Expert Interview with Hollywood Writer Bob Smiley.

 
 
 
Bob Smiley.png
 

 

How to be an idea factory.

“I don't say yes to writing something unless I have a really powerful emotional connection to it. […] It needs to almost punch me in the stomach or bring some sort of emotional reaction.”

 

The life of a Hollywood writer: champagne wishes and caviar dreams (RIP Robin Leach), red carpets, black tie events, hobnobbing with Hollywood socialites, and self-aggrandizing acceptance speeches.  If you were hoping that’s what the life of a writer is, you may be disappointed.  In fact, that life may only exist in a Hollywood production.  A career in writing is incredibly demanding, unpredictable, and entirely dependent on a consistent output of high-quality work.   

Bob Smiley, writer extraordinaire and one hell of a good guy, knows all about the travails of a writing career.  He is a man that has done it all in the writing world.  He’s written for hit sitcoms, movies, major sports publications, and he even wrote a couple books.  He is so calm and measured in his manner of speech that you may underestimate his quick-wittedness. That would be a huge mistake.  I like to think his cool demeanor is quite purposeful.  I imagine he has solved an elaborate equation that calculates output of energy to output of work and by being so even keeled he conserves and diverts energy towards his writing.  That may be completely wrong, but whatever he is doing appears to be working.  When Bob puts pen to paper, you can bet it will be witty, captivating, and a pure joy to read. 

However, don’t think his knack for writing was simply bestowed upon him.  His talent for the written word has been sharpened and honed through decades of deliberate practice and hard work.  Below are the skills, habits, and routines that Bob has developed to keep his pen flowing freely. 

 

How Bob Smiley has become an idea factory:

  • Prayer and/or meditation.
    • Spending time in deep thought, whether that is prayer or meditation, is the key to clarity and guidance.  Bob routinely starts his day by praying.   His prayers often begin with reading a passage from the Bible or a proverb.  This orients his thoughts and provides direction.  After that, Bob will spend time praying for clarity, what he is grateful for, or he will reflect on situations and interactions from the past days or week.  This practice helps to ground and focus him on what is most important that day.  As a writer, finding clarity is paramount to success because if he chooses the wrong path on an idea it could cost him months worth of work.  Unfortunately for Bob, he doesn’t get paid for discarded ideas. 
  • Structure, a consistent routine, and discipline foster creativity.
    • Creativity is a skill and like all skills it must be honed every day.  As Bob says, you can’t pour a glass of liquor, sit in the bathtub and wait for an idea to come.  Setting aside dedicated time to think, work, and create leads to great ideas.  Consistency and focus are the key.
    • The novel Essentialism clarifies further how routine is an incredible tool for creativity rather than an inhibitor.  “The right routines can actually enhance innovation and creativity by giving us the equivalent of an energy rebate.  Instead of spending our limited supply of discipline on making the same decisions again and again, embedding our decisions into our routine allows us to channel that discipline toward some other essential activity.”
  • 9 out of 10 ideas are bad, that’s why you must be an idea factory not an idea warehouse.
    • In the world of stories and ideas, most ideas will be discarded.  That is why you must keep producing.  It may take 10, 20, or 30 ideas to find the 1 gem.  Whatever field of work you may be in, keep producing ideas like a factory.  Don’t come up with one sacred idea and store it like a warehouse.  Chances are it’s not as great as you think it is.
  • There are no new ideas.  Embrace it.
    • Here’s the cold hard truth: you will most likely not generate something that is truly new and unique.  In some form or another it has been done before.  Embrace this notion and it will liberate you from the tyranny of uniqueness.  Paralysis by analysis be gone!  There are no unicorns to be discovered.  In fact, the ideas that are truly groundbreaking are often too ahead of their time to be fully appreciated.  What is different is the way an idea can be packaged, delivered, or combined with other ideas.  Embrace this and start creating today.
  • Find work or ideas that strike an emotional connection.
    • “I don't say yes to writing something unless I have a really powerful emotional connection to it. […] It needs to almost punch me in the stomach or bring some sort of emotional reaction.”
    • In order for Bob to go from concept to an actual piece of writing, it has “to punch him in the stomach” and spark a fire in him.  He waits to find and select the stories that strike a deep emotional connection.
  • Construct high performance environments.
    • One of Bob’s greatest writing mentors, William F. Buckley Jr., churned out his literary work in staggering amounts, in a limited amount of time.  As a young man, Bob was invited into William’s process as a research assistant for a 6-week period.  What he saw was a man on a clear mission with a highly restricted time frame: 6 weeks to write a 300-page novel.  He accomplished this by secluding himself in Switzerland and writing from 7:30 in the morning to 7 at night every day.  By eliminating all distractions and being disciplined, he was able to accomplish what takes many writers years to accomplish.  
  • Absorb what’s around you.
    • In the opening scene of the 2001 movie Vanilla Sky, the phrase “Open your eyes” is repeated over and over.  I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to describe Bob’s view on life.  I also couldn’t think of a less timely reference from a movie, but oh well.
    • As a writer, Bob is constantly listening, watching, and observing human behavior and interactions.  Being present and aware in the world fuels his work.   This takes putting the phone down, taking out those white earbuds from your ears, and experiencing what’s around you.  This isn’t just practical wisdom for writers.  If you are in business or want to create a business, observe human behavior and ideas will follow.
  • Recharge your battery with the ones you love.
    • It doesn’t require an extravagant vacation to reinvigorate and inspire your work.  Enjoy the simple pleasure of being in great company.  Be aware of the message you are sending to those you love when your head is buried in your phone.  As Bob says, “nothing crushes me more than when I’m talking to somebody and they start looking at their phone.” 

