RBYZ: Straight Outta Deep South (#002)

Born to a working-class African American family of five children in the segregated South, got drafted to Vietnam leaving his newlywed wife behind and handing in his fate to the unknown…

My guest today is Mr. Jess Womack, former Los Angeles Unified School District’s inspector general, who defied Rock Bottom and rose to the top.

What you’ll hear:

  • What was it like to be born in the ’40s Alabama?
  • How did he deal with race in the segregated South as a kid?
  • How books changed his life.
  • What did he learn from his White teachers when the family moved to the North?
  • What impact did Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech have on him?
  • What did his two-year Peace Corps sojourn in Kenya teach him?
  • How did he keep having faith as he got drafted to Vietnam?
  • How did he deal with self-doubt as a young lawyer?

Links from the episode:

To the rest of us, Jess seemed to start from the Rock Bottom:
Born to a working-class African American family of five children in the segregated South, got drafted to Vietnam leaving his newlywed wife behind and handing in his fate to the unknown…

And yet, decades later, he is a revered lawyer who not only served his country, but also served as the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Inspector General, twice, building hundreds of schools for kids, lots of whom first-generation immigrants.

Jess Womack
Jess in Vietnam, 1970

Note from Jess:

This photograph was taken somewhere on a muddy hill in Vietnam where we stayed for about 3-4 weeks, which was a typical deployment. The contact we experienced there was atypical and costly. We were glad to leave. As I was rounding up the last of our guys, one said, “Hey Sergeant Womack, turn around!” It was that moment he caught. 

The caption — Perspective!  Years later at a very dark and difficult time in my career and life, I happened to find the photograph. I blew it up and put the caption on it to always remind myself what real hardship was.

Give it up to Mr. Jess Womack, my dear friend and mentor.

And one more thing: Happy Birthday, Jess!

 

Listen and subscribe to Rock Bottom with YZ:
A weekly podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

RBYZ: I’m gonna still be writing (#001)

From Midwest to LA, a teacher-turned-screenwriter’s California dreaming and dreading.

My first-ever guest is a teacher-turned-screenwriter who likes simple stories, complex characters, and real-life absurdism.

What you’ll hear:

  • What has teaching got to do with screenwriting?
  • Why did he choose film school after years of writing screenplays since he was 16?
  • Write what you know is a cliche. Write what scares you.
  • How does he deal with frustration, Rock Bottoms? Two words. Angry run.
  • Celebrate the wins. Celebrate the successes. But then, it doesn’t guarantee anything.
  • How to get the writing workshop going after film school? Consistency and the right mindset.
  • How does he process friends’ successes? Acknowledge it’s there and try not to let it consume you.

It’s hard to be successful at anything you do. You just have to like being unsuccessful. If you can do that, then you’re in the right line of work.

Your students are your audience. You’re not owed anything. If you fail to grab their attention, they’ll let you know.

If you think you’re writing something that is going to be successful or popular, it ain’t.

Wherever I end up in the world, I’m gonna still be writing.

Link from the episode:

 

Listen and subscribe to Rock Bottom with YZ:
A weekly podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

It is what it is

A journey of a thousand miles… Begins with a single step.

Says Lao Tzu.

  • Who would have thought I would start podcasting myself when I couldn’t bear the sound of my own voice for the longest time?
  • Who would have thought I would start interviewing folks in different sizes, colors and genders about their most vulnerable moments, their Rock Bottoms, which they might not have shared with their loved ones, or even with themselves?
  • Who would have thought I would start baring my souls here and call myself a Blogger Anonymous? Who the fuck is ‘YZ?’  I still have trouble answering to my new id when I connect with my lovely guests on Skype.
  • I don’t know yet where my future holds, here or back home. But I love connecting with people again through this little project I created from scratch.
  • I know I’m more more than just a writer. I’m meant for something grander.
  • Maybe I’ll share my story on TED some day. Surely a lovely goal to keep!

 

As I launched #RBYZ podcast on iTunes and shared it amongst family and friends. A friend called me up and said she was blown away by the sheer awesomeness of my podcast trailer, from the cover art to the delivery…

This woman is someone whom I feel a gap in between us. She is the third-generation of an established Hollywood family. Her long list of credits in movies and TV shows. Her fierce work ethic. Her level-headedness.  And she is only four months older than I am!

“Let’s grab coffee next week!” Her enthusiasm oozed out of my iPhone speaker.

