Getting off the subway in New York City is the easiest way to distinguish the locals from the tourists. It’s that simple. Locals walk. They know where they are going. Tourists stand. Stare. Pull out a map. Point in different directions with perplexed facial expressions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tourist. But day six in the Big Apple, I’m learning that it’s not about knowing where you’re going, it’s just going.
Just walk. Just pick a direction and walk. Do not hold up traffic. You will (99.9 percent of the time) be able to regroup sooner than later. Just pretend that you know where you’re going.
A part of my coming on this trip was to see various media organizations and positions in the big leagues, so to speak. I have enjoyed visiting these agencies and getting a flavor of what media-related professions could look like. However, if anything thus far, this trip has only made me question my goals, my aspirations, my direction.
Don’t let the pretentiousness of the Time Warner building in downtown Manhattan fool you. Believe it or not, on the seventh floor of that building sits an old converted conference room, which now serves as the entire headquarters for The Smoking Gun. The Smoking Gun is an online publication that uncovers stories primarily from government or police reports that hold some quirky, incredulous, or entertainment value for its readers. The site is run by just three apparently average guys who happen to love investigative journalism and have enough taste to publish it in witty style.
In all honesty, the simplicity and earthiness of the place was a breath of fresh air. What was an even bigger breath of fresh air was the attitude and demeanor of The Smoking Gun staff. It was effortless to tell that these guys love what they do and have fun doing it. They weren’t hoity-toity. They didn’t have a power point presentation with complex graphics. They weren’t dressed in designer suits; they wore jeans. They weren’t promoting the “do’s and don’t’s of making it big in media.” They were just who they are.
It dawned on me as I listened to them today, that even though I may not be as passionate about the same thing that they are, I drew more inspiration from the men of The Smoking Gun perhaps more than any other place we’ve visited. The entire project was started in one of the editor’s living room over 15 years ago, just on a whim because he thought it would be fun. It wasn’t to earn money or be the next hip thing. It was an encouraging example of doing what you love, simply because you love to do it, and letting minor details (i.e. finances) work itself out later. It’s like just picking a direction and walking.
Chances are, I’m not going to land at home in Salt Lake in two weeks with a clear cut career plan from now until retirement. But this is what I will take with me: it’s about walking. It’s about picking a direction and going. It’s about not being afraid to change the direction a couple blocks up the street. It’s okay to ask for directions or pull out a map, too. Just make sure you don’t hold up traffic. Just walk. Just act like you know where you’re going.