 

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed speaking with Bob.  He is humble, easy-going, and a gem of a man that we can all look up to and learn from.

Enjoy.

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Parker:   How did you first get into writing and what, what drew you to writing at first?

Bob:         I was in high school […] and I was just coming out of that phase where I realized I wasn't going to be a professional athlete, […] I was big into academics and I started writing for our school newspaper.  […] That was the first time I wrote something and it went out into the world and I got a reaction from it.  I realized that what I write had an effect on people and sometimes in positive ways, sometimes in negative ways. I remember my junior or senior year I wrote an article about a teacher.  In every issue of our paper we had interviews with teachers and they were usually these glowing puff pieces, and I wrote one about the teacher that everybody thought was kind of weird.  It was all very tongue in cheek about him to the point where if you read it and you didn't know him, you'd think it was a nice paper, but if you knew him […] you knew that it was a mean article. And I remember one of the teachers at school, who I really respected, who was my English teacher at the time, he could see through it. And he called me into his office and he said, "words have power." And it really hit me and of course I just felt crushed and convicted and all these things.  I wrote a letter to apologize to the teacher and that sort of thing.  I realized the double edge sword of writing that it can be used for good or for bad. It can be used to stir up emotion in people and it can be used to entertain. That was exciting to me.  I realized I wasn't going to play for the Dodgers, […] but I could use the talents which I had and try to use them for good. […] And so I went off to college and I majored in politics […] and about a semester into it I realized that I just hated it.  It wasn't fulfilling, and it was just arguing. Meanwhile, at the same time, because of my love for writing, I was writing for our school’s humor magazine, which was called the Princeton Tiger and it's the second oldest college humor magazine behind the Harvard Lampoon. And that was a totally different experience where it was just recreational, and it was a bunch of guys hanging out and girls and we would publish a magazine every month or two and it was just a total blast.  It reminded me of what I had learned in high school about how fun writing could be and the power of it in a good way. And so that was where I first realized, oh wait, I might actually be able to do this for a career versus just a side interest. […] I had taken, an intro to playwriting course at Princeton with […] Christopher Durang, [who's a famous, award winning comedy playwright], and he just taught this little class of about six or seven students.  We started off by writing scenes, and we would come in and read scenes. […] Being able to make him laugh made me realize, okay, this is more than just something my friends like, this is something that a guy who is at the top of his field recognizes as good. And all those things bundled together made me focus on the idea that when I graduate, I want to pursue a career in writing. And exactly what that looked like, I wasn't sure.

