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Kevin Smith’s Secrets To A Successful Life (connectedcomedy.com)
211 points by moge on Dec 20, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments

How did I know his advice would be a variation of 'do what you love'? I've heard it so many times, but am I supposed to quit my job as a developer that supports my wife and two young kids, and do something that I'm really passionate about, like starting a rock band? That's really tough, my wife would probably leave me and we'd have to move out of our nice, safe neighborhood.

Also - once you make your passion your ft job it then starts to get annoying. I remember when programming was my passion, and now it's just another job - who's to say the same thing wouldn't happen with filmmaking or music?

That's why you figure that shit out before you get the wife and the mortgage. But, either way, you can still do it you just have to do it slowly and in your free time. Making your passion your full time job does not make it annoying!!!! I LOVE WHAT I DO EVEN MORE NOW THAT I WORK FOR MY SELF! When I worked in a cubicle farm like you and cranked out commodity software, I fucking hated programming.

Think of a fun idea, doesn't have to be academically innovative, just something useful to people and start cranking on it. I did that. I have a full time job from it now and holy shit do I love it. There are days I work 12 hours, but you know what? I feel awesome afterwards. After a 12 hour day in the office of company x I always needed a beer and bitched about shit for half a day.

Sorry for all the french. I just can't stress these points enough - same points Smith is making, really. I don't even make "a lot" of money, just enough to be upper middle class. I love my work, my life feels fulfilling, and I have money to do what I want with it.

If you don't have kids, I recommend waiting on that ride - it's tough enough that you have a wife. Hopefully she's a cool chick and will support/help you during transition and well into the wild journey of working for yourself.

[EDIT] To clarify the final paragraph: I don't mean to rag on wives/girlfriends (I have a girlfriend), it's just that, if she isn't a cool person and you are emotionally dependent then you lose a certain amount of autonomy and freedom to move around and do things (like leave your job and move into a two bedroom apartment). My girl happily downsized from a house to a two bedroom apartment when we moved to San Diego. It took her a year, but she sold the majority of her junk and we are now much happier (TBH). We also don't share finances (I have a thing against that) so it helped her save some money for other things/experiences as well.

And you can even find girlfriends who do the opposite: I have no particular desire to move, but mine wants to see the world, so she's pushing me to finally get around to doing that.

Everything in life is a tradeoff. You just have to be conscious of the ones you're making.

A good point - awareness of where your center of gravity [in life] is - an important quality to cultivate.

RE: girlfriends that are the opposite. I agree, it is very possible but it has been my experience that either foreign or alt chicks are the most open to experiencing new things. To balance that sexist comment, I also realize there is a corollary in mainstream American men as well.

BTW, travel (particularly budget backpacking) will change your entire world view; kudos to finding a woman that is into that. I highly recommend India for a few months, on a shoestring and with no itinerary :)

I'd love to do the budget backpacking thing, I'm dying to see Europe. Hopefully when the kids are a couple of years older we can leave them w their grandma and take off to see the world for a few weeks.

You'll probably have to do it with the kids - a few weeks isn't enough to immerse yourself in culture. You'll just end up swimming around in the western bubble. Live an alternative life style with your kids, show them the world isn't a scary place. Hell, move to Europe! Just some ideas.

Indeed. Meet the Miller family - http://edventureproject.com/wordpress/?page_id=3 ("We spent a year touring most of Europe and part of North Africa on our bicycles… with all four kids")

Or the Vogel family - http://familyonbikes.org/blog/?page_id=10 ("The Vogel family left June 8, 2008 for a 2 1/2 year bicycle trip traversing the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina.")

It can be done.

"and do something that I'm really passionate about, like starting a rock band?"

What? This makes no sense. You're doing it wrong. If you were really passionate about playing in a rock band, you would already be filling your time playing in a band, jamming on weekends, playing in your free time.

You don't just "go out and start" doing something you are passionate in. If you are passionate about it, you can't stop doing it.

What do you do in your free time? You have no hobbies or things that keep you busy or wish you were doing rather being at work?

I play music in my free time of course.

