Goals are like riding the incline

Categories Thoughts

Reaching your goals is a lot like riding the incline. There’s no guarantee you’ll make it to where you want because the machine could break down. But the more things have been planned out, the more likely it is you’ll reach your destination smoothly.

Whatever you do, enjoy the ride. Enjoy the view.

And once you reach your destination, that’s not where everything ends. There’s more to explore.

A helpful reminder

Categories Thoughts

I think traveling is the most important thing we can do. Meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, and exploring unique landscapes is a privilege and it’s one of the things I’m most passionate about. At the time of writing this, I’m not at the stage where I’m going to go all around the world. I’m at the stage where I’m building for the future. So I’ve put traveling to the side of my mind as something to be revisited later. And I believe that’s something we all do. When the circumstances don’t match what we’d like, we put our desire to the side.

And provided we stay mindful, it serves as a helpful reminder for what we should be doing now.

Finding the right instructions

Categories Thoughts

How come life doesn’t come with an instruction book? I’m sure we’ve all thought about that one time or another. It has to do with our disconnect from knowing things we think we inherently should. For instance, I’d like to become more flexible and make a routine to stretch every day. And work out. I’m putting it in my mind for something to do later: “Get ripped.”

But there’s a learning curve to making a routine for yourself and we have to cipher through a lot of crap before we find a credible source of knowledge that will be practical for ourselves. One of the reasons being we want to know what’s right *for us* – it turns out there’s a lot of wrong for us.

Age and perspective

Categories Thoughts

Have you taken notice to the fact that elderly people aren’t masters of everything but have a lot of skill in the basic areas of life? Maybe it’s a Northside thing but I’m speaking with people over 65 relatively often and it’s always comforting to me knowing that many of them have been through way more than I have.

It’s never immediately visible by looking at them. The climates they’ve been in, the people they’ve met, the impact they’ve made on even just one person, the acute struggles they have faced or are currently facing… because time tests us all. If nothing else, it gradually reveals more of what is actually possible in the world. And if you can be 70 or older and still keep a happy and productive lifestyle, despite everything that has been thrown at you, that’s very admirable.

Make your stuff… or…

Categories Thoughts

Someone is gonna find something for you to do.

All artists start out by doing what no one told them to do. It’s assumed that you’re gonna do whatever someone hands you, or if you have a calling, that you’ll just start doing it. But the default is always that you will do what others hand you.

1 degree of separation

Categories Thoughts

I think it’s true that most people in Pittsburgh have around 1 degree of separation. It’s a big benefit to us, the people who are trying to make things happen, and I’ll tell you why: when we do good work, we want others to know. We need people to get the word out. We need to grow. Regardless of what you’re bringing to the table, this 1 degree of separation makes your job tremendously easier. You don’t have to get the word out to everyone, you have to do something that’s worth talking about to the people who are already listening. They’ll do all the talking and sharing themselves if they like it. This is how many events become highly talked about in the city. Lots of people are looking for things to do, and we have little (digital and sometimes, physical) distance between us so we talk about the things we like or are interested in.

The more close the connection, the quicker and more efficiently information travels.

I think we should remember though that merely reaching people isn’t enough. In Los Angeles, you could say the same thing. All the cast and crew have a lot of overlapping social circles yet, despite all this, you will have few work with Stephen Spielberg, Eddie Murphy, or Jerry Seinfeld. You also have this sense of “reputation” that sticks from the people you work with; it’s our way of socially screening people we come across. Often, that can encourage us to do good work. When we do good work, that’s when I believe we can make best use our 1 degree of separation.

Truth and context

Categories Thoughts

Just because something is true to yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you should or have to share it. Context matters. For instance, that other blog post I put out about going to the CREATE festival, I wouldn’t really put that on Facebook because I don’t necessarily look for the comments on my blog from that platform. People say stuff for likes on there.

I *would* put it on my blog, because I want people to give me genuine comments and emails on what they think about my posts.

Context is so important. You might be a well respected art critic who tells it like it is, and you might be respected because of it. But if you apply that same mentality and tell that little kid his/her work is unoriginal, that same thing that earned you respect is now working the opposite direction. Because of context.

Formulated thoughts to words

Categories Thoughts

I really want my thoughts to flow out better. They aren’t where I want them to be. As it currently stands, they don’t flow out of my mouth as well as I’d like. It’s a work in progress.

Actually, writing this made it more clear what I want: to get good at monologuing. Not just on camera but in person. I want to be able to share stories, explain my experiences, and give whatever lesson I’m able to extract from my experiences to other people. It’s such a unique way of connecting with people. I’m not sure if I’d be happy just with being good at it. I’d like to be superb. And I’d like to be able to do it at the times it feels inconvenient for me to, too. I want my switch to always be “on” if that’s a thing.

