We all have turning points, moments when we get to decide how we will react to the world. And in those moments, we chart our destiny.
When I was at L.A. High School in the late ‘60’s, the television show “Room 222” was filmed there. As part of the deal, selected students in the drama class were given interviews and screen tests at Twentieth Century Fox. I was one of them: apparently our drama teacher Miss Asimow (and yes, she was related to Isaac Asimov) had recommended me. I was sixteen years old, I think, and my mom took me over to Fox, and I met the producers and did my best to dazzle them. In the process of the interview, I began to talk about my writing, and pitched them a story about a bullied kid who begins to study karate, and becomes a bully himself. We talked through it. They loved it. They said they’d get back to me.
And never did. And about eight weeks later, the show I pitched them was on the air, with Eric Laneuville in the role I’d prayed I’d get, and Chuck Norris as the instructor. Over the next years, I watched Eric appear in film after film. Become a respected director. Standing on my corpse.
And watching that episode, I KNEW that was going to happen. Knew that my opportunity had been stolen (I’m not pissed at Eric–it wasn’t his fault, and I’m actually proud of him!) and that I had been lied to and ripped off. I felt something unusual at that moment, watching that show. I knew this was a turning point. I could spiral into anger and despair and resentment, and it would poison my life for years to come. Hell, we both know people who poison their ENTIRE lives over events like that.
But I clearly remember the thought that ran through my mind: “Hey! I’ve got ideas worth stealing!”
And that thought made all the difference. Because I knew I had an endless supply of good ideas. Knew that if I could learn the business, find the right allies, learn to protect myself that I could create ideas, develop them, fight my way through the system, protect myself, and fulfill my dreams.
I’ve lost that faith at times. Fallen down. But I get back up. Every time. That’s one of the beautiful things I learned from my martial arts training. I was NEVER Billy Jack, let alone Bruce Lee. But you know what I am? I’m someone who never quit. Who took the physical, mental and emotional gifts and invested them year after year in the things I loved and craved in life. Who was willing to hurt, and fear, and lick my wounds, and get back out and try again. And again. And again. You can kill me, but you cannot stop me.
One of the things I like most about Facebook is that it seems to be a fairly decent cross-section of real humanity. The only buy-in is internet access, really. And you get to watch babies born, parents die, people succeed and fail and grow and learn and collapse. And you can test theories about how people operate in life on personal, social, or political levels by interjecting yourself into conversations or simply observing. Too much fun…and educational.
One thing I find fascinating is the things that will throw people into negative moods, sour them, make them give up. A common one among artists is lack of respect from prospective employers, theft of their ideas (or apparent theft–far more common), rejection, lack of support from family, and so forth.
To me, much of this seems to stem from people not respecting and loving themselves (thereby not needing so much support from others) proper development and separation of the “child/artist” and “adult/manager” aspects of the personality, or perspective on the lives of the artists who have succeeded before them. If they did have that perspective, in most cases they would see that successful artists go through the exact same things, but respond to the stimuli differently. Once you notice this, IMHO the appropriate reaction is not: “how do I get these people to change?” but “How do I get MYSELF to change, to be more resourceful?” Because that is a critical component to achieving any goal: getting thick-skinned, self-reliant emotionally, maintaining faith, being behaviorally flexible while maintaining clear values and priorities. Keeping your energy high, taking life one day at a time, and having fun along the way. If you can do these things, you maximize your chance of success. Fail to do these things, and even if you make a million bucks, you will find a way to be miserable.
Even at sixteen, I knew that there was going to be pain and betrayal and failure in life. But that everything in the world I wanted would be found on the other side of these things. So I sought out the techniques of self-management, beginning with the tools my mother gave me: the Golden Key, The Power of Positive Thinking, Psycho-Cybernetics, Think And Grow Rich, The Strangest Secret, Acres of Diamonds, and on and on and on. She had 33 ⅓ phonograph records of these things, and played them OVER and OVER and OVER to me when I was a kid. I hated it. The “pretender voices” in my head fought desperately to reject them or ignore them…but…it got through.
Somehow, I learned to believe in myself. And spent the rest of my life seeking out the ways to turn failure and pain and fear into fuel. This is why I 100% believe we can live the lives we want. We may not be able to get the outside world to acknowledge and reward us, but we can and must acknowledge and reward and love ourselves. Do that, and you’ll have the best chance of getting the external rewards as well.
And even if you don’t? You’ve still had a hell of a ride.
And honestly, I’ll settle for that. Hey! I’ve got ideas worth stealing!
Steal this one.