It ain't where I been, but where I'm 'bout to go
Latham I love that film. For all the reasons you describe and more. Great launching pad for your wonderful essay.
I know you know you’re talking about recovery here. Wherever that “bottom” is and whatever we’re “using” to try to bury the feelings we don’t wanna feel is different for everyone. I’ve certainly slobbered enough Ben and Jerry’s down the cracks in my couch. I don’t do that anymore. But I’ll leave the 4 AM alarms to younger knuckleheads 😉
Your essay brought back clear recollections of this great movie, and I found personal resonance in its relevance to business and personal setbacks. I really struggle with the private equity view of failure as a kind of character building exercise. Sometimes it’s just a failure, a tragedy in the classic Shakespearean sense. Grieve, learn and move on.
You capture the experience of "seasons of stuck," which is relatable and an under-reported phenomenon in an economy where people (esp men) go through so many transitions. I'm a goal guy and when I was at the Hoffman Institute (a week-long therapy camp lol) I learned that my goal-setting had a shadow side. Setting a BHAG was my go-to for concentrating my energies and for not dealing with other issues. Goals gave me meaning, focus, a sense of achievement. Now, while I love the fire in the belly feeling, I am also suspicious of it. When is it coming from a healthy place vs not, and when is is in balance with where I am in life vs not. I am still figuring these things out, but man I love when I'm locked in a goal. And yet, being a temporary archeologist is ok too, I have learned. At one point I mapped out a distinction between drifting and floating. So maybe there are three seasons in this: being stuck, being locked in, and being in archeologist mode (which I do not conflate with being stuck).
I absolutely love Adam Sandler but missed this one for the same reasons (sports?) After your review and the trailer, it is a must watch! “Do you love the game” is EVERYTHING. When I was an avid runner, I’m positively sure I loved PRs and yet loathed the running. No wonder I burned out so badly and quit it with so much violent emotion. By comparison, all this drawing I did for the past six weeks felt like being a kid again. For years and years I never truly “loved” to draw. I’m not one of those artists with hundreds of filled sketchbooks. This feeling started in high school and was exacerbated by my art degree, because it was goal-oriented. Art was a thing that got me good grades and led me to a design career. To be honest I really do not love the career I chose, so it’s no wonder I had such a tumultuous relationship with being an artist. Inktober started as that BAHG too (the only way I get my Capricorn self to do anything) but I was shocked when it morphed into pure love instead of productivity and achievement. Hours peeled away and I was actually sad when 10 or 11pm rolled around. Stanley is right... you have to become obsessed... But not with the goal. No, with the game. I wish someone had taught me this decades ago!
I hope you find the sweet sweet nectar of obsession, but like Jeff suggests, the glorious open spaces of wu wei/nondoing (throwing Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching in the mix!) I’ll cheer you on for both!!
Love this. I find I've been sparking again in a way I haven't in a long time. Willing to bet on myself again.
I think I have a clue about where you might be heading! I'll have to dial this one up. Sandler is great, and always interesting to see someone who's known mostly as a comic take a serious turn. I feel your pain in failure and I think a lot of that VC lingo was designed to assuage their own guilt—and despair—at having thrown so much money and encouragement at things that failed...and so many things that probably didn't deserve to be funded in the first place. I'm not talking about your thing, whatever that was, but man, all that pretend enthusiasm for internet garbage—like the ad tech world, for example, that I know all too well from personal experience. What a waste of money, time, energy, and heart.
I don't have the experience of failure so much as just one real success, so far at least. I'm working at it, and I hope to have another, but I also don't care quite as much any more. I know this is part of what comes with age, whether it's wisdom or just the ebb of youth. I can see that you're gearing up for another shot at the ring. I want to see you up there!
Beautiful piece, Latham. In its writing and honesty. I appreciate you. And will you please let me know if you find the golden mean between invisible labor and large creative fulfilling projects?
As someone born and raised in Philly, I Loved Hustle! Those scenes with the early morning runs up the hill are exactly where I lived from age 5-15.
