Heather Gold Show rundown—Self-Made

caterina fake, stacey massignan and heather gold at the 7/21/06 Heather Gold Show

After the show: Caterina, me and my sweetie Stacey sandwiched inbetween. Photo: Deb Schultz

We had a great sold out show last night. Many thanks to my great guests and audience for the conversation. Self-made is a rich topic and there’s so much more to it that we could get into last night. Flickr’s Caterina Fake discussed her self-made path as influenced by a mix of her Phillipino immigrant mother’s ambition for her and an inability to stay committed to things that didn’t interest her. A combination of getting fired and being passionate about new things kept moving her forward in life. It was only when her company hadn’t succeeded financially with their clever, postmodern online endeavor Game Never Ending “just enough fuel in the tank” to get something out, that Flickr was born.
Lillian Rubin observed that timing, luck and the larger social movements are an enormous part of success and being self-mad. For example, the Web came along at a time that made a huge difference for Caterina who had already been through many jobs and careers as a painter, Wall Street numbers cruncher and dive shop clerk in land-locked Arkansas. Caterina laughingly agreed that she hadn’t stayed up nights as a kid dreaming about creating the world’s leading photo-sharing site.

Lillian had so many insights that you’ll have to wait for the podcast to hear it all, but she was able to draw sustainable choices to “living in reality” (which often meant compromise without entirely sacrificing what makes you happy). She also made many astute connections between our opportunities and the social movements that created them (ie. working part-time or 40 hours a week because of the movement to create a 40-hour work week; her own academic possibilities opened because of the women’s movement, Kamau’s opportunities opened because black comedy wasn’t always available to more than a black audience. In fact Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson used to do it in blackface. To which I quipped, “In other words it took Jews to do black comedy? Now that Kamau’s here at the JCC maybe we’ve come full-circle). Lillian warned against the supporting the mythical belief that just anyone in America can make it “from the Bronx ghettoes to Nob Hill” as she had, since that just wasn’t a realistic substitute for social policy or a community committed to a sustainable life for everyone. Everyone does not have the same psychological resources and external resources and opportunities available to them. Her book The Transcendent Child was mentioned, which I highly recommend. It explains why some people come out of traumatic situations and achieve “success” and others “fall by the wayside.” One element of this is often disidentifying with ones own family.

Kamau’s set rocked and he talked about dropping out of the University of Pennsylvia, and making other choices in his life that would let him pursue stand-up. This is what Lillian likes to call “living in reality.” Josh in the audience wanted to know how to reconcile his passion for start-up companies, jazz piano and his solid and good but unstimulating job. Kamau: ” Are you good at jazz piano? I mean seriously?” The audience brought up so many good points that as Caterina observed afterwards at the bar, we should think about doing a series on this topic because it’s so rich. We talked about jobs that paid less but helped people be happier in their life, jobs that make you sick and thanks to Craig in the audience, working because of reponsibility. Craig says that he works 6 days a week and he never gets sick as a response to others in the room who believe that many are worn down by the work they do. Responsibility and duty to others and one’s own passion and internal path. This is a topic I’d like to be able to get into more. There’s financial responsibility to family and others as Craig pointed out and then there’s a deep motional and psychological sense of responsibility to family as Caterina, Deb Schulz, Judith and others pointed out at the bar after.

I’ve always wanted to know : where are all the hero’s journey stories about girls and women? Ok there’s The Wizard of Oz and Phillip Pullman‘s Dark Materials Trilogy. But these heroines are orphaned (my childhood fantasy game, now that’s a show in itself). So often women and girls are afraid to become oursleves if we feel it will hurt our families. So we either close down or try to bring everyone with us.

Insights and highlights:

  • Unlikely risks that move you forward often happen when you are pushed beyond where you would normally go. The leap forward is not made by cool, analytic strategic planning but absolute necessity and burned bridges.
  • HG: “How do you spend that time when you’re up late at night servous coming up with new ideas rather than saying “I suck.” Caterina: Your responsibility to others who believe in you (work for you, invest in you etc). The way she explained it it didn’t sound all self-confident and relaxed, It still sounded scary and uncertain. But they did it anyway.
  • guest Kamau Bell observing that “passion can make you miserable.”
  • guest Caterina Fake commenting that “entrepreneur is French for “can’t keep a job.”
  • Buy Lillian’s book The Transcendent Child
  • Jeff Garlin: “If you have something to fall back on, then you fall back.” (ok he wasn’t in the show but I love this line and it’s pertinent. Jeff, you’re welcome anytime.)

The podcast is coming soon. Please continue the conversation and comment away.