It’s one of the reasons I’m keeping up on my blog – for now. I have to give myself a way out in case I weigh out the pros/cons later on and decide to slow the pace. And by the way, I couldn’t tell you what this practice has helped me with so far. If there has been a change in how I write, think, or speak at all recently, it is very subtle. I’m only 40-something days in but I’m willing to keep on chugging along to make slow and steady results.

CREATE Festival recap

Categories Thoughts, Video

Forgot to post this on the blog, this is a quick video recap of the CREATE Festival which I had the privilege of going to.

Here’s how it all worked: I got sent the application through my friend and applied. They said OK- we’ll play one of your videos on a projector and give you a VIP badge. Steeltown reached out to people in the festival to schedule Facebook live interviews for the event, I said I’ll do it. I get to the venue 20 minutes before the interview with my camera – because I’m super aware of opportunities that happen because you do things you were never asked to do. Head to the front where they tell me I’m able to sign in to the left. But the VIP badges are in front of me, so I clarify that I think I’m supposed to get one. “Oh!” They ask me my last name. “James.” A lady to my left exclaims “Oh, hey! Willy? Are you Willy James? We were just looking for you.” I’m escorted a few feet away where there’s a good number of production people – all of whom also seem to know me by name.

There’s a spotlight and multiple cameras. It’s sectioned off and within view from the people hanging out at the festival. They give me the details of what they want to talk to me about and when they’ll need to get me mic’d up and all that.

Now, let me tell you, the whole process felt very accommodating. This isn’t an everyday thing for me at all, this made me feel special. Like I *was* somebody. You need somewhere to sit your backpack? Yes, of course, let me get that for you. Also overheard a number of times “That’s Willy James with Ask Pittsburgh” which is hilarious to me because that’s not a big thing yet.

Back to the front desk, they give me a VIP badge with my name on it, a t-shirt, and a swag bag. I’m really feeling special. My video isn’t being played but that’s OK because the ability to say it was supposed to is just as good to me.

Talked to my friends at the GPAC table so my social gears are warmed up before the interview. I’ve done the interview and I’m just hoping it was everything it could be. Actually watching my own interviews makes me feel uncomfortable, I haven’t seen the whole thing.

30 minutes until the “VIP” party starts. I Ubered to my place and back, it set me back a surprisingly low $9.75. Still a chunk of change to me because I’m freelancing and go from gig to gig at the moment. I’m also very frugal, think Larry David. But I Uber this time because I had my backpack with me and who wants to walk around drinking with their backpack? Not this guy. I get back to the event, head to what I’m thinking is the open bar – and it’s not. $5+ beer, $8 mixed drink, $10+ wine. But there are drink tickets. Was I supposed to get one of those?? I buy a mixed drink anyway and go up to the front desk to ask. And, while they didn’t come with the $50 value of VIP tickets, some companies apparently had them and the lady said I could probably talk my way into them. I’m all for it, but right before I circled the room I got wrapped up in a conversation with a cute girl who I thought was interesting. I don’t even really flirt that often but I will if you put a VIP badge around my neck.

And then she left because she had to get going. We were going to hang out today but I just don’t think she’s super interested in me! Taking that in stride is what I’ll do.

After that, there were a number of other people I spent time talking with so I didn’t really eat much of the food they had there, as nicely laid out as it was. That’s how it normally happens, I’m usually too caught up in talking to eat.

The awards ceremonies ended. The festivities ended. I was left alone once again and walked down the street to McDonalds out of necessity for my stomach. I didn’t look forward to the fast food like I did when I was much younger. And there was like, 1 employee doing all the work so it took 10 minutes. Then I walked home and didn’t mind doing it. Especially when I have Spotify and my earbuds.

This video would have actually been out a day or two sooner but I typically put the video work I’ve been hired by others to do higher up than my personal projects so, had to get that out of the way first.

Link to full video.

Simple pleasures

Categories Thoughts

Just like cats are amused playing with string and laser pointers, we are amused by simple things too. What are those things everyone is talking about right now? Fidget spinners? Mildly related, the other day, I saw in a local Goodwill they had a pair of Baoding balls for ~$4.00. I’m so aware of every dollar, I left them. And upon realizing my mistake a day or two later – you know, remembering how awesome they are – it was too late. Someone else bought them. I coulda, shoulda, woulda, but didn’t.

You were born being able to experience many of the simple pleasures. I believe when we overthink simple things, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. Do animals overcomplicate things as often as we do?