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I’ve kept this secret for a while.

But today I feel I can reveal it to you…

And it has to do with today’s podcast guest, Adam Perlman. He’s a television writer and a director for some of my favorite shows: “The Newsroom,” “The Good Wife,” Showtime’s “Billions,” and a bunch more.

He came on my podcast to talk about the new season of “Billions” and his writing career. And how he switched from taking the proven path of corporate law to the scary life of being a dedicated artist.

This all ties into the secret, which I’ll tell you in a minute.

“You were probably on track to being one of the top lawyers around because of the cases you were involved in,” I said.

(He was working on Wall Street. Huge cases. Corporate law. Lots of money, lots of potential upside.) But the market collapsed.

“Me and the big short had a good week,” he said.

“How?” It didn’t make sense. Everyone was drowning. People were killing themselves. There was no work.

“There wasn’t 100 hours of work available,” he said. So he started writing. He dedicated himself to this. His dream. But still held on to his job.

It was like a gift from the gods of career changes. A gift most people don’t get.

So I asked him how he switched. How did he commit to leaving his job… and how did he make the next phase work for him?

Here’s what he told me.

Don’t Get So Deep

This is hard. But that’s what he told me. “I don’t think I got so deep into it (into law),” he said. “That’s that’s one part of it.” He was new to the business. Fresh out of law school. And already ready to quit. That sign showed itself early. I think the longer we wait, the harder it is to take action on our own heart’s desires.

Figure Out Who You Want to Win

Adam was in battle with himself. He felt it all throughout law school. Because his first writing experience was back in high school when he had to fulfill an arts credit. And the only class that fit his schedule was “directing theater.”

“That class just wound up being incredibly meaningful for me,” he said. “And led to me doing some plays in high school and led me actually thinking about theater as a life when I went to college.”

“I spent all of law school kind of in this battle with myself, ‘Do I want to be pursuing something more in the arts and entertainment field or do I wanna be here in law?”

He analyzed this argument from every angle. He even asked himself if it was “responsible” to be an artist “in this political climate.” And I’m sure people are asking themselves that now, too. It’s age old question.

“Am I good enough to be happy?”

He finally decided “yes.” But it took the economy falling apart to make it happen.

Sometimes we don’t see our potential. Until we’re forced to.

But it helps to at least look at the questions you’re asking yourself. “Should I quit my job?”

Should I this or should I that?

The questions point the way, like a compass in a confused mind, we see through.

Don’t Let Money Stop You

Okay, this one is really hard. Especially if you have kids and a mortgage.

Adam was really young when he started considering a writing career. But he noticed something about the people around him. And it stopped him from going forward for years.

“I realized other people who were going to go live the “artist life” were vastly wealthier than me,” he said. So he switched courses.

Fear got to him. And the law became the next step. Every now and then he had a reminder of his dream.

And he followed it.

So did I…

I told you I’d tell you a secret. Well this is what I’ve been hiding. Adam and I met on the set of “Billions” because this year I’ve had the privilege and honor to work alongside some of the greatest minds in modern TV history. Because I’m a technical writer for the show. And now that it’s back on the air, I encourage you to go watch it. Because I got to see these geniuses in action. And I’m really in awe of their ability to write storylines, create suspense, and never lose interest.

And while you’re watching “Billions,” you can even go back to read some of my other articles on the show. (I’ve been a fan from the beginning.)

I learned a lot more from Adam than just those 3 lessons. I also learned how real the internal struggle is when you feel torn between the life you have and the life you want.

Also Mentioned

  • Some of the shows Adam writes for:
  • The Newsroom
  • The Good Wife (TV Show) 
  • Billions 
  • James interview with Bill Cartwright
  • James interview with Kareem Abdul Jabbar
  • Bob Scanlan
  • Samuel Beckett
  • David Mamet
  • David Rabe
  • The Harvard Lampoon
  • The Acting Company
  • The Flea
  • The New York Fringe Festival
  • Aaron Sorkin’s shows: The West Wing (TV Show) and Sports Night (TV Show)
  • Seinfield (TV Show) by Larry David and Jerry Seinfield 
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm (TV Show) 
  • Silicon Valley (TV Show)
  • Veep (TV Show) 
  • The League (TV Show)
  • Michael Patrick King (Adam says Michael Patrick King was the major creative force behind Sex and the City)
  • Marcy and The Galaxy (the play Michael Patrick King worked on with writer Nancy Shane)
  • Transport Group (the off broadway theater company that Adam Perlman was the literary manager for)
  • Sex and the City (Movie)
  • Ugly Betty 
  • Law and Order
  • Gen Maynard (the first person to help out Adam in his TV career. Gen worked on “The Amazing Race,” “Survivor,” and later “CSI)