in Articles, Birthdays, Experiences

The 41 Best Things I Created Before My 41st Birthday

I’ve created a lot of things over the years.

Things for jobs, things for others, things for myself.

Smart things, dumb things, fun things, things that worked, things that failed, things that I knew why I was creating them and things that I didn’t know why I was creating them.

So I thought for this year’s birthday post (you can read my previous birthday posts here) I would compile a list of the 41 best things I’ve created in my life so far.

I’ve listed them in (roughly) chronological order. I should also point out that for most of these things I was not the only person involved in their creation – there are tons of talented people (and some not-so-talented) who helped me create most of them.

Now, on to the list…

1. A Fake Note For A Teacher

In elementary school, I got in trouble for throwing some clay at a teacher (long story). For my punishment, the teacher ordered me to bring her an apology note signed by my parents the next day.

I assumed my parents would view throwing clay at a teacher as a relatively inexcusable act, so I told them instead that I had gotten in trouble for talking in class.

Then I wrote an apology note, had them sign it, and took it to school. On my way to school, I tore off the part of the note that said what I was actually apologizing for and handed the teacher nothing but my parents’ signature on a torn sheet of paper.

Somehow, I got away with it. Pretty sure it taught me the wrong lesson in the long run.

2. The “You Ate It Last” Rule

I’m lazy. My brother’s lazy. We both like to eat snacks. We both hate to have to get up off the couch and return those snacks to the pantry when we’re done with them.

And thus, the “You ate it last” rule was born.

At some point in our childhood we agreed that whoever last took a chip from the bag would be responsible for returning it to the cabinet. It solved what probably would have been decades of arguments and added a strategic element to all snacking decisions.

3. My High School Basketball Career

I didn’t try out for my junior high team because I knew I had no chance of making it. I tried out for my high school Freshmen team and got cut. I made the junior varsity team my sophomore year. Made the varsity my junior year. Started and was a captain on the team my senior year.

After graduation, while working at his basketball camp, my former coach introduced me as the most improved player he had ever seen in 30 years of coaching.

What I’m saying is I had a good high school basketball career, but it was certainly one I created.

4. The Ocean City Tape

The summer before I went to college (at least I think that’s when it was – it’s all a little hazy) I went on a trip to Ocean City, Maryland with a bunch of friends. Drinks were had, things happened, and all of it was captured on an infamous video tape by yours truly who was wielding one of those 10-pound VHS cameras that people used to use before everybody had a video camera in their pocket.

The tape featured drunken friends trying to roll down car windows of doors that weren’t there, weird dramatic reactions to stubbed toes, and assorted other things I’ll leave out of this description.

It became a legendary tape amongst my friends…until the guy whose camera it was taped over it to record an episode of Jerry Springer or whatever dumb show he wanted to make sure he didn’t miss.

5. The Morning Woodies

It didn’t last long because waking up and getting to my college radio station in time to do an 8 a.m. morning radio show a couple times a week proved to be an impossible task for me, but the radio show I hosted with a friend dubbed “The Morning Woodies” was sure a lot of fun while it lasted.

6. A Letter From A Fake College Magazine

When I was in college music wasn’t yet available on the Internet (because I’m 41, remember?). But I loved music, and I especially loved free music.

So, I used to find the addresses of record labels on the back of CDs and send them letters on fake letterhead I created claiming to be a music reviewer for a fictional college magazine (I think I called it the “College Park Scene”) and asking them to send me copies of new albums for me to review.

Sure enough, I started getting a steady stream of CDs and press kits from a bunch of random bands.

7. The Arms-Out Bet

In college, my friends and I liked to gamble a lot. We bet on just about everything, but one of our regular go-to bets was on Sega Genesis sports games.

Of course, some of us were better players than others so certain people consistently won (or lost). The most consistent loser of the bunch also happened to have the biggest gambling problem – not a great recipe for him.

Eventually, he got down a few hundred bucks to another friend of mine and was furious about it. He needed a way to make his money back because there was no way he was going to win it back playing video games.

That’s when I had a brilliant idea.

I said he needed to make a bet that was based on willpower because he would likely be willing to endure more pain than the other guy – after all, he needed to win back his money more than the other guy needed to double his winnings.

