Pursue the Passion

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It’s All About Love

October 31, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

“We Americans have so many grave problems to solve, many threatening evils to fight, and many deeds to do, if, as we hope and believe, we have the wisdom, the strength, and the courage and the virtue to do them. But we must face facts as they are. We must neither surrender ourselves to a foolish optimism, nor succumb to a timid and ignoble pessimism…” Forum, 1894 “What Americanism Means.” Theodore Roosevelt. In, EM 480.

After giving my copy of Atlas Shrugged to Zach a while back, I stole his copy of The Rise and Fall of Theodore Roosevelt. The biography, by Edmund Morris, is wonderful, accessible and eloquent. In the context of PTP, Teddy Roosevelt was a wanderer, answering the call to adventure constantly throughout his distinguished life.

He was also an egomaniac, but seemingly selfless in his contributions to society and his family. It is that selflessness that has struck a chord. This trip, driven by its characters, would not have succeeded save for selfless acts by all parties involved. Zach sleeps anywhere. Brett is a flexible scheduler. Jay is incredibly generous.

In the building of fraternal relationships it is important not to lose sight of man’s individualist tendencies. For four months, with varying complexity, individualism has been all but abandoned, replaced by a collective mind, happiness and sense of accomplishment. This is something Teddy never grasped.

For a man who considers himself independent, I have come to rely entirely on the three men around me. I see myself in the reflection of their eyes. I hear my thoughts in the context of what they say. I live my life only as they live theirs, sharing in success, failure, elation and sadness. In understanding my companions, I have lived this trip four times, infinitely more than a man-as-an-island could.

Recently, someone noticed that I have yet to drive the RV. In my own defense, I consider myself entirely too crazy to spend long hours under any kind of stress; I have what some call delicate sensibilities. Driving hunched, white-knuckled and blind in a New Jersey thunderstorm is best left to a person of stronger mental fortitude, more competent during six-hour, nervous, self-assessment.

But Zach and Brett (Puppy and the Captain) have become entirely comfortable behind the wheel, carrying our crew through Oregon, Delaware, Georgia, Texas and now, home. I am so grateful to them, for ensuring our safety and for taking the responsibility so willingly. Without drivers, we’d be in Phoenix. Whatever my contribution to PTP, it holds not a candle to what they have done.

I write this without pretense of humor to say just how much I have come to love and respect my fellow travelers. Brett, Zach and Jay have made this trip a once in a lifetime experience, that no one can ever take away from me. I appreciate them so earnestly, for everything they are and are not, and for everything they’ve allowed me to be.

Cheers, to wisdom, strength, courage and virtue, and the defeat of ignoble pessimism. Cheers to the fate that brought me here, and to those with whom I have been brought.

Noah Pollock

The End

October 30, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

My distress has actually been going on for a few weeks. I haven’t written anything on this blog for awhile, have conducted a minimal amount of interviews, and have just tried to enjoy myself since Memphis.

But now, as I write this in El Paso, we’ll be facing the music in Tucson. Tucson represents the end of the journey. It holds skeptic friends, Noah’s mom, sponsors…all wanting to know what’s going to happen next.

There is a next. I just don’t know exactly what it is. But I am excited to take some time to reflect, to rest, and to find out what it is that I took away from this journey.

What the tour offered is unrecognizable at this point. All I know is that we accomplished what we set out to do. We traveled 16,000 miles in 120 days. Thirty-eight states were invaded by four guys in a wacky RV. People ranging from Jay’s cousin Tony to Zach’s friend’s ex-girlfriend’s friend opened their showers and their homes to us. We have over three hundred hours of film that consists of the hundred and seventy-five interviews and our personal escapades around the country.

I’m proud. My excitement outweighs any fear of what’s next. I know that I will look back on this trip and find the defining moments that established who I am down the road.

But it’s time to chill. And I invite you to stay tuned. We are going to do good things.

The Fork in the Road

October 25, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

by Noah Pollock

Although our journey across the nation comes to an end, in Tucson in 5 days, our most difficult journey has only just begun. In collecting the information we have collected, in experiencing what we have experienced, we learned to take things for what they are. In examining the trees throughout the forest, and minding not the forest itself, we learned to leave over-analysis behind.

It was not always so. Pursue the Passion set out to find what makes people passionate. Perhaps youthful arrogance led us to believe ourselves capable of distilling conversations to their passionate roots. The first leg of the trip, through mid-August, we faithfully executed our original plan. As we continued, our insecurity in the project’s simplicity grew. In retrospect, to believe that we could meet someone for an hour, cut their passion into a two-minute video, then progress to our next meeting, was a serious overestimation of our own abilities.

