Good morning Rooster Teeth campers. Welcome to 2018. We’re already two days in, but it’s the first day back to the office so I thought I’d try to start the year by getting a journal post in. This year I’m going to work to keep an ongoing journal about what I’ve been reading and consuming. Learning has always been a big priority in my life. I grew up with a family full of teachers. My parents were both elementary school teachers, other family members taught preschool or were seminarians. A good chunk of my parents friends were also teachers. There was a culture of learning around me and it sank in. I don’t think we’re ever really done becoming who we are and we have the capacity to mold ourselves, in part, through what we consume.
In the spirit of that capacity for change, I spent some time the other day thinking about 2017 and trying to boil down some of what I’ve learned. These are in no particular order. I’ll try to extrapolate in places but these are pretty open and honest.
1) There are things you can do that you told yourself you couldn’t do
This has been an ongoing thing the past couple of years. A couple of years ago when we relaunched the Let’s Play channel, I started experimenting with plugging my guitar in and finding random pedal combos I could create interesting sounds with for the various bumpers. For the longest time I’d told myself that I wasn’t a songwriter and I wasn’t a musician. I’d played sax throughout high school but it wasn’t an active part of my life after college. Those Let’s Play bumpers ended up uncorking something that’s really grown and flourished since then. RSTR, our loosely organized staff band, has become this really cool thing. It’s fun getting together and hashing out songs for the various projects we’ve done and I’m excited in 2018 for our first album.
More recently, I’ve been discovering some latent drawing skills. My wife had the idea for a children’s book about a punk rock tween girl who flies around exploring her galaxy. I wanted to do what I could do to help her make it into something. I started to try to find a friend who could illustrate for us but I’ve always had a hard time trying to get people to buy into a project that I can’t pay them for right away so I started to train myself to be able to do it. I’ve been documenting my progress on my instagram account. I get up early during the weekdays and spend the first 90 minutes to two hours plugging away at something and I post a little snap shot of whatever I did that day. it’s been fun and it’s been a reminder about plasticity and that we can change ourselves.
One of the youtube channels that’s been especially helpful has been manga illustrator Mark Crilley’s. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCno-YPZ8BiLrN0Wbl8qICFA . His stuff is worth a look if you haven’t checked it out. Also helpful has been the work of Scott Robertson: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrJhSmz4zo9t-Z2GdHECW7A
2) Plugging a guitar into a powerful amp feels really good.
Seriously. If you’ve never had the chance to play a power chord into a real guitar amp. Find yourself an amp and try it out. It’s an amazing feeling.
3) You have more people who care about you than you admit
3a) Even as you realize the number of people who care, you discovered a new level of loneliness in your work.
2017 had some real high points and some real low points. I had a couple of really long mostly solo projects that didn’t always go the way I hoped they would. It was hard going through those things on my own.
4) The doors you want to have opened, or you think you want opened, probably aren’t ever going to open the way you want them to. You need to learn to adapt and adjust and not let it crush you.
Still unpacking this one. I think this plugs into item 1 though. One of the only ways to open new doors is to become something else. As a commercial artist, if you want to be doing other work you need to show that work. From the music side, I couldn’t go write a Let’s Play Rock Opera
if I hadn’t been doing a lot of other things that led up to that.
5) Forty doesn’t feel like forty. You don’t understand how it differs from what you expected because a lot of the things that have happened are what you predicted.
I turn Forty in a little over a month. Oddly it’s felt more like I’m turning 30 and I can’t put my finger on it. All of the things I thought I’d have by 40 I have. Two kids, a good marriage, a house, a career… I’m thankful for all of those things and they’re adult things, but I don’t feel like “an adult” most days. Maybe it’s that I feel like I’m still trying to prove myself to people or that what I consider ‘my career’ I’ve only been doing for 7-8 years. (I spent most of my twenties and early thirties working in corporate and church production and design. It wasn’t til after I moved to Austin that I worked on my first film.)
6) Shut the monkey mind up
Buddhism calls the mind that’s busy running scenarios and conversations through your head the monkey mind. I’m awful at shutting that monkey mind up. The times this year where I was able to maintain a mindfulness practice helped that but I need to maintain that practice in a better way. I also need to do a better job of doing something like Julia Cameron’s morning pages.
here’s some info about morning pages http://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/
In a similar vein. I need to be better about using things like morning pages to process my inner dialogue and not push down stuff that I’m trying to sort out.
7) You’re not infallible and when you break now it’s harder to get back to neutral.
Like item #3, I realized this year that when my tank hits zero and I try to keep going after that point, I can’t. I used to be able to, but, and maybe this is an example OF being forty, the same mechanisms I used to rely on to push through don’t work as well anymore. It’s like a repetitive
stress injury, I guess. After a couple of the big projects I was on this year I didn’t bounce back quickly at all. One of the big goals for 2018 is to work on that.
8) Without a support network, you’re much more prone to getting lost and not being able to find your way out.
This is both a creative and a personal thing. I’m thankful for my friends and coworkers who were there to help me stay upright this year.
9) You have to find a way to deal with the work not being you and you not being the work.
Frankly, I make things way too personal. One of my strengths has always been feeling like the work is a part of me.That makes me care about it to a degree, sometimes, honestly, a lot of times, is not healthy. I haven’t solved this one, but I’m aware it’s there and I’m trying to be more cognizant about watching out for this.
10) When you’ve reached a professional/career goal it be can sometimes be hard to establish the next goal
This boils down to reinvention. I’m still thinking about this one and trying to understand what causes me to get to a place where I start to feel restless and what I do about it.