I suggested the two of them stand facing each other in their dorm room, extend their hands straight out in front of them, and the first person to drop their hands would lose the bet. Essentially, it was a test of willpower.

He loved the idea and challenged the guy he owed money to with a double-or-nothing bet. At that point, the guy who was already up a couple hundred bucks quickly agreed and declared, “I have an insane pain tolerance. You have no chance of beating me.”

It was odd bravado, but he’s an odd guy.

The bet commenced and while it only lasted a few minutes (turns out it’s harder to hold your arms out than you think), it might have been the most entertaining minutes of my life.

The guy who was already in the hole wound up losing again – turns out the other guy did have a high pain tolerance (or the losing guy didn’t have all that much willpower). Either way, he owed him double the money and I felt like ultimately I was the big winner.

8. Monthly Mixtapes

Just about every month since I was in college I’ve recorded a new mixtape featuring songs I’m enjoying at that time. It started with actual tapes, then CDs, then iTunes playlists and now Spotify playlists.

The methods have changed, but the habit has not. And it’s turned into an incredible collection of the music I love (or in some cases used to love) throughout my life.

9. A Game Show Network Press Release

My first job in Los Angeles after college was at a small PR agency where I actually worked as the receptionist. If you know me at all, you know how hilarious that is considering that job requires all of the things I hate doing.

After being there a couple months, I was given an opportunity to write a press release for some show on the Game Show Network.

For reasons I can’t quite explain, I decided to have fun with it and push the envelope a bit. I don’t remember the show, but I remember the headline I wrote was some play on the idea of “Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My!”

Whatever it was, it was different than what people typically do and it got me noticed. Within a couple weeks, a senior publicist at the firm got me moved off the reception desk and made me a junior publicist working for her (and writing all her press releases).

10. The Timekiller

In 2003, when most people still thought blogging was just a dumb word, I started my first blog. It was called The Timekiller, it was written under a fake name (“I.B. Bored”), and it was launched in an era before you could easily post photos to the web so it was mainly text.

Here’s how I described it at the time:

The Timekiller is the brainchild of a guy with too much time on his hands. It consists of random ramblings about random topics, written in random intervals and with a random degree of entertainment value.

In retrospect, it also might be the most important thing I ever created.

11. The Crazy Eye Killaz Videos

In the early 2000s I played with some friends on a recreation basketball team (named the Crazy Eye Killaz after this guy) in a league for guys 6’2″ and under that featured almost entirely Asian teams – except for us.

It was a lot of fun, and each year at the end of the season I’d spend hours cutting together elaborate highlight reel videos, complete with music, graphics, and whatever other bells and whistles I could come up with using my limited iMovie skills.

Then we’d watch those videos at an end-of-season party. They were amazing, people loved them, and I loved creating them. Especially the one from the year we won the championship.

12. Sullivan Screenplay

Once upon a time I thought I was going to be a screenwriter. So I taught myself how to write screenplays and wrote a biopic about legendary bare knuckle boxer John L. Sullivan. It was good enough to get me an agent to shop it around town.

But then Cinderella Man came out, another period boxing biopic that starred Russell Crowe and still tanked at the box office. That spelled doom for my script and ultimately the end of my screenwriting career. Then again, I’ve still got that screenplay sitting around so you never know…

13. Whip It Out Comedy

During the MySpace era I started to work in comedy and realized many of the up and coming comedians I worked with were starting to write blogs and post videos on MySpace and YouTube. I decided to launch a blog to feature some of the funniest stuff I discovered online.

That blog was called Whip It Out Comedy and it ultimately led me to a job running Comedy.com, which also acquired Whip It Out Comedy.

14. Whip It Out Comedy Videos

As Whip It Out Comedy and the Internet evolved, I wound up producing my first ever original comedy videos for the site. While the videos weren’t all winners, some were good and it was an amazing experience – another one which would ultimately lead to much bigger things and essentially function as my own personal film school.

15. The High Times Comedy Tour

This is probably a subject best explored in a blog post all its own, but a partnership with High Times magazine led me into the world of producing live comedy shows and then taking those shows on the road. It was a pretty amazing experience right from the start – including a debut show that featured Sarah Silverman, Jeff Ross, Doug Benson, and Jim Norton.