Dreaming big is always an overestimation. As feelings of doubt in the project mounted, we surveyed more honestly both the task before us, and our own abilities. It was difficult to come to grips with, watching our initial ideal exposed as somewhat frivolous, but we found comfort in several things. We found camaraderie, on the trip, with each other and those we met along the way. We received emails from readers who found genuine inspiration in what we offered. We found an incredible life experience being lived everyday.

What we have found is broken monotony. We departed as overly serious, business minded adventurers, and return humbled by our experiences. As a group, we have grown to support and nurture each other in a way none of us have ever known. What we have to offer is an honest interpretation of our travels, without presumptions of conclusions, which can help to avoid, or break, the mundane working existence. There is no singular, universal passion. Rather, there is an open-mindedness, fortitude and confidence shared among all we have found that is passionate.

Showering for Survival

October 18, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

Showering. Something you probably take for granted on a daily basis. But after spending close to four months on the road, we consider the act of showering somewhere between an enjoyable experience and something you would sell your soul for.

We started off this journey comfortably. We showered at my mom’s house. We showered at the house Jay grew up in during our stay in Los Angeles. Things got a little more out of the ordinary in the northwest when we showered and stayed at my stepdad’s great aunt Pinky’s house. But we definitely weren’t roughing it when we were being hit with the naked, dual headed shower sensation in Cape Cod, or in a cleanly kept condo located thirty-eight floors up in Chicago.

We have roughed it, showering at a dirty truck stop in Hastings, NY while paying eight dollars a shower to do so. We’ve had showering situations some would consider humorous, like when we showered in Jay’s cousin Tony’s artsy house in Portland. His shower was located in a room that was like a melting pot. The shower was next to the kitchen stove which was under a bedroom loft, where Tony and his girlfriend Stephanie slept. That time when we stayed with five girls in Delaware was pretty good too. The PTP crew upped the total shower hungry twenty somethings to nine that Wednesday morning, with only one ill-pressured shower available for use.

And oh, we’ve gone showerless. But let me tell you something. Showerless in Spokane is nothing compared to showerless in Mobile. It is humid and sticky in the south. If you don’t shower, you don’t survive.

Our most recent escapade to find a shower involved meeting girls at a bar on Beale Street in Memphis and latching on to them like they were the fountain of youth. Yesterday, Zach managed to finagle four showers from the attractive blonde working the counter of Hard Rock casino’s health and spa in Biloxi, MS. Today in New Orleans, we shower in a tub surrounded by rubber ducky curtains belonging to Ben, a friend of Brian Conley, who we briefly interviewed in Philly.

Despite the uncertainty of where and when we will shower next, there are two things you can count on.

There is no such thing as a group shower for the sake of conservation. And we will always use your shower products.

A Paragraph from Ayn Rand

October 17, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

This morning, as I lay in the RV on Dauphin Street in Mobile, Alabama, I read a few signatures sketched on the ceiling in Sharpie.

“Good job enhancing the power to thrive”- Coach Valerie, Los Angeles

“Thanks for the inspiration!”- Kelly Faulk, Jobing.com, San Diego

“Keep spreading the joy.”- David Kravetz, Founder of Fairytale Brownies

I include all of these signatures because they were within the first week of us being on tour. We hadn’t done anything with the tour, yet, these individuals felt that need to write something regarding our accomplishments.

Ever since we started the roadtrip, I’ve been struggling to put a finger on why people are excited about what we are doing with Pursue the Passion. I have emails each day saying what we are doing is amazing. We have press coverage all the time. And sometimes I just wonder why.

Right now I’m reading Atlas Shrugged, the 1,069 page book written by Ayn Rand. Throughout the book I have been intrigued by her writing style, but when I read a passage on page 216, I had found an answer as to why people are excited about Pursue the Passion.

Below is the passage.

“In the summer days and in the heavy stillness of the evenings of the city, there were moments when a lonely man or woman- on a park bench, on a street corner, at an open window- would see in a newspaper a brief mention of the progress of the John Galt Line, and would look at the city with a sudden stab of love. They were the very young, who felt that it was the kind of event they longed to see happening in the world- or the very old, who had seen a world in which such events did happen. They did not care about railroads, they knew nothing about business, they knew only that someone was fighting against great odds and winning. They did not admire the fighters’ purpose, they believed the voices of public opinion- and yet, when they read that the Line was growing, they had a moment’s sparkle and wondered why it made their own problems seem easier.”

