The other day, my boys and I stopped by the barbershop for haircuts.
As the three of us settled into the couch, waiting for our names to be called, I sorted through a small stack of old GQ magazines on the coffee table until I found one that caught my interest.
On the cover was a familiar face. It was Josh Brolin, who just happens to live in the next town over from me here on California’s Central Coast. I have never met Brolin, but he and I do have a curious connection. We both have the same plumber, Pete. I call him “Pete the Plumber,” and the fact that I have a plumber is another story altogether. Anyway, Pete the Plumber loves to talk; loves to tell me what his buddy Josh is up to. Every time I see Pete I wonder how much his conversations end up costing me. Actually, I can do the math: at $60 per hour, it works out to $1 per minute.
I was interested in what Brolin had to say, mostly because of our one-degree of separation, but I was also enticed by the cover plug (that’s the type on the front of the magazine calling out things like “5 Ways to Lose Your Love Handles”). Under the actor’s epic jaw line, it read: “The Summer of Brolin.” Knowing nothing about him, other than what my plumber had to say about his taste in water heaters, I opened to the article. In the interview, he talked about having early success, but then going through a very long drought. He told the writer, “I waited 22 years for the phone to ring.” Not 22 weeks or even 22 months… 22 years.
It turns out that Brolin didn’t just wait. He talked about everything he did to prepare himself, to sharpen his skills, and to hone his craft, everything from acting in local Shakespeare productions to taking voice lessons. Still, his phone calls went unreturned.
As I was sitting there, it hit me. I’ve been in the media business my entire working career—22 years. Like Brolin, I am doing exactly what I envisioned I would be doing someday—today—even back when I was a lowly cube dweller deep in the bowels of The New York Times all those years ago waiting for my phone to ring.
But, this story is not about me, and it’s not about our famous neighbor, or even Pete the Plumber—it’s about you. If there is anything I have learned during those 22 years, it’s that I do not grow until those around me grow first.