Parker:  I'm sure it's not a process that ever ends, but how did you learn to really start writing well?

Bob:  It's a weird thing because I think there's an element of writing that can absolutely be taught. There's a craft to it. There's a reason why some stories are good and some stories aren't.  Going back to the beginning of time, what makes a good story is a beginning, a middle, an end, and characters you care about.  Stakes, a reason you want to see them succeed, uniqueness, and all these things.  Yet that alone isn't really enough. Knowing that isn't really enough to make you a good writer.  There is some sort of intangible part which is just the talent for it. And that's true whether you want to be a track and field Olympian, or a CEO, or a writer.  It just has to kind of be in your bones. And by the grace of God, I discovered that I had that ability to make something special.  But to really do it well and to do it as a career, it's had to be a merge of the two things. […] My first job in Hollywood where I was a writer on a TV sitcom, I was carried to that job almost entirely on the talent part.  I didn't have any of that deeper knowledge about craft, and skill, and self-discipline. And the talent part could get me so far and really to make a career out of it, in the last 10 years, I've had to learn the whole other side of it, which is the craft. […] But I think mine started more with the talent and yet not really knowing what to do with it. And then sort of realizing over time how to hone it and how to be efficient and how to not waste my time going down the wrong path with stories.

Parker:  What do you mean by that when you said you had to get to learn the discipline and the craft?

Bob:  I graduated from college and I got a job as a production assistant in Hollywood on a TV show called Sabrina the Teenage Witch, […] and that was my first job where I was able to be inside a writer's room with a group of ten professional comedy writers. I'm watching them do what they do and that's the whole process of coming up with ideas, shaping the story, writing a script, rewriting the script, then watching it get filmed, go through editing, post production, and everything until it's finally what you see on TV. And I just had a blast sitting with these writers and pitching jokes and showing them that I was a nice guy who wanted to work hard and who was funny. And I went to another show after, [but] in between that I worked […] for a famous writer named William F. Buckley Jr. and was a research assistant for him.  I went and worked with him for a couple months in Switzerland and watched him over the course of six weeks, start with an idea he had for a book, and six weeks later he had a three hundred-plus page historical fiction novel that he'd written.

Parker:  In six weeks?

Bob:  Yeah. That sort of widen my eyes to a bit to the discipline part of the job. And this is a guy who didn't wait to be inspired.  You see a lot of artists, classically, they a poor their glass of liquor and they sit in the bathtub and they wait for the idea to come.  And for him, he knew that he was going to Switzerland to write a book, and he knew the subject matter, and he had a rough idea of what it was going to be like.   Every day he was typing at 7:30 AM and he worked till 7:00 at night with a long lunch in the middle.  He had a discipline to him. From that experience, I came away realizing that was possible for a writer.  You hear writers a lot of times say, "Oh, I only have two hours of writing in me a day." […] But for him, I saw that it was possible to do more when you had to and to be disciplined about it.

Parker:  What enables your best ideas? That can be routines, habits, mental, or physical.

