Lots of people talk about their ambitions. Not many fulfill them. Grand ambitions often disappoint, while modest ambitions inspire hope and motivation. Modest ambitions are exceeded much more often than grand ambitions are even come close to. There seems to be an inverse relationship between grandness of ambition and greatness of work effort. Grand ideas = no realistic discipline. Modest ideas = discipline that says, “I can do this.”
Two common reflections heard from older people are
- “I was always dedicated to my work, but I never expected to achieve this much.”
- “I had such great dreams, I wonder what happened.”
Passion produces drive that forces you to “do that thing” obsessively, whether it’s entrepreneurial, musical, journalistic, technological, artistic, scientific, theological, electronic, or mechanical, even when there is no reward, no pay, no audience, no appreciation, no recognition. Lacking those rewards does not phase you. If it’s what you really want to do, and you know it’s in you, then obstacles like loneliness and no encouragement don’t stop you.
For example, if you’re “A Writer,” you will have written a thousand pages by age 21 whether you published anything or not. You will never stop trying to get published, but that outcome will have no bearing on your constant writing. If you’re a glass blower, you’ll spend countless hours through the night in your workshop perfecting it.
Substance of suffering is the endurance of long hours of lonely struggle to develop and learn. Connection to the real world recognizes longterm cause and effect: Time and effort produce results.
Rockstar fantasies miss out on the lonely grueling days and nights of practice over twenty years, so they result in aging guitarists doing nostalgia gigs in theme bars or hotel lounges. Maybe it’s still kind of fun, but 50-something lounge acts playing soft rock and elevator jazz are kind of depressing, too.
Put in those six to eight hours per day if you want your talent to shine in twenty years…ten to twelve hours per day for real mastery. Practicing in your field two or three hours a day is a recipe for failure.
Here is an experience that is common among 30-somethings: Someone you haven’t heard from in ten years suddenly appears as a violinist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Another friend you haven’t heard from in ten years has become creator of a successful new software company. Someone else you knew in high school shows up to replace your central air system—he owns his own HVAC business. Another long-lost acquaintance emerges as a successful journalist at CNN. They’ve been quietly learning, building, practicing, writing, programming, with heads down in the weeds making a real impression in small professional circles, building skills and credentials.
The difference between the theme lounge and the symphony orchestra is desire. Desire in a particular discipline means you can’t not do it, constantly. Desire in a field naturally breathes passion, drive, and dedication, which breeds success.
You may not attract many friends, you may be alone a lot, and you may have to scrimp and save for groceries. Even the most talented, disciplined, dedicated people endure at least ten years of unrecognized, unpaid pain before they even get started.
Drive and passion leave no time for the passive entertainments of watching TV, watching videos, or posting stuff on Facebook. Those are the ingredients of failure: a long empty road to nowhere. Video breeds the deadly combination of exaggerated fantasy and mental passivity.
One in many millions will write the next hit TV show or a successful Broadway play, or develop the next Google search engine, or paint like Van Gogh, or compose like Mozart, or invent the next Nylon, or invent the next popular device after the iPhone. But everyone can choose to reject passive entertainment and unproductive fantasies. Anyone can choose to work day and night to create a fulfilling niche in a rewarding field. That in itself is something to be passionate about, regardless of field.
Read more from my book
Call of the Active Mind
©Copyright Robert Rose-Coutré 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016