Jamming on weekends occasionally is much different than abandoning your day job and attempting to support yourself with music.

Fun Fact: Kevin Smith was toiling away for years at the very convenience store in which he filmed Clerks. He used the stuck shutters at the beginning of the film as a plot device as well as to hide the fact that they had to shoot almost entirely at night while the actual store was closed.

You can do both. You SHOULD do both. Something is obviously holding you back, and there's no way we can pretend what that is. I've found wives and SOs are really flexible if you lay it out that it's something you NEED to do.

Because Smith was working at Quick Stop during the day and shooting the film at night, he slept no more than an hour a day. By the end of the 21 day shoot, Smith was unable to stay awake while some of the most climactic scenes of the film were shot.

from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerks

sleeping an hour a day... :)

well, baby steps. I started a website during medical school, and it consumed much of my free time until I quit medicine. I didn't quit to start a website, but my website allowed me to quit.

Maybe music/show business is different? Forgive my lack of familiarity with the terminology, but you can't form a band, book gigs, do weddings, etc...?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Jeong <- this guy was a physician while he developing his stand-up, and is now a sit-com actor.

Girl Talk was a biomedical engineering student until he basically dropped out for music. It's not different, he was catching red-eyes back from shows in order to make it to finals.

You just have to want it badly enough.

He has a biomedical engineering degree and actually worked a 9-5 day job as an analyst for a few years while playing gigs on weekends.


I stand slightly corrected, thank you.

> That's really tough, my wife would probably leave me and we'd have to move out of our nice, safe neighborhood.

Nobody said being excellent was easy. This also doesn't mean that your choice or his is better.

Sounds like your passion is your family :)

Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Oh definitely. I didn't know we were allowed to count that :)

Having read the full article I noticed that this advise as given specifically in response to a tweet KS got from someone that 'had an opportunity to start over' in his life.

also 'being a programmer' is not the same thing as 'being a programmer for something you really want to be apart of'.

I was a 'filmmaker' for years and I was MISERABLE working at local industrial film houses then I got a job working on a TV show with a passionate crew and I literally sprang out of bed (at 4am) everyday completely stoked to be going to work.

tl;dr context for what you are passionate about is important. A talent/skill/interest isn't a passion; how that talent/skill/interest is applied, is.

> The secret to a successful life is hardly a secret; it requires you to be self-centered as all fuck, is all. So long as it’s not at the expense of others, make yourself the center of your universe.

Making yourself the centre of your own universe will obviously be detrimental to others in your life. Quitting your job and moving your kids to some ghetto slum likely isn't a good idea and would likely be such a distraction in your life that you couldn't focus on yourself if you wanted to.

I'm married, I can't simply quit and slum it around Europe because I feel like it. However, I can save up money and take my wife to places in Europe on vacation. It gets me what I want and it'll help my marriage.

Perhaps you shouldn't be viewing programming as your day job, but your actually job as your day job. Programming is a skill, your skill isn't your day job, what you're required to do with your skills however is your day job. You could use your skill to program for something you find fun. Help with an open source project, or program a website for a local charity as a good deed or something you'd enjoy doing.

I'm skilled with my hands. You put any power tool in my hand and I'll guarantee I could build you what you want. I don't enjoy doing certain jobs, they can feel rather belittling to do sometimes. However, I go home and I think of all the things I could make that I want and I don't find it draining like I would a bad day job. I find it rather invigorating.

> Making yourself the centre of your own universe will obviously be detrimental to others in your life

No. It can be challenging at first, but you and them will be much better after the change. Also, if you need money you shouldn't make a sudden change. Nowadays it is easier than ever to start a business in your free time.

I didn't mean the act of being the centre of your own universe, but him transitioning to being the centre of his own would have immediate detrimental effects if he decided to chase something like a bloodhound.

Like I said, he should find something to do in his free time that fulfils his transition. If you're dedicated, you'll soon be making money one way or another and can switch to that as your day job.

It's inadvisable to anyone who's self-supporting or supporting others to make a drastic change. There's no point trying to self-actualize if you're going to starve in the process, because you'll never get there.

Once you're dependent on something that is not what you love, you'll have hard time breaking out.

