How did you come up with the concept for How to Adult?
As much as I would love to take credit for it, it was actually Emma Mills (A.K.A. Elmify) who came up with the original concept!
Last summer, my wife and I were living in West Virginia, and I mentioned to Emma in an email that I planned to move to Los Angeles soon to pursue some screenwriting opportunities. But in that same email, I also said that if John or Hank Green offered me a job taking out the trash, I would happily move to Indianapolis or Montana instead.
(Note to John and Hank, if you see this: While I am still happy to take out trash, I politely request to stay in my current position. Thanks!)
ANYhow, Emma responded to my confession with a question: Would I be interested in co-making an educational channel to pitch to John and Hank? I said YES!!!!, so she and I developed what became How to Adult, which Hank and John liked enough to executive produce.
What is it like working with producers John and Hank Green?
The most obvious answer is also the truest one: It is awesome. (As is working with Emma, who is not only a brilliant vlogger but also a fantastic Young Adult novelist who sold her debut to Henry Holt and Company last week.)
I’ve been a Vlogbrothers fan since Hank’s song, “Accio, Deathly Hallows,” went viral, and John (along with Sara Zarr) is the real reason I fell in love with YA fiction. I think Hank and John are among the best in the world at the stuff they do, so How to Adult is probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of.
Also, they are very tall.
What kinds of advice can we expect to see on the show?
How to Adult is dedicated to teaching you everything you need to know how to do as an adult that they never taught you in school.
Like, you can graduate summa cum laude from an Ivy League university and still have no clue how to do your own laundry, or open a bank account, or change a flat tire. Those seem like little things, but in fact, those sorts of tasks make up a lot of our lives.
So our goal is to unravel the mysteries and vagaries of adulthood, and to make adulthood feel less overwhelming and more – in a word – awesome.
What was the best advice you’ve gotten for living the grown-up life?
When I was working on the revisions for my debut novel, The End Games, I felt really scared that I was never going to fix the book and I was going to disappoint everyone and also I would probably never be happy for a single second ever again. It was a dark summer of the soul, but I got through it largely because of some words of advice from my dad:
“Don’t let your frustration get in the way of your focus.”
And I took it to mean this: After a while, trying to fight or debate your fears becomes a mug’s game. I feel like I solve problems for a living – whether to use this word or that one, how to twist the plot or not. Those are often scary problems, but they’re also problems I can solve through sustained focus and effort. They’re angels worth wrestling with. By contrast, debating my fears was not worth the candle, because the act of debating them would never be enough to put them to rest. If I wanted to find out what my future held, I had to write my way to it. (Thanks, Dad.)
What was the worst grown-up advice you’ve gotten?
“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
I’ve heard it many times throughout my life, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently because John Lasseter said it in an interview I just saw. Mr. Lasseter is a genius and a hero of mine, and I know the sentiment comes from a lovely place, but I don’t think it’s true. In fact, I would argue that it’s even sort of a dangerous belief, because it implies that if you ever feel stressed or burned out or unhappy, then you must love what you do insufficiently.
This is, of course, silly. As far as I know, everyone who is lucky enough to love their work also has to endure no-good, very-bad, work-a-day days. I think that even includes Mr. Lasseter, who has spoken openly about how the making of Toy Story 2 nearly broke Pixar’s mental endurance.
(By the way, in case I have not made it clear: MR. LASSETER, YOU ARE AWESOME AND I LOVE YOU.)
Is there any grown-up task you particularly enjoy? Are there any you just can’t stand?
I actually really enjoy vacuuming and organizing receipts for taxes! I find them both oddly meditative! (Hash-tag nerd.) On the other end of the spectrum, if I never had to drive again, I’d probably be okay with that.
What do you think is the most important thing people need “to adult”?
Self-care, and curiosity. This can be a tough planet, and so I think it’s vital to have a degree of kindness toward yourself. Oftentimes, the things you wish you could change about yourself are the things that allow you to connect to others most meaningfully. Those moments of recognition, those tiny transmissions of happiness between two people, are what carry us through the tough periods in life.
But also: THIS CAN BE A WONDROUS PLANET! Nadia Boulanger wrote, “Life is denied by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.” Attention, mindfulness, curiosity: they’re all about engaging with the world in a new and openhearted way. It’s the way we experienced the world as kids, and – if we want to experience some of that sense of possibility and newness again as we grow older – it is also how to adult.