I’m a big fan of a man named Chris Hardwick. You may know him from his late night Comedy Central television show called @Midnight, or you may also know him from one of his popular “after-shows” called Talking Dead or Talking Bad (after-episode talk shows about The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, respectively). He’s also the founder of the modern geek-empire known as Nerdist Industries where he hosts the Nerdist podcast, and he’s also been the host of numerous television shows over he years. My familiarity with him began back in the mid-90’s when he was the host of an MTV dating game called Singled Out. Nowadays I mostly enjoy his stand-up comedy and his Nerdist podcast where he chats with numerous guests ranging from musicians to comedians to actors to directors…
Needless to say I have a lot of respect for this man’s career, as both an individual and an entrepreneur. I like that he “played the game,” so to speak, for the better part of his career and went from gig to gig, network to network, job to job. I can tell (this is pieced together from years of following him on his podcast) that he got tired of getting bounced around so much, and eventually he decided to create his own game, rather than play someone else’s. He founded his company Nerdist Industries as a way to use the skills he had learned from years of “playing the game” while maintaining complete control and focusing the spotlight on something that he’s passionate about (Sci/Fi, video games, comic books, comedy, nerd stuff…). He’s not only found great success because of this company, but it also launched him into a new realm of popularity that, no doubt, helped to secure his late-night television show that he now runs (another thing he has control over, but on a much larger scale). Chris is the epitome of the American Dream, really, and it only took him about 20 years to get there. I respect this very much about him.
As an actor/host/TV-guy, his career is very much paralleled to that of a musician; you go where the gig takes you, and as long as there’s a scene (popularity) then there’s a job for you. As soon as the “draw” dies out (no longer popular) your show gets cancelled, the movie goes under or the network pulls the plug. And just like a musician’s career, many times both the forces that cause these decisions and the people responsible for deciding them are beyond your control. You may only be allowed to do your job (and for both the actor and the musician; your passion) if the label funds you, or if the bandleader hires you, or if the crowd supports you, or if the club owner likes you… Being the best man for the job simply isn’t good enough for both of these industries. It seems to always be a combination of right time, right place, right scenario, right market, right age, right height/weight/look, on a full moon and on the eve of the correct seasonal solstice (not really, but really).
So I identify with Chris’ story very closely, as someone who has experienced the same thing in my own career (obviously on a much smaller scale). I tried playing other people’s games and I also got tired of it, so rather than giving up, I made my own. I got tired of chasing the label, so I released my own music. I got tired of bouncing from gig to gig so I created my own gig online. I got tired of following other people’s leadership (only the one’s who weren’t leading very well) and began pioneering my own direction, regardless of whether or not anyone else was following.
Mr. Hardwick isn’t the only man who story is similar to mine. I’m also a big fan of Dave Ramsey, who lost everything and clawed his way back to even greater heights, now with the #3 radio talk show in the country. I remember hearing Janek Gwizdala (an AMAZING bassist, if you haven’t heard him yet) talk about how he was on the road with a pop artist, and after 300 days of touring in one year did not have the money to pay his rent for the next month when he got home. Janek is now one of the most successful and independent bass players of our time.
So where am I going with this? To be honest, I’m really not sure. I’m still getting back in the swing of blogging and podcasting and practicing and EVERYTHING ELSE that I haven’t been doing for the past 4 or 5 months. But I do know this: I appreciate these guys’ stories because I need to hear them. I love hearing about incredibly dedicated and hard working individuals (regardless of their craft, be it music, acting, financial advising or fitness or whatever) who created their own destinies because they were tired of playing someone else’s game. I think can all benefit from taking a look at these inspiring stories, be it in our professional lives, our family lives, our goals and aspirations, our dreams. I think ultimately it leads to a place that I want to see myself inhabiting: a sense of peace and freedom that is directly related to their passions. I think we should all strive to get to a place where we no longer work; we play. And that is something that definitely comes natural to all musicians.
So my question to you then is, are you working toward such a goal?