What we're about to tell you may just blow your mind. Sometimes the safest bet is to drop it all and quit your job. You're young and can afford the risk. Taking a chance on your dreams may be the smartest career move you ever make.
By Anonymous LA Musician
Life is short.
Life is also full of clichés (see: first line).
Writing about following your life’s true passions is predictably impossible to do without using some clichés. In a way, this speaks to the universal truths that I’ve learned.
I’m a musician and a waiter living in Hollywood. I’m also a stereotype. Yes, I have tried my hand at writing scripts. Yes, I have been an extra on TV shows and movies. Yes, I have auditioned for commercials. The list goes on but I’m not afraid to say that I’m following my dreams just like countless others out here. What once was a daunting idea, is now the greatest decision I’ve ever made.
You Are a Stereotype
Everybody is a stereotype. In a book called “Killing Yourself to Live,” writer Chuck Klosterman breaks down “every conversation [he’s] ever had every time [he’s] ever gone to Los Angeles for any reason whatsoever.” He proceeds to paint a picture of a guy who writes scripts, acts and waits tables. Very clever. Chuck Klosterman wears thick black-rimmed glasses, lives in New York City, is a music critic and complains about how ‘hipsters’ complain. He’s pretty close to everyone I’ve ever met every time I’ve ever gone to NYC for any reason whatsoever.
What I’m saying is that everyone’s a stereotype at some point in their life whether they want to be or not. It’s their passions, and their commitment to their passions, that see them through and ultimately set them apart in this world. The Beatles were once a shitty skiffle band in Liverpool jumping on the rock n’ roll bandwagon. Michael Jordan was once a kid in North Carolina who played pick-up on the local courts, not making the high school team until his junior year. The difference is they committed themselves fully to their passions and, because of that, there was no way they would fail.
I’m not the best-selling musician in the world right now, but I’ve just released a collection of songs that I worked incredibly hard on and I feel more fulfilled than I ever have in my life. The response to the music has been shining and it feels like after years of toil, I’m finally taking in some tangible rewards. I’m able to give something to the world that truly represents who I am. On top of that, music has helped enable my other passion: traveling. In the past year, I’ve traveled from L.A. to New York, DC, Austin, Park City, Las Vegas, San Francisco, New Orleans and Portland.
It’s clearly not easy to follow dreams. There are definitely low points but I know I won’t have these moments of fulfillment without the rest. If I had been working 9-5, sure I’d probably have more money, but a flat-screen TV doesn’t make me feel better about myself. It wasn’t until the moment I gave up my fall back crutches that I was able to walk freely (that kinda sounds like a cliché, huh?).
Go Full Ass, Not Half Ass
Everybody always has the same kind of answer when they’re scared of it. “Well, I could be a legal assistant and use my free time for my music.” “I could go to grad school and write scripts at night.” It’s a hard thing to qualify or explain but that doesn’t work. The only way I can imagine explaining it is by looking at examples of people that have made it in these industries. I have a shelf of books on musicians and entertainment personalities and not one of them allowed themselves to have a fall back plan. It’s the only way they reached the level they did. To name a few, Eric Clapton, Barbara Walters, John Coltrane, Marianne Faithfull, Bono, Keith Moon, etc. I can only speak through the lens of music because that’s who I am. But it’s the same with people who are committed to any other field.
There are also people who want me to believe that they don’t have passions. I don’t believe that for a second. It’s when you’re young that your passions are really obvious. There are no fears and no money woes to get in the way of your ideals. I think it’s best to look back to then and see what it was that really shook you to the core.
Others will tell me that they just weren’t born with the talent or the right mind to accomplish their true dreams. That’s a cop out and it’s the easiest way to escape putting oneself in the line of fire. I’ll use the example of an artist again. When an artist makes something, even if it’s art that they have made for themselves, they release it to the public and let everybody else criticize it if they want to be a professional. It’s very hard to have to listen to people who aren’t artists suggest what you should do to make your work better. There’s all sorts of emotions that you expose yourself to by walking into that line of fire. People who dismiss themselves as “not talented” or not “born with ‘it’” usually haven’t even given it a good shot. You have to have courage, be brave and be willing to weather much criticism in order to follow your dreams.
What’s most important though is to not shy away from that criticism but to make yourself vulnerable to it. Be strong through it, learn from it and then you’ll be more convinced. It’s not easy, but that’s why most people don’t follow their dreams.
Doubt vs. Confidence: A Necessary Struggle
The biggest reason not to follow your passions (and the motivation behind everything I’ve previously talked about) is a fear of failure. When you know you won’t fail, you won’t fail. I’m not an advocate of “The Secret” (sorry Oprah) but confidence is key. Once you allow the idea of failure to grow inside of you, it wrecks the confidence that you need.
Most people go through doubt on a daily basis, even the most successful people. It’s not a bad thing. The difference between success and failure is what lies behind that doubt. Success is confidence with moments of doubt. Not doubt with moments of confidence.
Look at contestants in the opening round of American Idol. These are people who are following their dreams, sure. Most of them are delusional too. These people come from places where there is no criticism of their talent and they become overly confident and forget to doubt themselves every once in a while. Look at some of their faces when they get ripped apart by Randy, Paula and Simon. There is either genuine surprise or shock or, in some cases, denial. Nobody has ever told them they are bad so they can’t believe it, even when it comes from the mouths of people that have some of the greatest success in entertainment! They have no self-criticism or doubt. They also have no criticism in the environment around them. They will never get better at what they do.
It is so cheesy but death is always around the corner. You may elude it for eighty years or you may not. Death can be the best friend you’ve ever had if you’re aware it's there. You’ll never know when your time is up until it’s up. The fact that everything is unpredictable makes it easier for me to take risks and fight fears and make important decisions.
There’s obviously so much left to be said. I strongly believe the world would be better and more enriching if people followed their passions. Let me stress that these ideas don’t only apply to artists and musicians. They can apply to someone who has a dream of starting a business or of getting involved in politics or even just wanting to travel the world. Do what you have to do to make it happen. Get over your fears. Learn what you need to learn. Work hard. The only other choice is to waste the relatively little time you have in life.