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Everything Matters

Stephen practicing on stage at The Bell House
This will be the second in what I hope will be a series of three blog posts chronicling an important transition in my life. Read the first one here.

When I started The Tobolowsky Files a few years ago, I had no idea where the project would lead. All I had was an abiding belief in the extraordinary nature (perhaps even the necessity?) of the stories. I knew that they were of superlative quality. I knew that they needed to be available to the world. And after they became available, I knew they needed to be heard by as many people as possible.

So I worked at it. I produced and promoted it. I devoted hundreds of hours to it, with essentially no monetary compensation. I did all this for no other reason than that I believed in the product. Perhaps I had a vague sense that in the end, it would all be worth it somehow. But that alone could not have been sufficient to motivate me for those first few months and years.

Even before it paid financial and professional dividends, The Tobolowsky Files had already become hugely rewarding. People wrote in with moving stories about how the podcast had made a difference in their lives. I myself enjoyed listening to the stories, many of them over and over again. Certain episodes illustrated truths and forced me to rethink things in ways I hadn’t previously imagined.

Then, more conventional markers of success started to materialize. The show was picked up for broadcast on public radio. We got offers to perform the show live at some awesome venues around the country. Simon & Schuster offered to publish a forthcoming book based on the show. Money(!) started to slowly trickle in. But that couldn’t have prepared me for the next development.

The short version of the story is this: Stephen and I performed the podcast live in several locations. At one of these gigs, I met some great people who knew some more great people, who introduced me to some awesome people, who recommended me for a job at Microsoft. Obviously, a recommendation isn’t sufficient: you have to actually have skills and interview well. But my work for the Tobolowsky Files demonstrated some of my proficiencies, sparked conversations, generated intrigue, and ultimately, led to a job offer.

That job offer came two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, I found out my life is going to change, possibly forever. That’s how I find myself sitting in the disorganized shambles of my bedroom right now, typing this blog post, slowly packing up my entire life, and readying myself to move from Boston to Seattle in three weeks.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s this: everything matters. All the pieces of the puzzle of your life can fit together in unexpected ways, ways that you may have no awareness of until the results become inexorably clear. I’m reminded of my friend and colleague, Dan Trachtenberg, who gained internet fame by hosting a geek video podcast. After building up a huge following on Twitter, Trachtenberg leveraged it to find people to work on his Portal short film, a project that got him dozens of meetings and ultimately a major film deal. Everything matters.

Sir Francis Drake once intoned, “There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.” I’m sure many of you reading this have your own projects and films and exciting things that you’re working on. My advice to you is this: If there’s something you believe in, work at it passionately. Work at it without the promise of compensation, reward, or personal gain. Work at it because you believe it has to exist. Work at it until its completion.

Because while the work is frequently its own reward, sometimes it can end up leading to unexpected delights.