It was good to read this today. I have had 2 company failures (Sentiment Analysis and an Arts and Culture Magazine) The first one wasn't so bad because it did land me a job. The second one sucked and I nearly came to blows with one of the other founders as a finale, that was a low point on my part. And now I am finally going out again for the 3rd time. Which is the scariest one yet because I have no idea where I am going. Just a North Star but still no second point of reference, which is letting me slide, and I can't slide, I have to finish this..... because i'm already too far from home, NBA or Bust.
Thanks for the pep talk coach!
Great movie. Great essay.
Love the subtitle too - It ain't where I been, but where I'm 'bout to go
Thank you Latham.
"I want to remember that fire in my belly that tells me I’m alive. And the only way I’m wired to do that is to set a goal and devote myself to it. Whatever the outcome, I need to know I did everything possible to reach it, and in the process discovered what my true limits were."
I've struggled with this myself, along with the even weightier question you ask at the end about how to set your sights high without shirking on family responsibilities and other shared obligations. That's where the obsession narrative loses me, because I think if obsession is the requirement for success, then we're fucked. There's no way to be a present parent or spouse and a relentlessly driven entrepreneur or career person. Soccer practice, sick days, meal planning -- all of that is going to get in the way of the most ambitious career arc.
I'm glad you found your way back to desire, and I'll be eager to hear how you navigate a balance between ambition and family. I find myself wondering whether it has to be the 4am burnout routine or sleeping in. Does a 5am alarm count? I make it to the gym by 5:30 most mornings, and some people are just finishing their workouts then. Good for them, but I don't want to burn my candle at both ends, staying up until 10, waking up at 4, and convincing myself I'm an ubermensch. Because I'm more concerned with going the distance. I know you are, too, but I hear you wrestling with these zero sum messages that our culture gives us. Do you have to be "the best guy out there" to be doing something meaningful?
I slammed into these questions when I first transitioned from teaching into independent writing. I wanted wins. Right now. A new essay every week, Submittable dashboard brimming with submissions. Get an agent. Get the book deal. Replace my former calling with a new all-consuming purpose that would justify my existence. For me, that was just another recipe for misery. Substack requires a different mentality. You can't will yourself to be the best on the platform. The only way to do it is to commit to the long haul, the slow and steady, the modest gains. That's been good for me. It's much more comfortable to put all my eggs in one basket, as Mark Twain says, and WATCH THAT BASKET. But then if it doesn't work, there's nothing left. I think of it in terms of monocultures versus diversified farming. The corn/soy farmer hedges two bets. The small scale vegetable farmer with jams and honey and home-dyed tarn hedges a few dozen bets. If the beetles eat one variety of tomato, a few other varieties will thrive. A bad year for the squash might be good for beets and carrots. Personally, I find the latter model more durable, even though it doesn't inspire many fiery speeches!
Wishing all the best for you, my friend.
Sports movies are so useful for this. Or any movies that tell the story of commitment and persistence leading to a surprise outcome. I didn’t know about your stint as a chief couch officer, but that part of your story does feel like it has its place in the intelligence of the larger picture. It’s an important reference point for a new direction that has integrity. Thus its deep relevance to the Real Man conversation. I’m coming to the conclusion that particularly for my kids there is overlap between a commitment to my family and self-actualization. To demonstrate the fire, stamina, and devotion that’s required to make a worthwhile contribution in the world is an essential part of serving my kids.
Man, I needed to read this. I've been struggling with the "not doing enough" thoughts for the last couple of weeks. I don't think this fixed it, but helped me reflect how important it is to find energy/sources of inspiration that helps us really go for it. Loved this piece.
Loved learning about the details of your journey, Latham. Deeply resonate with the topics mentioned here. Will watch Hustle, and the movies that always have this effect on me are Birdman and Whiplash, which I try to rewatch once a year to reignite the fire. Thanks for sharing all this.
Wow, Latham, this is so good! I'm sorry I missed it when it came out, but tbh the timing today is perfect. I've been wavering lately and watched the also-excellent film, "American Symphony," last night. In the spirit of what you're taking from "Hustle," I'd say what I'm taking from that is Jon Batiste's unbridled JOY in creation, his willingness to pursue his vision through the dense thicket of the unknown, his love of collaboration, his faith, and his compassion for self and others. He also has a rare equanimity and wisdom that the highs are always balanced by the lows.