Lofty- A guest post by our very own Noah Pollock

October 16, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

Listening to NPR, on the drive from Boston to New York, we were introduced to the ‘Jena Six.’ The year-old story had not yet been brought to its current level of media frenzy, and hearing it told as it was, I saw something seriously wrong going on. With a flexible southern schedule, Pursue the Passion, under my suggestion, scheduled a stop in Jena, to interview activists, and see what’s really going on.

It has been a month since we arrived in New York City. National media coverage has been revelatory, and none more than a September 26th OP-ED in the New York Times, by Reed Walters, the district attorney of LaSalle Parish. In the story as I knew it, Mr. Walters played the villain, the government thug. Yet as the initial outrage subsided, replaced by a more informed outrage, I came to believe that legally, Mr. Walters faithfully executed his post. In a hasty rush to oversimplified judgment, I placed the world’s racial woes squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Walters.

It was both ignorant and wrong of me.

Although Jena appears to enjoy a rich history of racial inequality, it neither exists within a vacuum, nor without tacit American approval. My family taught me that prejudice, in all its forms, is repulsive. But this case reminded me that bigotry continues to be my problem, as it was of my mother’s generation, and the one before that. Although I applaud those working in Jena, for bringing the issue to international attention, I do not see how we can help there. We will, therefore, not be going to Jena, instead visiting Mobile, AL and Biloxi, MS.

This is not to say that what is happening in Jena is unimportant, but with Pursue the Passion in mind, I see not how our visit there would help the situation. I’ve always wanted to visit Mobile, home of the Arnold family from Red Sky at Morning, one of my favorite books. From there we are afforded the opportunity to drive the southern coast of the United States, something we are all excited about, stopping in Biloxi, and then on to New Orleans.

Much of this trip is about personal growth. I see our visiting Alabama and Mississippi as greater opportunities for growth than visiting the already overwhelmed Jena. In Mobile and Biloxi, we will continue to do what we do: meet people, hear their stories and see how they live. Education through experience is incredibly powerful, and I am proud of our seeing the country. In seeing the states for all their uniqueness, we see how similar they are; we see people, regardless of color or locale, and learn that kindness is a universal trait. With each stop we make, our ignorance, no matter how benign, subsides.

I have been wrestling with this decision for some time. I invite, and would greatly appreciate, commentary, whether positive or negative. Feel free to comment on this BLOG, or contact me at: noah@pursuethepassion.com

Our own backyard

October 15, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

One of the benefits of touring the country is having the opportunity to see how people live life. Through the hosts we politely impose upon, the professionals we meet in interviews, and people we randomly come across, we’ve been able to make a few observations.

One is that residents of a city or state rarely have been to what that city or state is known for. For example, how many New Yorkers have been to the Statue of Liberty? Memphians in Graceland? How many people from the Bay Area have walked across the Golden Gate bridge?

I’m guilty. I’ve lived in Arizona for the last five years and have never been to the Grand Canyon. Or the red rocks of Sedona, which to my surprise, is a nationally sought after destination. I guess we take it for granted because the opportunity will always be there.

We can always go, but we never do. Why not?

Today is our 100th day on tour

October 11, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

Today is our 100th day on tour. And we’ve been active since the last newsletter update two weeks ago.

Skeet shooting in the south was a highlight. As was speaking to a capacity crowd at Belmont University. We had unexpectedly cool interviews at the world’s largest aquarium in Atlanta, and at a goat farm in rural Tennessee. I celebrated my 23rd birthday 2,354 miles from home. We found a place to stay in Nashville when we befriended Zach’s friend’s ex-girlfriend’s friend to spend five wonderful days with the vivacious voice of CMT radio. My girlfriend flew to Atlanta for a visit. Jay and Noah flew from Nashville to Tucson, Phoenix to St. Louis to conduct a Class Project concert.

If you use this summary as a sample size and forecast it like this was a statistics study, then you can draw some sort of inference on how crazy this journey has been.

We have three weeks left on the 2007 Pursue the Passion tour after spending a hundred days and thirteen thousand miles in a RV. Somehow we have conducted a hundred and forty-nine interviews this summer while traveling to thirty-three states.

Now the real question…does anyone know someone we can stay with in Memphis this weekend?

