As entrepreneurs we pursue our dreams of improving the world. Sometimes I think our dreams can pursue us, that a vision of a better world can have the same effect as what the Scots call a geas. An obligation to use our talents in certain ways that unlocks their power if obeyed and punishes if we don’t respect it.
I re-rented the 2004 film Comedian–I had watched it a year or two ago and wanted to see it again–it chronicles Jerry Seinfeld‘s return to stand up after the end of the Seinfeld television series. Seinfeld’s objective, like those of a serial entrepreneur, was to create a new act from scratch. We watch him start out and he is strangely fumbling and awkward. We see a lot of backstage/offstage conversations. I speak a lot, normally to smaller crowds than Seinfeld does, but it was interesting to see him get the same “pre-game jitters” I do in the few minutes before a presentation is slated to start. I guess that’s a sign that he is still taking risks to improve his act. If he didn’t care he wouldn’t be nervous.
The Comedian parallels Seinfeld’s efforts in developing a new act with those of a younger comedian, Orney Adams, who is obsessed with fame and success. Near the beginning of the film there is a very short hallway discussion between Seinfeld and Adams that is the best scene in the movie for me.
What follow is a transcript:
Orney Adams (A): You get to a point where you ask yourself, how much longer can I take this?
Jerry Seinfeld (S): What, is time running out? Are you out of time?
A: I am getting older.
A: I am getting older. Listen, I’m 29 I feel like I have sacrificed so much of my life. The last three years.
S: You got something else you would rather have been doing?
A: Not necessarily.
S: You got other appointments, other places you gotta be?
A: Not necessarily.
S: No, not necessarily.
A: I see all of my friends, they’re making a lot of money, making a lot of money on Wall Street.
A: I just see that my friends are moving up? And I’m worried that…
S: They’re moving up?
A: They’re moving up.
S: Are you out of your mind?
A: No, I’m am not out of my mind. I just uh..
S: This has nothing to do with your friends.
A: I’ve upset you. I’ve upset you.
S: No, No, this is a special thing. This has nothing to do with making it.
A: Did you ever stop to compare you life, OK I’m 29 my friends are all married, they’re all having kids, they all have houses.
A: They have some sense of normality about them.
A: What do you tell you parents. You know, how do you deal with that.
S: What do you tell your parents?
A: Yes, your parents.
S: I have to tell you a story.
Glenn Miller’s orchestra, they were doing a gig somewhere and they can’t land where they were supposed to land because it was snowing, so they have to land in this field and walk to the gig. So they are walking to where they are supposed to perform and its wet and slushy, and in the distance they see this little house, and there are lights on and there’s smoke coming out of the chimney. So they walk up an look in the window and they see a guy and his wife, she’s beautiful, and two kids and they are all sitting around this table. They’re smiling and laughing and eating. There’s a fire in the fireplace. These guys are standing outside in their suits and they’re wet and they’re shivering. They’re holding their instruments. They’re watching this incredible Normal Rockwell scene.
And one guy turns to the other and says “How do people live like that?”
That’s what it’s about.
It can be hard to tell if we pursue our dreams or they are pursuing us.