You should read about Hugh MacLeod's "Sex & Cash" theory.

I just looked him up on GoodReads, I'll definitely check his stuff out. Thanks.

Kevin Smith had an impressive drive, focus, and determination with respect to pursuing film-making. He wanted to get down to it; he went to the shortest, cheapest film program he could find, and dropped out half way with a partial refund because they were spending too much time on film theory and not enough on practical filming, and would rather spend the money on his first film.

Sure, he's a slacker in many respects, and proudly so, but in this respect, he was focused as a laser. It helps...

Keven Smith is a smart guy who can tell a great story. "An Evening with Kevin Smith [1 & 2]" are both great DVD's where he goes from college to college telling life stories and answering questions/ giving advice off-the-cuff, and yet, these stories are engaging and hilarious and well worth watching. The advice he gives in this article, in my opinion, is simple advice that I think guys here on HN have been reading for years, but it's no less true, whether you like Kevin Smith or not.

He also did "A threevening with Kevin Smith" incase people aren't aware. I'd say it's about time for another DVD.

It may not take talent (or an abundance of it), but it does take a certain type of intelligence. Kevin Smith clearly has that. I fear that many people (including the guy who started this with a tweet) probably will never get something like this moving in the right direction.

What tragic thought! While his path may not be laced with such obvious success as Kevin Smith, the whole point of the tweet is that all it requires is passion and a willingness to follow it. Surely anyone is capable of that.

Replace willingness by motivation and focus. Everybody is willing to do something, not everyone will find the willpower to do it.

If you want a book-length version of the same advice, read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, a curious depression-era classic: http://books.google.com/books?id=c86H36mgiM4C&lpg=PP1...

You'd be surprised.

Well, I think it depends on what you define as a success. To become celebrity filmmaker, probably so. But to "start over" and just find a better job like the guy in the tweet is asking should be reasonable to accomplish.

And how you (or anyone else) would know that you don't have the talent and/or intelligence? This sounds like a mute point until you try to make it happen.

Looks like Kevin Smith compiles his tweet monologues on his own blog: http://silentbobspeaks.com/?p=401

I am honestly surprised by the number of people "meh"ing at this advice. It is surprising because this is a forum for hackers, smart people who look for ways to use a system's rules (or lack thereof) to do what they want or need to get done. And yet a significant number of commenters here are saying "Don't want to be what you want to be; be what you want to be" is bad advice.

As a novice hacker, my role models are many of the same smart people who post here. It's a little disheartening to see such strident dismissal of some good god damn advice.

I think it all just comes down to how much time you waste instead of doing something useful. Like I'm doing right now writing this comment and reading HN. Nobody ever seems to admit how much time they waste watching tv, web surfing, sleeping, gaming, drinking etc.

Agreed. I need to uninstall Steam.

This is nice, but I'm disinclined to take useful advice on how to live my life from people who are apparently less happy than I am.

people who are apparently less happy than I am

Just curious but where do you get the impression that he is anything but happy?

I don't know how happy you are, but Kevin Smith seems pretty damn happy with his life.

Maybe he's one of those persons that, you know, are just happy to be happy.

Their happiness might be thought of as the result of this pseudo code :

    happiness = abs(happiness)

    while (!implode)

        happiness = happiness * 1.1

The server is down at the moment, so I'm not sure, but did he claim to be giving advice on how to live a happy life? The title of the link says "successful", which for many people is a very different goal.

If you think kevin smith is unhappy, you obviously have never listened to any of this podcasts.


I hardly knew who Kevin Smith was before I read this post (and then googled him), but I also had the impression of him being depressed. I remember how he told an airline to fuck off because he was too fat to fit in his seat. His neutral face also looks kinda sad. And he's very fat. Both are strong signs of depression, but not proof in any way.

He probably isn't very depressed at the moment (he claims weed got him off his depression), but I can see why people who don't know much about him thinks that way. Being very fat and not smiling are more than enough "proof" for most people to judge wether people are depressed or not.

step 0: be really talented

Like a lame pep-talk from your Wall-Mart manager after he fires you.

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