16. The Vivid Comedy Party

After some “success” (I have a loose definition of that term) with the High Times show, I expanded into producing another vice-themed comedy show with porn adult film company Vivid Entertainment. It led to some insane adventures with comics, porn stars, and fans of both in places like Columbia, Missouri.

It even led to Zach Galifianakis interviewing a porn star. Again, this is probably a story better told in a separate blog post (like this one).

17. The Blerds Talent Showcase

When I was on the road with the High Times Comedy Tour, we went to Chicago where I discovered an insanely talented collection of comedians and a filmmaker who went by the name of Blerds (It stood for “Blog Nerds” – the mid-2000s were a simpler time).

I instantly believed the group was going to be incredibly successful and wound up working with them as a producer and briefly as a manager for some of them.

As they all started to move from Chicago to Los Angeles, I helped set up some showcases at the UCB Theater. Those showcases led many of them to get signed by agents and opened doors that have led them to some huge success.

By no means am I taking credit for their success – guys like TJ Miller, Kyle Kinane, Kumail Nanjiani, and Jordan Vogt-Roberts were destined for big things no matter what I did, but I’d like to think I helped speed up the process for them at least a bit.

18. SubPar

One of the deals I got for Blerds was to produce a web series for Comedy.com that was essentially the adventures of a group of off characters at a charity golf tournament. We produced an epic pilot that was hilarious, but ultimately the guy with the money to bankroll more (not me) didn’t quite get it.

That’s a shame because it was great and had the potential to be amazing. Instead, it was one and done and never released to the public.

19. Dinner at Sheilas

For years I told my Mom she should have a blog about her cooking (which is fantastic by the way). In 2010, she finally agreed to do it and I set up Dinner at Sheila’s for her.

She took it from there and has posted regularly ever since, creating a great ongoing archive of her recipes and life.

20. A Thanksgiving Reddit Post

About a year after my Mom had been blogging, I was home for Thanksgiving and decided to do something for her.

Late Thanksgiving night, I posted a link on Reddit explaining that my Mom had been working on her blog for a year, had just cooked yet another amazing Thanksgiving meal, and asking Redditors to show her some love by checking out her video slideshow about it.

I posted the link, went to sleep, and woke up in the morning to discover that thousands of people had checked it out and left amazing comments complimenting my Mom on her work.

21. One Thing To See

In 2010, I launched a blog with a simple purpose – to share one thing each day that I thought people should see. While it only lasted for about nine months, it was successful, attracted a nice audience, and heavily influenced some of my later creations.

22. A Taiwanese Bank Commercial

I didn’t create this commercial, but I found it somewhere and posted it on this blog in 2011. It’s a great commercial, but I never could have imagined what would happen with it.

It spread – mainly among older people and motorcycle enthusiasts – and continued to spread for years. At this point, it’s driven almost 3 million (!!!) people to this site and inspired them all.

23. Connected Comedy

A comedy marketing blog that turned into a consulting business, that turned into a community, that turned into a membership site. It proved I could build my own business, support myself without having a “traditional” job, and still may be the single thing I’m most proud of creating in my life.

24. The Connected Comedy Podcast

A spinoff of Connected Comedy that was only possible thanks to the urging and help of members of the community that formed around my site, we produced 63 episodes over the course of a couple years with (maybe?) more to come.

25. JoshSpector.com

I had a lot of different blogs over the years, but in 2009 I finally got up enough courage to launch a personal blog under my actual name – this site you’re reading today. I’ve stuck with it ever since, and thousands of posts later it continues to evolve.

26. The Father’s Day T-Shirts

I don’t remember when exactly it started, but several years ago my brother and I came up with a new gift idea for our father – a series of custom t-shirts each featuring various phrases or inside jokes we’ve shared with him over the years.

They weren’t always complimentary (usually, they were the opposite), but they were good and I’m sure my Dad appreciated the humor at his expense.

27. The Academy’s Social Voice

The Academy had a couple social media accounts and 400,000 people following them when I took the job as its first ever head of digital media in 2011. My first task was to develop and implement a “voice” for the Academy on social media that would represent the organization and grow its following.

Almost five years later, I’m proud of what we’ve created and the 9.2 million people who now follow the Academy on social media.

28. Oscar Roadtrip

In 2013, I created a unique social media stunt as part of our Oscars campaign where we sent a couple comedians in a car across the country with an Oscar statue over the course of 30 days. It almost killed me, but it turned out to be pretty incredible.

29. #MyOscarPhoto

In 2014, I had an idea that it would be cool to give fans at home a chance to get a photo of themselves with a celebrity on the red carpet at the Oscars. With a little help from Twitter, we created #MyOscarPhoto and gave thousands of people the opportunity to do just that.

30. The Selfie

The same year that I thought #MyOscarPhoto was going to make social media history, it turned out that something else would.

The infamous Ellen selfie became the most retweeted tweet in history (and still is today). I obviously can’t take sole credit for the selfie’s success, but I had a lot to do with its creation behind-the-scenes. Again, that’s another story for another day.

31. The Post-Selfie Tweet

The Ellen selfie turned out to be so big that it actually broke Twitter. And in that moment, as I realized what had happened and that our tweet was responsible for it, I took a screenshot of the Twitter fail screen so that I could post this tweet from the Academy account as soon as Twitter got back up and running.

It’s still one of my favorite tweets I’ve ever posted for the Academy.

32. The Oscars Thank You Video

In 2014, we had the opportunity to do something with Google Glass (remember when that seemed like a cool thing?) around the show. We came up with the idea to have various people who work on the show wear the glasses while they were prepping for the show and cut together a video thanking them for their hard work.

It’s one of my favorite videos that we’ve made.

33. Oscars.org

I had built a lot of personal blogs before and even overseen the launch of a couple larger websites, but never anything on the scale of the Academy’s new website that launched in 2014.

34. Academy Originals

In 2014 we also launched the Academy’s first original video series – Academy Originals. I essentially function as executive producer on them and we’ve put out a new one just about every week since we launched.

I’m incredibly proud of them – you can see them all here.

35. #LiamNeesonsSalad

Here’s another one of my favorite tweets we’ve posted since I worked at the Academy. It was at the 2014 Governors Awards and was a simple photo of Liam Neeson’s salad with an accompanying hashtag.

It was silly. People dug it. It kinda went viral.

36. Oscar Creators

I know this is a lot of Oscars stuff on this list, but what can I say? I create a lot of stuff in that day job of mine.

In 2015, we invited a group of talented artists from various social platforms to come to the Oscars and gave them access to share with the world what Oscar Week is like through their unique perspectives. The results were very cool.

37. A Person You Should Know

This past July I launched a blog/newsletter designed to profile a new person each day that I think is smart, creative, inspiring, and worth being known by more people.

I’ve featured 172 people on the site already (complete list here) and it’s been an amazing project that has attracted a big following.

38. My Movie Year

For this year’s Oscars we created a Facebook-powered game that allowed people to track how many movies they saw this year and see how they rank as a movie fan compared to other fans around the world. It was very successful with 75,000 people participating.

39. A Fun, Supportive, Loving Relationship

This one technically started back in 2008, but it continues every day so I’m going to place it here. I’ve been lucky to have met an incredible woman who loves me almost as much as I love her.

I certainly am not the only one that can take credit for “creating” our relationship, but I think I deserve at least 49% of the credit for it. Speaking of which, it also led to…

40. The Proposal Proposal

A few months ago I proposed to that lucky (?) lady with a “proposal proposal.” Since our first ever lunch ended with her whipping out a proposal and trying to sell me some advertising (I declined), I decided to bring it full circle years later.

I took her back to that same restaurant and presented her with a proposal of my own – but this time the proposal was designed to convince her to say yes when I asked her to marry me and she didn’t decline.

Long story short, the salesperson got sold. Here’s a glimpse at her reading the proposal, since I don’t think I’ve actually posted it on this site before and it certainly deserves to be here.

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41. This Post

Writing this post has taken longer than I expected it would, but it’s been worth it. Writing these birthday posts each year has become a cool tradition for me and a good chance to look back at where my life has been and forward to where it’s going.

This post, and all of my birthday posts for that matter, are certainly among the best things I’ve ever created and I look forward to writing more of them in the future. Thanks for reading.

 

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