Bob:  It's funny, I was thinking back on sort of the last handful of projects I've done and a lot of them have actually been ideas that came to me in another way. For example, the book I wrote six years ago now, Don't Mess with Travis, the origination of that was not an original idea of mine. It was my college roommate's dad calling me and saying I've got an idea for a book. And my initial reaction to his idea was not that it was a bad idea, but that it wasn't something I knew how to do. […] He'd wanted it to be a Tom Clancy-ish kind of thriller. […] I tucked that idea away […] and I came back to it and I realized, I can do that idea, but only if I can make it more satirical and funny and see something that took aim at both sides of the political aisle a little bit.  […] And so usually what happens is I need to give things a freedom to percolate. […] There's a spot in my brain where I feel like I can put things and they'll just keep circling up and I'll think about them again.  And not really with a whole lot of discipline.  […] And sometimes life just brings things up again. […] The big thing for me is, as a general rule, I don't say yes to writing something unless I have a really powerful emotional connection to it, whether it's an original idea, or something that somebody brings to me, or even working on a TV show. I just finished up working on this Netflix series called Atypical, and that was a no brainer opportunity for me because I have four kids and one of my children has special needs and it's a show about a family trying to raise a teenager with autism. […] At some point for me to really take that next step, […] it needs to almost punch me in the stomach or bring some sort of emotional reaction. The problem as a writer, this is a career, and I can't afford to just wait to be inspired like I was saying because I'll go broke and I have bills to pay and kids to take care for.  Part of my evolution and trying to do this well over the last five to ten years has been having a bunch of projects at all different stages so I'm rarely in a position where every project is at the idea percolation stage because […] I could be six months away from getting paid on anything.  What I try to do now is I always sort of think about the metaphor of spinning plates.  The old Vaudeville act where the guy would be spinning five to ten plates on his knees and on his hands. I always have five to ten projects at various stages. 

Parker:   Have you found any routines or habits that help you to focus and get clarity on what you're going to do for the day?

Bob:  Generally speaking I stick to a routine where I'm in my office, […] I'll be sitting down by around 9:00 AM. […] I sit down and for me the first thing I do to get clarity is I spend time in prayer and just try to figure out what matters most. And the Bible says there's nothing new under the sun. And so, I always recognize when I'm trying to do something creative or come up with a story that the reality is there is nothing new. And there's actually some freedom in knowing that I'm not trying to find something that's never been done before. I'm just trying to tell a story in a new way or in a way that I uniquely can.  But at the end of the day, the stories I'm telling them, the truths that I'm trying to get across have been the same today and tomorrow and a thousand years ago. […] I pray to be efficient with my time, to know what not to waste my time on because as a writer it's really easy to spend six months on the wrong thing or even a week on the wrong thing.  […] The routine of it all, it's not me necessarily just wandering around through the woods getting inspired every day. It really is a discipline. I'm sitting down, there are things that need to be accomplished and I'm getting clarity about what that is. […] Sometimes for my own health you need to take a break, you need to go for a run, you need to take a breath, you need to […] go hang out with family or go play golf. And as far as inspiration, […] it's funny these days I really feel like the part of me that I'm feeding is more of the business discipline side of me.  So, most of what I read these days is nonfiction. For example, I'm currently reading this book called Difficult Conversations which has sold ten million copies. And for me I'm reading that because I know that I tend to be a people pleaser and as a guy who’s launching a little production company with a friend, I know that I need to be smarter about how I handle difficult conversations and how I navigate that.  Another book I read not too long ago was called Essentialism. And before that I read a book called The Power of Habit.  I tend to read a lot of nonfiction stuff that's more focused on how I get the most out of my day, and my life.  And I think my biggest fear is that when I die, that God says, "What where were you doing? You were clearly supposed be doing this, instead of that.” And I think I'm always trying to figure out just how do I make the most out of each day that I have and do it well. And the flip side of that is trying to keep the anxiety in check about whether I'm succeeding or failing at that.   […] And for me actually I get fed a lot more by, this is going to make me sound really like a saint and I really don't intend it to, but I get fed a lot more by just spending time with my family and trying to really be present with them with my kids. And resonating with those real emotions of what it means to be a twelve-year-old boy in sixth grade or a ten-year-old girl in fifth grade because I do a lot of stuff in kids television and so it's good for me to kind of figure out what makes them tick. And I've been married 15 years and still trying to figure out how my wife thinks and, and what does it mean to be a good husband and I try not to be one of those people who walk around with headphones in their ears all day because I try to have my eyes open to how people talk and how people communicate in the details about life that hopefully just by osmosis seep into me so that when I'm writing a scene I can sprinkle those things in so that when somebody reads my writing they feel like that reflects what the world is really like.

Parker:   And if you’re in business taking your headphones out opens you to new ideas or potentially observing habits that could lead to a new business idea.  Otherwise you wouldn't stumble upon it if you weren't receptive to seeing and hearing what's going on around you.

