. Pretending to not want something can work. Really not caring if you get it takes a lifetime of practice.
I guess the Buddhists would call this idea healthy detachment. Too often we are told to visualize what we want and cut out pictures of it and repeat it like a mantra over and over again. Books and magazines tell us to create vision boards. Late-night commercials remind us that “anything is possible.” Positive affirmations are written on our tea bags. I am introducing a new idea. Try to care less. Practice ambivalence.
Learn to let go of wanting it. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend.
Here’s the thing. Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. It will forget your birthday and wreck your car. Your career will blow you off if you call it too much. It’s never going to leave its wife. Your career is fucking other people and everyone knows but you.
You career will never marry you.
Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs. Mix in public opinion and past regrets. Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty. Career is something that fools you into thinking you are in control then takes pleasure in reminding you that you aren’t. Career is the thing that will not fill you up and never make you truly whole. Depending on your career is like eating cake for breakfast and wondering why you start crying an hour later.
I will say it again. Ambivalence is key.
You have to care about your work, but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.
I realize this is extremely difficult. I am not saying I’m particularly good at it. I’m like you. Or maybe you’re better at this than I am.
You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, “I made it!” You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful. Most people I know struggle with that complicated soup of feeling slighted on one hand and like a total fraud on the other. Our ego is a monster that loves to sit at the head of the table, and I have learned that my ego is just as rude and loud and hungry as everyone else’s. It doesn’t matter how much you get; you are left wanting more. Success is fill with MSG.
Ambivalence can help tame the beast. Remember, your career is a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don’t depend on it. It will reward you every time you don’t act needy. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you. If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else.”
Thank you Amy! It is useful to remember we can have another career, what’s your backup plan? Amy Poehler can always fall back on guest blogging for me. (The pay is great.) Thanks for her wisdom, delivered with humor, always.