Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Get Down On It

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I have been in creative limbo the past week and swamped with non-challenging catch up freelance work yet itching to finish off Lost Vegas. I didn't have enough time to finish it inside of a week, so I made a tough decision (and a better one) to not start-stop the most important part of the book... the final cut. I'll get to it at the middle of August. Instead, I've been writing for others and in the downtime heavily self-medicating myself to numb the anxiety.

I'm rarely anxious because I love to live in the moment. Most people are anxious about the future. They can't sleep because they worry about the fact that they do not control their future. I know I don't have complete control, but I do have some say it what goes on. Hard work, discipline, and diligence puts you in a position to get lucky. I know enough that I have to always go with the flow and seize the moment as it approaches. The best advice that I give friends or a few people who I mentor is that when there's noting going on... that's the time to prepare for a time when something major is going on. They'll be better prepared.

I don't sleep much because I wake up and there are so many things that I want to do right now. So instead of falling back asleep, I jump out of bed and fire up the laptop and start writing. Sometimes, there are so many things that I have to do for my own businesses that they list is too long to find on one piece of paper. And let's not forget about all of the story ideas that I have. Artistic projects. Collaborations. If I live four lifetimes, I wouldn't have enough time to write and paint and travel to all the places I want to see. That's the core of my fleeting depression... that I don't have enough time to express myself. I guess that's a good problem to have... an overabundance of the thirst for life. So many people I know are parched and just want to crawl up in a ball and die. That's why working for yourself is extremely empowering.

My buddy Chicago Bob said it best, "Working for yourself is the hardest job in the world... the benefits, freedom, and sense of self-accomplishment are amazing... but all of that success and enjoyment comes at a price."

He's right. He was a lawyer in a big bank in Chicago and quit that to start his own business with his brother a few years back. And now? He decided Chicago was too cold and he wanted to check out California, so he picked up everything and moved to L.A.... because he could since he had the freedom of self-employment.

Although I have to work for others sometimes (and I usually don't mind working with/for people I respect and trust), I feel very fortunate that I have really created a bubble where I'm working by myself independent of the entire system. I made a nice chunk of change in poker and I've been trying to make as much as I could so I could live the rest of my life outside of the system. By working for myself, I limited the amount of shit (and personal side drama) that I have to deal with in exchange for a heavier burden and workload. Like Bob said, the perks are far more satisfying.

These days, offices have turned into extensions of high school and the entire air of professionalism has been swept out the door. I've never been one to play reindeer games and wanted to be involved in the personal psycho dramas that people allow to spill over from their personal lives into their professional lives. That's one of the biggest reasons why I avoided the office culture for a long time. Sadly, I've had to take freelance positions where I had to deal with a large group of unstable people. Let's not forget that most of these folks were misfits to begin with and ended up in poker because they had no other place to go or thought "it would be cool to work in poker." Heck, I chose poker because I wanted to stay away from all of that bullshit office politics, but a few years ago, I found myself a middle manager having to deal with all of these abrasive personalities.

I've had so many jobs over my life... too many to count... in both the professional and service environment. I can't recall how many times I slacked off, dogged it, or mentally checked out while punching a clock in my 20s. After working for myself the last five years or so and now that I've been having to pay employees, I realized that I had an unprofessional attitude and should not have deserved my full paychecks. Most of the time I was overqualified (education and experience) for my work, but that self-righteous attitude was off base. The reason I was being paid a low wage was because the work wasn't valued more than I thought it should. It's about the task and not the person. I took it way too personally because I was an insecure person still trying to find myself and I had been coddled too much by the academic world and bought into the forced-fed propaganda that I was supposed to go to college and there would be a fat job waiting for me upon completion of my courses. What a crock of shit.

In short, I humped McJob after McJob. I was expendable and decided to put forth as minimal effort without getting fired. Isn't that the American way? For a while, that way of thinking and viewing the world hurt me as an individual. It gave me an excuse to be lazy and as a result, I was a bottom feeder like everyone else. I was the worst kind of parasite... one who thought the world owed them everything.

I cherished laziness and an apathetic attitude, instead of taking pride in doing a good job regardless of compensation. We have lost the quest for attributes like honor and integrity in pursuit of material items. And that's why we have a nation of sheep and lambs being led to the slaughter.

Welcome to the United States of Sheeple.

Most people are smart enough to not be total corporate slaves, but they never end up more than a house slave or at best a slave master, the guy cracking the whip for the cabal fat cats who vacation in Aspen and eat $45 appetizers because they can.

I also realize how easy I used to have it back in my 20s, because if I wasn't there mentally or physically (like a legit sick day), then I could slack off and still get paid. The downside for self-employment is that I'm unable to hide on a bad day and phone it in especially with meaningless tasks. That's why these days I've been adhering to the "Work hard and play harder" mentality. Work is work. That means no fucking around and we go balls to the wall. And when it's time to play (like in 50 or more hours when Phish tour begins), it's time to go nuts. I found myself drawn towards those with a similar attitude, and at the same time, I lost a tremendous amount of respect for colleagues who fuck around in their jobs, and worse, have the audacity to complain about it incessantly. And yes, these people often spend more time on Facebook or playing online poker than taking the necessary steps to finding a more fulfilling job or improving their weaknesses. Complaining about your bad beat in life is a lot easier than taking the tough steps towards improving your situation. No wonder they are so miserable.

I finally mustered up the courage and picked up Lost Vegas for the first time in two months. The time away has been good. The writer in me went through a horrendous (albeit shortened) assignment in Las Vegas, and the artist in me had his brain fried a few times on a collection of mind-altering substances. I was extremely concerned that after a couple of hits of liquid sunshine where I finally shook out all the cobwebs that have been festering, that I'd read Lost Vegas and hate every single word and want to delay the release of the book for a fifth re-write.

I'd love to put my life on hold for a few more months while I delve into that... but that's not possible. I already took off four months at the beginning of the year and skipped out on a ton of work (and money) in order to finally finish it. Luckily for me, that didn't happen. I printed up the first 100 pages in the font and size of the impending publication. I took about 40 pages with me to the beach and read them as the waves rolled up and little kids frolicked all around. I forgot a red pen, so I did not stop every few lines to mark up the pages. Instead, I was able to read through each chapter in one breath. I made mental notes at the end of each chapter but did not want to delve more than a minute or two before I started up reading the next one.

That's when it hit me... I was sitting on Zuma Beach in Malibu, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and digging my toes into the sand while I edited my own work. Even when I'm playing... I'm still working.

I'm always a harsh critic of my scribblings and that's why I don't like re-reading old things because it makes me cringe because all of the cliches, weak analogies, grammar & types stick out. I know I could have done a better job but there's nothing I can do about that. It's already been published and I've already been paid. And for the blogs? I have zero desire to fix anything up. Once I start doing that with one old post, I'll have to do the entire thing... times that by four blogs as far back as seven years. Impossible task and that's why I love blogging in the first place because it's supposed to be this raw filter. I'm not even going to go back to the top and re-read this or edit it. Why? Because I said what I said and that's now I said it at the time that I said it. And that's that. We can't go back and edit our conversations and that's just what it is. An internal conversation.

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