“Yes. Let’s!”

“Have you shared it with XXX?”

She meant my former boss, also her former boss.  She left the job last April.

The company threw her a surprise farewell party. Hugs were exchanged. Tears were shed. Selfies were snapped. Pro photos were posed.

“I was let go two Fridays ago.”

No party cake or balloons. Only hush hush and WTFs.

“No way.”

“It is what it is. I’m leaving for China in mid-Oct.”

“You are?!”

“Yeah. I need to recenter myself. I called my psychologist friend two days after I got sacked. She gave me total mental clarity in just two minutes…”

Yep, my psychologist friend Barbara Kiao is also featured on my podcast, coming soon!

“I know it must be painful. But I’m so glad you’re getting something extraordinary out of this Rock Bottom! You know what, we should see each other more since you’re leaving in mid-Oct!”

“Yes!”

 

Two things I discovered after I hung up, thrilled.

  • Between the woman and myself, we’re finally closer in this new friendship, which wasn’t possible when we were both employed there.
  • How easy it was to talk about the would-be should-be disgrace when I choose not to give power to that experience.

 

Be open, wide open.

Be clear, crystal clear.

It is what it is.  Nothing more.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

RBYZ: Trailer (#000)

Introducing Rock Bottom with YZ, a new podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Premiers August 28.

You ready?
Let’s rock from the bottom!

 

Listen and subscribe via:

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

 

Life as a podcaster

Next Tuesday, my podcast Rock Bottom with YZ will hit iTunes.

I just re-did a line for the trailer. My composer friend Vincent Lin, who created my podcast theme beats, will lock it in.

I also found the ideal visual for my podcast logo and art cover. My graphic designer friend Mikkel Aranas would help to visualize.

It’s been quite a journey.

The podcast idea hit me in late January. I told my dad first, who was staying with me in LA at the time.

“Go for it, kid.” Dad said.

There was nothing else going on at my nine-to-six anyway. By early February, I researched and bought the equipment. But it was not until near the end of March did I record my first interview. A brave friend from my film school agreed to be my guinea pig. [You will hear his story soon!]

It was slow at first. I wasn’t sure how serious I was, how committed I wanted to be. I was afraid of running out of guests. I feared that I just didn’t have it in me. I wondered if anyone would listen.

Then around the same time, I saw Seth’s blog about the Podcast Fellowship. Right there, I didn’t give myself a chance to doubt when I enrolled for the course, or another moment to pause when I paid for the tuition. Quite a lot for my meager salary.

Let’s see how Seth is really like in person. I thought.

As the fellowship started, I had a shitty few months. My visa; my work; my finance; my apartment… Every possible aspect of the LA life I had endeavored building was crumbling down on me, in dust and smog.

I wasn’t in the mood to talk. But I was doing this Podcast Fellowship, so I had to! And my theme was… Rock Bottom!

Fuck it. I opened up. Then magic began. Praise poured in. New friendships were fostered. It is virtual, but it feels so much more real than most folks you meet in this quote and unquote, City of Angels.

So I am, another interview to rock in roughly 30 mins.

When the podcasting gets tough, the tough keep podcasting.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

 

#RBYZ Podcast

Aka. Rock Bottom with YZ.

Not the blog. But the podcast idea hit me when I hit Rock Bottom. I guess between Mr. Rock Bottom and me, I think we are even.

Thanks to Seth Godin and Alex DiPalma’s brilliant Podcast Fellowship, which I have been checking in daily since late June (ends on August 17), I’ve finally finished editing the first episode.

Give it a listen!

  • Music isn’t final.
  • I’m launching the official RBYZ on iTunes soon.
  • Drop me a line here, or email rockbottomyz@gmail.com to share your reaction.
  • If you’re ready to share your own RB moments on my podcast, I’m listening.

Honestly, I don’t think I can pull it off without signing up for the Fellowship in March. And, paying 10 bucks a day works perfect for me. Because one thing you should know about me is, I’m as stingy as Balzac’s Eugénie Grandet, even though I still haven’t managed to go to the gym everyday.

So far, I have a backlog of fourteen (and counting) interviews, which need 100+ hours editing time. Wish me luck!

What am I waiting for now?

  • My graphic designer friend is working on the art cover.
  • My NYU film scoring friend is composing the beats.

Sit tight. It’s coming.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic