January 12, 2012 18:06 Filed in: Personal
How certain are you that you really want to do the project sitting in front on you at this moment? How do you know that it is really yours and not something that you think you have to do, for whatever reason. I began to consider this because I, once again, read Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. In it, he talks about quite a few important things, but two stand out for me. One is, of course, finding what you really love. The other is about knowing that you are going to die, and what that means.
As to knowing that you will someday die, he says that your time is limited, and so you should not spend it living someone else's life. I completely agree with this. Most of us, go through the usual levels of school, go to university and then get jobs because that's what everyone else is doing, or what our parents and society say we should do. Some of us get married and start families thus further entrenching us into that lifestyle, making it ever more difficult to change, eve if we come to the realization that we, somewhere, made a mistake.
For the independent animator, the normal pathway really doesn't work. Of course, we hope to support ourselves and even our families by our creative efforts, but these efforts require a considerable investment in time, which one may not have if they are stuck in a 9 to 5. What if, however, the 9 to 5, the bills, the mortgage and everything else is simply the trappings of someone else's opinions? What if the project you think you want to do is little more than the same?
When Steve Jobs talks about knowing you are going to die, he asks the famous question that if today was your last day on Earth, would you want to be doing what you are doing right now? He says that if the answer is "no" too many days in a row, then he needs to change something. It's a good question, but it doesn't quite work well for the animator. A day is not enough time to do much, right? That, at least, was my first thought.
If I had a day left, would I even draw at all? Probably not. I would spend it with family. Give me a week, though, and now it becomes a little bit more possible to make something, but I still might fight the temptation to go to a great vacation destination and party on until my time is up. With a month to live, though, I could really make a short film, leave something behind. I could do it in three weeks and still spend a week in that vacation destination before I go out happy! With a year, now we are really talking. I might spend 11 months making the most kick-ass animation I can fathom and then spend the last month in partying in that vacation spot.
In the end, the question still shows what I really want to do. Even if a day or a week is not enough time to consider it, there is no doubt where my time should be spent. Right now, however, I am spending it in far too many other places. That gets back to the issue of being trapped in the opinions of others. There may be those who are relying on you, even counting on you to provide them with something. The question you need to ask is are these obligations really yours? I am not talking about walking out on your family, or anything, I am really talking about your choices. It is your choices that have really landed you where you are today. It doesn't matter what influenced those choices or even if they were made with faulty information. They are still your choices. You can choose to make new ones, right now today.
If your choices have landed you in the wrong location, the wrong job, or worse, the wrong life, you may have to continue in it for some time, but there is a way out. The best way to change is by growth, not by making a hasty getaway. Still, everything that makes up your current situation can also contribute to making a new one. Use your current job as a way to get to another better job. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote stories like Tarzan and John Carter while working as a pencil sharpener salesman. There is always a path from where you are to where you want to be with but a little patience and imagination.
It's a new year, right? Take a good look at your current project, or anything else you are involved in. Is it really yours?
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