Bob:  Yeah. Especially because it's so much of what I do in the scripted stuff. It comes down to dialogue and a lot of what writers are critiqued by is, as people read something, they'll say, “Well, this doesn't sound like real human beings talking.” And the more I can hear how people talk is going to help inform what I do. Like last night, I was picking up pizza at this place called Pieology for my wife and me. And this guy in front of me in line and the guy behind me in line got in a fight.  Almost a fistfight over pizza, which was so ridiculous, but I was sitting there and it was really bizarre because part of me was like, should I get in the way of this?  And then the other part of me is like, I want to absorb every single thing they're saying because it's so fascinating to hear people who are as passionate as can be over something ludicrous.  I just knew in my head at some point I'll write a scene where these elements come up and sort of pack that away. And the one guy in front of me was really angry about some service he had received, which nobody else in line could understand how he'd been slighted, but he was sure that he'd been so abused by these college kid workers at the pizza place. And the guy behind me finally just rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, please save it for your Facebook post." It was so great. I was like, oh, that's great. I'll tuck that away somewhere in my brain and that will come up at some point.

Parker:   It wasn't a battle royale over whether pizza should have sausage or pepperoni?

Bob:  Yeah it was a customer service issue. And it's funny, this stuff, talking about trying to observe family and be aware of stuff. […] I'm just hoping that it sticks and it will come out later. And it was actually a really great experiences here on the show, Atypical, because a lot of what that show is about had some crossover to my real-life experiences. […] And by the way […] you go back 14 years to my first writing job, those moments never happened.  I was never pitching things to my boss in the room where said, “Yes, oh, that's great. That's what we're looking for in this scene.” Or “That's the line we're looking for.” It just never happened.  And I think I've lived a lot more life in the last 15 years. That makes me better at it.

Parker:  More life experiences for you to draw upon for your writing.

Bob: Yeah, right. That's why there's not a lot of twenty-one-year-olds who are writing the great American novel because they don't [have the life experiences], and I know I sound like an old man when I say this, but I say that as somebody who has been that guy trying to write something great and just not being able to.

Parker:  Could you walk me through your process of prayer in the morning?

Bob:  Usually it starts by me first being fed by reading something in the Bible and sometimes that's whatever we were studying at church that week.  Currently I'm reading through proverbs which is about as full of wisdom as you can get, and every verse could stop and make you think about something. But I usually do some combination of that for 10 plus minutes and then start off in prayer and try to ideally start by not trying to dominate the conversation.  Really just pray for God to work and make things bubble up that he wants to bubble up. And out of that usually determines what I'm praying about. But sometimes [I need to] pray through anxiety, or need to pray for this, or having a sense of gratefulness, or having a sense of conviction about maybe how I didn't handle something well. Maybe it's just I'm confused about something. And then I usually pray for specific friends and family who are close to me for certain things and it gets me thinking a little less about myself and more about other people and in that way. And then usually one of my last prayers is just that I lived the day well and that I recognize that God's in charge of it. And it's a weird career where it can be really frustrating. You can have dry spells and you can go a year without a paycheck and there's two ways to handle that.  You can be twice as self-focused about it and drive yourself mad doing it or you can really just pray and trust that the day, and the year, and the career is going to go the way God wants it to and yielding to that. And that can be a much better long-term recipe for peace and joy in your life. And so that's usually where I end things.

Parker:   Who has had the biggest impact on your career or writing?

Bob:  A few people but William F. Buckley had the greatest impact as far as showing me what a discipline writing career could look like. When I worked for him, he was in his early seventies and he'd written 30 or 40 books, novels that had been New York bestsellers, and he'd written nonfiction. He delivered, thousands of speeches. He started his own magazine. On top of him writing this book while I was with him, he was also writing a twice a week column that was syndicated all over the country.  He made me realize there was a healthy output that he's learned how to achieve that wasn't a frenetic life. […] I would say him and then I have a producing partner, Grant Nieporte, who's been a friend of mine, since we were assistants together on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and he’s most known for this Will Smith movie called Seven Pounds that came out 10 years ago. He's a guy who from our earliest days really kept me honest as a writer. And really, even to this day, is never afraid to tell me when he thinks an idea is crummy and keeps me honest and helps me look for the better choice.  He helps me see when a scene that I think's special isn't and pushes me to look for a new way to write a story. And early on when I had worked for a network sitcom, and thought I was hot stuff but knew inside that I had no idea what I was doing. He was the guy who came along early on and just helped point me in the right direction about what the craft of it all looked like and how to break a good story.  What a character arc is, all those different elements. He has just been a good influence.

