Yesterday I watched a documentary about Saturday Night Live in the 1980s. The show struggled so much after its first five golden years. It lost a lot of its people, its mission, and its way. And it wasn’t a matter of finding it again. A very small group of people, some original and some new, scrapped the entire format and started over from scratch. Brave, and frightening. Just like life.
Many of the cast members—Billy Crystal, Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus—talked about not unpacking their bags. They all had month-to-month leases and were never really sure if they’d made it. Even when things were going very well, they were always on edge. In so many of those old sketches and outtakes, I could see the nerves, spontaneity, and spark.
It got me thinking that as much as we are creatures of comfort, habit, and routine, maybe we do our best work when we don’t have any of those things. Maybe those nerves that keep us on our edge give us our edge. We shouldn’t be looking for comfort at all. What we need to do our best, most creative work is a manageable dose of anxiety and fear. Our magic is not is doing the work we know we can do, but in biting of more than we can chew, in taking on precisely the projects that are beyond our reach. We should go where we think we’ll fail. We rise when we have something to shoot for that seems impossible.