STRIVE’s Online Mentor Q&A Program aims to provide students and career-oriented young people with opportunities to learn from real-world, active professionals about everything from crafting a purpose, to setting and pursuing goals, to the myriad life lessons they’ve picked up in pursuit of their dreams. Here, TU Contributing Editor, Julian Hook, reports on the latest session with comedian Sunny Lohmann.
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“Quitting is a really good thing when done properly,” remarked comedian Sunny Lohmann during this month’s STRIVE Q&A session. As a humorist focused on political and cultural issues, her career path has had some false starts and changes of direction before ultimately developing into the quickly-growing YouTube show, The Daily Sunny. One such false start Lohmann discussed was her college studies.
“I was convinced by someone that I should major in accounting,” and upon graduating, she obtained a job at one of the largest global accounting firms. But despite the high upward mobility and great connections, the lifestyle of the job didn’t feel right for Sunny. “Talk about a stifling corporate environment.” Eleven months later, she quit.
Next, she went into business management consulting, and although she enjoyed it more, she still wasn’t entirely satisfied. So she decided to try her hand at entrepreneurship, and opened a day spa. “I did that for a while, and it was going well too, but again, I felt stuck in this business lifestyle. At the end of the day, it just wasn’t fun for me.”
During that time, Lohmann began to “look at what I do when I have nothing to do or am trying to decompress.” She found herself constantly reading about the news and culture and what’s happening in the world. “I’m someone who’s always been passionate about ideas. I’ve always been very interested in philosophy, culture and politics,” she explained. “I also liked watching comedy. So I thought, ‘Maybe I could do some sketch comedies that were political.'”
So she started writing scripts, but soon found herself stuck. “I didn’t know anybody who could act or be in it with me or even just hold a camera for me. So I started having all these false starts before I ended up just saying, ‘Well, if I’m going to learn this, I need to just count on me and start.'” And that brought Lohmann to an important lesson: “To never wait. Never wait for things to line up the way you think they should.” Refusing to procrastinate in spite of her doubts is what finally got her started on the path of doing something she loves. “I just needed to get going. Learn how to use my camera. Learn how to make a joke and use my writing. Learn how to edit. So I was going in the direction of making videos. And I just loved it. I had so much fun doing it.”
Lohmann also stressed the importance of reflecting on your own emotions, good and bad. She noted that Objectivists in particular often don’t want to make decisions based on emotions, and while that’s usually correct, emotions shouldn’t just be ignored. “As Harry Binswanger famously said, ‘Emotions are facts too.’ If you continue to feel and allow yourself to be emotional, it does guide you.”
Lohmann had advice for aspiring humorists as well. One student asked whether she believes there are any lines that shouldn’t be crossed in comedy. “No. In comedy, it’s really important to cross lines. Funny is right on that edge. Finding it requires that you go over it.”
Towards the Q&A’s end, Lohmann was asked whether there were any general principles that helped her career and life in general, to which she cited Ayn Rand’s views on happiness. “Rational self-interest is the critical principle for personal happiness…and a critical key to success is understanding objectivity versus perfectionism. Perfectionism is trying to be perfect for the sake of perfect. Whereas objectivity is always looking at your life, your happiness and your feelings, as well as reassessing your own ideas and actions: ‘Is this direction working? Is it taking me where I want to be going?’ And that means you have to let go of a lot of stuff. You have to quit, you have to fail, and not let it discourage you. It’s a part of life, a part of growing.”
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