Parker:  When you're developing characters within a story, what do you do to envision them? How do you go about creating interesting characters?

Bob:  Usually that really ends up being a combination of somebody in real life, whom I know intimately or a character in something else I've watched or seen that I see as a template. Often people will say, “This character is a young Robert Downey Jr.” It's a shortcut, but rather than staring at a blank page or a blank character, you're like, OK, well, young Robert Downey Jr.  He would kind of be cocky, a little bit sloppy, kind of a bad boy, not afraid to say what he's thinking, in trouble with the law, whatever. You start building out that template and then at least you sort of have a framework. Ideally you do research into who the real-life character was and that sort of shapes that.

Parker:  What problem or tool do you rely on most commonly to create conflict within characters?

Bob:  Well, if it's always the same thing there's probably a flaw in your writing. There’re so many different kinds of conflict. There's internal conflict, there's interpersonal conflict. There's conflict of character versus the universe.  I would say if there were just one tool that means I'm probably being too lazy in my writing.  I think most of the conflict I tend to go towards is interpersonal conflict between characters. [...] It can be talkie which sometimes you hear executives give the note on scripts, you need to raise the stakes.  Which I get why this guy and this guy are mad at each other, but let's also add that there's an asteroid hurtling towards Earth and stuff like that. [...] I tend to prefer personal conflict, but I like hearing people talk, but the truth is good storytelling should have shades and a lot of different kinds.

Parker:   Switching gears a little bit here, you wrote a memoir on Tiger Woods called Follow the Roar where you followed him on tour for a year. Were you married at that time you spent on the road following him around?   How did you pull that off?

Bob:  I was, yeah.  I had written for Yes Dear and the show had been canceled. We'd had our first kid, I didn't work for a year and a half. I got a short gig that lasted six weeks on a show. We had our second kid and I was out of work again and the young TV writer who thought he was going to work every year for the rest of his life had been very much humbled and so I reverted to my love of golf and figured maybe I can carve out a living writing about golf.  I started a blog and sent it to an editor at Espn.com who read it and liked it. [...] He let me start writing some columns for them. So that eventually led to me following Tiger for one day and writing about the experience that Espn.com put on their front page as the main article. It got a ton of traffic. And off of that I pitched a book to Harper Collins about following him for an entire year. And so yes, I did. I was married, and I had one kid who was a couple of years old and a baby that was a couple months old and I was in Dubai and at Augusta National. It was 6 months of pretty hardcore travel. Yeah, that was my job and my wife was a really good sport about it.

Parker:   I was going to say she must have tons of patience and tolerance for you to go travel around for a year. So that season, that was the year where Tiger had that epic run being capped off with the 2008 U.S. Open where he beat Rocco Mediate with a bum knee.

Bob:  That year he only played in seven tournaments, but he won five of them, which is insane. [...] He won his first four events of the year and people were literally asking is he going to win every single tournament he plays in this year. And then I think he finished fifth place at the Doral tournament in Florida. And then he finished, I can't remember, third or something at the masters, had arthroscopic knee surgery, disappeared for six weeks, came back and he won the U.S. Open essentially with some fractures in his leg in ultimately a ninety-one whole tournament where he beat Rocco Mediate.

Parker:  What was it like following him around? What surprised you the most about Tiger following him for all those different tournaments?

