This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the best lessons we can learn from Joan Rivers and her life?
The first thing you noticed about Joan Rivers is that she did what she had to do. You couldn't imagine her doing anything else.
The second thing you noticed was that she did it without self regard, that she seemed to have no shame, and that this always made her act more authentic, more poignant, and more memorable.
The third thing Joan did was take the talent she had and use it everywhere, across several different mediums.
If more artists and entrepreneurs approached their craft with Joan's authenticity, our companies and our chief executives would be juggernauts, much like her career. The advice you hear from many successful people is to find what you love, but this is easier said than done. The thing Joan taught us is that you need to take the things you're good at and do them anywhere people will let you. Joan wasn't just a stand-up comedian or television personality, or reality star. Joan took the talent she had and toiled at it for years as a comedian before getting her shot, and then applying it everywhere she could.
It's natural for us to want to "stay in our lane," but this is never very fulfilling and inhibits growth, both personally and professionally. As much as "do what you love" is an overused platitude, suggesting that you should be "doing work you love" is a pretty reliable guide. The difference is that you should be able to use the skills and talents you have in a variety of settings to achieve the kind of personal fulfillment and success Joan did during her lifetime.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle. --Steve Jobs*
Unlike that of most of today's comedians, her humor wasn't ironic and detached, but personal and accessible. You didn't have to climb a pedestal to laugh at life with Joan--you just had to shake off your pretensions.
I'll never forget a piece she did in season two of Louie with Louis C.K. that I thought perfectly captured her spirit, and her gift. After Louis C.K. ponders the difficulty of being a comedian and whether he should give it up to find "a real job," Joan shares some rare words of wisdom:
Listen, I wish I could tell you it gets better but it doesn't get better, you get better.
I've gotten up, down, bankrupt, broke, but you do it--and you do it because, because we love it more than anything else. You want a real job, honey, there are a million things you can do. But what we do is not a job. What we do is a calling. We make people happy. It's a calling.
Then Louis C.K. tries to make out with her, she rejects him, and then, in classic Joan Rivers fashion, makes a joke about necrophilia and leads him to the bedroom.
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