How Much Did They Pay You To Give Up On Your Dreams?


“What do you do?” a man in his 50s asked me while in a crowded bar.

“I’m a filmmaker. I write, produce and act in my own projects,” I replied.

“So, you think you will be successful at that?”

“I don’t think, I know,” I said confidently.

“So, you think you’re special?”

I considered that statement for a moment. I had been drinking rather heavily that night, and immediately, I wanted to get nasty with him. But, I swallowed my pride and responded without any hint of attitude: “Yeah, I do think I’m special.”

“Yeah, you and everyone else in your generation.”

Okay, Mr. Cynical. If my generation is so self-entitled, then what does that make yours? Underachieving? Settling for less than you are capable of? I refuse to give into that kind of negative thinking.

It’s a scary reality of my chosen profession that I may not get to experience the kind of success I have set in my mind. But you know what that fear does for me? It drives me to push harder, work better, train more and never take no for an answer.

Should I just aim to be marginally successful at whatever position will take me and work my life away at something for which I have no passion?

I was watching the film, “Up in the Air” the other night, featuring George Clooney. I was seduced by what Clooney's character, Ryan, a middleman who fires employees when a company wants to downsize, had to say to a Baby Boomer whom he was letting go.

"Do you know why kids love athletes? Because they follow their dreams."

"Yeah, well I can't dunk," replied Bob, the cubicle drone.

“But you can cook. Your résumé says you minored in French Culinary Arts. Then, you got out of college and started working here. How much did they pay you to give up on your dreams?" he asked.

After absorbing Ryan's provocative question, Bob responded softly, "$27,0oo a year."

"At what point were you going to stop and go back to what made you happy? I see guys who work for the same company their entire lives. Clock in. Clock out. Never a moment of happiness."

If working at a job like that made Bob genuinely happy, then more power to him. But it seems as though so many people from my parents' generation look at their jobs as a means to an end in which they can build up a retirement plan and relax in old age.

I don't want to live to retire. I would rather spend my best years doing what I am most passionate about and work until I'm 90. Because, as Confucius said, "Choose a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life."

I don’t want to wake up at 45 with regret about what I chose to do with my life. Yes, this life that I have chosen has made me have to sacrifice a lot and put several things on hold, but I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.

I’m always broke and have to experience crippling self-doubt and rejection on a daily basis, but it has taught me valuable life lessons and made me a stronger person.

I refuse to give in to the idea that comfort is the key to happiness. In fact, comfort will do nothing for you but stunt your personal growth. One of my teachers used to say it's like “laying in a velvet coffin."

If your dream is to be a trash man, an office worker or a bricklayer, then by all means, strive for that. Those are important and necessary jobs. But if you are only settling for that out of fear of failure or insecurity, then you are missing the point of life.

If your dream is to start a family and all you want to do is get a steady job to support that family, then by doing so, you are a huge success. No dream or goal is too small. The thing that irritates me is when people dismiss my goal as being too big.

Yes, my generation has a tendency to aim really high and think that we can get these fabulous, glamorous jobs right out of college. Once we realize that’s not how it works, the ones who really want it work their way up the ranks and study their brains out until they have reached the highest level they want.

A little delusion is necessary because if not, the rejection will kill your dream. Mr. Cynical can be condescending to me all he wants. It’s not going to derail me. There will be many more Mr. Cynical’s along my path who will try and make me want to quit. It only intensifies the higher the level I get.

Yeah, I do think I’m special. Why would I want to live in a world where I think I am just regular and unoriginal?

Telling myself I’m special pushes me to grow on an exponential level. I take criticism as a gift, telling me where I can improve in order to achieve what I want.

I am never satisfied because I know that in order to be on the top of my game, I will have to constantly learn more and practice and get better. LeBron James was a huge success in high school. Did that stop him from pushing himself? No. Does he stop going to team practices? Of course not.

I’m “special,” and I will be successful because I think I can, and I won’t stop until I’ve reached my ultimate goal. Persistence is the key to any success. Mr. Cynical will stay stagnant and think of himself as "not special" because he has it fixed in his mind that it is a silly mindset and that thinking big will only result in failure.

Yes, I will fail many times along the journey. But that doesn’t stop me; it stops you. I will never experience any ultimate failure because I won’t stop until I’ve reached the level of success I have defined in my mind.

Maybe my generation does, as a whole, have some delusional fantasies. But with all the opportunities and technological advancements available, can you blame us?

I feel bad the Baby Boomer generation didn’t feel as though they had the same opportunity, but wouldn’t you want your children and their generation to at least experience what you never felt you could?

My dream is not going to just magically manifest itself one morning if I pray hard enough. I’m going to have to work harder than all of my friends and peers and spend all of my free time doing things I’m not getting paid for. I’m going to have to sacrifice many things in my personal life right now so I don’t get distracted.

I’m going to have to only see my family once a year. I’m never going to have enough money to take trips or go to your wedding or live in a nice apartment without a roommate.

I’m going to have to be on a sh*tty health insurance, where I literally never go to the doctor or get my teeth cleaned. I’m going to put my art out there in many forms all the time, even though I know some people may think it’s stupid or I’m stupid. I’m going to strive for this goal, and I won’t stop until I get there.

THAT’s why I’m special.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It