You might have heard of the "Proust Questionnaire." It's a set of questions about values and dreams improperly attributed to French writer Marcel Proust. (He actually answered it a few times, but didn't come up with it himself.) We came up with our own version, because what we do for a living, spend our money on and why usually reveals more about our personalities than we'd expect.
What is the hardest part about your job that no one knows?
So I make this magazine called FOUND Magazine. And people send in these incredible notes from all over the world, love notes, to-do lists, journal entries, really personal moving stuff. And some of it is heartbreaking, some of it is hilarious.
But the truth is, some of these make me laugh out loud and I can’t wait to show them to my friends and put them in the magazine, but I also am privy to a lot of human sadness. There’s so many people that just want things so badly that they’re not going to get, and they’re spilling themselves out, either in a letter to a friend or in a journal, a letter to themselves. And sometimes it can take a toll on you. And it’s not that just one note is acutely sad, it’s just the accumulated weight of all of these notes.
In a next life, what would your career be?
You know, I’d always dreamed of being an NBA player. And then I realized I’m too short, I’m not quite 6 feet, seemed impossible. But watching Steph Curry go nuts this year? It’s just like, wow, I probably should have put a little more time into my jumper in high school, who knows what would happened. In a next life, I’ll definitely be in the NBA, playing for the Detroit Pistons.
What is your most prized possession?
I used to live in New Mexico and I traded my car for this necklace that I’ve worn every day for the last 15 years. And it’s one of those trades that works out great for everyone involved, because there was this hairdresser named J.R., and I used to always see him at the bar, and he was notorious for bumming rides from people. J.R. would always be hitting you up, sometimes he would tell you about a cool party so you would answer your phone, but like 90 percent of the time he was just trying to get a ride somewhere.
Well, I was moving out of New Mexico back to Chicago, and I knew the car would never make it back that far. It was a good around town car in New Mexico. So, I always coveted this necklace that J.R had. It’s kind of a silver finely woven chain, it looks bad ass, it has a real weight to it, a real heft.
I just made this crazy offer to J.R. one night at the bar, "dude, I’m leaving town next week, my car for your necklace, what do you say?"
He thought about it, "let me get back to you."
Next day he called me up, "let's do it."
I’ve had this necklace and worn it everyday for the last 16 years.
What advice do you wish someone gave you before you started your career?
Charles Baxter was my professor at the University of Michigan, he used to say, "just write a lot and read a lot." And he said, "read the same books over and over again, learn about their interior architecture. Even write out your favorite sentences, your favorite paragraphs, just try typing them out," just to do that. And also, people told me "you know, don’t expect it to happen all at once. You’re not going to become a widely read writer from the first thing you write, it takes years."
What is something everyone should own no matter the cost?
I would say a baseball mitt. I got one recently. And I’ve been going to Elysian Park which is just near Downtown L.A, and I’ve been going over there with a baseball and actually a spare mitt. But it’s the most pleasing thing just to go play catch. I had forgotten the pure joy of that.
And then sometimes when I don’t go there with a friend, there’s always a kid running around there that wants to play, and just to be tossing a baseball back and forth with some 12 year old kid from the neighborhood and just like, talking about life. It’s the perfect thing.
“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VABEFORE YOU GO