Congratulations! You’ve graduated. You did the time, did your work and paid your dues. You sat through the valedictorian reading “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” The graduation party has happened, the money has been collected from the grandparents and maybe even you got a car if you’re a TV character. The world is in front of you. Now what? Lucky for you, someone you don’t know has advice you never asked for.
Let’s start with the good news: No one cares. Your parents might care, but they’ve got their own lives to worry about, and while they will worry about you, they’re also pretty excited to get you out of the house. You have to leave the house. You owe it to them for putting up with your crap these 18 years. But also, don’t be the 23-year-old still mooching. But, back to my point that no one else cares. There are 7.5 billion people on the planet and every single one of them has his or her own problems. Even the people who you might think have it all together are miles and miles from actually resembling a picture of a put-together person. George Clooney might have it together. A lot of those 7.5 billion people are just trying not to die. If you’re reading this, in an alt-weekly in middle America, you’re probably not one of those people. That’s the first part of the good news. The other part of anyone’s lack of interest in you that falls in your favor is that this gives you the freedom to Do. Create. Make your move. No one’s watching, I promise. And for the most part, all you have to do is show up and keep showing up.
That gets us to this third paragraph. When I started in radio (oh no, grandpa, not this story again), I was one of a half-dozen interns. I was required to put in 40 hours a week for the semester and was hitting around 50. I showed up, and kept showing up. When they had nothing for me to do, I created. Then I came back to them and pitched my idea, or let them know what I had done. I tried not to go into the office and ask what there was to do. At the end of the run, they hired me. I’m not sure where the other interns went to. Maybe they started a Facebook group. Maybe they’re all still friends. That’s a nice thought. My point is that the old adage of showing up is 80 percent of success is kind of true. The other side of that leads us to paragraph four…
Do good work. My friend Josiah told me that once, and, as simple as it was, it sort of blew my mind. When interviewing musicians, I learned early on that even just a little bit of work made me a whole lot better than a lot of the other interviewers. There are plenty of people out there who don’t care about their job. It was available, and they took it. But you, you’re passionate. Use that passion and don’t let it go. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough, because you are. How do I know? Because I know that you care, and if you don’t care about whatever it is, get out of the way, because there is someone that does. There are a hell of a lot of people in radio who are only here because they think it’ll get them laid. Those people don’t care about the music. They say they do, but then they’d tell you that their favorite song is “Californication” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you really care, you’ll go the extra mile. You’ll stay up late pacing the floor, cross-eyed from screen fatigue, waiting and searching for the inspiration and the idea. And when it comes, you’ll be sending out emails at 2 a.m., because if you don’t get it out then, the whole world might explode. And you’ll decide that the best Chili Peppers album is One Hot Minute because it sounds least like them.
But it’s all on you. No one’s going to help you. And at times, it might even be hard. You could coast with a safe job that ensures your Netflix bill is paid, or you could dive into your sacrificial years and make it work. And it will work. And you’ll have some great stories to tell.