49 minutes | Jul 5, 2021

Brent Mukai: From Creative to Business - the Mental Shift

Brent Mukai had a goal to quit his job as soon as he was making enough money to pay the bills doing what he loved. He crushed that goal and is now thriving as a full-time voice actor. In this episode, we discuss how becoming self-employed has changed the way he looks at everything from business to dating and how he's started seeing opportunities instead of obstacles. We talk about his background in Improv, which he calls his religion, and how it taught him some important lessons about connecting with people. The pandemic gave him the opportunity to revisit his love of Improv by taking classes online at UCB, which led to a scholarship in partnership with SNL to help him progress with his career in comedy. We talk about the importance of living humbly, accepting failure as part of a success, and that it's okay to leave money on the table sometimes for the sake of your mental health. Connect with Brent @brentmukai Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- 00:26 All I wanted to do was make enough money to quit my day job and do it full-time. That was all I wanted to do. So the second that I was making just enough money to quit my job I did, because I figured that with all of the extra time I'd have, I wouldn't be in too much trouble if I was already making enough to support myself month by month.  02:55 I grew up very consumer-centric. I guess when I got broke, and in college, and was like, okay, I can't afford anything. I'm just going to not buy anything. That's when it sort of started for me. 05:54 If you're going to try to be self-employed, you have to sacrifice something. And if that something is perhaps you like jewelry, or you like buying a bunch of brand name whatever... it's unnecessary stuff and it's getting in the way of the actual thing that's gonna make you happy, which is being self-employed and going after your dream, right? 09:31 My brain has shifted into like ROI, return on investment, thoughts. Anytime I want to buy something, I'm like, what is the ROI of this? Is this worth that? Is this really going to be something worth it before I buy anything? And that really prevents me from buying a whole lot of stuff. 09:55 Working for myself has changed every single aspect of the way that I look at everything. Working for myself has changed every single aspect of the way that I look at everything. I look at the use of my time so differently now because now, for me, time literally equals money. Because if I'm working and I do more work, or do more auditions, or send more emails, cold emails to marketing and whatever, I can make money. And that, up front, really screwed with me, because it felt like any time that I wasn't working, I was leaving money on the table. And that's absolutely 100% true with any entrepreneur, with anybody. And it's coming to terms and to grips with the fact that no matter what you do, you will always be leaving money on the table. 14:11 As an artist, our goal is to experience and to empathize and to gain as much perspective as possible, I think. I think the goal of any artist on any platform across all boards, I think that is our goal is to have life experiences that change us and shift us and show us different vantage points, and nothing… There is nothing more valuable, in my opinion, than right brain thinkers being able to understand left brain thinking concepts and start adapting them in the exact same ways I think left brain thinkers get adapting and understanding right brain creativity thinking. In a way, that's what I've always sort of presented, so I'm fascinated by both facets of that.  20:11 I think that improv, in the same way business has now shifted the way that I think about a lot of things, improv for me early on, when I was 19, just starting to learn and figure out my own philosophies and my own ways I wanted to move through the world, improv was like my religion. It was like my whole… everything. It really shifted a lot in terms of the ability to listen to people, the ability to empathize, the ability to really stand there and try and connect with another human being. And the deeper that I went into improv, the more I started having these breakthroughs, and having these really life-changing moments that made me say, oh, that's really applicable to my life. 25:59 All you need to deal with and see is what's immediately right in front of you. And the more that you can start thinking in that way, I think the closer you've unlocked to like, some type of Zen-type of thinking.  27:49 Saturday Night Live decided to team up with UCB's diversity scholarship and said we want to have some kind of stake in the people that actually get this scholarship this year. So I was like wow, that's a lot of fun. That would be cool if I really got this. Let me just submit. As it turns out, I got an email saying congratulations, you won! By the end, they basically were like, look, we want this to be a long-term relationship. We want to check in with you, and we want to talk to you. Like, we don't want this to just be some like email correspondence or whatever. We want to actually have some stake in your future in comedy. And I was like, wow, that's incredibly generous.  36.23 I think people need to rethink their relationship with failure. If you really seriously want to get into working for yourself, you have to realize that there is no demerit system in the world of business. You're going to fail, and you just have to accept that, that you have to fail in order to succeed. Any success is only made and comes from the failure that you have. So why even care about it? We're gonna fail all the time. You know, you're gonna probably trip sometime today. You're gonna probably drop your cell phone or whatever. What are you gonna do? Just be like, oh, no, I'm not perfect? No! You got to just pick up your cell phone and keep on going with your day. That’s it. 38:41 My proudest accomplishments include teaching in a high school improv league for 10 years. That was so fulfilling, and so fun and so good, and helped me become a great teacher and understand how to teach. Everything that happens along the journey, to me, is something I'm extremely grateful for. So, like, milestones, sure, there are big milestones. But it's also paved with all of the little steppingstones there. And I value every single one. 44:31 You gotta go relax. I think that there is a serious problem in the idea that, as a creative, we have to be working at all hours of the night or doing whatever, doing all this other stuff. And the, you know, "I'm married to the game." But like, you also got to take some time and just go look at a sunset. You also got to go to a museum every once in a while. You also got to go, you know, just sit down and talk with somebody that's not at all affiliated with your career. I think that's extremely important. Relax, relax. Understand you're always going to be leaving money on the table in some way, shape, or form when you're self-employed. And come to grips with that and just understand your health and your sanity is so much more important.  
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