I’ve got a secret to tell you all. My mind likes to discourage itself. I get into these recursive loops of thinking where I wonder if what I’m doing is notable or worth doing in the first place. I catch myself thinking, “Everyone is so far ahead of you and doing well with their lives. They’ve built stuff and are crazy successful now.”
Sometimes it gets to the point where I ask myself the terrible question:
“Why even try?”
I graduated from film school at the relatively ripe age of 28. In all my time there, I was surrounded by people just out of high school, with no perspective on life or schooling beyond grade 12. People my age were the exception, not the norm. I appreciated the maturity I possessed, but I felt like I was starting out towards the end of the great life race when I graduated.
I’m 32 years old as of this writing. I made it past my teen years. I made it past 27, so I’m no longer in any danger of joining Jim Morrison, Robert Johnson, and Janis Joplin (amongst a startling number of others) in “The 27 Club.” My 30s have been good so far. I’m doing decent for someone my age. I may have a shoulder that’s starting to ache in an unpleasant way, but that’s about it. I’m certainly not what most people would consider “old” yet.
It’s been hard to shake the feeling that old is exactly what I am now. You ever have that nagging voice in your head, the one that seems like your worst enemy, always scoffing at your hard work and goals? The sneer that seems to hiss into your world at the worst times?
It makes the common sense part of your brain want to shout, “Shut up! Things are fine.”
I stopped trying to pursue work in the film industry because the priorities in my life changed. I decided that creating beautiful websites for super cool clients was the sort of work that would suit me well. Not having to commute or live in L.A. was also too tempting to pass up. From a spark of an idea, Dandy Cat was born.
Obviously, it was not an overnight success. What in this world is nothing one moment and then wildly fruitful the very next? I would challenge anyone to point out something or someone who took a sharp turn into the life they’ve always dreamt of without any effort.
You see, one of the most important truths to remember when you begin developing anything is: anyone who has ever become successful has had to work hard as hell at it.
At the moment, I’m still working on growing Dandy Cat into the business I know it will be. It’s not currently at the very top of a Google search. I’m not batting potential clients away with an internet stick. I still have some film school student loans looming over my shoulder.
But it won’t always be that way. At the genesis of Dandy Cat, I beat it into my brain that I’m in this for the long haul. I wasn’t content with not living the life I wanted to live. I wanted to fashion everything I could into my ideal vision. Most importantly, I refused to give up on this, then and now.
It’s simultaneously the easiest and the hardest thing to do. I’ll tell you that right now. It’s taking sweat and long days and anxiety.
I can guarantee that’s exactly what it will take for you to achieve the dream you have in your head at this moment. You will most likely not luck into your dreams. Achieving everything you want without trying is such a rare thing that you should kick the thought out of your head right now.
Seriously, pick it up and kick it out.
Every single person who has ever become worth something has had to start at the exact the same place you’re starting now. Everyone starts at nothing. Everyone. Steve Jobs helped build the first Apple computer in his garage. J.K. Rowling finished the first Harry Potter book after being fired from her job as an Amnesty International secretary. Oprah Winfrey was fired from the evening news slot at a station in Baltimore before making the rounds elsewhere. Look where they all went.
It is important to have realistic expectations. You can’t blindly gamble your future on the hope of writing something as generation-defining as the next Harry Potter book series.
There are responsibilities that everyone has in their lives. Perhaps you have a family to look after, for instance. It would be irresponsible to spend every waking moment pursuing something that won’t immediately put food on the table. Take care of the necessities first and work on making time for your dream. It’s hard and tiring, but you don’t want to come to the realization late in your life that you should have at least tried but didn’t.
You can keep yourself from throwing in the towel and settling on a life you don’t want. Your goals and dreams may change, your priorities may develop into something new, but your personal drive should always be screaming forward.
Back to that terrible question I spoke about above—“Why even try?” You’ve got to try because the alternative is letting that terrible negative voice inside your head take you over. Let that voice win and it’ll keep crushing you. It’ll make the next thing you’re excited about that much harder to accomplish.
The floodgates of negativity are damn heavy and take more than just muscles to close. Negativity takes over your mind. It weighs down your spirit. It’s worth fighting to keep from infecting you.
Your dreams may always be hard to get going, but I can promise you they’ll be even harder if you keep letting yourself give up. If you never let negativity knock you down to the ground, then you never have to stop moving forward.
Keep working at it, cats.