A lesson from an Uber ride.
Uber drivers are an interesting breed. They’re successful enough to own a clean car, but they’re unsuccessful enough to drive an Uber car. The service may be uber, but the drivers are not—they’re the middle rung of society. As such, they are brimming with clues on what creates the middle rung of society.
A recent conversation I had with an Uber driver gave me a raging clue about what it takes to be mediocre.
I was on my way from my friend’s apartment in Hollywood to LAX. It’s a 40-minute drive, so my Uber driver, Dave, and I got talking.
Dave is a middle-aged man who has been living in Los Angeles for 25 years, hustling in the industry. He’s had some success, and his IMDB page doesn’t have too many gaps in it, but it’s clear he hasn’t seen the kind of success he truly wants.
So I ask him point-blank, “what’s the dream, then? What’s the endgame of your career? A television show? A sitcom?”
I love asking this question because people’s responses are incredibly revealing. Not only what they say but how they say it, and how quickly they respond. Also I’m genuinely interested. Also I want to live in a world in which people think about this stuff all the time. My Shangri-La would be if everybody turned into Henry Rollins and went around punching each other in the gut.
Dave immediately answers by going into a spiel about how he was on a television show 12 years ago. It was a sketch comedy show that had a three-month run, but it wasn’t picked up for a full series. He laments how he made it, he was on television, but the success didn’t stick. His agent stopped calling him. Everybody stopped calling him.
I waited for a beat to see if he would continue. He didn’t.
Keep in mind, this is an answer to the question, “tell me about your goal” not “tell me about the time you almost made it,” or “tell me about the biggest disappointment of your career.”
Dave is an affable guy. And not in the fake-LA way. If he is fake then even better—he’s a good enough actor to hide his smarminess. Plus he has a face that belongs on television. It’s a good-looking face, but not too good-looking, and what it lacks in looks it makes up for in likability.
But when I ask him about where he’s going, he tells me a story about where he’s been. Here is a man who’s talented enough at what he does—he has definitive proof of that—but it doesn’t matter. I’ve met men like Dave. Men who are quick to tell you about their stories. It grinds away your patience. You may be smart, and you may work hard, but nobody will want to be around you.
Even though Dave is an affable guy, by the end of the short trip I didn’t want to be around him anymore.
The truth is there is no comprehensive advice about how to be successful. Too bad but it doesn’t exist. It’s an illusion we project onto Tony Robbins because we’re anxious about being successful. But a necessary condition for success is for you to be the kind of guy who people want to call, and if you answer the “what do you want to do?” question like Dave did, nobody wants to call you.
Unless, of course, it’s for an Uber ride.