What if what you thought you wanted to be is not what you were cut out to be?
One afternoon I was on my way home from work. The bus driver and I had become good friends. We knew about each other’s personal lives, or at least those aspects of our personal lives we were willing to let people eavesdrop.
One thing we had in common was our love of the horror genre. We both loved consuming it, but more importantly, we both wanted to publish it. So it came as a dismal shock on that afternoon when he told me that if he hit the age of forty and still hadn’t published something, he would give up completely. It caught me off guard. Of course I argued with him, said things were never that cut and dry, but he seemed resigned.
I don’t think he ever got around to publishing that horror book. His wife passed away before he turned forty, and something tells me life got too depressing for him to commit pen to paper. It’s a shame, because I believe he would have made great contributions to horror literature.
Several months after that conversation I came across a thought-provoking article in the Harvard Business Review. Here’s an excerpt:
I once had dreams of becoming like Bruce Springsteen. Now, at age 62, I write about him, go to his shows, sing along to his songs in my car, teach my children about his significance, use his works in my Wharton classes, and even serve as a Guest DJ on E Street Radio. But despite my earlier wishes to live a successful musical performer’s life, it’s not going to happen. I’m not Springsteen, and never will be. And that’s OK. We often say to children, “You can be whatever you want to be.” But, at some point along the path to adulthood, you come to accept that maybe you’re really not going to be a professional basketball player, or an astronaut, or the president, or a rock star. Maybe you just don’t have the aptitude, or the drive, or the skills to make your fantasy mesh with your reality. Part of reaching maturity means coming to know ourselves – our strengths and our limitations – figuring out how our gifts can realistically flourish in the world. Read more.
Let me just say if you are an entrepreneur, or hope to become an entrepreneur, you must absolutely subscribe to the Harvard Business Review. There is a constant flow of incredible articles ranging from communication to talent acquisition, and if you have no dreams of ever running your own business, you should still think about signing up, because their collection on leadership and productivity alone is worth the ten or so seconds it’ll take for you to begin receiving their articles. You might get the thought-provoker like the one above, depressing though it may appear.
Honestly, rereading the article made me as sad today as it did the first time I came upon it. It made me feel sad for the millions of people who never achieved their full potential. It made me sad for the billions more who never even got started, and yes, it still makes me sad that I might fall somewhere in the middle.
If I have to be candid, I fear I may never write that elusive novel. I talk myself into believing I might be better suited for nonfiction, how-to, ghostwriting for others… But then I realize I might just be talking myself out of a potentially good experience if only I had the discipline and precision to sit down and just finish the damn thing.
But, okay, no one likes reading self bemoaning pity parties. I’ll publish this post as is if only to look back one day after I’ve published the blasted novella and be able to encourage other writers to do likewise and not feel hypocritical about it. Because, cliche though it may sound, we are the only thing standing in our way.
But, what about you? Are there any ambitions you’ve been putting off? You’re lying if you say no, and if you truly are living the dream, then you’ll feel indignant enough to leave a comment arguing otherwise. I look forward to reading it.