November 24th, 2010 by Howard
A note from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy CEO, Howard A. Tullman:
I’m not much of a casual stroller, but I’m a great speed and distance hiker. Someone who’s “taking a stroll” suggests to me a leisurely and mostly pointless trip to nowhere. It may be relaxing and, for some people, that’s an end in itself, but for me, it’s just an opportunity to think about what I could be, or worse yet, should be doing instead of strolling. I’m just not an aimless kind of guy.
That’s why I like hikes. Hikes have a specific purpose and a clear goal. Just like projects, quests, missions and businesses. Basically, if I’m going, I like to go somewhere or to get somewhere. I think the things you choose to do should have a point and an objective. Life’s just too short to waste. I’m sure that nature hikes and bird-watching trips are nice; that’s just not my nature. And even if we’re talking about the things you have to do, I’d say there’s only one way to do them: with a vengeance. Otherwise, why bother? Any troll can phone it in. In the old days, they used to call guys like me “Type A” personalities and not in a nice way.
In fact, not so many years ago, a person with a “take no prisoners” attitude and a fierce work ethic like mine would have been called a “workaholic” in a disparaging way that suggested that being so intensely focused on your work was somehow a bad thing. I guess it just didn’t matter that many people’s jobs, futures and families depended on what you did. And apparently it was unimportant that you spent so many long and painful hours trying to make sense of the tough choices and decisions that leaders face week in and week out throughout their careers. It just seemed obsessive or excessive in some way to the folks watching from the sidelines and the cheap seats.
Of course, those were the good old days when everyone was fat and happy and gainfully employed (no pun intended) so big talk was cheap and “touchy feely” was in vogue, but even back then, there were a bunch of us (mostly entrepreneurs) who really didn’t think that being known and sometimes secretly respected for the insane passion, energy and commitment which you brought to your work was an insult. We actually felt it was a badge of honor among a crazy band of brothers (and some sisters) who didn’t know what they couldn’t do until they tried and who, by the way, never gave up trying.
Today, things have actually changed (along with the economy) and you just don’t hear many people worrying or complaining about how long or hard anyone works. I guess the old worm continues to turn. Most people now are just really happy to be working at all and those of us who are still working hard and who are excited about what we’re doing every day and who spend each day trying to make a difference in a whole lot of peoples’ lives think of ourselves as pretty lucky – not as damaged or foolish.
I guess in this complicated life that we lead that each of us just picks our own poison or, as the Eagles said long ago, “every form of refuge has its price”. Sometimes it’s a hard bargain and it’s never a small price, but I honestly don’t think that too many of us have any real choice in the matter. It’s always been the way we do things and it’s probably too late to change or start over now. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to know that, by and large, busting your butt works out really well and the results over the years actually do speak for themselves.
But lately, as I’ve been surrounded by hundreds of young and eager Tribeca Flashpoint students (who I’m convinced are pretty quickly figuring out our work ethic and how we do things around here), I’ve become concerned that now that it’s once again become a virtue and a good thing to be focused and goal-oriented and to have a concrete plan for your future and to put your head down and work towards fulfilling that plan every day, we might not be doing such a great job of sharing an equally important part of life that has certainly been just as important to me as any work that I’ve ever done.
And that’s the unqualified joy of and the unending appetite for learning JUST for its own sake. Same deal – same approach – different subject. It turns out to be incredibly rewarding and extremely satisfying to find some time in your crazy, busy life to try, do, read or learn something that’s not required reading or even some type of “cod liver oil” self-improvement stuff. Just find something to immerse yourself in and to enjoy and to take some lessons from that may be valuable tomorrow or in ten years or never. Doesn’t really matter.
What matters is learning to learn for the pure joy of learning. It’s ultimately its own reward. And, just between us, it makes you better, sharper and faster when you return to your real-world responsibilities as well. But make sure you put yourself into it and do the work – otherwise you won’t get much back. This isn’t a “lean back” exercise for couch potatoes – it’s a ”jump into it with both feet” deal where wanting it makes a difference.
So, as I like to say from time to time: remember that your work or your studies are just that – your work. They aren’t who you are and they certainly aren’t what you can ultimately be. Over the holidays, make some room in your schedule, look around, dive into something new and different, and give yourself some additional and alternative choices to add to the equation. There’s no better time than now. Take a different kind of hike this Thanksgiving and make it matter – even if you never get out of your chair.