Imposing Your Pains On Others

The main struggle I’ve had with being an entrepreneur is this business of identifying someone else’s pain – understanding where there’s a problem in someone’s life that she feels like she can’t solve on her own. from the on it’s a process of analysing that problem and figuring out where, when and how you can help out. I’m a bit of an introvert; my own pains and worries tend to occupy most of my mental space and I have no idea how to fix those, let alone others’.

So when I meet folks who are on my general wavelength and nursing ideas about getting Paid to Play, I start getting interested.

But does that count as a legitimate, capital-P Pain for an entrepreneur to capitalise on?

A chat with a friend: A pain identified?

A while back I was telling my hairdresser how I’m going to be the MC for Cairns’ first pop culture convention, Tropicon. She got keen on coming along, explaining that she was a big-time anime fan and loved to cosplay her favourite characters.

Not being a huge follower of anime myself – the last anime series I actually bought was probably the Bubblegum Crisis reboot – I asked, “Do you watch RWBY?

She lit up.”Oh yeah! I love it! I’m really looking forward to the next season. You know, I’d love to be a voice actor on one of those shows!”

Naturally, my Paid to Play ears perked up at this. I asked her what she was doing about it.

“Oh, you know, nothing really. I’ll have to look into getting into it sometime.”

I asked, “Why not just start recording stuff? Get into it now and have fun. It’s what I do with my podcast.”

She sort of let the conversation drift away to other things.

When I went back in for a trim-up a couple of days ago, I asked her about whether she’d thought about doing something voice work related. She phrased her reply in terms of having to look into the industry and Getting A Job rather than just doing it for the sheer fun of it.

And I found myself bothered by her response – but later on, discovered that I was even more bothered because I was bothered by her response.

Let me explain.

What I reckon my friend should do.

When I think of my friend’s situation, I keep coming back to the people who started RWBY, RoosterTeeth Productions. I’m sure I’ve mentioned these folks before. They’re kind of a big deal on the Internet.

No, seriously. They’re a multimedia production house that is the very definition of getting paid to play.

The thing that made them big, Red vs. Blue, was them sitting around at home with some sound kit and making jokes at the inherent ludicrousness of the setup behind multiplayer shooter games:

… even if we were to pull out today and they were to come take our base, they would have two bases in the middle of a box canyon. Whoop-de-fuckin’-do.

Red vs. Blue Episode 1: Why Are We Here

They had an idea and they went out and did it. They had no idea whether it would be a success, just that it was fun to do (hell, the initiative they had before Red Vs. Blue was – playing games while inebriated), and once they had enough episodes in the can, they started putting it out.

The rest, as they say, is history, but history didn’t start with people trying to Make It In The Industry, it started with a pack of friends having fun together.

And wouldn’t that be something cool for my hairdresser friend and I to do?

(The thought even occurred to me that she could even be a trial client for a paid-play consulting business.)

So her reaction to the idea of Just Giving It A Go frustrates me some.

And that was the example I was hoping to highlight to my friend – that if she wanted to be a voice artist, all she had to do was have a little organised fun with some like-minded folks.

Why I’m sick of “should.”

A lot of folks get a lot of mileage out of motivating people with the Unrealised Dream and Road Less Travelled shticks, How many blogs have you seen that are dedicated to Actionable Advice, Lists of Ten Things You Can Do To Start Building Your Dream Life? How many times have you been told that A Year From Now, You’re Going You Regret Not Starting Today?

I used to read a fair few blogs like that. Listened to the podcasts, downloaded the free resources and felt panicky and frustrated because trying to fill out all the Easy Steps left me panicky and frustrated.

Maybe there’s not that much wrong with having a crush on a career; that thinking “how great it would be to be a person who does X” or “what an awesome career that must be” is the equivalent of having posters up of those cute musicians up on your wall when you’re a teenager. It’s just something to hook some of that swirling emotional energy we have when we’re young onto for a while.

Maybe my desire to Help My Friend is more born of my own desire to turn Paid to Play into something immediately useful, something I can build my business around, than it is of being a good friend to my friend. I’m trying to prove its value instead of doing it for the joy of doing it.

And maybe I wasn’t listening properly.

One thing I just realised about when my friend talked about becoming a voice performer: I didn’t hear a “but”.

Not once did my hairdresser friend say anything like:

  • “I’d love to be a voice performer but I don’t know where to start.”
  • “I’d love to be a voice performer but there’s no work locally.”
  • “I’d love to be a voice performer but I reckon I’m crap at it.”

She’s happy with where she’s at with the idea of being a voice actress right now.

So what was going on? I was trying to create a pain when there was none, or even trying to get her to help her out with my pains (I’d love to be a part of something like the Rooster Teeth mob but don’t know anyone keen on the same idea; I’d love to get paid to play but aren’t yet making enough stuff regularly; I’d love to help others get paid to play but no one seems to need my help right now) in a passive-aggressive fashion.

Over and over again, I keep finding the most sane answer to the question of Other People’s Success isn’t to Try And Educate Them. They’ll resent you for telling them how they’re not good enough as they are and they’ll wonder how your life can be so fantastic if you need to change others’ so desperately.

Live well, live healthily, live peacefully and live curiously. Make stuff because you’re genuinely interested in it, and share it because you’e so enthusiastic about it you can’t help but tell people.

When someone observes you living well, she’ll get curious as to how. And when that someone thinks that the skill you employed to make your thing will help her with her things, whether because she wants to learn how or because she wants to work with you, she’ll come to you and ask.

And sure, if you see an opportunity, ask. The other person mightn’t have thought of it first, or maybe she just thought you wouldn’t be interested or available. But accept “no” for an answer, because again, it’s more likely that she’ll resent you and say “yes” out of obligation instead of genuine interest.

So what do I do about my friend?

As much as I’d love to see my friend take a shot at her thing for its own sake, trying to push her into it will probably have about as much success as the people who tried to push me to stand out when I was young had (spoiler alert: I just kept my head even further down). I definitely don’t want her to think “Oh, crap, he’s gonna ask me about voice work again” on sight of me. I had enough of feeling that about others when I was younger.

Instead, I’ll just sit back, relax and let her know that me enjoying her company isn’t conditional on her Taking A Shot at being a voice actor; chat about the cool anime she’s seen (I’ll have to take Charlie up on his offer to loan me some DVDs) and the cool cosplays she’s done.

And in the meantime, I keep on loving my wife and our dogs, plugging away at my day job, keeping house and garden, making fun podcast episodes and being as peaceful a person as I can.

What’s your play?

What are your “buts”? What things in your life are frustrating you?

What are you actually quite happy with the way it is?

Featured image by Maria Grazia Montagniari