11) Even if you think you’ve learned how to handle your imposter syndrome it just finds another place to attack.
Go watch this video on the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s pretty great
12) You’re still not over not having parents anymore and you hang on to parental figures more than ever because it sucks to not have a lifeline
I remember I was at work finishing up an episode of season 12 of Red Vs. Blue the last time I talked to my mom. She prayed that I’d finish my project so that I could get up to MN. Someday I’ll tell the story here about my worst week ever. It’s funny in a rather morose way, but it was capped with a 70 some hour work binge as I worked to finish an episode of RvB. After I finished, I raced home, bought a plane ticket and flew up to Minnesota the next day. I’ve lost both of my parents while at Rooster Teeth. I remember listening to the Enders Game audiobooks while working on season 9 of Red Vs Blue. My dad was going through cancer treatments for multiple myeloma at the time. In the Enders books they have this communication service called The Ansible that allows planets to talk to each other in real time. If someone were to travel to the other planet, time dilation would mean that everyone on the other planet would be dead by the time you got there, but you can talk. I felt like I was living on another planet that year because I could talk to my dad but I couldn’t be in MN to be there with him.
Both of those wounds of losing my parents have faded over time. Now they mostly come out in really dark jokes. Friend: “Trying to figure out what to get my dad for Father’s day” Me: “Wish I had that problem”. Or, picture a fun movie montage of me hanging out with two velvet bags filled with ashes. But the thing that doesn’t quite fade is the knowledge that you’re the patriarch of the family now. It’s a loose thread. There’s no direct link to your past. You can’t phone and ask a question about your past. Thankfully, there is that “It takes a village” sort of village of people that were around my parents and you can sort of go to those people, but it’s not the same. I’ve never quite gotten past that feeling of being orphaned. I’m really thankful for the people who have become mentors and have fulfilled some of the aspects of those roles. I hope that I can be that for other people.
12a) If you’re going to die when your parents did, you have less than half your life to accomplish what you want to accomplish.
This is sobering.
13) Maybe you have a book in you, but you’re not in a place to write it. Maybe you should convince yourself that you are.
A 2018 goal is to really dwell on this one. I’ve got some thoughts. Those thoughts scare me because you look at the end goal and you can’t see the finish line but you know that at some point you’re going to be there. Just like in long distance racing though, you have to take your eye off of the end goal and just focus on the process. One foot in front of the other.
13a) You can chase after the big thing, but you’ll only ever catch it by doing the small things and focusing on the next step.
14) You have people that look up to you and that still confuses you. At some point you need to be able to accept and love who you are.
14a) You need to stop hating yourself and forgive yourself for not being the version of perfection that you have in your head.
I think I need to meditate on this one a lot this year. It’s one thing to intellectually understand this. It’s another thing to emotionally embrace it.
15) You’re still better off asking forgiveness than permission.
I stand by this one. Just go do whatever it is that you’re thinking about. Figure out a way to tackle it. You’re never going to get permission for it if it’s something you haven’t necessarily done before but you’re sure that you can do it.
16) You need to do a better job of processing knowledge and not just taking it in if you’re going to be the teacher that you want to be.
I’m hoping my journal entries this year will be a piece of this.
17) Work on forgiveness because you kind of suck at it.
Ok self. I hear you.
18) You really can survive out of just a backpack for a few days.
I had the chance to go to Adobe MAX in October. Part of what kind of became a grand tour of conferences this year, but because I was paying for it myself, I found the cheapest airfare that I could. That meant flying Frontier and only being able to carry a backpack as a small carry on. I found out that I could do it and live off of just a small amount of a stuff for a few days. It was a pretty liberating feeling.
19) sometimes you just have to say yes. In 2016 you couldn’t imagine how you’d ever speak at NAB or SIGGRAPH. In 2017 you did both.
I still can’t believe I had a giant 65’ foot screen showing footage of a leg in a wood chipper as I taught people how to find the humor in it. A friend mentioned it was ‘the most Rooster Teeth talk I could have given’. You can check it out here.
I also had the chance to speak at SIGGRAPH. That one scared the hell out of me. SIGGRAPH is a conference for graphics professionals. It’s mostly researchers giving scientific talks. Going back to imposter syndrome, what could I have to say that would stand up to what they’re presenting. It turns out that there were people who mentioned they learned a lot from it. That was pretty humbling.
20) Jeff Goldblum is taller and weirder than you’d expect. Luis Guzman wasn’t anything other than what you’d expect
Had two celebrity interactions while i was in Los Angeles for SIGGRAPH. My first night at the hotel I ran into Luis Guzman. He was definitely the essence of Luis Guzman. Later in the week, I had the chance to see Jeff Goldblum at his wednesday night Jazz residency. If you ever have the opportunity, go. It’s a great, surreal, weird evening. Kind of one of the highlights of my year.
21) Sometimes the things that connect you to your community are more tenuous than you’d expect them to be. When they break, you won’t be sure how to reconnect those friendships but you’ll want to.
Before the #MeToo campaign really got underway this fall, some things came out in the Austin film community. It really ripped apart a bunch of relationships and the repercussions of that are still being felt. I need to do a better job in 2018 of reaching out and connecting with my local film friends because I still care a great deal about them.
So, that’s a pretty broad list of some of what I’ve learned this year. What have you learned? What are you going to work on in 2018?
Here’s a list of some things that are currently on bookshelf
Tim Ferriss - Tribe of Mentors
Susan David, PhD - Emotional Agility
John Scalzi - the Old Mans War series (I’ve been plowing through these)
The art of Jock
The art of Atari