[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I love to read stories about how the people I admire got to where they are now. I especially love stories of other later bloomers or people who changed direction in life. I read as many as I can, often written by artists, always looking for things that I can learn. But lately I’ve been reading a lot of these types of stories.
“I was working in a job that didn’t inspire me and so I decided to enter some of my art into a competition/gallery call for entries/local art fair. I really wasn’t very good but I was amazed by the response to my work and I sold $X,000 worth of work. I quit my job and I’ve never looked back.”
Seriously??? Is that supposed to inspire the rest of us? Perhaps this is really how it turned out for you but I’m calling bullshit. These stories are examples of people telling us what we want to hear.
We want to hear that it’s simple and straightforward. We want to hear that building up the courage to quit the day job is the hard part, when in actual fact it’s the easiest part. Don’t get me wrong. Building up to quitting your job isn’t easy. It was so not easy for me that it took me two years to build up to it. In fact, it’s so hard that we want to believe that there’s nothing harder. We want to believe that, once we jump ship, it gets easier. It doesn’t.
Wrapped up in our safely unhappy day jobs, we rarely put ourselves out there. We rarely face failure. And we know that even if we did fail, we have so little invested that it would be easily swept under the carpet. Living a life that doesn’t inspire us is painful but what are we protecting ourselves from? Finding out that maybe we can’t do that thing we really want to do. So why would it get easy once we get brave enough to start trying?
Once we leave that safe but uninspiring world and try to make our way in the world doing something that means far more to us, we worry about failure far more. We love what we do but we want to keep doing it and the stakes feel very high. The pressure is on and we sometimes make the wrong choices out of anxiety or inexperience.
In fact sometimes things seem pretty bleak and we feel pretty hopeless. We worry that we don’t know what on earth we’re doing and we can’t seem to find the right path. Some things work and some things don’t and we don’t really know why. Everyone else seems to be doing so much better and we start to feel ashamed. Who did we think we were to go and follow our dreams? Who did we think we were to believe our life could be bigger? And will we eventually have to crawl back to the office we left in a wave of euphoria?
And then the moment passes. We do something. Anything. And it changes things. Perhaps some of the work that felt like banging your head against a brick wall starts to bear fruit. Perhaps our luck changes. Sometimes it’s just our perspective that changes. More often that not, it’s just that our cumulative efforts reach an inflection point and start to build on themselves. But it takes courage to take a deep breath and just wait for that moment to come.
Having the courage to keep going, when nothing’s working, when everything feels hopeless, when we don’t know how things will turn out, is the real challenge. That’s the really hard part, and it’s the resilience that develops as a result that determines whether we are successful or not. It’s a truism that many who fail, fail only because they gave up too soon. It’s also a truism that many who fail carried on for too long and wasted too much money. I’m willing to lay odds that there at least ten of the former, for every one of the latter.
So the last thing I want to read is another story that contains the words “and I never looked back.” I want to hear the stories filled with failures and missteps. I want to hear from the person who says “I can’t even count the number of times I nearly gave up.” I want to hear how they found the courage and the determination to keep going when they kept getting shut down. I want to hear how they trained themselves to sleep like a baby while fucking up left, right and centre.
The stories I’d like to hear the most? JK Rowling, who was rejected by 12 publishing houses before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was finally accepted. Steven Spielberg, who was rejected by film school on three separate occasions. Stephen King, who threw his novel Carrie in the bin after it was rejected 30 times.