How I learned to drive.

No, I’m not producing a revival of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning Paula Vogel play (although someone probably will in about 5-7 years . . . and it’ll probably star Lindsay Lohan or Vanessa Hudgens).

I’m gonna talk about how I actually learned to drive.

My Stepfather was driving me somewhere, and I said, “Hey, guess what?  I got my learner’s permit.  Do you think you could teach me how to . . . ”

He pulled over before I could finish the sentence.

“Get over here.  Take the wheel.”

“What?  Now?  Shouldn’t I be in a parking lot first?”

“Just get over here and start driving.  You’ll just go slow.”

The next thing I knew I was on the road.  And driving.  Sure, I had to pull over a couple of times to let the cars piling up behind me pass us by, but my Step Dad knew that no parking lot was going to teach me as well as an actual road.

Part II of the story is that after an hour of driving around, we pulled into the McDonalds drive-thru.  I ordered (feeling pretty cool, because I recognized the voice on the other end of the intercom as someone I went to Junior High with), and proceeded to make my way to the 2nd window.

That’s when I pulled our station wagon up onto the curb and smacked a pole.

Needless to say, as soon as I heard the crunch, any coolness I felt went out the drive-in-window.

I expected my Stepfather to freak.  But he didn’t. We pick up my Nugget Value Meal and his Quarter Pounder with Cheese and he even let me drive back home.  We got there and inspected the damage.  It was minor, but definitely damage.

I apologized profusely and almost cried my 16-year-old eyes out.  He stopped me and said, “Hey, you’re learning, you’re going to screw up.  And you know what?  We can fix it.  I’ll take it to the body shop tomorrow.”

Then he said, “Let me know when you want to go out driving again?”

Obviously I was blessed in having an incredibly supportive mentor and parent . . . but what can we learn from my driving lesson?

1.  Get on the road.

Don’t keep “practicing” producing.  Don’t keep talking about wanting to produce.  You don’t need a learner’s permit to do what we do.  So Produce.

2.  Go slow.

If it’s your first time out, and you’re nervous, take your time.  Go slowly, but definitely go.  Moving slowly is much better than standing still.

3.  Don’t be afraid to hit a pole.

You’re going to f-up.  You’re going to cause a little damage here and there.  Especially when you’re just starting out.  But producing isn’t brain surgery.  It’s not even driving a car.  No one is going to live or die by what we do so don’t be afraid to get in an accident every once in awhile.  That’s where you really learn (I can tell you that I STILL take care when driving through a fast-food chain to this day – and I drive thru them often).

4.  If you do smack a pole, there’s always a way to fix it.

What’s interesting about this one, is that fixing a problem you’ve created is really where you learn.  Great Producers are great problem solvers . . . even if they’ve created the problem in the first place.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to call my Stepfather and thank him for teaching me how to drive . . . and so, so much more.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.