On the shoulders of Giants
Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further than others it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” The same can truly be said of my own life. A wealth of colorful individuals willingly shared their wisdom which is indeed a pleasure to pass along.
Jay Leno had a successful career as talk show host and comedian for years. He and I met back in my Hollywood daze. And though he’s wildly successful, several early career set backs tested his resolve. He’s been robbed at gunpoint, survived being knocked out by a flying bottle during a performance, and even played a to a crowd of college students with a microphone in one hand and a portable speaker in the other. And his philosophy, “A good dog runs until his heart explodes.”
He was willing to look foolish to follow his bliss. So if you’re not looking foolish or if you’re not observing me looking foolish then I’m doing something wrong. Or I’m just getting better at what I’m doing to cover it up. Either way, I never wait for the conditions to be just right before taking a leap of faith into any creative venture.
At one time, writing a travel blog and being a published author was never part of the plan. No, I tried to make a living by having a standard job and following all the rules. That is until the thought of filling applications and attending boring interviews became too much to bear. Especially since none of them really quite worked out for me.
Then I tried working for myself which turned out to be the initial step toward total emancipation. Thanks to a Bay-Area company called TaskRabbit, I was given the opportunity to draw an income with something I already loved doing - being a Handyman.
Working with my hands and doing projects I really enjoyed created a snowball effect. I just needed to start with whatever brought me the most joy and before long more and more creative possibilities presented themselves.
So if I see so far it’s because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants. And one of those sets of shoulders belongs to a gentleman I met in Hawaii by the name of Shep Gordon. He’s the guy behind the guy and has managed artists such as Alice Cooper, The Doors, and Luther Vandros.
Shep is a very tall, magnanimous man who exuded confidence with his calm demeanor. After our initial handshake it was evident that there was something truly special about this guy. We spoke one-on-one when he recited stories I’ll never forget.
Before he would sign a new artist he would sit them down, remove his glasses, look them in the eyes and say, “Now I want you to listen to me very carefully. If I do my job perfectly, there’s a very good chance I’ll end up killing you.
As he said, there’s nothing that can prepare an ordinary person for extraordinary success seemingly overnight.
He went on to say, “Fame isn’t what you think it is. A lot of people think they want it along with all the wealth. But you know, if you haven’t made peace with all your demons they are going to come out and haunt your ass. The money and the fame then become akin to pouring a gasoline all over your insecurities. And a single match will bring it all to a tragic end.”
In my own experience, working for incredibly accomplished individuals opened up opportunities that pushed me to the outer limits. And yes, a few of them kicked my ass the whole way while imparting their knowledge. I wasn’t grateful at the time but you can believe I’m am now.
But back to Shep. He’s a very spiritual man who just so happens to be friends with and has even cooked for the Dalai Lama. Thus, he’s well versed with the idea of Karma. In some mysterious way, everything arises in relation to everything else. So in a sense, we can’t blame anybody for anything. Because everything we send out will surely find it’s way back to us.
This brought him to his next story. It was about another artist he managed by the name of Teddy Pendergrass. Working alongside Shep brought about tremendous success for Teddy. Shep even called him the black Elvis. This guy was going to be huge.
But one day Teddy’s scheduled to perform before a sold-out arena when he just refuses to do the show, entirely!
So Shep is like, “Teddy you’ve got to realize what you’ve got going on here. These are working people. They’ve hired babysitters. They’ve rearranged their entire night around this. If you don’t do this it’s going to come back on you so fast it’ll make your head spin.”
Still, Teddy refused to perform. Then about a week later Teddy ends up in a tragic car accident that paralyzed him from the neck down. Even so, he did eventually make a minor comeback despite being a quadriplegic. Because with a guy like Shep behind you, you just can’t loose.
Meeting Jay and Shep were indeed some of the high privileges of my life and career. Jay taught me that pursuing your dreams isn’t an endless succession of glory and summits. Hard work and perseverance come with the meal. And Shep relayed the idea that there is no intrinsic value in fame. Just do what you love and then there’s no such thing as work.