Do What You Love: When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead by Jerry Weintraub with Rich CohenPosted: March 16, 2012
Once upon a time, I took a trip to Boston with Ace and came back with a million books from his Dad that he and I are both working our way through… painfully slowly. One among these is When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man by Jerry Weintraub, a Hollywood producer and one-time concert promoter who has worked with the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and John Denver, heightening, reviving and making their careers (respectively) with his ingenious and ground-breaking show biz savvy. Or so he tells us. Alot.
The thing is, I don’t mind reading an autobiography that is all about someone’s awesomeness. I think if you have lived an amazing life and done amazing things, you are fully within your rights to talk about it. What I do object to is reading a book about someone’s awesomeness that is so blatantly vainglorious and then punctuated with bad writing and typos to boot. And this is the case with Mr. Weintraub’s book. On the other hand, he actually has done some pretty incredible and ground-breaking things in his industry (most recently, the producing and packaging of the Ocean’s Eleven movies that have reinvented the whole Rat Pack appeal) and he is a millionaire hundreds of times over for it, so who am I to judge?
I read the entire book because I forced myself to get past the sub-par writing and frequently repeated statements that fell under two broad statement categories: 1) Look what I did, me, just a regular ol’ Jewish kid from the Bronx and 2) And then I did this amazing, unheard of thing, me, just a regular ol’ Jewish kid from the Bronx. The reason I ploughed through is because it is an easy, light read and the story of Weintraub’s life truly is inspiring and instructive (and he does have his humble moments, I guess). He gives detailed, insightful examples of what happens when you don’t give up, when you take a risk, and how if you do these things, you just might end up being best friends with Frank Sinatra or rubbing elbows with Clooney and Pitt. And get paid for it, too.
Aside from this superficial stuff, though, the clear message of his story is a simple one: when it comes to your work, do what you love. If you don’t, you’re screwed (a message I entirely believe in and relate to). Reading this book amounts to a few days of my life I will never get back, but it did confirm an important life philosophy for me, especially at a time when I am facing down the writing demons who haunt me every second that I’m not at my desk. When thinking back on my working life so far, it seems that I’m just trying to be as good as Jerry Weintraub is (which is perhaps why I’m slightly bitter that he has a published book and I don’t).
For many years I worked in various jobs that I hated with varying degrees of passion, but I stuck it out, kept grinding, forged my way through all of the bureaucratic BS and ignored all the naysayers that came across my path. After 5 years I was beaten down, though, had had enough and was about ready to give up when there came a day, almost by accident, that changed everything and I wound up doing the thing I wanted to be doing all along, which was to work from home so that I could write and edit and not be a slave to the man (and not have to take the smelly bus to Don Mills and Lawrence everyday). I didn’t give in to the fears of no money and the pressures of conforming to what everyone else around me who had real jobs were doing. I started off with nothing and now have a thriving and steady freelance career and am working on becoming a writer, which is all just another example, like Jerry Weintraub says, of how important it is to follow your dreams and stay the course.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Look what I did, me, just a regular ol’ WASPy kid from the Richmond Hill.