Some folks think slavery is over.....
How to Get Off the Plantation in 5 Easy Steps (Pt. IV):
4. Kill a thousand birds with every stone.
To truly make it, you have to learn how to kill a thousand birds with every stone. This is simply to say that you need to learn how to find value in every thing you do, as well as learn how to squeeze 96 hours out of a 24 hour day. You will have to work hard in your day gig, and even harder at night to make it. Nothing will be handed to you on a silver platter. In your day gig, glean and steal everything you can to help you in your other businesses. (I mean “steal" figuratively, unless you’re planning a career as a gangsta rapper.) Find your way into a paying gig that brings you not only a unique, complementary skill set, but also contacts and extraordinary experiences, etc. Even if you bake cakes for a living, your job is to plot out how this bakery career can help you get into event planning, investment banking, singing, or whatever your heart desires. Every minute of the day, be professional, and kill a thousand birds with every stone.
The “be professional" adage is more important than any of us can possibly realize in the moment. You never know when you will need someone to help you get a loan, phone number, or into an event. So treat everyone like a king or queen. If you have a boss, work hard to get along with him or her and leave on good terms. If that production deal falls through, you may need some part time work, so be prepared to scrap together all these good relationships and contacts in order to make ends meet. Everywhere you go, you want your name associated with excellence. It takes work to be an accomplished copy editor by day, and a mindbending experimental novelist at night, but guess what? No one said this would be easy.
In addition, be prepared to work on more than one project. At most large companies like Google, they use the 70/20/10 rule. They spend 70% of their time on their bread and butter business (search), 20% of their time on establishing new projects (Gmail), and 10% of their time researching and inventing new opportunities (Google docs). Smart folks work hard, keep taking chances, and keep investing time and money in the unknown because you never know when these new 10% growth markets will become your bread and butter. Ask Apple who now relies on the iPod to drive the rest of its businesses from retail and online stores to the sales of its hardware. So it’s cool to have at least three big balls in the air: I would suggest have at least three brilliant ones, and be prepared to head in any direction at any given time.
Here at Wondaland, we have a holding company named 1954. We have so many balls moving in this company it’s insane. So if you’re going to do something like this it takes a lot of the right eyeballs, minds and hands to keep everything moving in the right direction. But even as a writer, you can practice this same concept. Why not work on a screenplay and a novel, as well as that children’s book you always dreamed about? Spend 70% of your free time on the novel you’re turning in for your master’s MFA thesis, 20% on the fantasy adventure film and 10% on the children’s story. When you get stuck on one, flip around and work on the other. Find a rhythm. Keep it fun. And never feel bad about the 10%, about experimenting, researching new things, doodling with new colors, starting something new.
This is all to say, if possible, integrate everything—all of your dream projects and your present day job—into your long-term plans. In the most simple sense, this means if you must work, search for a career that feeds your passion. For the last fifty years, established poets and writers have taken posts in the academic world, teaching literature and the craft of writing to the next generation of literary stars. But teaching is certainly a reciprocal activity, and certainly on some days these writers learn as much if not more from their passionate students. In a similar sense, turn every conversation, task and endeavor in your life into a reciprocal activity. Find value in everything. See every challenge at work as preparation for your future. Drain every minute of every day for new revelations. And when you leave the plantation, run away with all the weapons you need to win the war.