HACK / MAKE

Louis CK — “The Verb of My Life is Learning”

Beyond being a hilarious comedian, Louis CK is a good person who tries really hard to do new things, and push himself and the people and ideas around him to become greater.

This interview, conducted by the A.V. Club, is a must read. It digs into Louis’ perspective on dilemmas, trying and making mistakes, and creativity. He says the verb of his life is learning, and that means seeing if things will work and figuring stuff out even when he feels like he’s drained.

Go read the full interview. These parts felt relevant to what I deal with or want to push myself towards.

There’s a woman I see who’s not my therapist, but she’s like an old friend who’s a therapist in profession. She lets me talk to her like a therapist once in a while, and she does a great thing. Whenever I have a big dilemma, like this is a big problem in my life, she always says, “Wow, you’re going to have to figure that out.” [Laughs.] That’s all she says. And so I had to figure it out.

We like to think dilemmas things will work themselves out; that maybe there’s some sort of hack that will get us by. The truth is just that “you’re going to have to figure that out.” No complex system or workaround. Just figure it out.

Yeah, well, I like to try stuff. I like to try to see if something can work. It’s really satisfying to figure out, “What if we try it this way?

These things he’s tried, selling his show video and tickets online, has made him millions. He didn’t know if it was going to work but part of his goal wasn’t the outcome, it was seeing if something could work. When you are trying things, don’t map the outcomes as successes and failures try to see if a thing could work, and if it can’t, try to see if a slightly different or maybe drastically different thing will work. Trying stuff isn’t always about creating your intended outcome, but just any outcome. Believe that sometimes what’s created from you trying something could be evening greater than you intended or imagined.

I said to my agent, “Let’s find out if this is a huge mistake. Let’s find out. I’m willing to sacrifice my first theater tour and have the places empty and identify that it’s because I wouldn’t let the radio people participate. But we also might find out that it didn’t make a difference and that I never have to do it.” […]

Anyway, the obvious story is that it didn’t make a fucking difference. It didn’t matter.

What kind of dogmas, habits, and assumptions of how things should be done just don’t make a difference—just don’t matter? Are you doing things at work a certain way because you were told it has always been done that way? Sometimes there’s a good reason why that’s the way that it’s done but just as often it was just the way the first person did it and trained the next guy to do it that way too. Are you willing to find out that it doesn’t make a difference the way something has always been done? That it’s OK to do it your way?

AVC: In a blog post on your website you wrote, “I hope with all my heart that I stay funny.” Is that something that you’re worried about? That this could all fall apart tomorrow, that the skill set you built up could somehow evaporate?

LCK: The skill set will stay because those are just basically know-how stuff. But the basic little engine, the fucking whatever is, the Iron Man glow-y heart thing… [Laughs.]

AVC: Creativity.

LCK: Yeah, that thing. Sure. That could flame out at any second. No idea. I have no reason to be able to count on it. It’s just there. I can do a lot with hard work and no creativity. I could do it. When you really become a professional at this stuff, what’s important is how well you can do when you’re not inspired. If that’s still workable, then you have a career.

We all fear this. Sometimes you just need to keep cranking no matter what you’re up against. Sometimes just make the clackity noise until something good comes out. Stephen Pressfield writes about needing to keep creating art because you’re a pro, and that’s what pros do.

Just keep making things no matter what dilemmas are in your way, when things make a difference or not, even when you’re afraid of your waning creativity and maybe you’ll just change things like Louis CK has changed the art of comedy.

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