Monday, August 22, 2016

What I Really Wanted To Be Was A Child Prodigy and Other Lessons on Success

Child Prodigy
When I was little what I wanted more than anything was to be a child prodigy.  I don’t know where that drive came from, but I seem to have popped out of the womb aware that I had things to do and the clock was ticking. I would sit down at the piano hoping that some sort of miraculous force would inspire me to play despite never taking lessons.  When it came to tap dancing, singing, Impressionist painting, and the guitar, I used the Harold Hill method, convinced that I could think myself into greatness.  

I moved to New York to be an actor.  I don’t know how much of it was a desire to actually act, or rather a desire to be a part of something.  I was 17 and had a clear idea of the end result I was looking for, but I didn’t fully appreciate the journey required to get there.  And then one day I realized I wanted to be an actor more than I wanted to do the work necessary to be a good actor.  And so I stopped.

It was during my first year in New York that I met Jed, who was, in many ways, the prodigy I wanted to be.  When Jed was in the third grade students had to answer the question, “What are the three things you need to be happy?”  Jed answered, “Family, money and fame.” It’s good to have goals.  

By the time we met, Jed had already performed with the New York City Opera, toured with The Sound of Music, been featured in Home Alone, and made his Broadway debut in The Secret Garden. 
Jed was one of my first friends in New York, and my first big city crush.  We met as volunteers at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a philanthropic organization that raises money and awareness for AIDS.  He was smart and talented, and we shared a similar vision and drive.  We went to Ellis Island and the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  He taught me how to eat with chopsticks and took me out for sushi for the first time.  When I moved into my own apartment – a move made in two trips in a cab - he carried boxes up the three flights of stairs.

But soon Jed left to study astrophysics at Harvard (like you do).  He fulfilled his desire to perform by joining the Crockadillos, an a cappella singing group on campus.  We kept in touch, visiting during his breaks.  When he graduated I introduced him to the theatre company I was involved with.  They fell in love with him just as I had.     

He began auditioning again, but returning to the performing world as an adult was an eye opening experience.  “The reality of the artist's life wasn’t what I imagined,” he told me.  Soon he ended up working for a fellow Harvard grad in real estate.    

But Jed still had the desire the create something.  He partnered with two other guys and began brainstorming.  They drew inspiration from their friends, most of whom were artists, who were always looking for ways to fund their projects.  In 2010 they launched RocketHub, an online crowd-funding platform.  The company took off, and they soon built corporate relationships with A&E and Dodge/Chrysler.  

We've kept up with each other through friends and Facebook, watching our children grow up, and celebrating milestones.  We met at a sandwich shop in midtown, found a seat in the window and spent an hour and a half telling stories.  Jed is an easy person to be around.  We’ve missed huge chunks of each others lives as we’ve gone on to have kids and careers.  But there is a familiarity that makes it easy to pick up where we left off.  

He and his partners sold RocketHub in 2015 and he's now working for ContextMedia.  Jed ultimately decided to leave the acting, recalling the advice he was given during his first professional show:  If you can do anything else and be happy, do it.  

“Do you miss it?” I ask.  

He pauses for a moment.  “I miss the applause.  There’s something so specific about that type of appreciation that I haven’t found anywhere else.”

Jed continues his philanthropic endeavors, serving at Chairman of the Board of Friends at Harlem Renaissance High School in New York.  With a great marriage and son to add to his list of accomplishments, he's well on his way to fulfilling his third grade dream.

We both took a circuitous route to get to where we are today.  I didn't want to do the work to be a good actor, but I'm always willing to put forth the effort to be a better writer. Instead of making art, Jed has given thousands of other artists a platform to create their own.   Sometimes our original goals are achieved in unexpected ways.

You can read more about Jed here and his thoughts on the future of crowdfunding.

How have you achieved your goals in unexpected ways?  Share your story in the comments below!  Or post your story on the 40 Lunches Facebook page.  


  1. Having always enjoyed helping others and teaching, I find myself doing just that in so many other ways than the traditional method and avenue where I trained and have worked.

    I love his quote.

    1. It's always interesting to see where we started and where we ended up. Thanks for reading.

  2. What an fascinating story! Which one is he, in the photo from Home Alone? I used to want to be an actor, and still think it would be wonderful to be in one musical stage piece at some point in my life, but I'm glad I didn't pursue it as a career. Just not for me. I do love to write, though.

  3. What an awesome quote. This was a very interesting story! It's great to have those friends that we always share familiarity with.