It was Homecoming week at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. It was my junior year, 2014. It was a new year, and I had extra ambition. I had just started a club for standup comedy on campus, and I joined the board that puts homecoming events together so that I could meet the homecoming comedian. This year it happened to be Rob Schneider.
All I had to do to meet Rob was volunteer for a few hours before the show to make sure people were using the right doors, and then help clean up the gym at the end of the night. It seemed too easy, and it was. I expected a basic, shallow fan experience from all of this. I didn’t know what I would talk about. I am a dreamer. Always looking deeper and wanting answers. Sometimes this can leave you alienated, especially at first. Your existing friends and family can get uncomfortable with your questioning of the norm.
When I saw Rob’s set, it was the first time my dreamer path was validated. Rob ended his standup with a rant about all of us being an expression of the universe, created for the universe to experience itself. I recognized it as a very close reworking of Alan Watt’s lectures. Alan Watts brought Zen Buddhism to California in the 60s and I had spent a lot of time the previous year listening to his orations.
Following the show, around 20 volunteers went to a room upstairs to meet Rob. Everyone was asking questions about Hot Chick, 50 First Dates, Adam Sandler, and so on. I stood their with a burning question, “Have you heard of Alan Watts?” 20 years old, I stood there observing. Waiting for the questions to slow since I knew my question was not going to be understood by my peers.
Eventually I raised my hand. He took the questions of two others. I was one of two hands left remaining in the air when the board coordinator interrupted to say one more question and then we needed to get a group photo, so that we could clean up the gym and go. Rob then took the question of the other hand in the circle. Immediately after the question the coordinator made a second attempt to move us along. The universe had other plans. Rob said, “Hold on. I want to hear his question.” When I asked him if he had ever heard of Alan Watts he was super surprised.
I wouldn’t expect Rob to remember this, but he said something along the lines of, “You’re the first college kid that’s asked me about Alan Watts.” He began taking pictures with the volunteers and between each picture we talked about Watts and comedy. After our picture I had to leave quickly to take a quiz, and how it ended is something I will never forget. As if written for a movie, I was walking swiftly towards the door and Rob turned and said, “Good luck on your journey, and remember, it’s about the questions not the answers.”
The night was one of those weird synchronicities that leave you asking, why? Here are the lessons I took from the experience:
Don’t let opportunities pass. Even if it doesn’t come out perfect, don’t be afraid to ask that question, do that project, or include that thought. Do not over filter yourself. Like Rob adding a philosophy tidbit to the end of his standup, don’t let your self be unexpressed.
Give People A Chance
Rob Schneider probably had better things to do than hear my question. You too could spend your life rushing so you can get back home to the couch. Sometimes you have to give extra time to receive or create new opportunities. Giving people a chance can be hugely transformative for all parties involved.
It’s About The Questions Not The Answers
What Rob was saying is, don’t stop asking important questions because the answers aren’t concrete. The nature of our universe isn’t concrete. It is constantly changing. The human race needs to ask difficult questions to continue to grow individually and collectively.