The older I get, the less I care about bigness and the more I care about quality. Do I want a large studio or a great studio? Do I want 500 friends on Facebook or five friends who will love me no matter what? Do I want to make 104 episodes that are hard to sit through or 26 episodes that will be remembered and beloved for years? The answer is obvious but it’s taken me awhile to actually get here.
Like most people in TV, I used to get seduced by the prospect of power or size or money. But it’s become clear to me just how unhealthy these things are. No matter how you dress them up–as good business, as profit, as growth–underlying it all is an insatiable need for more. More money, higher ratings, more plastic toys on shelves.
But it is just this need for more that I believe is the Achilles heel of our species. It’s why we exhaust our resources. It’s why there is such disparity between the world’s rich and poor. It’s why we tend to eat so much.
But the space that most of us carry around inside us cannot be filled by money or ratings or food. We all know this deep down but still we claw our way toward the next thing. Even the thrill of winning some award only lasts until the morning and then the hunger sets in for the next victory. But the solution is not to try to win another award.
For me, the only solution is in the making of the work itself. It’s getting a small taste of something true in the creative process. It’s the joy of creating something. That’s where I try to find my happiness. All the rest of this business is, for me, simply a means towards that end.
I have a writer friend named Adam Beck who lives now in Hiroshima, Japan, with his family. When we were in college Adam wrote and directed a one act play called, “John Wayne’s Foot” about two friends who fight over a lucky rabbit’s foot that was once presumably owned by John Wayne.
One of Adam’s two actors dropped out a few weeks before the show opened and I offered to step in. Not because I could act but because I knew how much this play meant to Adam. I struggled during rehearsals but Adam was very patient with me. He began to say this one phrase to me over and over and, ultimately, I came to understand it. This phrase soon changed my life: “Josh,” he would tell me, “play the process not the result. Play the process not the result.”
What he meant, of course, is that I was not in the moment. I was “acting” the emotions, the “results,” rather than being fully present in the play. Once I began to really listen to and experience what was happening to me, as my character, I began to feel the character’s emotions. This process guided me effortlessly towards the desired result.
Since then, I have used this mantra that Adam taught me for everything. It has helped me whenever I have felt a little uncertain about my next move as a company or as a person.
When considering a new path for Little Airplane, I try not to be guided by some abstract goal of success or ratings or toy sales. I just go inside myself and ask, what do I feel like making right now. Sometimes it’s a song, a few lines of dialogue or I see an image of a character in my head.
Over the years I have found that if I trust these impulses and I make those things, they will lead me naturally to the plotline or the characters and will become our next show.
If I play the process, the results will naturally follow.