You’ll Use Everything You Ever Knew

So I recall one afternoon ten years ago, I was reading the highly engaging and entertaining autobiography of one Stephen Glenn Martin, titled Born Standing up.  Whether or not you appreciate or care about the career of this particular entertainer, the autobiography comes  as a highly recommended read for a multitude of reasons.  Let me see if I can list them.

It is briskly paced, laden with intriguing and highly descriptive historical and cultural minutiae, as well as inspiring tales of hard work, persistence (and perhaps a bit of foolhardiness) leading to the eventual successful realization of one’s ambitions.

As a self proclaimed “Renaissance man in training” (a title given with tongue planted firmly in cheek, as I hope is obvious) I had always admired Steve for his seemingly bottomless cache of talent, creativity and versatility.  When one views his wildly successful stand up comedy career, his extensive filmography, his various plays, books, screenplays, and five string banjo virtuosity, it’s difficult not to be impressed at the gamut run by Martin’s skillset.  What I didn’t know (and how could I have, given how private a person he is ) was how tireless, relentless and self taught a worker and innovator he was.

I hesitate to say that I’ve ever had any role models or heroes that have remained for long beyond my feckless youth, but if I were forced to pick one or die, it would be Martin.

The preceding paragraphs were a sort of digression; I say “sort of” because while I do hold the career and work ethic of Steve Martin in high regard, that really isn’t the point of this post.  The point is that while I was reading the above mentioned autobiography, one particular line stood out to me and remains the most memorable and cogent to my own experiences.

Martin recounts during one of his early appearances on The Tonight Show  that during a commercial break, Carson leaned in and told him that “You’ll use everything you ever knew.”  Martin then goes on to confirm this assertion by explaining how he used rope tricks he learned as a teenager in Disneyland in the film Three Amigos.

The phrase “You’ll use everything you ever knew”, in the context of the above exchange, was used to refer to the fact that one may utilize the wide variety of skills gained through life experience to better one’s show business career.  But I believe it applies in a far broader sense than that, bordering on being an axiom, or a fundamental irreducible truth.

We are born with nothing but our minds.  We’re weak, we’re slow, we can’t fly, we have no claws, horns, tough skin, shells or any other way of surviving or defending ourselves.  We can survive only through a deliberate process of reason and thought.  We take with us only that which can be produced through that process of thought, be they tools, clothes, shelter, or food we either had to learn to grow or hunt, using tools.  And, for better or for worse, this physically weak species has grown to dominate the planet and dip its toes into the vastness of space by using everything it ever knew.

Now, the human mind is clearly capable of making mistakes both in methodology and outcome, which is why corrective systems like philosophy exist.  Think of it as the same sort of corrective system that nutrition is for the body.  I made a video a while back which touches briefly on this; Molly Beans narrates.

I like to think that I’m using everything I ever knew in a way that will leave the world a fraction of a precent better than it was when I first got here.  By being (hopefully) consistently open to correction through new information, and maintaining a strong passion for learning, I’ll go on adding things I know to everything I ever knew.

Thanks for reading.

Oh, and if you haven’t, check out the Adobe trailer! And the book.