“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Our Something Significant series is about ordinary men and women who have done extraordinary things in the world. Scott Barry is one of those people.
My philosophy on significance has two components: doing something you love and creating something of value to others. Scott loves to write, speak and tell stories. He’s written and performs a critically acclaimed, one-man comedy called Rise: Finding Love the Hard Way. That’s where the second component comes in. In his play, Scott shares an intimate story of the downward spiral of his life. Things looked up when he met the love of his life, but then he hit rock bottom when he discovered that his health had so deteriorated that he’d become impotent. With sensitivity, humility, and loads of humor, he talks about a subject no one wants to talk about. His message of hope and second chances will lift anyone suffering from an embarrassing disease or ailment. For everyone else, his show is just funny! That’s why San Francisco Weekly called it “Seriously entertaining”. It was my great pleasure to interview Scott for Something Significant.
1. Hi Scott! Tell us a little about yourself and how you got where you are today.
My road to today has been much more a journey of discovery than design. Since the day I was cut by the San Francisco 49ers as a 6th Round draft choice out of U.C. Davis, I’ve been on a quest to finding meaning in my life. My football experience spoiled me in a good way in that for a very brief period of time I got paid to do what I loved, something I would have done for free. After football, I began searching for something to replace that feeling of vocation and occupation as one. On the suggestion of a friend, I began taking acting classes in San Francisco. It was terrifying and challenging. I loved it. Also, I soon realized that I only “loved it” when the material meant something to me or at least had some kind of social value. I started to write my own plays and screenplays. Eventually I began performing in solo theater while continuing to write films. The solo form was like oxygen. It allowed me to construct compelling narratives, convey important themes, and, while entertaining people, to slip a message in their pocket. I also discovered an affinity for adaptation rather than original writing and made my first movie deal with Michael Douglas on an adapted screenplay based on a book. In my spare time I own and manage my own private portfolio of rental properties. In the real estate business, I am drawn to the creative aspect of property and the process of making a failing piece of real estate not only profitable but a functionally dynamic living space for its occupants.
2. How has significance played a role in your journey?
In storytelling they often talk about a protagonist’s “conscious desire” versus their “unconscious desire” and that until the two meet the protagonist can never fulfill their true destiny. I may not have always known I was searching for significance, and I’ve often been consumed by more conscious desires, like money, fame, relationships, but I’ve always had an internal barometer precluding me from being successful at anything that doesn’t fit my true nature and isn’t a contribution to other people. When I’m true to myself and I’m making a contribution, I have a sense of significance and meaning. Whether it’s as a father, writer or businessman, those are the moments I feel whole.
3. Was there a specific moment or situation when you became aware of those things that are most significant to you?
Looking back there have been many that I didn’t know at the time but which are obvious now. One stands out: my major in college was mechanical engineering. I was inclined towards math but wasn’t passionate about it, but in the small town environment I grew up in, the only way out was as a doctor, lawyer or engineer. I chose engineering but struggled in the engineering department at Davis. As an elective during my sophomore year I took Rhetoric 1: Speech Writing. I had always enjoyed writing and giving speeches. In fact, the main reason I wanted to be class president in the eighth grade was to give a speech at graduation. Same for valedictorian of my high school class. I loved speaking at rallies as an athlete and it seemed to come naturally to me. I loved my rhetoric class. For our final we were assigned the task of defending a historically nefarious character. I was given Richard Nixon. It was a challenge defending “Tricky Dick” but I loved every minute of it. After the speech I walked up to our professor who had this strange look on her face. I thought she’d hated it. I said, “What did you think?” She paused a moment and then said, “That’s the best speech I’ve ever heard in any of my classes.” And then I went off to my chemistry class to scratch my head and be confused for an hour. It just never occurred to me to follow my bliss, and that from my bliss I could contribute to the world in a meaningful way. Rhetoric 1 was the only A I ever got in college.
4. What obstacles have you faced in your pursuit of significance? How did you overcome them?
It may seem ironic considering my story, but I had a horrible lisp when I was a kid. I was embarrassed about it and was terrified of reading out loud in class. I spent a year in speech therapy which obviously helped but more importantly my grandmother, who I was living with at the time, made me read out loud every night before going to bed. I dreaded it, but God bless her, it helped tremendously. And, because I struggled so much with speech, I paid acute attention to how people spoke: intonation, pronunciation, inflection, rhythm, pet sayings. I came to appreciate a good story and compelling speaking. I learned to only speak when I knew that what I had to say would be a contribution. To this day, I always try to ask myself before I speak, “Is what I have to say a contribution?” Same for writing.
5. What is one thing you wish you knew 10 years ago?
That my curiosity for all things human, even above writing and speaking, is my greatest attribute.
6. What is one hope you have for the next 10 years?
To arrive at my dharma, my true life’s purpose, and share it with the world. I’m closer now than I’ve ever been but I still see flashes of my ego driving me and I would like to be able to operate from a singular place of truth, honesty and integrity in all aspects of my life from how I speak to how I father. In essence, to unclog the channel between my true identity and my image so that I can consistently make an authentic contribution whether I’m speaking to one person or a thousand.
7. Are there any books or resources you would like to recommend to our readers?
Being true and in the moment, I have only to look over my shoulder at what’s on my book shelf:
From a literary standpoint:
The Sun Also Rises, Hemmingway
Where I’m Calling From, Raymond Carver
Morning, Noon and Night, Spalding Gray
From a writing standpoint:
Story, Robert McKee
The Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell
From a philosophical standpoint:
The Krishnamurti Series, On God, On Relationship, On Fear
The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Fremantle & Trungpa
Heal Your Body, Louise Hay
Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us for Something Significant, Scott!
Image via Death to the Stock Photo | This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click and then purchase we will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for reading & supporting Happy Living!