Ashrita Furman broke the world record for underwater hoola-hooping in Florida, where a pod of dolphins watched from afar—in what I presume was utter confusion.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet some pretty fascinating people. The voice of Porky Pig, a haunted house architect, a scientist who’s close to bringing back a T-Rex (albeit in a less menacing, chicken-sized form). But Ashrita Furman is in a league of his own. He has world records out the ying yang, including:
- The most matches put out on your tongue in a minute
- The most beer bottles opened with a chainsaw in 60 seconds
- The most watermelons sliced open on your stomach in one minute
He holds so many records that he snagged another one in the process: the world record for the most world records. He’s broken over 800 in total, with more than 200 still standing.
(And a child-like sense of curiosity. Because when you can be anything, why be just one thing?)
Check out Ashrita’s Curious State episode using the player above.
Fun fact: Ashrita’s interview was conducted almost 3 years ago, and it’s finally seeing the light of day.
When I first came up with Curious State (back then it was called Strange State University), I gathered a handful of interviews from folks kind enough to offer their time for a stranger’s idea. The plan was to use the interviews to create the first few episodes, which I’d then use to pitch for funding.
Two things stopped that from happening: One was COVID. The other was the show itself. It just wasn’t ready yet. And honestly, neither was I. I’d only been podcasting for a year and still had a metric shit ton to learn—what I wanted to make and what I could make were two very different things.
That’s when I stumbled upon this quote from Ira Glass:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
After months of trial and error, yo-yo-ing between putting it on the back burner and obsessing over it, I finally figured out what Curious State was really about. And I learned enough, practiced enough, and slammed my head against the wall long enough that my taste and skills aligned.
A moment of bliss.
Followed immediately by my taste chewing through its leash and taking off running past my skills once again.
And so, the chase continues.
If you enjoyed this story, may I suggest a few other Curious State episodes?
🤪 Can deep play revolutionize your work? (feat. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang)
🧠 What’s it like to remember every moment of your life?
💔 Why did we fall out of love with pigeons? (feat. Andrew Blechman)