Bob:  Yeah, you're stretching my ability to remember 10 years ago now, but that was definitely part of the whole book as it was pitched.  Tiger is a couple years older than I am. [...] Part of the journey was me humbling myself and realizing, OK, clearly this guy is doing something right that I'm not but let me actually try to see what there is to learn from him. [...] We’ve touched on a little bit, but I think part of what I have to do to build a good career is I have to find that right balance of the creative, fun, artistic side, the free flowing more chaotic side of what makes somebody creative and good, and then balance that with the discipline orderly type. What I saw in Tiger was he was a guy who could do amazing things and was creative and a great problem solver and certainly optimistic about his chances. The fact that he never considered himself out of a tournament, even if he was seven strokes back with five holes to play, and balance that with a guy that really worked hard at what he did and was very disciplined and, took it seriously.  This was before all the stuff in his life unraveled. [...] I came away with the fact that I needed to work harder at what I was doing and that's something that's definitely carried through to me even 10 years later.

Parker:  What do you do to make your family, your wife and kids, a priority in your life?

Bob:  Yeah, that's a good question. I try not to be a slave to my phone when I'm home.  Once I'm home I'm not constantly taking up the phone, emailing back responses or text messages. I'm sure I fail a lot too. When I'm home I want people to have my attention. When my wife's talking to me, I want her to feel like I'm really listening and that's something I'm always trying to get better at. I just know that nothing crushes me more than when I'm talking to somebody and they start looking at their phone, which literally has actually happened to me once when I was pitching a pilot to Disney Channel and one of the executives in the middle of me pitching took out his phone and started looking at his phone. Amazingly I sold the pitch to the guy. But I know how crushing that can be for anybody. And for my kids who want to tell me something, I try to have my phone in my pocket or away from me.  I try to carve out just special things with each of my kids and we have four kids so it's easy for any of them to feel lost in the shuffle. So always trying to think about what special thing can I do just with this kid or just with that kid. Even if it's as simple as running errands. I try to make sure that my wife and I are still going on dates and that we don't get into some routine of just sitting on the couch every night for a month straight. What are we doing that's actually focused just on us?

Parker:   What is one of your favorite movies that you've seen within the last few years?

Bob:  Some of my favorite movies in the last five, six years are, there's a great movie called About Time, that was not a huge box office success, but it's a great movie. It’s starring Rachel McAdams and it’s a grounded family story with a time travel element of all things. It's written by the guy who did Love Actually [Richard Curtis]. It’s a very grounded movie about a family where a dad tells his son, who has now reached his 20th birthday, and says, “I've never told you this, but every man in our family can time travel.” It sounds ridiculous, but it's actually really grounded and sweet. It's ultimately a story about not avoiding the hard things in life but going through them and the value in that and the value of maximizing your life. That was a movie that really makes me cry every time I see it. It's really powerful and it's funny and smart and all these things. I really love Silver Linings Playbook, which I think came out in 2012, by David O'Russell, Academy Award winning movie. Again, that's sort of my sweet spot of movies that make me laugh and cry in a movie. One of my favorite movies the last five years is Whiplash. It's rare that I finish a movie and I could watch it again from the very beginning. I so want to watch it with my kids, but the language is so bad that I can't.  I'm looking forward to when they're a little bit older and we can watch that together.  Then just classic movies that I'll still watch know every year would be movies like Field of Dreams and introducing my kids to classic movies like Goonies.

Parker:  Last question.  What book have you gifted or recommended the most within the last year?

Bob:  Probably 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson.  He and I don't agree on everything, but I've just met a lot of guys in my life in their twenties and thirties who are struggling to figure out some basic foundation for how to live and I feel like his perspective has been refreshing yet very time honored at the same time.  I found that to be really encouraging for a lot of guys who were trying to figure out how to just set out into the world.

Parker:   Well Bob, this has been awesome. Thank you for the time.

Bob:   Yeah, you're welcome, Parker.   Was happy to do it and I hope your endeavor is successful.

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Show Notes:

Books:

Difficult Conversations 

Essentialism

The Power of Habit

Don't Mess with Travis by Bob Smiley

12 Rules for Life

TV:

Atypical

Bob's Production Company:

Humble Picture Co.

 

WritingParker Nash