The Fainting Goat

October 9, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

There are days when it all just makes sense. Today was one of those days.

We started off the day by heading to a rural part of Tennessee to interview a goat farmer, who, after fifteen years of accounting, just wanted to find something where she could be outside. Zach and I toured the farm, seeing as many as sixty goats, but none caught our eye more the fainting goat. The fainting goat actually faints, although the babies do not. The adults freeze up because of a sudden boost of adrenaline caused by fear. So when the Puppy (aka Zach) wildly chased a goat, it was no surprise that the goat helplessly fell to the dirt with legs stretched skyward.

Back in the city after our country experience, our next interview was with an articulate, environmentally conscious entrepreneur, who at twenty-seven year, just moved to Nashville from L.A. with his banjo playing fiancé. With eyes as green as his cause, this first time entrepreneur and former male model explained how he planned to put “sexy” into the worldwide green movement through the means of bamboo underwear. In stage one and a quarter of his business plan, his company will be called “Bambooty.”

Over beers that night we interviewed Chris Pandolfi, a banjo player with the Infamous Stringdusters bluegrass band. The Stringdusters have recently received worldwide recognition, taking home three IBMA awards this week in Nashville. Now 28, Chris has been playing the banjo since he enrolled in Dartmouth for environmental studies several years ago.

The thing that interested me the most about the interview with Chris was that when asked “what would be the one thing he would tell his twenty-three year old self,” he thoughtfully replied that he would like to hear what the younger Chris would have to tell him today. The reason for the answer was that the younger Chris played the banjo for fun. Today’s Chris plays professionally. With the territory has come pressure. Pressure to perform. To live up to expectations. To deliver. It’s a completely different feeling Chris derives from playing now compared to ten years ago, so much so that he has begun to play the drums on the side to regain the innocent sensation he once had when he first picked the strings of the banjo.

The number one answer interviewees respond with when asked the question we posed to Chris is to “take risks.” Or “believe in yourself.” As interviewers, we’ve made the connection that although the question asks what an interviewee would tell their twenty-three year old self, the answer we receive applies to their current situation. So the question subconsciously reads, “what would you tell yourself?” And more often than not, their answer revolves around fear, and going back to the optimism of their twenty-three year old self.

Today we were exposed to experience and inexperience. We saw how fear, drawn from experience, can literally paralyze, like the fainting goat on its back with its legs stuck in the sky. Or how a lack of knowledge, like a first time entrepreneur, a baby fainting goat, or picking up drumsticks can afford that innocent sensation that the world is a clean slated canvas.

Banjo Player

October 8, 2007 | by brett | Permalink

I’m writing about banjo players because they are the definition of what pursuing a passion is all about. They are risk takers. They understand that they are making lifestyle sacrifices to pursue their dream. And they love what they do more than anyone.

I’ve met more banjo players in the last five days than I have met in my whole twenty-three years of existence. In fact, as I write this at the kitchen table of Emilee Warner, who is our delightful Nashville host and voice of CMT radio, there is a banjo resting on the floor to the right of me.

One of the banjo players I met graduated from Dartmouth, which is a private, four-year liberal arts institution that has been at the forefront of American higher education since 1769. Graduates from Dartmouth become investment bankers, not banjo players. But this guy who I met, Chris, went against the grain and moved to Nashville to play in a bluegrass band.

Two years after making the decision to play professionally, Chris and his group of Infamous Stringdusters took home three IBMA awards (the Grammy’s of Bluegrass) this week, one for emerging artist, two for best song, and third for best album. Chris’s story is full of sacrifice, risk, and going against expectations, and is one interview that we hope to get today during our final day in Nashville.

Yesterday Zach and I found ourselves eating breakfast with two girls who play the banjo. One does it for fun, the other professionally. The professional, Grace, had driven down from Asheville, NC with a caravan of other bluegrass musicians for the festive IBMA week. Contrary to Chris, who rose to unexpected stardom in two years, Grace had been at the banjo with her bluegrass band for a little longer, supporting herself by serving “yuppies cappuccino” in addition to taking paying gigs on the side.

Then there is Todd, a convivial, bearded Dobro player who didn’t start playing the instrument until he was twenty-five. Now thirty-three, he has found a host that is willing to put him with a free room while he plays music gigs all over the country, like the one he did this weekend in San Francisco.

Nashville is a melting pot of ambitious, open minded people who are passionate about music. It’s heartbeat is the upright bass. And it’s the best place to be if you play the banjo.

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