I was talking to one of my tennis students today about her interest in drama and singing. I suggested she might want to pursue it professionally when she left school or university.
Her response was that it would never work. Apparently, to make a career as an actress you have to be incredibly lucky. She also mentioned that most people performing in West End shows are barely able to make a living.
I was disappointed to hear this. I don’t know how passionate she is about acting (I know she likes it a lot), so I don’t want to presume that it’s her dream. However, I was more disappointed to hear that a 15 year old already had this kind of belief system.
Where did she get it from?
At a guess, possibly parents and friends, most likely from fellow students or teachers at her drama class and receiving rejections from auditions. All of these voices and experiences, when delivered from figures of authority we’ve been taught to respect, bypass the critical, reasoning faculty of our mind and form limiting beliefs in our subconscious. We accept them as The Truth, but do we ever take time to analyse or attempt to discredit them?
The conversation reminded me of my own thinking when I was 22. At the time, I wanted to write a best selling personal development book but all I heard from my parents, another author and the media (reading magazine articles/writers’ handbook), was that this was an impossibility. There was no money in being an author, apparently. Furthermore, the chances of getting published were so remote it wasn’t even worth trying. Basically, it was down to luck. It was a total shot in the dark, so did I really want to invest all that time on something that might never work out?
Unfortunately, I believed these voices. I accepted them as The Truth. Whenever I contemplated my dream of becoming a best selling personal development author, a subconscious feeling of embarking on an impossible journey was triggered.
However, I persisted. I imagined my life as lawyer, accountant, working in a corporation etc as being so dull and out of sync with who I was, I reasoned that I may as well go for my crazy dream. What did I have to lose?
Many years later, I can see how that initial belief held me back. I never threw myself into my dream with the vigor that might have enabled me to be successful.
I don’t have that belief anymore. By challenging it, I can see there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to achieving a dream society declares impossible or dependent on luck. Here are some of them;
1. Almost everybody accepts the conventional way of thinking. They also believe the chances of achieving a ‘crazy dream’ are minuscule. This is actually to your advantage. It means that, if you persist, most of your competition is going to drop out, so the competition for places is not as intense as you think.
2. Although you may not achieve your dream, you can still make a living from it. Aim for the moon and you may hit a star, right? Although this quote makes zero cosmological sense, you get the idea. Despite what The System would have you believe, achieving a crazy dream isn’t always black and white. You might fail to becoming a best selling author or star in Hollywood films, but you might sell enough copies of your book to get by or land enough acting roles on TV or the stage to make it work. Isn’t that good enough? Sure, you’d rather accomplish the goal you set out to achieve, but it beats a load of other alternatives.
3. Luck isn’t necessary. Your own hard work will forge a path. When you challenge a system held truth (nobody makes money as an author, being a professional actress is all about luck), and PROVE to yourself that it isn’t, it messes with your head (in a good way). You discover that the world doesn’t work in the way you were led to believe. Your hard work and clarity of purpose, DOES make a tangible impact. As Steve Jobs said,
“The minute you understand that you can poke life and something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it, that’s maybe the most important thing. To shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it.”
However, to get to this place, you have to challenge accepted beliefs. If you’re never take this step, the world will always conform to the way it’s been presented to you.
(Image taken from Deneb Catalan photostream flickr.com)